Posted by: Lucrece | January 31, 2010

I haue not a hole hose for to do on! Medieval ladies hose – that fit!

July 2010:  I’ve now added a better pdf file of instructions for patterning hose here:

Also, modyr, i beseche yow þat ther may be purueyd some meane þat i myth haue sent me home by þe same mesenger ij peyir hose, j peyir blak and an othyr peyir of roset, whyche be redy made for me at the hosers wyth þe crokyd bak next to þe Blak Freyrs gate wyth-in Ludg…ate; John Pampyng knowyth hym well j-now. i suppose and þe blak hose be payid for, he wyll send me þe roset vnpayd for. I beseche yow þat þis ger be not forget, for i haue not an hole hose for to do on. I trowe they schall cost bothe peyr viij s. (Letter from John Paston III to Margaret Paston, September 14, 1465).

Just before 12th Night I also decided it was time for a new pair of hose.  I have red and black ones, but my black ones are a wee bit itchy.  The new ones will still be wool but I have cheated a bit and used a cashmere blend 🙂

To make hose:

1) Choose wool.  Not all wool is all that itchy…unless you really really can’t stand it or have allergies, wool is critical for making hose that fit well.  Linen isn’t stretchy enough while wool is wonderfully “boingy”.

2) You can use any weight you like, but a “fulled” wool (coat wool, fuzzy,  like melton) is best.  You can use other wools but the seams need more finishing.  Fulled wool doesn’t unravel.  To prepare the wool  I wash mine in hot water in the washer.  Sometimes I dry it in the dryer a little bit too.   Shrinking fulls the wool even more, and that’s good (within reason, it is possible to make it too felty – it’ll still work, but it’ll lose stretch).

3)  Use scrap fabric to develop a pattern (see photos of mine) you can then use this as a rough guide to make hose in the future.  I cut my hose on the bias (diagonally to the edges of the fabric) as this produces the most stretch.  Cut them out.

5) Sew the foot and leg pieces together (the M and V – see below).  If the wool is well fulled you can just overlap the pieces.  On the outside I sew 1/8 of an inch from the edge using a backstitch.  Backstitch is important – it will allow the seam and thread to stretch without breaking.  On the inside, I whip(hem) stitch it down.

6) Baste (not sew) the seam which runs down the back of the leg and under the foot from the top of the heel (where it meets the ankle) to the toe.  Don’t do the rest of the leg yet,  it makes finishing the seams difficult.  Try it on for fit, if it needs adjusting pin and baste again until you’re happy with the fit.  Once you are, permanently sew the seam using backstitch, following the line of the basting (pull the basting out as you go or when you’re done).

7) Trim the seam allowances  if you need to (I like them to be 1/3 to 1/2 inch wide).  Open the seam flat.  You made need to clip or notch it around the heel.  Baste the seam open , then you can go on to finish the seam.  I sew two lines of backstitch, one on either side of the seam.  This makes the seam lie extremely flat – you’ll find this is important – a lumpy seam under your foot can be VERY uncomfortable.  I finish the edges by whip(hem) stitching them.

8) Now you can fit the rest of the ankle and the leg.  Baste it, try it on, make it looser or tighter as necessary.  I fit my ankles tight enough that I have to work a little bit to get my foot through (but not so tight that it won’t).  Once you’re happy, sew it permanently like you did with the foot (I use backstitch for the ankle, and then running stitch with a backstitch or two every inch for the leg).    Don’t forget to check the length (height).  With the bias you’ll find when you pull them up, they may be taller than expected – you’ll want to adjust the height before you permanently sew.  I like to leave around 3/4 of an inch to fold over and finish the top.  Sometimes I like to fold the top over twice – the thick hem won’t slip under my garters so it keeps the hose up well.

Happy Hosing!


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