Mens’ Stirrup Hose
Good Morning everyone! Today’s post is about how to make a simple pair of joined hose!
I made a video about making these hose, but if you would rather read, here’s the regular blog post:
Let’s start with a quick bit of background: men’s hose for most of medieval European history consisted of a pair of separate long socks or hose. Fun fact, that’s why we refer to pants nowadays as a ‘pair of pants’, because they used to be two piece garments. As men’s fashion hemlines rose, so too did the hose coverage. In the mid 1400’s, we start to see the hose joining in the back to cover the bum, and also rising higher to the waist as free standing, no strings attached (literally) garments. One step closer to pants as we think of them today!
Today I am going to make vaguely 16th century joined-hose for my Mister. It can be hard to pin down an exact decade, since hose in this style are present in various countries and classes throughout the entire hundred years of 1500 to 1600.
So I am a bit rubbish at drafting pants patterns from scratch, so we’re going to take a little shortcut today and start out with his best fitting pair of pants.
Under the pants, I have brown butcher paper to draw my pattern onto, and under that, a layer of cardboard to pin into. Back to the pants, you’ll note that like most modern pants, there are seams on the inside and outside of the leg. We need to move those to the back of the leg. So while looking at the back of the pant leg, we’ll grab the middle and fold the pant leg so the seam is centered. Well, sort of. Really, I want the two seams resting right on top of each other, so since the back-half of the pant contains a little more fabric, the seam will actually be slightly to one side. Once flattened, I’ll pin the leg to clearly mark the front and back fold.
It might take a little work to adjust the fabric of the leg as flat as possible. If you can, you want to try and make the front edge straight, move any curvyness to the back of the leg where possible.
You might end up with a little excess fabric, like I did here at the back of the knee. That’s ok, it’ll work out. Mark the pattern paper all around the pants, tossing some pins in all the way through to the card board base can help keep everything immobile while you trace.
You can’t easy trace the waist here since the fabric of the other leg is in the way, so using a pin, press through the edge of the waist band several times along the length, making sure to push all the way down through the pattern paper, into the cardboard. It’s hard to see here, but now there are little pin marks in the paper that I can use to draw the waist. Just connect the dots!
The first half of the leg is done, so I’ll flip it over and work on the other half. Match up the front fold with your previous marking, and trace the second leg, again keeping the front seam straight. Instead of a slightly tricky waistband, we now need to mark the tricky U shaped crotch seam. Again, I’m marking the paper by pinning through the pants, into the cardboard, until I have a trail of pin marks to follow. Don’t forget to remove all the pins from the original pants, no one wants to find surprise pins in their clothes!
I traced over the whole thing with marker to make it a little easier for you guys to see. No need to trace the center though, we won’t be needing that mark anymore. I am going to make a few modifications, like making the pants about a hands-width higher, so they’ll sit on his waist instead of hips, and I’m adding a bit of length to the bottom so these can become stirrup hose.
If you would like to know how to make footed hose, check out my ‘How to Make Medieval Stockings’ post. For now though, just a little band under the feet! I thought about having the seam directly in the middle, under the heel, but figured it might be more comfortable for him if the seam was on the side of the foot instead.
So far, I have just drawn the seam, now I’m adding the seam allowance. For this project, I’m using 5/8ths of an inch, but feel free to use your preferred seam width. Once the paper pattern is cut out, I can get out some mock-up cheap fabric to test our new pattern on.
I already know that the modern pants were much bigger at the calf and ankle than I’d like, so sewing up a mock-up is an absolute must project. This blackish grey fabric I am using is a quilting cotton, no stretch, which is important. I usually get most of my testing fabric like this from a thrift or charity shop, since it’s far cheaper than shopping at a proper fabric store. The fabric is often slightly stained or damaged, but that doesn’t matter if you are using it for mock-ups!
The two leg pieces are cut out, and I’ll sew them together at the crotch seam. When that’s done, we’ll need to sew the back seam of each pant leg.
Be careful here, it might be tempting to just toss these seams together like you see here, but that would be incorrect! I sewed the first seam with light fabric side against light side, so I should do the same with the leg seam. It will help avoid mistakes if you pick a leg and pin from the ankle up, being careful of course to pin ‘right fabric to right fabric’.
If you’ve pinned everything correctly, you should have three seams in the back, with the seam allowance all coming out on the same side! Sew the pinned seams, and while you’re at it, go ahead and sew the little stirrup strap under the foot too.
The mock-up is assembled, and I see here that the front of the waist is a little funny. The back curves up like it should, but the front would normally curve down. I won’t cut it off yet, lets see how it looks in the fitting first. Speaking of fitting, he won’t be able to get it on with the fly area sewn up like this, so with a seam ripper, I’ll let that seam out about 8 inches down.
