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Fingerless Gloves

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Wilfrid Brambell as fingerless glove-wearer Albert Steptoe

Fingerless gloves are an ingenious re-engineering of the common glove to keep much of your hand protected, while leaving your fingertips exposed to keep some measure of manual dexterity intact. Some fingerless gloves have openings for each finger, and some just have one opening for all of them (an article of clothing that might be termed a 'glitten'). While any glove could theoretically come fingerless, the majority tend to be of the woollen or leather variety.

Glove Materials in Perspective

A glove serves the purpose of protecting the hand from damage. The source of that damage might be from impact, heat, abrasion, chemical or slicing, among others. Heavier gloves, or gauntlets, find use on building sites, laboratories or in handling animals. Here the material composition of the glove matters, because the sturdy construction could be the difference between minor injuries and permanent damage, or even amputation.

Other gloves protect without necessarily needing to avert catastrophic injury, like rubber gloves or woollen mittens, and in this instance the balance between protection and loss in manual dexterity might warrant consideration. In sub-zero environments, thick gloves can prevent exposure that could lead to frostbite, but in milder climates, where winter weather chills rather than freezes flesh, greater tactile sensation might be more essential than warmth. An intermediary layer of material may make certain tasks awkward, difficult or even impossible - so, the fingerless glove finds a role to play.

In all honesty, fingerless rubber gloves make little sense as the rubber serves the purpose of protecting against chemicals, mild or otherwise, into which you might immerse your hands. Removing the fingers renders a rubber glove largely pointless.

For Protection

Some tasks require gloves, but they don't warrant the full coverage or protection of a complete pair.

A weightlifter, climber or cyclist will often have fingerless gloves for protection, but that protection extends to their palm primarily, which could suffer friction damage. In the case of the weightlifter, the palm of the glove provides a firm grip, even as the weightlifter shifts his grasp from hoist to hold. The fingers need to flex to clasp the bar of the weight, but do not take the brunt of the pressure. Such gloves often have an open back or benefit from a material construction designed to increase grip on the palm and allow the hand to breath, reducing sweating.

For a golfer or ten-pin bowler, a fingerless gloves provides greater grip on the palm without losing the essential sensitivity and control of the fingers. The same applies to the fingerless leather glove favoured by a driver, where palm provides grip on the steering wheel or gear stick. The open fingers, for the driver, provide better interaction with the various controls scattered across the dashboard, whether buttons, toggles, wheels or touch-sensitive screens.

For Warmth

Fingerless gloves deliver considerable flexibility and touch sensitivity, but maintain a measure of warmth in the core area of the hand.

Musicians, especially those performing outside, often use fingerless gloves, as might typists in a cold office, anglers and anyone else who needs precision from their fingers and protection against the cold. Traders in outdoor markets often wear them to keep their hands warm, while maintaining a lightness of touch in their fingers to efficiently handle the exchange of money and goods with their customers.

In manufacturing these gloves, the actual protection of the glove may very well extend to the knuckle, only exposing the top of the fingers and thumbs. Fingerless gloves intended to keep the wearer warm may come in a longer length to cover the wrist as well - as one of the body's main bloodstreams runs through this area.

Common Materials

The materials you need will be down to what you require from the gloves.

Protective fingerless gloves tend to be made of tough stuff, such as leather or nylon, often mixed into layers that serve a different function, like dulling impact, averting slicing, and supporting breathing of the skin.

Fingerless gloves worn for warmth are usually made of wool, polyester or other knitted materials. A thick woollen glove can provide a degree of cushioning, with the essential warmth desired to shield against the elements.

Fashion also favours the fingerless glove on occasion, utilising far more flimsy materials for appearance and style over substance. A fingerless glove in this instance uses lace or cotton, or could be constructed from something sturdier, like kid leather, studded with sequins or encrusted with precious gems (or their faked theatrical equivalent).

Winter Warmer

A common use for fingerless gloves in countries with a milder winter is in the construction of snowballs. While you can certainly mould a snowball with a full-fingered glove, the exposure of the fingers allows greater precision and the application of a certain heat to seal the outer layer of the ball. A slightly slicker snowball can manage a far greater range and impact that something more powdery created with a full glove. Pressure helps, but the application of that little measure of direct heat can make all the difference.

Capacitive Screens

The considerable advances in touchscreen technology provides all sorts of potential in our mobile phones and mobile computing, but the common glove serves as a block to use, as the fingertip cannot interact with the surface of the device. For many, removing the glove represented the only means to get around this.

Here, for a time, the fingerless glove provides an ideal way to overcome this issue, including designs that took the length of the glove even further up the finger, exposing only the surface of the fingertip. However, technology in gloves themselves has advanced to match the devices. You can now purchase gloves that have a material on the fingertips that simulates that of the skin, interacting with the capacitive surfaces of touchscreen devices without problem.

Fingerless Thoughts

  • With a certain measure of handiness and a degree of confidence with needle and thread, you can convert old socks, woollen tights, or even leg warmers into perfectly adequate fingerless gloves. The easiest option here involves cutting open the end of the sock to slip through the fingers and concentrating on keeping the glove in place with an independent hole for the thumb. With greater craft confidence, you may be able to snip individual holes for each finger as well, and reinforce the holes with additional hemming.

  • Do you find that the milk you use to suckle orphaned piglets gets cold too quickly? Cover a rubber glove with a fingerless, woollen glove. Fill the rubber glove with warm milk and put a pin prick in the tips. Let the piglets suckle away, while your fingerless glove keeps the milk that bit warmer.

  • While not strictly fingerless, filling a rubber glove with paint and removing one or more fingertips provides an interesting opportunity for expressive art. Whether guided with the hand or attached to the end of the piece of string, swinging the paint-filled glove over a large canvas or sheet of paper can create all manner of patterns. The glove can be cleaned and reused for this purpose simply by applying a small strip of tape to the hole.

  • Oddly, the online Neopets1 craze offered a pair of Fingerless Asparagus Gloves during an Advent event. It remains unclear whether these gloves simply came in an asparagus green colour or actually used the vegetable in their fabrication!

1An online virtual pet community.

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