Welcome to my revisited, updated and expanded posting about how I made my very own basic sewing pattern for my beloved medieval stockings. It took me several days to put this posting / tutorial together but when I took a second look at this posting I set higher goals for myself for the final posting. 😀
My first major goal was to make sure to cover every single step of the fitting process and to add as many useful descriptions and additional information as possible. My second major goal was to make sure that everyone who is following my detailed instructions in this posting is able to make his/her own basic pattern for fitted medieval stockings.
Well, I don’t want to praise myself but I think I can say that I did a really great job and hit my target goals – but please decide yourself. The posting got very long and I hope that everyone of you, who wants to fit their first own 14th century inspired medieval stockings, will find the helpful information in the following posting you are looking for. 🙂
Ohhhh… btw. – “Medieval stockings” or “women’s hose”? …that is the question, isn’t it! 😉
Some of you might know the fitted medieval stockings also under the term “women’s hose”. Well, everyone who knows me, can tell that I don’t really care about names as long as it is not a name of one of my favorite embroidery techniques. However, I never really liked the term “women’s hose” and always preferred to call them my (hand sewn) medieval stockings. I really think that “medieval stockings” sounds much more charming and comfortable than “women’s hose”. And that’s what they are – absolutely comfy! 😀
…and if you think that the pictures look familiar to you, it is definitely possible. There are various “pins” of my photos showing my legs wearing my fitted & hand sewn medieval stockings “pinned” all over pinterest. *lol*
And now let’s get to the point which probably interests you the most: How I constructed my comfy and closely fitted 14th century inspired medieval stockings. Well, I admit it, this project was indeed not an easy task. And my very first try to fit a stocking pattern was an epic fail but it inspired me even more to not give up and to find a way that works…
I am glad to say that I finally came up with a great fitting method and also a great medieval stockings pattern for myself. And since I developed my very first medieval stockings sewing pattern for myself, I also helped several of my friends who needed fitted medieval stockings. Once you know how to do it, the basic sewing pattern for medieval stockings can be easily fitted. 🙂
…ok, I know, you want to read more about the fitting method and my pattern now. So here we are – my revisited, updated and expanded posting for you – enjoy! 😀
How I fitted my very first 14th century inspired
medieval stockings sewing pattern
Already some years ago I decided to make a “women’s hose” for myself. I found several medieval patterns in some of my books as well as a pattern and instruction in the book “The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant”. Because the patterns which I found in this book and already used before were quite useful, I decided to give it a chance and to try the pattern and the instructions of the book “The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant”. Therefore I started following the instructions of the book “The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant” for the “women’s hose” on page 106.
From my previous experience with the patterns from the book “The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant”, I already knew that most of its patterns needed at least a little bit of tuning and brain work to fit or work right. Therefore I first followed the instructions of the book and then did my best to adjust the pattern. But whatever I did, the pattern didn’t work or fit at all. *sigh*
Well, after several tries to make the pattern work and the nagging bad feeling of a rising frustration level, I decided that I reached a dead end. Sometimes you reach a point where nothing seems to work and you just lean back, frustrated and angry, take a break and think about your next step. At this point I was quite sure that the pattern from the book “The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant”, which I used for my very first try, was the source for all of my problems.
Therefore I hit the imaginary reverse button and went back to the start. Sometimes a new approach to a problem brings new luck and success. I knew that I had to reconsider the whole matter. I concluded that if the “modern” pattern from the “The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant” doesn’t work, it might bring better results to work with the extant medieval finds. Well, at least they were actually worn by real people and that implied to me that the survived “patterns” – actually the remains of real stockings – must work. …at least in principle! *lol*
Therefore I decided to go back to the roots and to take a look at the medieval sources again. I knew that I had seen some great pictures of extant medieval finds of medieval stockings in my books before – I just needed to find them again. 🙂
After a short search I found several extant patterns of medieval stockings in one of my favorite source books about medieval clothing: “Textiles and Clothing, C.1150-C.1450: Finds from Medieval Excavations in London“.
