Monday, January 31, 2011

Hand In Glove: Pattern Preservation and Re-use

Hello Readers!

As some of you may know, Philip and I are on a coast-to-coast adventure to appreciate and re-create gorgeous beautiful things from the past.
(And be sassy biz-natches the whole way!)

We have always shared a burning desire for custom-made gloves, ever since we saw Barbra slip them over her extra-long manicured nails in "Hello, Dolly".
Babs had gloves made with extra-long fingers to accommodate her beautiful hands in historical films like Hello, Dolly!, Funny Girl, and our personal favorite: On A Clear Day You Can See Forever.
Glove patterns are pretty damn near impossible to find, but we got lucky when Philip found this little gem from 1940's wartime:

This old pattern journeyed from New York to California!
 I started the painstaking process of tracing and interpreting the tiny, fragile pieces.
Falling Apart:  Brittle directions page and glove pattern pieces for fingers and thumbs.
Close-up of the revision date in these hand-illustrated instructions.
Last revised: June 30, 1943!! 
My #1 goal throughout this process:  Preservation.  Do not cause any more damage to the pattern, instructions, or envelope.    Open and unfold all  paper as little as possible.    Minimize the folding/refolding and prolonged exposure to light or moisture.  
Don't forget to copy the front and back of the envelope!
When working with old patterns, often the instruction page(s) are in far-worse shape than the actual pieces. 

This is because pattern pieces are usually put away right after the fabric is cut, but the direction pages are often left out, and heavily handled throughout the entire sewing process.  
So, the first thing to do is copy the directions as quickly and carefully as possible.   As soon as you're done, fold the original back up and put away ASAP.

Sadly, the paper that these directions were printed on is so dry that it wanted to crumble and tear at the slightest touch! 
I opened the directions ONE TIME ONLY, and carefully copied all sides on the xerox machine to 11x17" paper.  

Before pulling out the pattern pieces, be sure to give those directions (the copy, of course) a good read-through.  Take note of any special markings or symbols.  Get to know the pieces through the pattern layout and instructions
I traced all pieces as they were, marking all punch holes and symbols: 

Patterns from this era were not printed on.  Labeling on pattern pieces was performed with a series of punch holes in different shapes and sizes. All the little circles, triangles, and squares represent grainlines, cut lines, slash marks, and pintucks, so it's very important to have those instructions as a key understanding all markings!

Some of the teenie-tiny pieces for the fingers were falling apart, so I had to machine copy, then re-draw.  (no pressure, RIGHT?!)
Once I double-check, then triple-check that all info has been properly captured,  I immediately put alllll the pieces back in the envelope. 
Now the old pattern can officially go back in its cool, dry, dark storage space :) 

This first tracing, as seen in images above, is the true original pattern.  I will keep it unchanged so I never have to pull out the old fragile pieces again.
Then, I trace a 2nd copy from the 1st unchanged tracing.

On this 2nd copy, I clean up the overall shape and "translate" the old pieces by changing the punch holes to clear printed labeling of the grainlines, seam allowance, details, and piece name.
This is where the pattern goes from copy to customize, and our own design adjustments are made!
Philip and I want to create a glove pattern with adjustable finger lengths.  So, I added a slash line through the fingertips of all pieces where length can be lengthend or shortene.  (BLUE LINE) 

Close-Up of revised pattern for the glove body.

Big Improvement:  All pieces for the finger insets and thumb, with grainlines, slash-marks, piece name, and seam allowance clearly labled. 
*All these pieces are so small they fit onto an 8 1/2" x 11" piece of paper.
 This fresh, new pattern, along with copies of the original instructions and envelope, are neatly packed in a clear plastic sleeve, and shipped post-haste back to Brooklyn for Philip to test out:
Philip will begin mocking up our new pattern, testing the fit and construction, and make notes of any changes or progress.
*VERY IMPORTANT:  In case of an emergency, I photo-copied our "New" pattern to keep record of changes, or go back to if needed.  When changing a pattern, it is very important to keep a "paper trail" of the progress, should you ever have to go back and start over.
Always plan for the "what if's"....


 And here's another pic of Babs and her gorgeous nails....just for fun:
-Kathleen, In Oakland


  1. HI there.. I really love the glove pattern on this page ..

    would you be able to send me a hi-res scan of page 3of4
    on the instructions A-GLOVE A,B AND C in the vogue pattern book
    I love the vintage pattern... and I think this is stil used by the Dent company ...
    My name is Bevin and im from Johannesburg South Africa
    my email address is

    thanks you

  2. I've been looking at glove patterns and this pattern/instructions is the best by far. Good job!

  3. This is wonderful! I teach glove making and this pattern is the standard used across the world since the 1700's. All the pattern companies use it. Even the ones out today use this pattern.

    I look forward to seeing your gloves! :)

    I am the owner of


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