Sunday 1 January 2012

Winter is coming ...

said Lord Stark of Winterfell  ...                                       (A song of ice and fire - George R.R. Martin).
Well, the Saint Thomasguild is prepared for winter with these three-fingered sheepskin mittens.

 A pair of split sheepskin mittens ready for a cold winter.

The three fingered mittens or split mittens are used in medieval times by workmen, farmers and falconers. They offer more flexibility in handling things and have better grip than normal mittens. Also, they are less expensive and easier to make than five-fingered gloves. 

We thank our mittens to the wool moths which infested our sheepskin. After we got rid of the evil insects, flocks of hair fell out of one of our skins and it became useless for display. However, it could still be used to make some mittens. We based our mittens on the pattern provided by Sarah Thursfield in her book "Medieval tailors assistant". First we tried the pattern on a piece of woollen cloth to find the exact place for the thumb, then enlarged it a little to allow for the thickness of the sheepskin. The wool of the skin was cut short, leaving 5-6 mm long hairs on the skin. Sewing the leather was done by hand using the 'oversewing' stitch and found to be very easy. One piece of advice: Don't forget to turn the pattern for the other hand, otherwise you end up with one spare mitten like us ...

Left: Shepherds from Nativity by Nikolaus Stürhofer, c. 1505-1515.
Right: Shepherds in The Nativity by Robert Campin, around 1419. Dijon, France, Musee des Beaux Arts.

Left: Farmer wearing a split mitten in the Macclesfield Psalter (Fitzwilliam 1-2005, fol. 77r), c. 1330.
Right: The falconers is wearing a split mitten on which the falcon sits. The Month of January, Grimani Breviary, 1490-1510, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice, Italy. These images were found on internet using the site of Larsdatter.

 The left image shows the thickness of the sheep leather and wool. The middle photo shows the oversewing stitch used for the mitten. The photo on the right shows one finished thumb piece and the woollen test mitten..

 The finished three-fingered mittens shown at different angles. Left photo, both mittens at the inside of the hand. Middle photo, one mitten on the outside on on top. Right photo, both mittens on top, showing how the thumbs are set in the mitten and the extra strip for the split fingers..

Cape and mittens are ready for winter. 

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