Btw. this book is an awesome source of inspiration for everyone who wants to know more about real medieval clothing. It has a great and very detailed section about medieval “sewing techniques and tailoring”. Furthermore it also contains valuable information about wool textiles, goathair textiles, linen textiles and more… If you have some free time and would like to read a good book about medieval textiles and clothing… You can find this book here:
Amazon.com: Textiles and Clothing, c.1150-1450 (Medieval Finds from Excavations in London)
Amazon.de: Textiles and Clothing, C.1150-C.1450: Finds from Medieval Excavations in London (Medieval Finds from Excavations in London)
While I was relating this drawings from the book “Textiles and Clothing, c.1150-1450” of actual extant stockings to the “modern” (and not working) pattern from the book “The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant”, I found especially the picture Fig 167 – “C” on page 188 (above) and the picture Fig 168 – “D” on page 189 (underneath) very interesting and inspiring. 🙂
I could discover several major differences between the extant pieces and the not working “modern” pattern from the book “The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant”. It seemed to me like I just found the final clue to solve my whole stocking pattern mystery. 🙂
While looking at the drawings of extant stocking pieces, I realized that I had to try to fit a pattern myself. This was quite a big challenge for me at this time, I just had started experimenting with fitted dresses shortly before. But well, what is the life without a personal challenge from time to time? Without a small challenge like this I would have never tried out embroidery… But this is another story, therefore back to the stockings! *lol*
Ok, I knew now that I had to fit a stockings pattern. But at least I had more hope and an extant inspiration of how a finished pattern which actually works might look like. 🙂
The fitting of the basic stocking pattern
After taking a look through my fabric stash, I decided to use some rather cheap but also sturdy (IKEA) cotton fabric which didn’t stretch for my new and final stocking pattern approach. The next important questions at this point were now:
- What do I want?
- How do I get it?
The answer for the first question was rather easily answered: I wanted fitted stockings, which are a little bit higher than my knee. And after some consideration, the answer for the second question was: Wrapppppppping! Yes, I had to literally wrap my leg in fabric.*lol* And because I wanted the seam to be at the backside, I had to place also the pins at the backside… So far so good – I had a goal. *lol*
Therefore I took my fabric, “wrapped” it over my leg and started with the pinning. Whoever tried to fit a dress very closely, can imagine that this next step – pinning the fabric by myself – was quite tricky; or should I say pointy? 😉
However, in the meantime since I fitted my very first stocking pattern for myself, I fitted several basic stocking patterns for friends and figured out that the best way to do the pinning for the lower leg is to do it in two steps:
Fitting/Pinning – Step 1
For the fitting process I recommend to get a nice amount of cheap but not too thin fabric which doesn’t stretch.
Take the fabric at one of its straight and long borders. Place your hands about your thigh range apart and wrap the fabric around your leg.
I highly recommend that you start your first wrapping in a little bit higher position on your leg than the point to which you want your stocking to reach.
Make sure that both borders of your fabric meet at the same height at the backside of your leg, then pull the fabric backwards with your fingers and carefully place your first pin at this point. This pin should be placed as close to your skin/leg as possible – this also applies to all other pins you have to place during the fitting. The fabric should be rather tight at this place but please take care that it doesn’t restrain the blood flow in your leg.
The pin and the pinned fabric – which will later become your back seam – should be located in the middle of the backside of your thigh/leg (you can control this by taking a look at the back side of your leg via a mirror). Work your fingers downwards from this first pin – always stretching the fabric from the front of your leg to the back side, placing the pins at the back while you proceed.
For this work it can be helpful to imagine a line at the front of the leg. This imaginary line is starting at the middle of your highest stocking point at the front of your leg and goes down over the middle of your knee to the middle of the front part of your ankle. Always try to pull the fabric rather smooth from this imaginary line over both sides of your leg to the back, placing a pin about every 2 inch (4cm).
You should also place a pin where the hollow of your knee is – it will prevent the fabric from slipping further down while you are pinning the rest of your fabric… Whatever you do after this point – please don’t bend your leg when you sit down! Been there – done it – it hurts! This is a mistake you only make once and will forever remember! 😉
Proceed with this pinning process until you get to your ankle… 🙂
As soon as you reached your ankle, we can start with the second round of pinning:
Fitting/Pinning – Step 2
In this second round of fitting you need control if your back-seam is centered. All big gaps or folds at the front, back or at the sides need to be removed now. During this step you can re-pin your pins for a better fit where needed and place more pins in between the already placed pins. Try to stretch the fabric as smooth as possible over your leg.
