18th Century Linen Mitts Part One: The Linen Mitts of Discontent

I wanted a pair of 18th Century linen mitts. I drafted and then I sewed a pair of 18th Century linen Mitts, and the whole thing only took two blog posts!

Clearly, I am a patterning genius.

A pair of socked feet stand above a large pile of fabric scraps.

Some time ago I was gifted a pair of large purple linen napkins. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them, but it took me several years to get around to it – until I was living in a coastal city in the driest desert in the world, where the summer sun is FIERCE. I have the sort of skin that blisters and peels and goes straight back to blistering again, so up here in Iquique, a pair of 18th century linen mitts was, at last, exactly what I needed.

There are some excellent kits and patterns for 18th Century Mitts available with a quick google search, but i wanted to draft my own. Happily, there are equally excellent resources on the google for drafting and sewing your own mitt pattern – notably the excellent tutorial by Sew-Loud.

I found that drafting the base shape went quite quickly, and then the pattering came down to a long process of fine-tuning – small iterative changes to the thumb and point placement.

Seven pairs of mitt mockups lie on the floor

Once I had my final mitt design, I unpicked and pressed the fabric, and traced it onto paper – making sure that I had proper seam allowances not only on the side seam where my mockups were stitched, but on the top and bottom edges as well. It is surprisingly easy to forget that.

A hand wearing a mockup for 18th century linen mitts faces the camera palm-up

And then I traced!

Somewhere along the way, I had dug up some red kona cotton and decided I needed a pair of bright Christmas mitts as well as light linen ones.

(Gratuitous historical note: While there are documented examples of unlined cotton mitts out there, the extant ones of which I am personally aware are all pale, neutral colors. I don’t know of any dark cotton mitts, but cotton was what I had – so that’s what I sewed. Regardless, the “red-green-gold means Christmas” scheme only became the default later on during the 19th Century, so ‘Christmas’ mitts were already a big helping of happy what-the-heck. Hurrah!)

Tracing done, it was time to embroider. I very sensibly (I thought) decided to embroider the mitts before I cut, so that I could keep the fabric taut in an embroidery hoop.

When it comes to embroidering mitts, there are no limits. From a simple tambour hem to full-body polychrome embroidery, the sky’s only where it STARTS. I was in a hurry to get these done, so I chose the most simple of motifs: – three lines of chain stitch down the back of the hand – a common design that would embroider up very quickly so that I could get on with the work of sewing the mitts up.


Red fabric is stitched to an embroidery frame.

Oh yes, I did. I really really did.

A red 18th century mitt on an embroidery frame is accidentally stitched to the embroiderers trousers.

And then I did it again.
The same evening I set down to embroider my mitts, I came down with an attack of gastroenteritis. When you’re busy leaping up and down off the sofa all evening, embroidering a pair of mitts is definitely EXACTLY what you should be doing.

a red 18th century linen mitt in an embroidery frame, embroidered with three lines of green chainstitch.

I’ll take my wobbly chain stitch for 100, Alex…

Red fabric in an embroidery frame is accidentally stitched to a purple cushion.

The gastro won. I quit.


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