Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ode to the Glove

Knitting as we know it today is a trendy thing. A trip through what researchers would call “the literature” – Ravelry or the blogs of young and (dare I say it?) hip designers. or the knitting magazines and especially the online magazines such as Knitty and Twist Collective—show that today we’re knitting as much to express our personalities as we are for utility.

Kicky ruffled skirts, ChaCha scarves, embellished swing jackets travel alongside intricately cabled sweaters and socks of twisted stitches that make your head hurt when you try to follow them. Shawls--once the domain of sturdy housewives and women selling vegetables at the local farmers market or even (and I know I’m going to get bitten for this one) your grandma—are now exotic, bright, beautifully, intriguingly complex, garments.

But few items of clothing are more homely and comforting than the knitted glove. Early examples of knitted gloves have been dated to about 1000 AD in Latvia, so they’ve been around for awhile. And most of us wear them at one time or another. Even for those of us who live in the South where winter is mercifully short—even we wear gloves. Growing up farther north, my daughters wore those great fluffy mittens I knit out of Lopi; today they wear delicate mitts, with or without fingers, designed to keep their hands warm on the steering wheel while still showing off their jewelry.

Be it ever so humble, you can depend on a glove to keep you warm, to protect your manicure while gardening, or, for knitters, to provide a quick venue to practice a new cable or a fair isle technique. And, of course, gloves have had protective uses for years and years, from the ubiquitous rubber glove to wash dishes to the leather boxing gloves that protect a fighter's hands and the ones that baseballers use to catch a potential home run.

But now, according to a piece I heard last night on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” gloves have taken on a new life. The Aglove keeps your hands especially warm on the ski slopes, due to silver threads (no, real silver!) that conduct heat better so you can operate your IPad while you schuss down a slope. The SensoGlove has a computer chip in it with a screen. It analyzes your golf swing to identify weaknesses in your grip. Use the Power Glove to control your computerized gaming system. (The Power Glove was invented after an earlier prototype for Nintendo, the Data Glove, failed.) The Bionic Tennis Glove is supposed to improve your swing and control of your racquet.

What’s next? Socks that diagnose pronation or an incipient bunion? A shawl with underwires to keep the girls in place after age and/or childbirth drag everything south? Knitted knickers that dispense a steady dose of contraceptive?

No! I say, no! It’s time to stop this nonsense. Sometimes a glove is only a glove. Keep knitting, and don't even think about how to knit in those computer chips.

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