Now he can try it on! Looks like he has plenty of movement, and the waist to thigh area looks good, so lets work on fitting the calves! I want to tighten the leg by pinning the back seam in, and when I asked him to bring his leg up, we noted that there was a bit of restricted movement there, so I made a mental note to make the stirrup a little longer.
To transfer the new seam line, I marked the sew line where the pins are, and then added the 5/8ths seam allowance. Cut the excess fabric off at the new seam allowance, and use that little cut off to mark the paper pattern.
Don’t forget to transfer the cut line and the sew line! I am going to lengthen the stirrup strap by about an inch, so I cut the strip open and tossed a bit of scrap paper to fill in the gap. Add a bunch of tape to both sides to keep it neat and we have a pattern extension!
The fabric I have chosen for the actual hose is a thin red wool, it should be fairly cool even in the summer. I am placing the pattern slightly off the straight grain, (don’t tell the sewing gods!). In all seriousness, this slight tilt will result in a more efficient use of fabric, and the hose can only benefit from the slight additional stretch that the off grain will provide. Or maybe it will f*** everything up, who knows?
I like to pin my pattern paper onto the fabric so it cannot shift around while I am trying to trace around it with the chalk. Once the first piece is traced, I can unpin it and flip it around and mark out the second leg. Technically since I only rotated the pattern, and did not actually flip it over to the other side, that means I am sort of tracing the same leg twice, but fortunately this fabric is the same on both sides, and does not have a directional pattern like a fancy brocade might, so I can pretty safely get away with this bit of sewing naughtiness. Do be careful to note whether your own fabric is directional at all, and place your pattern accordingly.
For funsies, instead of sewing the crotch seam first, I am going to sew the legs first. Why not? Pin your leg pieces together: I started out by pinning the top edge and bottom edges together, and quickly noted that I had a little bit of excess fabric on one side, and decided to handle that by easing the excess in around the derriere area. See how the bottom layer of fabric here is taut and smooth, while the top layer is a little bumpy? I am going to ease those bumps down, dividing the excess fabric as evenly as possible so I don’t end up with any accidental pleats. By holding the fabric in my hand and bending it up towards the excess, I can pin the middle evenly. Something to note if you are ever easing a larger piece of fabric into a smaller one is that it’s usually a good idea to have the larger side towards the bottom as you sew, so that these little feed dogs on the sewing machine can pull the fabric as it sews. Once you have sewn the first leg up, and you’re pinning the second leg, be extra mindful that the second leg mirrors the first, you don’t want to accidentally create two left legs! Or maybe you do, but personally I’d rather have one left leg and one right leg.
Once the leg seams are sewn, I want to iron the seam open. Doing this tends to let the seam lay nice and flat, and this will make it easier to sew the seam allowances down later. See how nice the right half of this seam looks compared to the left half?
When you are ready to join the two legs, lay them out flat so you can verify where all your seams lineup, and then we will sew this back seam together. Careful that you are putting the correct sides of the fabric together, we want all of the seam allowances to be on one side! I decided to start from the center back and make my way forward. Instead of sewing the whole crotch seam, and then seam ripping open the fly area, I’ll toss a few pins in at an angle to remind myself to stop sewing on the machine once I reach this point.
Now I am going to add the waistband facing! I have a strip of linen here already cut out, and one of the great things about linen is that it’s fairly strong and will help prevent the waistband area from stretching out over time. I am just using a straight strip, no shaping like you might normally do for a facing. I’ll sew that down with the same 5/8 seam allowance that I’ve done with everything else so far in this project. Then I want to iron the waistband down towards the inside of the hose and I will also fold over the free edge of the linen band, approximately 5/8 of an inch, so that I can hand sew that part of the facing down. Ironing a fold of fabric in place before you stitch it is nice because it helps hold everything in place without any effort while you’re actually sewing. Once the waistband I ironed is in place, I also want to work on the facing for the opening of the hose. I will add another piece of straight grain linen, pinning it in place half an inch or so down from the top of the hose. That little gap will be covered by the waistband, so I might as well not put extra bulk in that area.
Sew the fly facing down, then iron it towards the inside of the hose, just like we did with the waistband. To help further reduce bulk in the area where the two facings meet, I’m going to trim out a little corner here. It might take a little bit of extra ironing and finagling, but eventually you should have a nice and neat corner where the facings overlap. To sew the folded free edge of the facing I have a thread that has been doubled over for extra strength, and I will do a line of whip stitches to secure the facing down. As I do each stitch, I try to only grab a tiny little bite of fabric from the red wool, so that the stitch is as invisible as possible when looking at it from the right side of the fabric. To secure the overlapped facings, I use the same stitch, but now I don’t even need to go all the way through to the front of the fabric, I can just sew the two facings to each other. Tada! Don’t forget to sew the foot strap at the end of each leg!
