I've never been a fan of work gear that's been "prettified" in order to appeal to women. Whoever it was who decided that women would do more home improvement jobs if only they had a powder pink tool kit should be hit over the head with a pretty pink hammer. Too often product designers decide to go for "the pretty" at the expense of functionality--not a good trade-off for any kind of tool or gear you depend on to help you get a job done.
So it should be no surprise that I was skeptical about the new line of Ethel Gloves. These gloves are definitely pretty, in a variety of colors and patterns ranging from a hounds-tooth check to a fleur-de-lis print. But after a week or so of gardening in them, I have to admit that they're more than just pretty.
To start with, they fit really well. Having small hands, I'd resigned myself to the idea that if I wanted sturdy work gloves, I'd have to settle for something that was always at least a little too big. The small size Ethel Gloves fit me perfectly with just enough give in the stretchy fabric to make me almost forget that I'm wearing them. I also liked that in spite of the snug fit, the fabric seemed breathable enough that they didn't make my hands sweat.
The reinforced and rubberized fingertips seem sturdy but aren't so thick that they leave you fumbling around. I was still able to get a really good grip on whatever I needed--tools or weeds or even delicate seedlings. I haven't tried using them around anything really thorny yet and I suspect they might not be sturdy enough to prevent piercing by your average rosebush.
Last but not least, the gloves clean up well. I've had other gloves that were not washable and very quickly ended up looking like some crusty old thing that had been excavated from an archaeological dig. Ethel Gloves are machine washable, however, and they didn't shrink in the wash either. As you can see in the photo at the right, they came out with a few sap spots still showing, but otherwise as good as new.
All in all, these gloves work well for me. If you'd like to give them a try, the people at Ethel Gloves are offering a 10% discount off the usual retail price of $18 for readers of An Alameda Garden. (When you place your order at www.ethelgloves.com, enter the discount code "Alameda." Offer good til 8/24/08.)