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Tutorial & Pattern: Making your own seamed stockings

I don’t know how to knit, and sadly I don’t have enough money to purchase endless pairs of gorgeous American Duchess stockings, so having beautiful period looking stockings to go with my outfits has always seemed an unattainable dream.  Instead I made do by layering coloured nylon stockings until they were thick enough to look period, or using modern silk blend socks, but I’ve always wanted to come up with a solution that was closer to a period stockings.

After a bit of trial and error, I’ve developed a pattern and method for making a reasonable facsimile of period stockings.  It’s not entirely period accurate, but it gives a very plausible effect for 18th-early 20th c wear.

Merino knit stockings thedreamstress.com

For the pattern, I was inspired by stockings like these:

Stockings,1875–99, silk and cotton, French,  Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1986.64.2ab

Stockings,1875–99, silk and cotton, French, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1986.64.2ab

Stockings, late 18th century, American or European, cotton, Metropolitan Museum of Art,  CI42.90.2ab

Stockings, late 18th century, American or European, cotton, Metropolitan Museum of Art, CI42.90.2ab

My pattern has a back seam, a pointed back heel detail, darts to shape around the heel and ankle, and seams running around the side of the feet.  I chose the pointed back heel detail, rather than the seam that runs all the way down the ankle and joins to a seam under the foot shown in the examples above because I found that seam chaffed and rubbed.  It should be fairly easy to adapt this pattern to the ankle/foot seam if desired.

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

The pattern is named ‘Rosalie’ after Jean-Honoré Fragonard‘s daughter (and favourite model), because if there is any artist who knew a thing about a beautifully turned ankle and a nice pair of stockings, it’s Fragonard!

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, The Swing (detail) ca

You will need:

  • A sewing machine or overlocker/serger (plus scissors, pins, and other basic sewing notions)
  • 110cm of fine wool, silk, cotton or rayon knit, with good widthwise stretch (it should stretch from 10cm to at least 13cm) and good recovery (the ability to snap back without loosing its shape).  It does not need to have lengthwise stretch, though it doesn’t hurt either.  If your fabric does not have enough stretch, the stockings will not fit.  If it does not have good recovery, your stockings will stretch out of shape and sag down your legs.
  • Thread to match
  • 1 metre of 1″ wide elastic (optional)
  • The printed out pattern
  • Tape

The Pattern:

The Dreamstress ‘Rosalie’ stockings thedreamstress.com

Download the pattern.  It will print on two A4/8.5″x 11″ pages.  Be sure to select ‘Do Not Scale’  when your print, to keep the pattern from distorting.

Check the Test Square to make sure it measures 2″x 2″ or 5cm x 5cm.

Your pattern will look like this, with four pieces on two pages:

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

First, you need to join your pieces.  Cut the four pieces apart (roughly is fine):

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

Note the dots on the top end bottom edges of the pieces.  You’ll be joining the single dot to the single, double to double, triple to triple, like so, to make one long pattern piece:

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

Tape your pattern together.

Sizing

Now, check the length and fit.

The pattern is sized for my size 39/8.5 (9.5″ / 24cm long) feet.  The sizing has a bit of give because of the stretch of the fabric, but if your feet are more than a size smaller or larger you’ll want to resize.

Lengthen or shorten the foot part of the pattern the same amount along BOTH of the lengthen or shorten lines marked B.

Now, check the length along the leg.  The pattern is 27.5″ long from the tip of the toe to the top of the pattern – this puts it just above my knee, finished.

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

 

If you have a longer or shorter toe-to-knee measure (measured along the top of the foot and up the leg) or want a longer or shorter stocking, lengthen or shorted at the top end, or along the join line marked with triple dots.

I have just-slimmer-than-average feet and skinny calves, but I have tried this pattern on a range of women with different feet and calve shapes, and they have fit quite well (yay, stretch!).  However, if you have very wide feet or calves you may want to make your stockings a little wider – that’s very easy, just add to the centre fold of the pattern.

Cutting & Marking

You can either cut each stocking individually, or cut both at once by folding two layers of fabric at once.  If you do two layers, make sure that they are both folded at exactly the same point, so you don’t end up with one slightly narrower stocking!

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

Cut out your fabric:

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

And mark the upper darts D (I used transfer paper and a transfer roller):

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

Sewing:

The entire pattern is sewn with very narrow 1/4″ / 6mm seam allowances, so that you don’t end up with big bulky seams running up your legs.  This also means that the pattern is ideal for sewing on an overlocker/serger, though I’ll demonstrate it on a sewing machine.

Set your sewing machine to a knit stitch: a zig-zag stitch with a normal stitch length (2.5ish on most machines), and a very low stitch height (1 to 1.5 on most machines)

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

First, we’re sewing four darts – the ones you just marked, and the ones cut as notches in the pattern.  They are all marked with D

Sew the marked ones:

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

There they are sewn:

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

Next we’re doing the notches near the tip of the stockings.  Fold up the tip across the narrow cut-in, and sew one side, and then the other for both stockings, using the 6mm/1/4″ seam allowance.

