A Show of Hands

After a summer and some of an autumn dyeing and dyeing with plants I’d found within a 2-mile radius of wherever I was, it was time to start doing something with the greens, yellows, pinks, oranges, and purples that were piling up around me. I needed gloves, so gloves. I don’t like knitting with double-pointed needles, so crochet. I wanted to use the range of colors I’d dyed, so patchwork. I don’t have a lot of crochet skills, so the same stitch pattern I had used for my earlier crocheted garment. I didn’t use a pattern. No need. My hands were sitting there right in front of me, and I could build my patchwork pieces around them.

I started by making a bunch of the “little dot” squares described in the instructions for the Big Dots, Little Dots pattern, and laid them across my hand to get an idea of how they fit the size and shape of my hand, and how to adapt the size and shape of my crocheted pieces to fit my hand’s geometry. One square was too small to get around my fingers, two were too big. So I made smaller squares using the instructions for the center of the squares, which were made from 12 double crochet stitches (U.S. terminology) radiating from the center of  a starting ring, then working a single crochet stitch into the top of one of those stitches, twice, and crocheting a half-double stitch, chain stitch, and another half-double stitch all in the third stitch, repeating four times to make something roughly square-shaped. The combination of the larger square and the smaller square gave me the circumference of my fingers. To form the fingers, I stacked two small squares next to one large square. The stack of two small squares was taller than the one large square, so I evened them up by adding a few rows of single crocheted stripes to the large square to bring it to the same level as the small square stack. I blanket-stitched a bigger square together with two smaller squares and made five tubes and put them on my fingers to decide what next.

I contemplated the geometry of my hand, front and back, and broke it down into geometric shapes. The palm was a pentagon with a wide peak, a narrower base, and a longer side from the base of the index finger to the wrist than on the pinky finger side; the thumb web was an equilateral triangle from the front of the hand around to the back of the hand. I attached larger squares to the bottoms of the four finger tubes from the index finger to the pinky and discovered that three larger squares per side would cover that part of the hand quite well. When I tried on the glove I saw that the plasticity of the  yarn and the crochet naturally accommodated the wide oblique angle of the fingers’ placement at the top of the hand so that the squares curved along that line.

Next I devised a triangle for the base of the thumb: chain 3, join in a ring, 12 double crochet stitches in the center of the ring. Next round, two double crochet stitches into the top of each of the 12 stitches for 24 stitches. Third round, start forming the triangle with a double crochet stitch into the top of the stitch of the row below for seven stitches, and in the eighth stitch, form the corner with a double crochet/chain stitch/double crochet combo. Repeat two more times. Fourth round, same operation with nine stitches between the corners. Fifth round, 11 stitches between the corners. At that point, the triangle was the right size, but it wasn’t really a triangle so much as a circle with three corners that produced a curve in the exact location of the trapezium bone where the base of the thumb meets the top of the wrist.

I’d like to claim credit for planning that bit of geometry, but the fact is that I have to learn my geometry through experience that teaches me that a true triangle, crocheted around a starting circle, isn’t going to lie flat unless it gets more stitches per round than I was doing. It could be done with granny-square clusters of stitches, which isn’t the look I was going for, or I could have put more stitches into the corners, which probably would have served my aesthetic preferences better. Anyhow, as usual, dumb luck worked for me yet again in fortuitously giving me what I needed when my original intention was something that wasn’t going to work as well as what I got by accident. (Thank you, Fiber Goddess. Or maybe it’s the Math Goddess this time.) I suppose I should mention the obvious, which is that I changed colors every round, since the purpose was to use my zillions of plant-dyed colors.

Fingers and thumb joined to hand of patchwork gloves

I placed the thumb tube at the center of one of the sides of the thumb triangle and sewed the two pieces together, and then attached the corners of the thumb triangle to the corresponding bottom corners of the squares beneath the index finger on the the front and back of the glove. Then I attached large squares to the squares underneath the index finger and to the sides of the thumb triangle, and large squares to the squares underneath the pinky, and tried it on. I was tapering the shape from three large squares at the base of the fingers to two large squares at trapezium-level. That left a triangular shape in the center of the hand, and it was the same size as the center dot of my motifs. Wool yarn is not a rigid medium: a ring filled with a dozen double crochet stitches can become a triangle if it needs to be a triangle.

patchwork motifs shaping a glove to fit the hand
One side of the glove. The dot motif, marked by the red triangle, makes the other parts fit the hand.
patchwork motifs shaping a glove to fit the hand
Here’s the other side of the glove.

