Wanna make stockings for your sexy 14-16th century kit?
Wanna be lazy and not have to draft or drape them?
YEAH, ME TOO! So join me and wrap your legs in duct-tape, it’s the best!
Are you in class or at work, or just hate watching videos? Cool, I’ve got you covered: audio-free post below!
To start this out, I have covered my legs with a pair of old modern stockings that I don’t want anymore, and I am laying down strips of duct tape, covering my leg in overlapping strips. Now, while I used a stocking, you could alternatively use an old knee-high sock, or even better, you could avoid some of the issues of using stretchy materials by using something like saran-wrap or cling film. That’s a nice choice because it wont try to ‘de-stretch’ when you take your leg out of the duct-tape form.
This (1) is the 14th century stocking that I am using as my main inspiration (this one, and many more on Larsdatter!) If you would like to try out a simpler pattern, I would suggest a foot seam like 3, although that does share the downside of having a seam across the bottom of your foot. It doesn’t bother me to walk on a seam, but I know some people do not like it, so you can go for one of the patterns that shifts the seam to the shape of your foot print, like 4. If you like the look of the ankle godet (5), you can use that same footprint method.
If you look in the top corner of image 6, you’ll see that there’s another seam in this pattern, this is likely not there for shaping, but instead allows you to cut your stocking out of a narrower strip of fabric than you could without this seam. I have not seen any images of the other side of this extant stocking, but it likely continues around the back side of the calf.
With the marking complete, we can cut the top of the hose protecting my leg, and then down the back seam of the tape stocking. Slow and steady wins the race here, cut until you can remove your foot! It’s much easier to finish cutting out the pattern pieces once it is off your leg. You will almost certainly have to do additional cuts around any particularly curved edges: cut until the pattern lies flat!
While attempting to hold the duct tape down as flat as possible, trace the outline on pattern paper. Some parts of my pattern, particularly the top of the foot area, were really refusing to lay down nicely, so I had to just sort of settle for ‘good enough’. Learn a bit from my mistakes here: see all that bubbling in the leg and ankle? That represents a loss in inches, and therefore, width of fabric covering those areas, so be a little extra generous with your tracing. This, of course, only applies to non-stretch fabrics, you would be able to even have a little negative ease if you are working with a knit material!
I am going to cut out the pattern with no seam allowance for now, we’ll add that later with the final version of the pattern. I want to test out my new pattern on some scrap faux linen, and I am just going to use a marker directly on the fabric, since I know this is just a mockup. Usually you would want to use something that will wash out. It is important to note that you need to put the pattern on the fabric at a 45 % angle, since you want the bias to run down the length of the leg. This gives the stocking enough stretch to fit nicely.
Cut out the fabric pieces, taking care to leave a generous seam allowance, I added about half an inch. Sew up your pattern test, hopefully keeping the marked seam lines together when possible. I knew that this pattern would need some testing, since we are adding not just one, but THREE gussets/godets into the foot area. These are extra tricky, since you have convex (or pointy) part will keep all of it’s seam allowance, while the concave (split) part will gradually loose some of it’s allowance as it approaches the apex of the point. Weird to explain, and not much easier to show, but hopefully you’ll get what I mean.
Trying on the test sock, and it quickly becomes clear that I need more room in the line between the heel and the top of the foot. I probably lost some of that in my poor tracing of the duct tape, and in the gusset seam allowance. Back to the pattern!
I can’t add more to the gusset area, but I can add more to the heel! I can also make the foot piece bigger by filling in this space in the middle. I’ll trace out my new foot pattern with the modification, and add a bit of tape to extend the heel here and then lets try again!
Just like the first mockup, we’ll cut out the pieces, sew them up, and see if the pattern modifications helped! It’s much better, although still perhaps on the slightly tight side. I am not going to worry about that too much, since garments will loosen over time anyways.
I want to start refining the pattern, and include my 3/8ths seam allowance that I have left off so far. To be honest, I dislike how unsymmetrical the leg pattern is, and I think I’d like to continue fussing with it later, but for now, this works as is! Don’t forget to label each new pattern, so you don’t get them confused with older versions.
Sorry about all the dog hair!
The third mockup still looks good, so let’s start working on the actual fabric! I have already traced out the pattern onto this red wool, and as an added bonus, this piece is too small to cut out the full pattern, so we are going to add the same piecing that the original has near the top! I am going to cut my fabric in half, and see how much I need to add to the leg to complete the pattern. I’ll use the left over pieces from the side, rotate them to fit, and trace the rest of the stocking. Pin in place so these two pieces don’t get separated.
I just baaaarely have enough to cut out the foot pattern pieces. This fabric piece was 30 by 32 inches, which means I absolutely cannot go smaller than that in the future. A whole yard would have been even better.
The pinned seam will be stitched without any folding, I am just over lapping the two pieces of fabric and securing them with two rows of stitches. I have seen this called either a lap seam or a flat seam, but some times people also mean that the raw edge is folded under when they say those, so who knows. This is the selvage of the fabric, so I am not worried about it fraying. In modern sewing, you rarely include the selvage, since it might distort the garment by shrinking or behaving differently, and we can afford the waste of throwing away a half inch of fabric. I have so little of this wool though that I can’t really afford to cut the selvage off. It’ll be fine!
Here’s a clear view of how the leg and foot sections go together, like little jigsaw pieces! When I sew the first seam here, I am going to sew along the bottom fabric line, starting out at a quarter inch, and as it approaches the top of this top fabric, the seam will get smaller and smaller, even though I am still following the under fabric at one quarter inch.
One you finish up your foot seams, you’ll have an M shaped seam! If all is well, then you shouldn’t have any holes near the points, but if you do, go back and sew them closed. As I have already shown, the seam allowance gets quite narrow near the points of each godet, so I am going to do some top stitching to help reduce the strain on that first seam. Only one small problem: my three continuous godets mean that I need to have my seam allowance switch which direction it lays in, half-way between two points! I feel like that might be a little lumpy, so I did a little experiment with a piece of scrap fabric, cutting the seam allowance in the middle, and then stitching it down on two different sides. I also tossed it in the wash to make sure it wouldn’t fall apart because of fraying. Fortunately, it worked out just fine!
On the actual stocking, I’ll cut a little snip, taking care to not cut the actual seam threads, and then pin everything nice and flat.
And we’re done with that! For the sake of science, I sewed the two stockings differently. On the first one here, I whip stitched the edge down, and did one row of top stitching. For the second one, I just did two rows of top stitching, and made no effort to secure the raw edge down. I already know from my scrap experiment earlier that this wool does not fray in the wash, so I should be fine with not folding the edges down.
Next I need to sew the seam that goes down the back of the leg, and under the foot, and then the little toe seam, and I’m done! Unlike modern socks, the wool stockings don’t have any elastic in them to help keep them up, so I tie garters under my knee.
If wearing them all day, I may need to adjust or retie my garters once, but usually I can get through the whole day with no problem! I hope you all enjoyed my pattern making process, and let me know if you make stockings of your own, I’d love to see them! Goodnight everyone! Happy Sewing!
I try to post my projects in an easy to read, dress diary type format. When I first started learning to sew historical outfits, I found dress diaries to be the most helpful learning tools. I want to contribute my projects in the hopes that they will prove just as useful for others.