Sunday, July 16, 2017

In Progress: Oatmeal Wool Hose

This project started when I pulled my in-progress wool sleeping tunic out, and decided that I didn't care for it. As the unfinished tunic sat around over the next month or so, I considered other uses for it. One evening, while talking to a friend about wish list items, I realized that I hadn't made wool hose in a very long time. I normally wear knitted wool or cotton socks. I like them, they are comfortable, and since I always had a problem with garters staying in place (until recently), the fact that they mostly stay where I need them to is a big bonus. They aren't, obviously, correct for an early 15th century townswoman. It didn't take much to convince me that the wool tunic should be recycled as hose.

When I finally got around to starting this project yesterday, I was looking for the easiest option to get finished hose quickly. I also wanted to focus more on the sewing than the patterning. I remembered that I'd pinned a quick hose tutorial from Maria at In deme jare Cristi some time ago, so I pulled that up and figured I'd give it a try. I won't belabor her method here- you should check out her post for that- but it took a little trial and error to pin myself in and make adjustments for the fact that my legs are not at all symmetrical.

Eventually, I ended up with a nice-fitting sock made of two pieces. The pattern is reversible to get me the right and left hose (one side of the pattern is the right, the other side is the left.)

With that figured out, I laid it out on the wool... and discovered that there wasn't enough to get the hose laid out on the bias. After a moment, I started to pull on the wool to see how springy it was in all directions. While the bias was definitely very elastic, pulling across the grain also revealed good stretch. I decided to go for it, and laid the pattern on the straight grain. I want to stress that this is only because the wool I'm using can stretch that way. Period hose, for the most part, were cut on the bias.

The brown pattern did not have seam allowance, so I eyeballed that as I cut the pieces out. I went with about a 1/4". The wool here is two layers (the front and back of the original tunic.) I probably could have ironed it first, according to that picture.

This project was an excuse to look at and recreate the technical sewing methods used on the hose in the London finds. I'm using white linen thread that I run through beeswax as I go.

On pages 155-56 of The Museum of London's Textiles and Clothing by Elizabeth Crowfoot, there is information about the seams and seam finishing used on the hose pieces. It's interesting that the hose had their own set of standard seam types.

The first is the way the back seam was constructed. First, the pieces were joined together using running stitch, or more likely, back stitch. Then the seam allowances were laid down on each side, and tacked into place with a running stitch worked on the outside. This is a common seam technique (I call it the "clean finish" here), but Crowfoot points out that only the hose seemed to use this seam finishing style. Which is interesting, since it's not a technically strong seam, and especially where the foot presses through the ankle as the hose are put on, I would think that a strong seam would be preferred. Tight, sturdy back stitching, however, probably really does do the trick well enough.

In the finds, several of the seams on the foot pieces were constructed with an overlapped technique, which also appears to be special (though perhaps not unique) to hose. In this seam, the two sides of the seam are laid one on top of the other. A running stitch tacks them together and secure the back side. Then a hemstitch is used on the other side to tack the other edge down on the outside of the hose. This only works with cloth that does not fray, such as the typical fulled wool used for hose. For my hose, I will use this technique on the joining seam that goes over the foot. On a future pair, I'll think through the process a bit more to be able to do the overlapping seam on the seams under the foot. For now, I'm fine with the seam treatment on the leg seam continuing all the way down to the toes.

To mark the left and right pieces on this spongy wool, and to make sure I knew which side of the cloth was the outside, I grabbed two different color threads and stitched them on each piece. Then made sure to write down which color belonged to which leg.

For the overlapping seam over the to of the foot, I carefully aligned the two pieces, pinning them into place as I went. When I do this seam type again, I think it would be helpful to baste a line on each piece where the seam should be to more easily line them up. The foot section in on the top, so the bottom edge of the leg section is pointed toward the toes on the underside. If that makes sense.

I used a tight running stitch, worked on the topside to secure the two pieces together. I could feel the edge of the leg piece on the bottom, so it was actually fairly easy to get the stitches to run just along that. I kept the stitches small and tight. Crowfoot says stitches were about 2-3mm average, but I felt even the 2mm was more visible than I'd prefer, so my stitches are more like 1-2mm.

After doing the running stitch all the way across, I realized that gave me a double-wide seam allowance at the top. I probably could have skipped cutting any seam allowance on one of the pieces, but it was just as easy to trim this in half.

Using a hemstitch, I tacked that raw edge down. This took a little more time, and the stitches were placed really close together to really capture that edge. The wool doesn't fray, but it isn't heavily fulled, so the cut edge is a bit delicate. Above is the finished seam from the outside (visible side). The more visible hem stitching is the upper part of the seam on the foot.

Here's the underside. The running stitch runs just inside the edge. There's so little raw edge left hanging that it's basically not there. I'm happy with the result, and I can see the value in a seam like this. It's well-contained, was easy to stitch, and the resulting seam has no bulk.

The next thing is to stitch the long underfoot and leg seam. I started that this morning. I'm using back stitch. While Crowfoot says running stitch may have also been used, she seemed to lean toward back stitch being the more likely choice. I also don't use back stitch very often (I maybe used it to attached some sleeves once), so in the spirit of doing things a bit differently, I think back stitch is the right way to go.

Looking ahead and the end, I'm considering the options for finishing the top hem. I cut it to just be a single fold hem, but laying in bed last night, I visualized possibly using some off-white wool yarn I have to stitch that hem down with a stem stitch, just for a subtle decorative touch. It will be up by my knee, above my garter, so if anyone happens to catch a glimpse that high up on my leg, they'll get a glimpse of something a little special. I mean besides my knee. 

Of course the real end result of all this is to get it stitched together and try it on to be sure the wool really does stretch enough for me. Let's keep our fingers crossed on that one.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting to read about the seam types!