Liturgical gloves are highly colored ornamental gloves created for ceremonial use by senior churchmen in Europe, dating from later medieval times onward. A significant number of these have survived, and virtually all are finely knitted in silk. There are many examples in museums and other collections in Europe and the United States, including the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Glove Collection Trust housed in the Fashion Museum in Bath, England. Each glove (or pair of gloves) is unique, but they do share common features—most are finely crafted and richly ornamented, including the use of religious symbolism, sometimes with knitted patterns and sometimes embroidered. They are often embellished with braid, lace, tassels, and fringe. Some have ornate gauntlets, which are sometimes trapezoid in shape, and many have a religious symbol on the back of the hand.
Bishop’s gloves, Spanish, first quarter of the seventeenth century (2009.300.1648a, b). Knitted in silk with gold metallic embroidery. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Inspired by the highly ornate liturgical gloves that remain in museum collections today, these silk and metallic gloves could be worn with formal outfits or for special occasions. While fine, the pure silk yarn used for the body of this pair of gloves is not as fine as the yarns used historically. The metallic thread is also not as fine; threads of that type are no longer produced for common consumption today. However, the yarns used here suggest the grandeur of the “glorious gloves” and have the advantage of being more easily knitted, worn, and cared for. Working with fine yarns can provide insight into the level of skill required to make the magnificent historic examples of the knitter’s craft.
Crab stitch finishes the cuff edge to reduce rolling.
The cuff patterns were adapted from two examples of gloves in British collections; the smaller border is found on a pair of liturgical gloves in Manchester, while the larger octagons are found on the cuffs of one of three pairs that are in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Other patterns could be substituted.
The main color selected is Bordeaux, a rich wine red, but the yarn is available in many colors, all suitable. The metallic thread here is Gunmetal, which has luster without too much bling. It is also available in a wide range of shades. This silk yarn has very little elasticity, so the two yarns must be stranded loosely in the colorwork cuff because the fit is snug. The chart includes sections where the unused yarn will be carried across the back of the work for more than six stitches; you may prefer to trap it with the working yarn to prevent long floats.
Like many extant examples, these gloves feature a “seam” of alternating knit and purl stitches on the outside edges of the hands.
As found on many liturgical gloves, a one-stitch “seam” column of alternating knit and purl stitches runs up the sides of the hands, continuing up the outside of the index and little fingers. This can be omitted if preferred.
The lower edge of the cuff is finished with a round of reverse single crochet or crab stitch, which prevents it from curling, but many of the original gloves have a curled bottom edge. As with many historical examples, the cuff edges could be trimmed with lace or braid instead.
Gloves Pattern and Notes
- BC Garn Jaipur Silk Fino, 100% silk, 328 yd (300 m)/1.75 oz (50 g) skein, 1 skein of #66 Bordeaux (MC)
- Anchor Artiste Metallic, 80% viscose, 20% polyester, 109 yd (100 m)/0.9 oz (25 g) ball, 1 ball of #338 Gunmetal (CC)
- Needles, size 0 (2 mm), two 24" (60 cm) circular needles or set of four or five double-pointed needles, or size needed to obtain gauge
- Stitch markers or lengths of thread