Monday, June 22, 2015

Push Gloves Tutorial

They're more than just a fashion statement: push gloves (a.k.a., wheelchair gloves) help reduce the amount of yuck that transfers to your hands when you are using a manual wheelchair to get around.  Kids often use bike gloves, weight-lifting gloves, or baseball gloves, but some wheelchair users have hands that are too small for even the smallest of those options.  Plus, fingerless is absolutely the way to go with gloves that need to go on a pre-schooler, and cutting the fingers off the gloves often makes them completely fall apart.  Not a good quality for gloves to have.

I've made Addy's gloves, and based on the number of people who complain about the lack of options for little hands, here's a rough tutorial.

Supplies I used:

  • Sewing machine
  • Pattern -- more on that below
  • Optional: paper or Duck Tape to test the pattern.  Duck tape gives you the advantage of being able to stick and re-sitck to check the fit.  It's also chock full of latex, so use at your own risk.
  • Fabric -- I like linen or cotton denim because they're durable, natural fibers, they wash well, and they can deal with moisture.  Bigger hands need a bigger piece of fabric, but for a rough idea you'll need enough to make 4 copies of a shape that's about as wide as the widest you can make your thumb and pinky spread apart, and as tall as your palm.
  • Leather or suede -- 2 pieces that are each roughly the size of your palm.  You can buy small pieces at craft stores.  (Alternatively, you could use leather or suede for the actual glove, but I would still use a double layer if it were me.)  When you want to wash your gloves, I would use Murphy's Oil Soap.  It will help keep the leather from getting really nasty.
  • Something to mark the pattern on your fabric -- I used a permanent marker, but a chalk pencil or tracing wheel would be more traditional.
  • Ribbon -- 2 pieces that are each roughly as long as the widest you can make your thumb and pinky spread apart.  For width, it depends on the size of gloves you're making, but 3/4 - 1 inch is easiest to work with.  I had better luck with grosgrain than satin; the satin just kind of disintegrated when I sewed it.  (Alternatively you could just sew a tube of fabric that's roughly an inch wide, but then you'll have to turn a skinny tube of fabric right-side-out, so pick your poison there.)
  • Hook and loop tape -- get the sew-in kind; the adhesive kind will only make you cry.  You'll need 2 pairs (scratchy & fuzzy) of pieces that are each about as long as the back of your hand is across.

Step 1.  Make a pattern.  I started with this one from

It's a little wacky looking, and if you download the image, you'll find that it's way too big for a small kid, but you can resize the image and get an idea for the dimensions and shape you're going to need.  (To you help you visualize how it actually fits: the wrist side is on the left and the finger side is on the right of the image; your thumb slips through the loop created when the two squares are lined up and stitched together.)

Besides getting it sized down for a 3 year old, I made a few alterations.  The first was to take off the wrist strap.  It's just too bulky for what a kid needs and it's just one more strap to have to fasten.  So I cropped that off of my pattern.

Second alteration I made was to add some ribbon to help make a loop so that the gloves are easier to get on (and able for a kiddo to put on independently).  That will make more sense if you keep reading.

The last change I made was to try to add a little "grow room" so that I didn't have to make a new pair of gloves every month.  I did this by extending the strap on the pinky side and using a longer piece of H&L tape.  The ribbon ended up helping with this feature, too.

What I ended up with is this:

Optional Step 1.b: Check the fit by making a test piece from paper or Duck Tape.  Things to especially check are the size of the thumb hole and the tabs that will wrap around the back of the hand.  Adjust as needed.

Step 2. Trace the pattern.  Your pattern is the finished size, and you're not going to add seam allowances.  Your grandmother or your Home-Ec teacher or whoever taught you to sew are cringing right now, but there's a practical reason for it: there isn't room for a seam allowance where the tab by the thumb is, unless you really like sewing with an 1/8 inch seam.

Step 3.  Transfer the pattern to your fabric.  Trace it directly on the fabric using whatever marking tool you like.

Step 4.  Sew.  Stitch directly on the lines you traced, leaving the 2 ends of the straps open so you can turn it right-side-out.  Cut it out with about a 1/4 - 1/8 inch seam allowance where possible.  Clip your curves and corners and turn it right side out.

This picture is from an early set of gloves.  Trust me, placing the long straight side on the fold and leaving the 2 tabs open is much easier.

Step 5.  Cut out the leather/suede piece for the palm.

Step 6.  Top stitch the leather to the palm.  This is the point at which you are making your gloves either left- or right- handed.  Be careful or you'll end up with 2 left gloves.

Step 7.  Attach the ribbon to the thumb side.  First tuck in the open end of the tab on the thumb side by about 1/4-1/2 inch so you don't have raw edges exposed.  Flip the glove so that the leather palm is on the top and insert the ribbon into the tab on the thumb side by about 1/2-1 inch (make sure the ribbon is print-side up at this point; if there's a top/bottom to the print, make sure the top follows the finger edge).  Stitch across to close the seam and catch the ribbon securely.

Step 8.  Attach the fuzzy H&L tape.  Keep the glove so that the leather palm is still on top.  Cut a piece of the fuzzy H&L tape that will fit on the tab on the thumb side.  Stitch it in place on the same side of the glove as the leather.

Step 9.  Attach the other end of the ribbon.  First tuck in the open end on the pinky side by about 1/4-1/2 inch so you don't have raw edges exposed.  Stitch across to close the seam.  Still keep the glove with the leather palm on top and bring the ribbon around so that it extends past the leather piece by about 1/2 inch.  Stitch the ribbon down with about a 1/4 inch seam allowance (yes, it's print-side down at this point).  Flip the ribbon around so that it's print-side out now and top stitch the seam.  If the glove is big enough, top stitch the ribbon along the length of the pinky tab to hold it nicely in place on the tab.  If the glove is too small to do this, don't worry about it.

Step 10.  Attach the scratchy H&L tape.  Cut a piece of scratchy H&L tape that's about 1/3 as long as the fuzzy piece from Step 8 (ideally this scratchy piece is at least 3/4 of an inch long).  Flip over the glove so that the leather palm is now on the bottom.  Fold the ribbon around the end of the pinky tab and place the scratchy piece of H&L tape on top, near the end of the pinky side tab.  This will be 5 layers thick: H&L tape on top, then ribbon, then a double layer of fabric, then the ribbon on the bottom.  Stitch it all in place securely.  Using a box and "X" shaped stitch path will make it more secure.

Step 11.  Close up the thumb hole by lining up the squares and stitching them together.  Use a box and "X" stitch path if possible (may not be possible with a tiny glove).

That's it.  Sit back and admire your work!

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