Beaded Gauntlets

Someone asked recently about making a pair of beaded leather gauntlets and I thought I would re post and article I wrote a few years ago on the subject. The article includes a diagram that can be scaled to any size hand. When you complete your pair, please post them on social media and tag us with #tetontradecloth

American Indian Beaded Gauntlets

By Craig Jones

Jackson Sundown 1916 World Champion Bronc Rider

photo credit: Pendleton Roundup

Gauntlets are practical wear for cowboys who are roping livestock and generally doing hard work for long hours. This important clothing item became an obvious choice for personal expression and decoration. Gauntlets were also seen in the powwow arena worn by mostly men dancers and still today is popular with men’s styles like Chicken dance, Traditional and men’s Buckskin. Some gauntlets have plain leather cuffs, while some were adorned with beadwork, embroidery and in some cases tufted moose hair depending on the region of manufacture. In this article, the author plans to share a pattern that is easy to size and make a pair of gloves for an individual who is interested in making a pair of these gauntlets for their dance outfit or for practical use.

Sizing the gloves. The pattern shared in this article can be sized to accommodate most hand types. The easiest way to size the provided pattern is to reduce or enlarge the provided pattern on a copy machine until you achieve a pattern that, when the wearer places their hand over the pattern, provides a “generally” good fit, some customizing adjustments like finger length are easy to make. However, all hands are shaped differently and if you are looking for a truly custom fit, here are some instructions on how to measure and create your own pattern. A tracing should be made of the hands for the gauntlets. Start by tracing the hand of the wearer. The fingers should be relaxed and spread enough so that a pencil tip can pass between the fingers when tracing (approx.. 1/8”). Once the palm tracing has been made an additional 1/8” should be added to the tracing (excluding the area between the fingers). This will provide a pair of gloves that fit well but will not be so tight that they need to be pulled off by each finger. If you want the gloves to fit tighter in the fingers add only 1/16” margin to the pattern, the gussets described in the next paragraph provide the 3 dimensional (height) aspect of the gloves. For sizing the thumb, measure the tip of your thumb to the crotch of your finger Use the pattern in Photo 2 to develop a pattern that fits your tracing. However you achieve your pattern, you should plan to make a sample “muslin” glove to make sure your pattern is right. This may seem like a time-consuming step, however it’s worth the time and effort. By using inexpensive felt that you can buy at the craft store you can easily, inexpensively and quickly sew a sample glove and adjust your pattern if necessary to get a perfect fit. Notes on the pattern. Dimension “A” should be approximately 1/2” wider than the widest part of the hand (thumb knuckle to outside of hand). “B” some glove makers will not cut the thumb hole completely out leaving a “flap” that they sew down onto the leather thumb (see Photo 9).

For a pair of “working gloves” this provides reinforcement as this part wears first due to the friction of rope passing through the hand of the cowboy. This is optional and if desired the circle of leather can be completely removed. “C” a leather welt is sewn around the thumb to protect the stitching in this high wear area. To achieve the proper measurements for the thumb: with the hand in a flat relaxed position, the thumb should be pointing upward at approximately a 45-degree angle to the rest of the fingers, measure from the tip of the thumb to the “crotch” of the thumb “D”, then measure from the tip of the thumb to the point directly below the crotch “E”. Note that photo 1 shows an optional welt across the knuckle portion of the glove. This is entirely optional and mostly decorative. Once the glove is turned right side out, the excess welt is trimmed with a pair of scissors flush to the glove.

Sewing the gloves. When sewing the gloves, you will be sewing them inside out. You should use a sturdy thread like a polyester upholstery thread and a sharp and appropriately sized glover’s needle to make the stitching easier. Imitation sinew can be used but is not necessary and the author believes (after using both) that a heavy-duty thread provides a more visually desirable outcome. A gusset will need to be made for each seam. There will be many gussets and where they are inserted is shown on the pattern. A 3/8” inch gusset should be sufficient for a medium sized hand. If the hand is particularly thick this could be increased to a ½”. The gusset should be tapered at each end so it comes to a point when sewn into the glove. Once the glove is sewn completely it should be turned right side out.