Fitting/Pinning – Step 3
Now, that your leg is nicely wrapped in fabric, we need to assure that you can get in and out of your stocking. Carefully move the pins in the hollow of your knee further to the outside until you are able to shift the pinned fabric over your knee and also over the lower leg. As soon as you can move the fabric over your lower leg, you can start with re-pinning the pins at the height of your ankle. Also here you need to place the pins a little bit further to the outside until you are able to get your heel out.
When you are able to move your heel out, you can proceed with the next step. Put the fabric up on your leg again and place one extra pin back at the height of your ankle to narrow the fabric again, to prevent the bottom part from further moving for the next step. Starting from the top, cut off the excess fabric about an inch next to your future back seam – next to the “line” of your needles. Leave a nice piece of fabric next to your heel (+ seam allowance) – we will need it later. Concerning the other fabric on top of your foot – just make a generous cut at the height of the sole of your foot – we will come to it soon… 🙂
…and now: cut, cut, cut…! 🙂
To be able to proceed with the heel part and to move the foot back into a more natural position, it is now necessary to place a careful cut over your instep. This cut needs to go from the middle of your toes over the instep up to about underneath the ankle height at the front. You should use a good fabric scissor but please be careful and don’t hurt yourself when you are cutting the fabric. Also don’t cut too far into the fabric – make small cuts, one after another. It might be more work but can save you a lot of work later!
The next step is the “top-cut” – as I call it. My instep is quite high therefore I had to place the top of the straight “top-cut” rather heigh near my ankle. The “top-cut” point is a matter of your foot and your personal taste and will therefore vary from one personal pattern to the other.
Maybe you remember the picture Fig 167 – “C” on page 188 in the book “Textiles and Clothing, c.1150-1450“. The “top-cut” point I refer to here is the top line of the small rectangular cut out in the middle starting at the bottom line of Fig 167 – “C”. The left and right sides, which are not cut out and which you can see on the the drawing for Fig 167 – “C” are actually the fabric parts which will cover the sides of your foot and which will connect at the the bottom line underneath your heel. The rectangular cut out in the middle allows to add some extra fabric for your foot – a pattern that, once properly fitted, works very well. 🙂
When you place your first cut from the middle of your toes to about your ankle height over your instep – don’t cut too far. As soon as you make the small cut to the left and right to get the “top-cut”, you will see that also the tension of the fabric changes a little. I found my “top-cut” point by working my way up with small cuts until I found a rather comfortable cutting point with just a small amount of wrinkles while moving the foot. I am sure you will also feel the difference as soon as you made this cut.
You really can’t get rid of wrinkles and folds at this point completely – therefore please don’t cut too high. The major goal here is to find a point where the fabric doesn’t restrict the movement of your foot and you feel as comfortable as possible.
If you are going for a sole like shown on picture Fig 168 – “D” on page 189 in the book “Textiles and Clothing, c.1150-1450“, you can now carefully pin also the fabric at the underside of your heel.
Short side note about the bottom part:
Many people are uncomfortable with walking on seams, even if a wool fabric seam becomes rather flat and “unrecognizable” after the first 1-2 wears & washes. Therefore, even if you want to avoid a seam at your sole underneath your foot, it is still helpful for the further construction of your pattern to pin this part because it will help you later to determine the border line of your pattern at the height of the sole of your foot – your “step” area. Furthermore it will help you to cut away this part properly to place in a “one part” sole. If you are aiming for a one part sole / step area – just follow all instructions till the end and then take out the bottom pins and pin in an extra fabric for your “one part” sole. This way you can replace the bottom part with the seams with just one piece of fabric which will “move” the seams from underneath your foot to the sides. 🙂
As soon as you found your “top-cut” line and pinned the fabric underneath your heel, you can now carefully try to place the next cuts for your rectangular foot opening on the left and right side of your foot. When standing upright, this left and right cut should be rather straight and about 90° to the floor. If you are fitting the stocking by yourself, I recommend to leave a little bit of play here – you will be able to “adjust” both cuts to build one “line” over the sole of your foot as soon as you take off the fabric to replace the pins with a machine sewn seam.
