Simple Stockings

by Abhaili bean Roland the Wanderer

The pattern for these socks is loosely based on actual hose found in bogs or in Greenland. Such a pair is pictured in Blanche Payne's A History of Costume on page 185. While these particular hose date from the fourteenth century, they are very familiar to examples from the Carolingian times. They are made of coarse wool and consist of a loosely-fitted leg piece joined by a horizontal ankle seam to a foot piece. The only major change I have made is to make the foot piece from a singe piece of fabric, eliminating the seam under the foot, because I find it uncomfortable to walk on.

The instructions that follow will make a pair of loose stockings that will have to be cross-gartered or tied into place. You may be able to get away with a slightly tighter fit if you cut them with the fabric on the bias, as they were often done historically. If you want a really tight fit, you have to cut a slit at the ankle and sew or lace the stockings closed after you have put them on. For comfort I recommend a side slit (fig. 1).

You will need one yard of scrap fabric to make a pattern, one yard of fabric for the "real" socks, scissors, pins, needle and thread or a sewing machine.

Making the pattern:

Although some people have two feet that are exactly the same shape and size, most people do not. Woven fabric socks have very little "give", so you must try to get as good a fit as possible. Take a rectangle of scrap fabric 18" wide and 16" long and place your foot in the middle of it (fig. 2). Pin a seam into place on top of the foot and at the heel, fitting closely at the heel and instep and tapering to a looser fit at the toe (fig. 3). Leave plenty of wiggle room, or you will be sorry. Leave the end of the toe open for now.

If you are going to make tight fitting stockings with a slit, cut the slit now. Otherwise you will have to remove some pins in order to get your foot out. Remove as many pins as is necessary to get your foot out of the fabric and pretend they were never there. Put your foot back in the material and re-pin, leaving a little more room this time. continue removing the pins and re-pinning until you can easily take your foot in and out of the pattern. Remember: every time you put these socks on, you will be putting your foot through this hole. Make sure it is big enough! Now stitch the seams where the pins are. Use big stitches as you sill be ripping them out later to use this piece as a pattern. Be sure to tie the ends of the threads so the seam doesn't' start to unravel while you're fitting the top part of the stocking. Trim the seam allowances to 5/8".

Measure the opening at A (fig. 4). Cut a rectangle that measures twice "A" + 1" seam allowance) by (the distance from your ankle to where you want the stocking to end plus a generous hem allowance). Note that if you have a large calf, you will have to taper the top of the leg piece out to fit your leg (fig. 5). Wrap the piece around your leg to make sure that it will fit. If you are making a fitted stocking, wrap the piece around your leg and then make a seam up the back, then cut a slit to match the one in the foot piece so you will be able to get your foot in and your leg out (fig. 6). make sure that you do not change the measurement at the bottom of the leg piece unless you change the opening of the foot piece to match.

Sew the sides of the leg piece together with " seam allowance. If you fitted the leg, sew along the pin line, otherwise sew along the material edge. Now turn the foot piece right side out, put it inside the bottom edge of the leg piece so that the right side of the foot piece faces the right side of the leg piece. Sew the two together all around the opening (fig 7). This is something like setting in a sleeve. if this makes you go crazy, just hem each opening, turn both pieces right side out, put the pieces together like a sock and whipstitch it together (fig. 8). This second option will probably not be as durable as the first, but if it saves your sanity I'm all for it.

Now turn the sock inside out and put it on. Stand on a flat surface again and pin a seam allowance into the toes using a pointed or rounded shape, whatever is right for your period (fig. 9). again, leave your toes some breathing room. Take off the sock and sew this toe seam. Trim the seam allowance, turn the sock to the right side, and try it on again. Make sure it is comfortable and make any adjustments at this time. Repeat the procedure for the other leg.

Now rip the whole thing apart, carefully marking the pieces "right' and "left" to avoid future confusion, and lay them on your good fabric to make your real stockings. Mark the seam allowances carefully. Put the socks together the same way you did the pattern, pressing the seams flat as you go. If you are making fitted stockings, hem or bind the slits. You may put eyelet holes if you choose, but use stitched eyelets as the metal ones have sharp edges and do not hold up well. If you want to put dags around the edges like some of the Franks did, see The Costumer's Handbook or ask a High Gothic type to help you out, or simply wing it as I did. Use some kind of garters. Grosgrain ribbon works well, but don't use satin as it slips.

Good luck and step lively!


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