These offering mitts, also known as “mitts with tongues,” “church mitts,” or “stubby mitts,” were a traditional hand covering in rural Norway. They are a variation of the fingerless gloves or mitts that are popular today.
This project was inspired by a photograph in Handakledet og den seremonielle tildekning av hendene: En drakthistorisk studie knyttet til Hordaland [Hand Clothing and the Ceremonial Covering of the Hands: A Costume Historical Study Related to Hordaland] by Gunvor Ingstad Trætteberg (Oslo: Johansen & Nielsen, 1944) that Laurann Gilbertson, textile curator at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah, Iowa, sent me. The information from this book about these mitts with a “tongue,” which she translated for me, said that women wore this style of mitt to høgmesse (morning service or, perhaps, holy days). One’s best clothing, usually worn to church, would have included decorative hand coverings in cold weather. Having her fingers free enabled a woman to turn the pages of the psalm book and discreetly place coins into the offering basket while keeping her hands relatively warm. The caption in the book translates to “Church mittens from Aga, Ullensvang.” Aga, Ullensvang, is in the province of Hordaland. We have been unable to find any additional information on these mitts.
Mitts such as these and half-gloves made of embroidered satin or knitted of linen or wool were fashionable in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Norwegians were inspired by the fashions they encountered from abroad and adapted them for their own use.
After seeing this project, my friend Beth Brown-Reinsel had a great suggestion: add a small crochet loop on the inside of the top of each “tongue” on the hand to attach this piece to the middle finger in order to keep the tongue from falling away from the hand.
Nancy Bush, a member of PieceWork’s editorial advisory panel, teaches knitting workshops nationwide and owns the Wooly West, a mail-order source for knitters. She is the author of numerous books.
Download a copy of the January/February 2010 issue of PieceWork to knit a pair of your own Norwegian fingerless gloves with the step-by-step instructions in Nancy Bush’s “Offering Mitts to Knit.”
Featured Image: Detail of Nancy Bush’s knitted fingerless gloves. Photo by Joe Coca.
Posted October 11, 2018. Updated May 23, 2019.