Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Garden gloves, a review

Fifty some odd years of active living have left me with hands that don't work as well as they used to, so I protect them as much as I can these days by wearing gloves at all times whenever I'm working in the garden. In fact, I go through about three pair every year, so this has caused me to have some opinions about what makes a good work glove for women. Here are two of my favorites, for different reasons and purposes:

This pair of Ethel gloves (shown above) was passed along to me by my good friend Cindy, of From My Corner of Katy. We were both at a Garden Writers Association meeting in Dallas last summer, and this pair was in a goody bag Cindy picked up at a reception. Sadly, my goody bag didn't have any gloves, and this made me ridiculously despondent. Cindy, being the good soul that she is, swore up and down that she couldn't wear these gloves, so she gave them over to me. The only problem was, they were a size too small. I took them anyway because I am greedy.

As it turned out, these have become my favorite gloves for nearly every task, precisely because they are a size smaller than I would have bought. In fact, I have another pair of Ethels that are the "right" size, and I put these on instead. The reason is that the snug fit, which has grown slightly stretched and more comfortable over time, has made them like wearing a pair of surgical gloves. I have terrific "feel" for delicate work while wearing them. They are almost like a second skin, only less likely than my real skin to suffer the slings and arrows of gardening--which in turn means that once I put them on, I seldom have to take them off until my work is done.

This pair, by Womanswork, was also a freebie, though I can't remember from where. They are a little thicker and chunkier, so not as useful for sensitive tasks, but that also means that they will stand up better to abrasive work, like one might do when moving stones. In spite of being more substantial than the Ethels, they are very comfortable and breathable, more so than the gloves I'd previously used for heavy work. They fit better than my former favorites, too. In fact, I like these so much, I have completely switched my allegiance and vow never to return. Probably.

An additional benefit is that the Womanswork also have a weird suede-like, rubber-like palm and fingers, which seems to be relatively impervious to fluids. As a consequence I like to wear them while painting, instead of latex gloves, which always get hot and sticky.

Between the two brands, I figure I've got things covered. I don't like the color on either pair, but I figure, what-the-hey, they were free. Besides, I'll wear these out about mid-summer and need to buy new pairs, so I'll have a little more control over the important stuff.


  1. I'm still quite bad about wearing gloves in the yard. That is, I usually don't. When I do, I usually choose the basic deerskin work gloves. I figure this is mostly because I can't see destroying a pair of $40 gloves by scraping them across a stone. Of course, the $5 deerskins last forever; especially when moving stones and pavers. Go figure.

    By not wearing gloves, I do a pretty good job of exposing myself to spider bites, botulism and anthrax. Just gotta keep the immune system on its toes.

    All kidding aside, my last spider bite was on my head. Probably my worst spider bite in my entire lifetime of spider bites. (I know: off topic). Gloves wouldn't have helped.
    -- your brother

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  3. Jack, this is just a suggestion, but I think you should consider wearing a glove on your head. Then the spiders wouldn't bite you.

    The thing about the expensive glove is a good point. I usually spend around $20, mostly because any cheap gloves "for women" actually seem to be for men with really big hands. So they slip and fall off and generally annoy me.

    Like I siad, I go through about 3 pairs a season, but considering what I've spent on repairing my hands after injury, it's a bargain.

  4. I deleted the second comment to get rid of a typo that would have caused the comment to make no sense at all.

  5. Thanks for the good suggestions, Susan. Funny, but I was looking at my hands just this morning and thinking, "Yech!" I usually work with a glove on my left hand--mostly so I'll remember I have fingers and not cut one off with my oh-so-sharp pruning shears--and nothing on my right, the better to feel little roots and shoots with. Consequently, my right hand often looks like I've run it through a bed of fire ants or a snarled mass of agarita--mostly because I have. It isn't pretty.

    My current assortment of gloves is pretty sad--a pair of hot pink cotton ones given to me (very thoughtfully) by a non-gardening friend, and a frayed and torn rubberized pair passed down from my husband.

    I may have to do some shopping.

  6. This is such a pet peeve for me: I bought a fabulous pair of pricey Women's Work gloves and liked them very much... until they got holes in multiple fingers after a couple of months. Same thing last year: found a great pair of leather gloves for women, great fit, long cuff for protection... and holes in the fingers after a month or two. What's a cheapskate to do? My new solution: giant pack of those cheap cloth gloves dipped in colorful rubber gunk on the palms and fingers. When they wear out, at least I will have only lost about $1.

  7. Your assessment of both pairs matches mine. (I have the identical pair of Ethel's.) The Ethel's are my go-to gloves for most garden tasks. They are worth the extra money because they last longer than other gloves, although I don't suggest digging chunks of concrete out of the ground with them without a tool.

  8. You picked my two favorite kinds of gloves! I just got my Ethel's, and I love them for fine work and general purpose. For heavier stuff, like laying flagstone, I've got a battered pair of Women's Work gloves that I won't give up until the fingertips wear all the way through...

    On gardening hands: I practically fell on the floor laughing the other day when a friend who doesn't garden took a look at my hands and said ever so gently, "Do you ever get a manicure?" I said no, but later I thought what I should have said is, "Do you ever get a soil-a-cure?" Think she would have gotten the joke?

  9. Susan, I just gave myself my first soil-a-cure of the season--filed all those nails down to "gardening length" before I end up accidentally tearing them all off. Now to get a new nail brush for the season...

  10. Potato Queen, I hear you, but I've tried those cheap rubber-coated gloves and it always seems like they leave my hands with a funky smell. It's worth it to m to buy gloves every year to keep my hands happy.

    Susan H--Try the Ethels. I think you'll like them

    Susan T--I got a manicure once. It didn't take. ;-)

  11. Barbara--I'm glad we concur. I think they're pretty good gloves between the two of them. And I agree about using a tool for the real digging, but it does seem like my gloves always get worn fingers anyway.

  12. Just looked into the Ethels - not sold within a 100 miles of my house. Sigh.

    I find it so hard to buy gloves and am unwilling to invest if they won't fit right. I have small but stocky hands and apparently a shorter than average thumb (looks proportional to me). Means I spend hours trying on gloves and rarely find any that fit.

    Thanks for the review! Will keep my eye out for these on my travels.

  13. Thanks for the link love! I'm so glad you've gotten comfortable in and with those gloves. You know, I have a pair of those Womanswork gloves sitting here by the computer ... I think we got them in Buffalo last year. I have yet to use them. I should do something about that.

  14. Both gloves are splendid. I just ordered two new Ethels this year from the online store. Mine are a bigger size, but still barely fit my hands. Hmmm. I also like that you can wash the gloves, and they bounce right back.

    Did the Women's Work ones come from Buffalo? I seem to remember Elizabeth from Rant saying we were getting them. My memory isn't all that good though.~~Dee

  15. Sergio's LandscapingMarch 13, 2012 at 10:53 PM

    Garden gloves are essential hand protectors indeed. Being in the lawn maintenance Phoenix industry, we definitely need gloves as we engage in heavy landscaping and maintenance work.