The rest of the crocheting was rows and rounds of single crochet and half-double crochet to fill uneven places, since I like the look of single and half-double crochet much better than I like lines of double crochet, because it’s tidier to my eye and more solid. First I needed to fill the gap under the triangular dot in the center of the hand, and I sewed a couple of stitches into the sides of the adjoining large dots together to the extent that a good fit would allow. Then I filled the remaining gap by making a stripe or two of chain stitching blending into single crochet blending into half-double crochet until I had a straight line between the hamate and trapezoid bones. I continued this method until I had a straight line from the pisiform bone to the scaphoid bone, at which point I had a reasonably straight line all the way around the hand and could stripe single crochet in the round to cover the lunate and scaphoid bones and into the narrow part of the wrist. (I’m not a hand surgeon, but I can talk like one thanks to the miracle of Google Images. And you can too if you refer to the chart above!)

There was a wonderful selection of ceramic buttons, made by a local artisan, at my LYS (another unpaid plug for Lovelyarns) so I impulse-purchased two cards of two pink and gold buttons, and I needed to devise a way to use them. I’m sure I had some practical or aesthetic reason for deciding that a sideways construction was the way to go for the gauntlets, but I no longer remember what it was even though it really wasn’t that long ago when I made that decision. Maybe I wanted to maximize the number of colors I used, or maybe it had something to do with where the ends would get woven in. Maybe I just wanted to have a vertical line of striping to surprise the eye rather than the more expected lines of horizontal striping. Whatever my reason was, it was not the easy way to do the job. I did the shaping from the narrow part of the wrist to the widening angle of the forearm by blending single crochet into half-double crochet. I was imprecise and improvisational, and I’m very glad the Japanese coined the term wabi-sabi to describe and justify imperfection. The gauntlet doesn’t fit very well and the buttons usually are hidden under a sleeve. I’m not going to do this kind of cuff again. But if you can see the buttons, they’re really pretty.

sideways construction for glove gauntlet using single and half-treble crochet

Then I finished the fingers by making as many rings of single crochet as each finger needed for fit. Finally I had a complete and coherent glove, with a million ends to weave in and dispatch. I got to work on that task, but I’d had a gnawing sense that something structural wasn’t right about the fit. It was in the web between the index finger and the thumb, where the fabric was straining away from the web, rather than easily accommodating it. It was tight and was going to be a vulnerable spot for wear. I didn’t want to do it but it had to be done: excavating my work to find where I had hidden my ends and undoing the seaming without undoing the crocheting. I opened the seam and put on the glove to see how much space and what shape I would need to make the glove fit at the pivot point of the hand’s movement. At first I tried a couple of diamond shapes, but I didn’t know how to make the narrow-pointed gusset I attempted first, and the large square and small squares were too large. But the center dot provided exactly the right amount of ease, and it molded to the shape its neighbors were pulling it into. Once again, the center dot to the rescue. The glove fit my hand like… a glove, to coin a phrase? And now I had my recipe for the second glove: 15 large squares, 10 little squares, three center dots, and stripes of single crochet with wedges of half-double crochet to make things even everywhere else. The weather was getting colder, so the gloves went to the top of the queue for my works-in-progress.

thumb web of patchwork gloves
See the little blob inside the red circle? That’s the most important part of the glove.

As for how I used the colors, I wanted to use a lot of the wide range of colors I had dyed over the last five months, and I thought I’d impose some little bit of thematic unity by using colors in the pink/purple/orange family as the outside color of the large squares. There wasn’t a lot more thematic unity in the color arrangement than that, other than the fact that plant-based colors have an underlying unity and compatibility based on the shared biochemistry of plants. If I had reached into a bag with my eyes closed and crocheted whatever my hand latched onto, or if a computer had randomly assigned colors, the color combinations would have been just as good as what I produced through careful consideration, just because natural colors are intrinsically and biologically compatible.

Sideways view of patchwork crochet gloves

Nevertheless that doesn’t stop me from thinking about color experiments I want to do with my natural colors. I have a lot of colors that came out not as thrilling as I had hoped, pale, dull, murky on casual examination. But on closer examination, there’s a lot of subtlety and nuance that is revealed when they are combined together in a gradient and paired with another more vivid color, or with another subtle color from the opposite side of the color wheel. I’ve been thinking about making more gloves in the same manner that I made this current pair, a pair of which would have me selecting all of my least-loved, murky, dull, brownish-greenish colors in a gradient arrangement with pokeberry purples in the center. Or my pallid yellows with my gray-blues. Or my failed pinks that turned out the color of Caucasian skin, paired with gray-greens. In the right circumstances, there’s no such thing as an ugly color, especially when the source of the color is the plants growing a mile from home.

Patchwork crochet gloves, palms up

Top view of patchwork crochet gloves

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4 thoughts on “A Show of Hands

  1. i have a friend who crocheted some gloves by making a palm sized granny square front and back, sewing the sides together and then crocheting around the fingers, if that makes sense?

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