Stockings with ribbon garters

I became intrigued with an extant pair of woven 16th century stockings in Textile Conservation and Research by Mechtild Flury-Lemberg (pp. 222-231) and had to try a pair for myself. These are made from a linen-cotton blend, but I would like to try pure linen next time. They are left- and right-footed and fit very closely to my feet. I made three pairs and wore them to Pennsic, and they are extremely comfortable. Because they are cut on the bias, they have some give and actually fit fairly closely at the ankle.

The picture on the right is of my heels to show the seam around the edge of the foot and up the back of the leg. All seams are flat-felled by hand with double thread in a backstitch. You can also see a slight stain on one heel. I found out rather quickly why it's better to make stockings in colors instead of white!

The garters are simply good-quality grosgrain ribbon double-tied in a bow just below my knee.

On the left is my adaptation of the pattern from Textile Conservation. I changed the sole and heel sections slightly to avoid having any seams under my feet. It is very important to cut the leg portion on the bias and the sole on the straight. The top should be a little longer than would just reach the bottom of the knee so that there will be a margin to fold over at the top (otherwise, the tops could slip out from under the garters).

On the right are a side view and a back view showing the seams of the completed stockings. I find the flat-felled seams sturdy and unnoticeable in the wearing. Though I did all the seams by hand, one could serge or otherwise finish all raw edges and sew the stockings on a machine. Due to wear and tear and frequent laundering, the finishing of the seam allowances is very important.

To use this pattern, adapt the general shape to your own legs and feet. Take careful measurements of both your legs (one might be bigger than the other) and a tracing of each foot. The pattern should have just enough room for your leg and seam allowance. The most important measurement is at the narrowest part--the ankle. Take a measurement not around your ankle but around your heel and over the top of your pointed foot to make sure that you can get your foot into the stocking. Since it is cut on the bias and will stretch, the ankle portion of the pattern doesn't have to be quite as big as the measurement around your heel. The little triangles at the sides come up to about my anklebones, but this will differ for others.

Machine-baste together a mock-up in fabric to test the pattern. You will probably have to make changes, so save your hand-work for the final product. Even after making a mock-up, I had to re-sew the heel portion of my first pair to get them just right.

For a longer article on hose in the 16th century, click here.