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

Here are all 8 darts, 4 of each kind, sewn:

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

Now you are joining one side of the foot.  Right sides together, fold your stockings along the narrow cut in that is marked as the Toe fold on the pattern.  Pin, easing as needed, so that the lower set of darts D matches the upper set of darts D:

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

Press the darts up, away from the toe and toward the heel point, as you pin and sew.

Starting at the toe fold, sew up towards the heel point, stopping 1/2″ / 12mm from the heel point:

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

Sew one side of both stockings like this:

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

Now, pin the other side as you did the first, being careful not to catch any extra fabric in the pinning at the top of the heel point:

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

Sew as you did the first side:

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

Make sure to stop right as you meet the other stitching at the top of the heel point:

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

Now, pin along the centre back seam of the stockings, and sew from top (knee) to bottom (heel point), stopping just as you meet the stitching at the heel point, and backstitching firmly:

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

And there are your assembled stockings:

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

There are a couple of options for finishing the tops of your stockings.

You can leave them raw, as they are unlikely to unravel.  You can simply turn them down and sew a knit-hem with a double needle or a wide zig-zag stitch.  These options work well if you are using a suspender/garter system to hold up your stockings, or if you are holding them up with period wrapped garters.

You can also finish the top with a piece of elastic, so they stay up without any extra bits.  This option works well if your stockings are ending just above or below the knee.

To finish your tops with elastic, wrap a piece of elastic around your leg just above the knee (or below, if that is your stocking length).  Make the elastic snug, but not so tight as to cause discomfort:

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com
Give yourself a bit of an overlap, and cut two pieces this length.  With the stockings right side out, pin the pieces inside the stockings along the top edge, overlapping the ends:

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

Set your sewing machine to a high but fairly narrow zig-zag stitch:

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

Sewing near the bottom edge of the elastic, zig-zag the elastic to the stockings:

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com
Here is what it will look like on the inside:

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

Now, fold the elastic down into the stocking, like so:

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

Sew again along the new bottom of the elastic.

And hurrah, your stockings are done!

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

You can leave them as they are, or decorate them with lace or applique, as I did the Nana stockings:

1870s Manet's Nana inspired stockings thedreamstress.com

Have fun!  Make lots!

The Dreamstress 'Rosalie' stocking pattern thedreamstress.com

 

51 Comments

  1. Wow! Hurray! Thanks for publishing this pattern. ( Even though I Do knit I have been daunted by the gauge required for stockings! Maybe some day…)

  2. Gay Linn says

    Thank you so much for sharing. This with us!! I can’t wait to try a pair for myself!!!

  3. Natalie says

    Thank you so much for this!!!!!!! You really are awesome! I was wondering if you have any suggestions of online sources for the type of knit fabric required for these?

  4. Amazing and gorgeous!!
    Such a pretty color and I love the appliqué!!
    Thanks for the tutorial… Can’t wait to find some fabric and making some 🙂

    • Danielle says

      Double the seam and make sure you run back over your ends and you will be fine.

  5. Very nice…
    I was just wondering though: Obviously you need fabric with good stretch and recovery horizontally but do you also need vertical stretch?

  6. I can’t say thank you enough… and it looks like I should fit into the “one size larger” slot, so maybe they will even fit without resizing!
    I’ll have to fiddle a bit with stitches on my machine, I guess, but otherwise it looks simple enough, and means potential stockings of whatever colour I choose. And that’s the whole point! Thank you!

    • You and me both! I’m thinking the way to do it is to embroidery the motifs on to flat fabric, and then applique them on to the stockings, as I did with the Nana pair.

      • You could also do what is called duplicate stitch. You basically go over the knitted stiches of a fabric with another color to create a design of your choosing. It would be challenging with a very fine gauge knit but doable especially with a simple pattern. The effect would be similar to clocks that were knit in by carrying an extra color along with the main one which sounds like a technique that was used. You could probably also not trace but do a larger, but knit-like stitch. That would make it quicker but preserve stretchiness.

  7. sizzle says

    This is so great! I’ve been gearing up to draft something for tights/stockings, but you’ve done so much better than I would have! Thank you so much for sharing this.

  8. Oh my goodness!!! I am SOOO excited that you finally released the pattern! I am going to go get myself some knit to experiment with, and once I perfect the fit for my feet, I may just have to hack the pattern to make myself some tights.

    Thanks so much Leimomi for all your hard work on this!

  9. Tegan says

    So how does one actually keep stockings up with garters? With a belt I’m fine, but whenever I use knit garters, I get half a block down the street and they start oozing their way downwards. You can’t tell me that women who worked and had to wear stockings and garters just stopped every 50 to adjust! Which means I’m not doing it right somehow…

    • Creative Kiwi says

      When I worked at a costume house in Los Angeles I found out how! You can purchase ones which are round not square. You place them at the top of the stocking (while wearing) and roll them down to the position above the knee you like on your leg. You can also purchase the round elastic at a fabric shop and make them yourself..They stay..but like most stockings readjusting is the norm..

