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What comes to your mind when you think of the word Transylvania, if you ponder it at all? What comes to my mind are mountains of savage beauty, ancient castles, werewolves, and witches - a land of magical obscurity. How, in short, am I to believe I will still be in Europe, on entering such a realm? I shall let you know if it's Europe or fairyland, when I get there.
First, Snagov - I set out tomorrow.”
Glove making must be one of the oldest crafts around, since in its truest form, a glove is nothing more than something to keep your hands warm. The use of leather gloves however, adapted many forms over time. From Ancient Egyptian kings, to medieval European noblemen and the upper class of France, gloves had a place in society. Today, some of the finest glove cutters can be found in Hungary and Romania, and that is exactly where our factory is located.
The process of making a glove by hand has been around for such a long time, that the craft created a true lexicon of terms, for each of the processes involved.
The leather, Peruvian Carpincho, wild Peccary and North-European deer, is first ‘worked’. It is moistened with a dabber, sprinkled with talc powder, and then stretched lengthwise and sidewise against the side of the table until it becomes springy. This is a crucial step, as it assures the leather will stretch evenly over time, providing a perfect fit.
Once the leather is sufficiently stretched, it is laid flat and inspected by the master cutter. It is his job to decide where and how to cut. Since in many cases, the leather comes from wild animals, marks such as scars and bullet wounds will be present. Traditional cardboard stencils are used to mark the lines.
A rectangle is cut out of the skin that will define the surface area of the glove. This rectangle is called the trank. Glove making scissors are different from tailor’s scissors, as they have shorter, thicker blades. Together with the trank, smaller pieces of leather are cut out that will form the forks (or Fourchettes in French, a name given since the fingers of a glove resemble a fork), and quirks. Quirks are diamond shaped pieces of leather that go between the finger, giving the fingers more shape and allowing for more movement. Quirks are rare these days, but they are a detail we insisted on putting in. Cutting out the pieces of leather is arguably the most important stage in glove making.
The pieces of leather are stretched another time, to the exact size of the template. This step is called ‘trying-out’.
Next step in the production is called ‘slitting’, a process that used to be carried out by hand, where the fingers are separated and the space for the thumb is cut out. Glove making became a true industry in 1834, when the French Xavier Jouvin of Grenoble invented the steel cutting die that made it possible to precisely cut out these parts by machine.
After all the pieces have been cut out and properly stretched, a team of seamstresses assembles the different parts, either by hand or by machine. Sewing a glove takes time, and is done not by one, but by a number of seamstresses all specialized in a small part. Techniques are handed over for decades, since the machines used have known little development and are difficult to master, such as the horizontal stitching machine.
The parallel lines running across the back of the glove, called points, are stitched by hand and are meant to give the glove a more elegant appearance.
In the final stage of assembly, the lining is attached by turning the glove inside out, and stitching it to the tip of each finger.
The gloves are then pulled over a ‘warm hand’, a heated metal plate to give the glove its final shape.