Friday 8 February 2013

Summer Gloves

Once upon a time, ladies always wore hats and gloves when they went out. So you wore gloves not just to keep your hands warm in the winter, but in summer too.  The rule persisted into the 1960s:  my secondary school in the early 1960s had white gloves for summer (optional) on its school uniform list, although I don't recall anyone wearing them to go to school in.

The need for summer gloves was a great opportunity for cotton spinners - including Twilley's, who started out making cotton yarns for knitting & crochet, though they later diversified into other types of yarn.  The company started issuing pattern leaflets just after World War II, I think (judging by the style),  and the first batch of leaflets  includes several glove patterns.

Twilley's 109
The early patterns look fairly utilitarian - one leaflet shows a woman's gloved hands holding a dog lead, and a man's hands on the steering wheel of a car (and holding a cigarette at the same time).  But leaflet 109 has a pair with an overall lacy pattern and an alternative gauntlet cuff, and they are altogether fancier.  

Twilleys 265
The black lace pair in leaflet 265 are obviously just for posing elegantly in, and nothing more strenuous than that. 

Twilleys 194
Apart from the gloves, you could make a whole range of clothes and accessories from this batch of leaflets.  There are several patterns for handbags (often with matching gloves, of course).  The week-end bag in leaflet 194 is especially smart.  It looks like something that Celia Johnson might have used in Brief Encounter - the film was made in 1945, so is roughly the same date as the leaflet.  (But why does she have two umbrellas through the straps of her bag?  One for a friend?)

(By kind permission of Thomas B Ramsden & Co., members of the Knitting & Crochet Guild can obtain a copy of any of the vintage Twilley's patterns in the Guild collection, for their own personal use.  Email collections at for more details.)


  1. The small one might be a parasol, the other an umbrella. Coverage for both rain and shine. Or perhaps Mom needs to carry one for Daughter.

    Either way, I remember white cotton gloves, and as a little kid, being made to wear them on the subway in NYC when dressed up to go into Manhattan. And getting in trouble for the inevitable dirty fingers after the trip. I never was sure why I needed gloves in July...

    1. I suppose the point was that a lady ought to be able to keep her hands clean, so wearing white gloves was proof of that IF you could keep them clean. A bit unrealistic for a kid, I agree. And washing your hands is so much easier than washing your gloves!


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