The cuff. The cuff can be generally any shape you choose. Most cuffs are rounded or straight across at the top, but there is wide variation in this and it is largely up to the designer. The length of the cuff is also optional and can vary from nearly all the way to the elbow or a very short 2” cuff. The bottom of the cuff should be the width of your glove pattern (dimension A on the pattern). The cuff is often beaded and depending on tribal affiliation, can be geometric or floral, partially, or fully beaded. Most commonly only the front of the cuff is beaded. Fringe is usually added on the outside seam. The length of the fringe varies from 3” to very long depending on personal preference and practical reasons if they are working gloves. When the author makes cuffs he backs the hide with stiff “Pellon interfacing” to stiffen the cuff. This material can be found at the fabric store in the interfacing section. The two materials are bound together with spray adhesive (Loctite brand “Professional Performance Heavyweight Bonding 300”) and then backed with a cotton material also using spray adhesive. The adhesive is strong but does not gum up needles the way other adhesives can, as they pass through the substrate (in the case of couched overlay “applique” beadwork). The top of the cuff can be finished with rolled beadwork, hide or fabric like velvet (as seen in Photo 3). The fringe and outside seam should not be sewn together until the cuffs are attached to the gloves. A hide welt should be cut for the seam between the cuff and the glove. Often this welt has a decorative edge pattern (see photo 1, 3 and 5). Once the welt is sewn combining the cuff to the glove the cuff is turned right side out and the fringe and edge seam can be sewn up completing the gauntlets. A few tips: when putting the pieces of the glove together make a single knotted stitch at various points on the pieces. These stitches act like “pins” holding the pieces in place so the parts are sewn together evenly. The stitches can be removed (just like a pin when sewing) when you sew up to them. Another tip, leave one end of the gusset long so you can trim it to make sure it is not too short when you get to the end of the stitching point (IE the finger tip).

Photo 1

Photo 1A

Photo 1. Beaded hide gauntlets made by the author. Inspired by an antique pair of Plateau gauntlets seen in Yakima WA, Photo 1A.

Photo 2, glove pattern

Photo 3. Intermontane beaded gauntlets, possibly Crow, Authors collection

Photo 4 Plateau beaded gauntlets. Author’s collection

Photo 5 Beaded gauntlets on smoked brain tan hide, possibly Cree. Author’s collection

Photo 6 Detail of finger gusset, side and tip

Photo 7 Thumb section, shown inside out, with gusset, prior to being sewn onto the glove

Photo 8 shows the thumb welt after the glove is turned and welt trimmed

Photo 9. Detail of thumb reinforcement by using the flap from the thumb hole.

Photos of antique gauntlets for reference.

The history of Jackson Sundown by the Nez Perce Tribe

Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn (Jackson Sundown) from an early age worked and cared for horses. Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn was a famous all-around cowboy, horseman, and excellent rider and breeder of horses.

The Nez Perce War of 1877 began and Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn was 14 years old. Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn and Sam Tilden (Suhm-Keen) both were assigned to attend to the horses in the evening and herd the horses while the tribe decamped. After the Nez Perce war ended Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn retreated to Canada with a small band of cold, hungry and injured Nez Perce. It is believed that Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn stayed with the Sioux (Sitting Bull's camp in Canada) about two years, then crossed the border into Washington. He then went into Montana, married and had two daughters.

Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn became known as Jackson Sundown and developed a well know reputation as a skilled horseman. In 1910, Jackson Sundown moved back to Idaho. And in 1912 he married Cecelia Wapshela, and they lived on her ranch located at Jacques Spur, six miles east of Lapwai.

Sundown became a well-known all-round rodeo rider. Jackson Sundown was going to rodeos all over the northwest. In 1912 it is recorded that Jackson Sundown (at the age of 49) entered rodeo events in Canada and Idaho (Culdesac, Orofino, Kamiah and Grangeville). Sundown became a favorite at these rodeos because he was tall, lean and handsome, he wore his hair in braids tied under his chin, and he always wore bright colored shirts.

In 1914, Sundown was having much success as an all-around rodeo rider. Other contestants pulled out of rodeos because Sundown was riding and they knew he would win. As a result the rodeo managers decided to hire Sundown to exhibition ride for $50.00 a day to entertain the crowds.

In 1915, Sundown (at age 52) went to Pendleton Oregon and placed third. Sundown decided to retire from rodeo after the Pendleton Roundup. In 1916 a sculptor, Alexander Phimister Proctor (who was sculpting Sundown at the time), persuaded Sundown to enter the 1916 Roundup in Pendleton, Oregon and paid his entrance fee. Sundown made it to the saddle bronc semi-final round and then rode "Casey Jones" to move into the finals with two other cowboys (Rufus Rollen and Bob Hall). Rollen and Hall both had excellent rides. As Sundown eased onto Angel's back for his final ride, the blindfold was removed from Angel. Angel tried to whirl and leap to throw Sundown off. All Sundown's years as a child in the Wallowa's riding, and his career in Montana as a horseman, and his rodeo experience showed that day. It is said that Sundown became one with the horse. As Angel tried one last attempt at throwing Sundown off, Sundown fanned his hat at the horse. And then the signal of the end of the ride. Jackson Sundown, Waaya-Tonah-Toesits-Kahn, was the 1916 World Champion Bronc Rider.

Sundown made his last public appearance in 1917 for Governor Moses Alexander.

In 1923, Jackson Sundown died of pneumonia, he was buried at Slickpoo Mission Cemetery near Jacques Spur.

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