For fun, I tried the leg on my own little foot, and realized that I forgot to make the strap narrower, so it’s not completely enveloping the heel of the foot. Most of the medieval images showing this style have a rather narrow stirrup band under the foot, so I will go ahead and mark out an approximate piece of fabric to cut off, being very conservative with how much I remove since this isn’t actually meant for my foot, so basing it off of my own proportions is maybe not the best idea. Just a little cutting for now, and we can cut more if we need to once the actual wearer tries it on.
So medieval and renaissance era hose do not use zippers or buttons to close, typically they will have laces, and in order to lace we need lacing holes. At the top here, I’m going to put two eyelets on either side and then I’m going to put an additional pair of eyelets further in to help give a little bit of flexibility on how tightly the waist is tied.
To make an eyelet, you will need an awl. If you are feeling clever, you might try using some combination of a slightly sharpened chopstick, or maybe a pen or pencil to do this job, but honestly I would just recommend going out and buying an awl, it’s a tool that does it’s simple job very well. Poke a hole into the fabric, gently working it bigger until it’s about the size you would need to lace your cord or ribbon through, and then we will stitch it open, otherwise the fabric would simply close again. Backing up a little bit, to prep my thread for eyelets, I will thread my needle with four threads, and then I run it through a little block of beeswax. The beeswax will help these four threads stay together, if you have ever sewn with multiple threads on your needle, then you know how they like to twist and tension differently sometimes as you sew. The beeswax will fix that. Knot the thread at the end and then bring it up through the back in between the facing and outer layers! That will make it so that the knot is inside of the facing, and keeps everything neat and tidy. Sometimes the hole will close up a little bit as you are working, when it does, just use the awl to widen it back up again. Stitch down through the open hole and then up through the fabric a small distance away from the opening. Some folks like to make the distance between their stitches very tiny, almost creating a visually solid layer of thread around the eyelet, but Mistress Morgan doesn’t have time for that, so I like to do approximately 10 stitches per eyelet. Less if it’s a thin or loose weave fabric that doesn’t need a lot of convincing to stay open. To finish up the eyelet, I will typically just bring it down into the fabric and then travel between the layers to the area of my next eyelet. That way I can do several eyelets per length of thread, and don’t have to cut and tie a new knot for each one.
A bit of time watching Netflix later and I have several finished eyelets! I did the four on each side in the front like I mentioned earlier for adjustable waistband length, but I also did some at the center back and at the sides because some outfits that I have already made include the ability to tie into the waistband of the doublet or jacket, and I want to keep that functionality if these hose are ever worn with one of those jackets.
To neaten up the inside, I am going to do a modified running stitch to tack the seam allowances down. I have done a wash test on this fabric, and the edges don’t fray much in the laundry, which is one of the great things about wool! If you are using a fabric that DOES love to fray though, you should fold the edges over and whip stitch them so that the raw edge is completely protected.
But to the modified running stitch! Running stitch’s greatest strength is speed, but it does has a small weakness when it comes to strength. I am using two threads, which is stronger than just one, but if the seam is put under a lot of strain, like bending over in hose, then those threads might break since they have no stretch to them. If I add a back stitch after every centimeter or two of running stitches, it will give the overall seam a little bit more flexibility and stretch, making it less likely to snap under stress.
For the stirrups, there’s a short seam here that needs to be secured down, and the edges of the strap too. Here I have used a running stitch down the middle of the seam allowance, just like with the other inside seams, but I have added some whip stitching to the edge, since this area will be rubbing against his foot and modern socks. To finish the stirrup edges, you could do the modified running back-stitch, like I am showing here, or you could whip stitch the edge instead, which would probably give you better stretch now that I think about it.
Once we finish up those seams, we’re done! I added some laces to tie the hose, but I’ll cover those in a different post, since this one is already so long! So these simple loose hose are complete for my specific person, but if you like, you could add a codpiece to cover the front.
We kept these on the loose side on purpose, but you could fit them a little closer during the mockup step if you’d like a tighter look to the hose. I hope you guys had fun learning about how to make some simple hose, and even if you don’t make ones exactly like this, maybe you learned a trick or two to help you on a different project!
On a slightly related note, I made a video about laces (like the ones tying the front of the hose closed!)
Have you finished making your hose? How about a shirt and over tunic?