Friday, 10 December 2010

Bringing back engageantes

I discovered arm warmers this year. Or as I prefer to call them, engageantes (why go for a humdrum English descriptive term, when there is a chic French word at hand?). According to my go-to website for fashion terms and trivia,, engageants were false detachable undersleeves worn in the 18th and 19th century. Back then they were usually lacy, ruffly or flouncy, but hey, why not wooly as well?

fashionable Victorian ladies
I've been getting into the Victorian look this season (though not as much as I would like to, not having gotten around to buying the proper boots). This fashion trend started when I was unable to find a suitable winter coat to replace the one that was nibbled by moths - so I bought a cloak. I know, I know, SOOOOO trendy. But I'm sure I will get a lot of use out of it over the years, as it is rarely cold enough in England to warrant a full on coat. Well, until global weirding hit us with wallops of snow and freezing temperatures. But I have confidence that our typically mild dreary English winter will eventually return, and I'll be able to pull out the cloak again.

Sparrow fingerless gloves
from Lion Brand patterns
Of course, with a cloak you don't have quite the necessary arm coverage, which is why I turned to engageantes. The first pair are actually an extended pair of fingerless gloves. Now I've never really seen the point of fingerless gloves - after all, it is my fingers that get cold, not my palms and wrists (I've self-diagnosed myself with Raynaud's disease, which sounds better than regular old poor circulation). But longer fingerless gloves make a lot of sense, with or without a cloak. A light coat can be marvelously cozied up with some additional arm coverage. In addition, they are a lot easier to squeeze into tight fitted coats than bulky sweaters. Also, I have a lot of 3/4 sleeve garments, and with the addition of wooly arms I can continue to wear them in the winter.

Warm and toasty with
a Belgian beer
My second pair of engageants are finger free. I had some leftover Noro Kureyon from my Bright Lights skirt, and I used the Toast pattern, adding a cable down the front. I call them Twist (after a line in the Tailor of Gloucester). They turned out so well, I'm planning to write the patten up as my very first design. And they have been incredibly useful. I stupidly went to Brussels with only a light fall jacket, and I really would have frozen without the extra arm warmth. They are a great pattern to show off Noro Kureyon, because you get nice broad chunks of colour. Also, with that range of colours, they go with just about everything in my wardrobe. Perfect!

(I will eventually get organised and write up the pattern, which I will post here and on ravelry.)