      I think the pattern The Dreamstress has would be great to make though as it’s all in one…

  10. Tenshi says

    Thank you so, so much for sharing the pattern! It looks positively awesome.
    I will definitely make a pair for the 1900s outfit I’m currently working on.

  11. Oh fantastic! I have a question from what era to what era would these be accurate for? I’m going to be working on regency for the january challenge and maybe I’ll make a pair to match my stays and chamise.

    • Well, they aren’t really accurate for any era, since stockings weren’t sewn from knit fabric in this fashion, but they are perfectly reasonable for 18th-early 20th century fashion, which are the styles I used for my inspiration.

  12. Thank you so much for this tutorial. I will definitely try these.
    And because someone asked for sourches in the comments: I haven’t tried myself, but I once read on a german re-enactment website that fitted sheets are comparably cheap and the fabric is thin enought for 18th century stockings (makes a great ‘make, do and mend’-project when using old ones as well), so they should be ok for this pattern as well.

  13. Absolutely brilliant!! Thank you, thank you, thank you – not only for the pattern and tutorial, but for sharing it with everyone. Now I’ll finally have stockings instead of knee socks for everything. Yay!

  14. Probably this is all known to many of you but I’m posting this just because it was news to me! I’ve just been reading more about stockings and was surprised to learn that the first knitting machine was invented in 1589 by William Lee. It seems that until the early 18th century and the invention of a tubular knitting machine many stockings were knit flat on a knitting frame, shaped with the addition and subtraction of edge stiches and then seamed. So this pattern does seem to be a fair approximation of those stockings. (I don’t know what their seamlines looked like though…) I believe I read that they went as fine as 20 stiches/inch even early on.

    • I just noticed the knitting frame in the description of some stockings pinned from Kerry Taylor auctions (actually from mid-18th century!), and started wondering along the same lines. And wondering what happened to all those frames and what they looked like to make such fine knit.
      The seaming is different, I think, because they would probably not be dealing with seam allowances, but a finished edge.

        • Oh, those are great! I just may have to experiment on that style as well eventually, because I love those stockings with clock inserts…
          I have seen footless stockings on the Met site, presumably for the exact same reason you describe.

          • I was thinking more about the embroidery question. On the ones with clocks ( and I think this might be true with knitted clocks as well) it looks like the embroidery would reinforce that part of the stocking seam by not allowing too much stretch. In the front of the ankle would work just because of less stretch needed. Also reading the post more carefully i do see that the Dreamstress tried the more exact copies of the historical seaming. I would love to know more about that process and which seamlines were attempted. For example I am curious if they were hand whipstitched or machine sewn. I would guess that if the originals were joined by whipstitching there would be less bulk in the seam. Now I want to try a whole variety!

        • Even on modern socks, that area around the heel/ankle sometimes gives, so I think I can see where that would help.
          The way I’ve seen sock decorations progress, very often it’s decorated clocks at the beginning of the 19th century and the fronts later when the construction was different. Not always, as those above would prove; but such progression would support the idea that originally the embroidery was partially for practical reasons – just like embroidery on folk costumes is often placed strategically at spots that need reinforcing (and there’s the profusion of the herringbone stitch on such garments…).
          That’s taking me somewhere completely different. Seriously, though, I love seeing these connections in clothing construction.

          • I would love to know where you were headed with your comment on herringbone. I love that stitch. Reminds me of my grandmother. But yes probably a discussion for another time.

  15. Nicola Lowrie says

    Oh my goodness, this is exactly what I have been looking for. Thank you so much for developing this pattrrn and the fabulous tutorial and sharing it with us. You really are the dreamstress.

  16. Great now I feel like I’ve finally got a great stocking pattern. And I’m sorry for being so impatient.

  17. Leigh says

    This is wonderful! But as I have heart disease and high blood pressure, I can’t use the elastic. Does anyone know how to adjust this for a garter belt or corset instead?
    Thanks!

  18. Jessie Ratledge says

    I love the stockings and your explanation on how they were made is first class.
    I would love to know if cutting on the bias of any lightweight materiel eg silk or cotton would achieve the correct amount of stretch needed.

  19. Mim says

    Thank you SO much.

    I’ve lengthened your pattern into full panty hose complete with top. By buying some very stretchy black mesh fabric I’m making my own seamed hose that fit me properly!

    • Awesome! I’ve always meant to do a tutorial on that, but I knew many of you would be clever enough to figure it out for yourself. So glad the pattern was useful!

  20. Emma says

    Dream stress, please could you enlighten me on which fabric you have used for this tutorial and the white ones in your photo? I am looking in fabric shops and nothing seems to be suitable =(

    Thank you so much.

  21. linda says

    Positively brilliant. Thank goodness you are back to an electric machine!

  22. you are a lifesaver! I am plus-sized and getting hosiery at all is a big challenge.. forget getting 19th century period appropriate stockings.. Now i can make my own! 🙂

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