Civil War & Victorian Mitts, Gloves, & Mittens

1860s Godey’s Gauntlet Mitten

One would think with the endless Victorian era patterns for knitted and crocheted household do-dads and accessories that there would be a large selection of basic mitts, fingerless gloves, or muffatees on record. Oddly enough, there isn’t, though these items show up frequently in photographs of all social classes during the Victorian Era. One might see knitted or crocheted shawls, vests, bonnets, mufflers/scarves, purses and the like, but not as many gear for hands.

1850s openwork lace mitt with fitted cuff


Most of the hand-wear that you see illustrated in these publications appears to be densely knitted or crocheted out of wool yarn. You can achieve the same effect using worsted weight wool on size 3,4, or 5 double pointed needles to get a strong, long wearing fabric. Some pattern designers have developed modern directions based on historical documents which make them easier to follow. We have also created  free patterns for a basic Civil War men’s mitt and women’s longer fingerless gloves that are easy to work up in camp and will be suitable for a variety of impressions.

Civil War era cuffs can be plain or ornate, and unisex

Outerwear for hands and wrists go by many names and most are interchangeable. Mittens can refer to what we think of as the rounded cover for the fingers with a thumb, or they can mean what we think of now as a fingerless mitt. A muffatee is a type of mitten but it mostly fits on the wrist, also referred to in older patterns as a cuff. Some muffatees have a simple opening slit in the side for the thumb while others are ornate cuff styles.Wristlets are typically worn below the fingers since there is no thumb hole. We refer to them today as arm warmers which also existed during the Civil War (leg warmers did too!).

Wool Muffatee Cuff on Etsy
Wool Muffatee on Etsy

As far as colors go, you can’t go wrong with naturals like browns, greys, whites, and black. But don’t be afraid to use bright colors like red, scarlet, acid green, yellow, orange, blue, or purple/violet. Stipes, solids, and more ornate patterns were also common, such as in these brown and ivory wool Shetland wristlets below. Using yarn from locally sourced artisans like Suzy the Shepherdess brings your accessories up several notches, plus there’s the satisfaction in knowing you are supporting small, ethical businesses that care for their animals! The men’s mittens below were made from such yarn and very easy to work with.

Shetland colorwork wristlets on Etsy
Wool Men’s Mittens on Etsy

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