Btw. some extra side information for you:
The rectangular shaped cut out for the foot is usually the only part where I don’t leave any seam allowance for the fitting. I tried to leave some seam allowance but its handling appeared to me far too difficult to really pay off. I really think that doing the fitting without seam allowance at this point might be a little bit more “pointy” but also easier.
…and back to the fitting of the major pattern. As soon as you have pinned the underside of your heel and cut out the rectangular foot opening, you can remove the extra pin (for fabric tension) at the height of your ankle. Now take the fabric off and sew both sides together along your line of needles. It is much more comfortable and definitely less painful to do the rest of the fitting without all the needles. Btw. this is a good moment to control if the border of the left and the right side of your rectangular foot opening are meeting at the same place at the sole.
Fitting/Pinning – the added “foot part”
Now we can continue with fitting of the next part – the added foot part. After I saw that the upper fabric part for the lower leg which I just created did work very well, I took again inspiration in the drawings of the book “Textiles and Clothing, c.1150-1450“. My inspiration for the next step was the drawing of the piece with the number Fig. 167 – “D”. When you look at it, it looks like a “D”, just turned by 90°. Therefore I cut out a piece of fabric shaped like a big “D”.
Funny side note for your amusement:
Just after I cut out the big “D”, I realized that the piece of fabric was too short at the rounded side. I had to add some fabric with the sewing machine to get a “D” shaped fabric which was big enough for my foot….
You can easily avoid this problem by first taking a measurement from your “top-cut” line over your in-step to your toes. Also add to this number at least 2-3 extra inch for extra “play” above the “top-cut” and some extra seam allowance for the other side.
But soon I found out that just cutting out a “D” shape alone is not the solution here. If you take another look at the picture showing Fig. 167 – “D”, you can see a small cut in about the middle of the straight line of the “D”. And this small detail, this little cut, makes really a huge difference at your top instep/ankle point concerning the fitting – it makes it much easier to fit the fabric to the foot.
Please enlarge this small cut very carefully – bit by bit – until you have enough fabric to cover the “top-cut” line on both sides with fabric. Finally you shouldn’t be able to see any skin. Make also sure that you have enough seam allowance to pin the new “foot-part” to the leg part which we fitted before. Now you can carefully try to place your first pins. Pin the new “D” – shaped fabric (with the small extra cut) to the lower leg fabric you already fitted. Don’t place too many needles at the beginning – you will need to make several small adjustments in the next step.
As soon as placed some pins to hold the added “foot-part” in place, start moving your foot up and down and re-pin whenever needed. Don’t try any excessive movements – this up and down movements should cover your normal foot movements.
This process helps you to add some play to your stockings and will furthermore allow you a very comfortable wear while you are walking in them. This is a very important part of the fitting that shouldn’t be skipped by any means!
As soon as you reach the heel, stretch the fabric over your foot to the back – to the sole of your foot. Now work your way from the heel to the toes like you have already done it for your leg fitting. Make sure that you stay with your pinning in about the middle of the sole. As soon as you reached the toes, you need to move your foot up and down again and re-pin whenever needed.
The picture above and on the left shows how my “D” shaped added “foot-part” looked like after the above described fitting process. 🙂
…and now we are finally able to finalize the basic stocking pattern. Take a thin marker and mark the borders of your leg fabric on your “D” shaped added “foot-part” – you need the left and right rectangular shaped cut out lines for the foot as well as the “top-cut” line (and don’t forget the sole). As soon as you marked this connection parts you can take out the needles here and take off both fitted fabric parts. Cut along the marked lines of the added “foot-part” and then proceed by cutting along the pinned line at the sole. Concerning the fitted leg fabric – just cut along the machine sewn line…
…and voila – you have a basic stocking pattern! Here is how mine finally looked like:
Yes, I know, my feet have a very odd shape… *lol* …but well, it works… 😉
I hope you enjoyed my very detailed medieval stockings pattern tutorial and that I could cover every possible question. 😀