Disclaimer: I won these gloves in a contest over at Garden Rant by publicly humiliating myself with this post, so I got the gloves for free. The manufacturer, Ethel Gloves, did ask me to drop them a line and let them know what I thought, which I will do as soon as I make this post. I'm not being paid for this post, and the opinions I express here have not been coerced out of me in any way. For what it's worth, I tend to be brutally honest, and I'm pretty darn particular.
As I said, I received my choice of style of Ethel Gloves in a contest. I've had the gloves for several months, and I didn't want to comment on them until I had given them a real workout. This past weekend, Garden Man and I removed every single herbaceous perennial and an eight-foot crape myrtle from our front perennial border (at least 50 feet long). We improved the soil and then replanted all the plants we removed plus about 20 more I'd bought. Then I shoehorned in a bunch of bulbs - 49 alliums, 20 daffodils, 4 camassia, at least 20 specie tulips and I'm not sure what else.
I dug with a shovel, I raked, I pruned, I hauled and I replanted every single plant using my hands, encased in those Ethel gloves. My hands spent 2 1/2 days in those gloves, working hard. If that doesn't qualify as a workout, I don't know what does. Then I rinsed the gloves, to get the excess dirt off, and threw them in the washer (cold water). I hung them up to dry.
Before I give you my verdict, let me say this: I didn't want to try these gloves out on this border redo. First, they are too pretty, so how could they be serious performance gloves? Second, they are the kind of gloves I'd wear to rake or prune, but not to dig. My preferred gloves for planting are stetchy gloves with nitrile dipped palms and fingers - those do a pretty good job of keeping the dirt from getting under my fingernails. I hate dirt under my fingernails. The Ethel gloves looked like they would let a lot of dirt in.
I have a lot of gloves, and I have one favorite pair of heavy duty leather ones for stacking wood and doing heavy work. I have another light stretchy pair with "traction dots" on the palms that I use for pruning everything except the hollies. I have a number of nitrile gloves for digging and weeding. I have some cloth ones for picking up brush. You get the idea. There was just no way one pair of gloves would be able to do it all for me. Oh, and I'm hard to fit. I have smaller hands, but they aren't all that slender. Often, the fingers in a glove will be snug but too long, and I HATE it when the fingers are too long. It's hard to find women's garden gloves in small - there is not nearly the selection you can find in medium and large or one size. Still, I have a pretty good collection, some of which fit better than others.
I didn't have the highest expectation of these Ethel gloves. But I was very pleasantly surprised. Did I mention they are beautiful? They are as pretty as a garden glove can be. When I first put them on, I was impressed with the fit. It was as close to perfect as I could hope for. My only complaints were that they seemed just a bit stiff, and the elastic around the wrist was a bit tight.
Then I got down to business and started working. I immediately forgot about the stiffness and the elastic. The next time I thought about the gloves was when I took them off to take a break. Hmmmmm, they felt pretty good, but I wasn't digging in the dirt yet. At the end of the first day, I'd hauled, used the shovel, pruned and done everything except dig in the dirt with my hands. The Ethel gloves worked great for each chore. They were just heavy enough to protect my hands when shoveling, and the extra rubberized grips helped me hold on to tools better, but they weren't so heavy that they were restrictive. They felt good. Although it was pleasant out, I was working hard. My hands stayed a comfortable temperature. And I enjoyed looking at my hands wearing these pretty gloves.
Day two brought planting. The improved soil was easy to work with my hands, so that's how I worked. I planted more than 400 plants in my damp, micaceous soil, with the gloves getting dirtier and with each plant I planted. After an extended planting session, the first thing I noticed when I took the gloves off was that there was no dirt under my fingernails. How was that possible? There were fingertip seams in these Ethel gloves, but there was almost no dirt on my fingers. I was impressed. The Ethel gloves were outperforming my favorite nitrile planting gloves.
On day three, I put the now-dry dirty gloves back on - no stiffness noted - and started using my trowel to plant bulbs. I dug in with my hands again, too. Again, clean fingertips and an easy grip on tools. At the end of the day, this is what the gloves looked like.
After I took these photos, I rinsed the gloves and threw them in the washer. They took less than a day to dry, and once dry, they fit just like they did before they were used and washed. There is no stifness and they look just about brand new. This particular, hard to please gardener is a impressed. I went from skeptical to I'm buying some of these for gifts. While I'm sure I'll hang on to my extensive glove collection, if you had to ask me to pick a favorite pair, it would be these Ethels. Even after just the one weekend trial. These gloves deliver on all their promises and then some.