Jan 22 2013

Digital World: Fingerless Gloves for Warmth With Dexterity

I got a letter a while back asking about ways to keep hands and wrists warm while leaving fingers free to do what only unencumbered fingers can do—scratch itches, pick noses, pluck guitar strings… And I knew the answer immediately: Millar Mitts. But I also knew that Millar Mitts (fingerless wool gloves made for climbers) now belonged with detachable collars and spats, only to be found in the dark corners of little-frequented museums, to which they’ve been relegated by the relentless march of outdoor fashion.

Still, their descendants live on. Just. Farwell has owned a pair of Barbour fingerless gloves for nearly a quarter-century now. Here they are:

Barbour Fingerless Gloves

They’re made of thick wool, and they’re as warm as any fingerless gloves can be. They’re also—unlike Millar Mitts—still available, though they’re certainly not cheap. Which is why Farwell’s pair shows so little wear. He’s saving them for best, as the saying goes. Meanwhile, he makes do with less posh alternatives. And make no mistake, you can find fingerless gloves that don’t carry a royal warrant (and a correspondingly high tariff). I’ve found reasonably priced examples at Orvis and the Canadian outfitter MEC, for instance. In fact, we both own several pairs of cheapies. They’re not as thick as the Barbour gloves, and you probably wouldn’t want to wear them at Sandringham, but they’re warm enough for any season where fingerless gloves make sense. For me, that means temps above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, though they can be used as liners under mittens at much lower temperatures than that.

In any case, fingerless gloves have many uses, and these aren’t limited to backcountry excursions. I use mine when I’m working on my bike in an unheated outbuilding, for instance, and I’ve even found myself wearing them at my desk. (My office gets mighty cold on sub-zero days!) In fact, I find them so useful that I’ve been looking for an even cheaper alternative. After all, chain grease doesn’t improve any article of clothing, and it’s a rare workshop session that doesn’t leave me with grease on my hands (and gloves).

The solution? I simply recycle worn-out gloves. After all, the first thing to go in most gloves is the fingertips. So why not just chop them off? Then you have a pair of fingerless gloves that are almost as good as readymade.

It works, too. In the photos below you can see one-half of a pair dollar-store gloves on the left. And on the right? One-half of the pair of fingerless gloves I made from their predecessors.

Before and After

The conversion took all of five minutes, and so far I haven’t even needed to whip the cut edges. They work fine, too. In fact, I’m wearing them as I type this.

So the next time you need something that will keep your hands warm in chilly conditions while still leaving your fingers fancy free, go through your old clothes. You’ll probably discover at least one pair of gloves ripe for conversion. Comfort seldom comes cheaper.

Of course, if you simply have to have a royal warrant…

Hack Wearing a Hack

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