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Wool hose was worn by both men and women during the medieval period, with the difference that the men’s was higher and usually tied to the belt/to the waist in some kind, and as the fashion developed became higher until joined to a pair of pants. Get it? A pair of hose- a pair of high hose- a pair of joined hose- a pair of pants. (I have never understood the English saying of a pair of pants but this make so much sense!)
Anyway, the women’s hose was usually tied under or above the knee. Here’s a quick view of some, but there are lots of different models, colours and designs from the period. If you wish to reproduce a garment for a specific time and location, you’ll need some more research to choose what you need, this tutorial is more of a “here, let’s make a garment!”
I wanted to show you how you can make a pair yourself, using your body’s measures for drafting a pattern or constructing the fit directly onto yourself. Hose isn’t very difficult to make, not even to get a pair of closely fitted ones. It just takes some practice and patience to pin them on your body and adjust the fit until you are happy with it.
First, you need some wool fabric, preferably a twill with a nice stretch to it. Not too thin but neither fulled into a bulky cloth, a medium weight slightly fulled twill, or a regular tabby weave would do the trick. To calculate the amount you need you can either first make a mock-up/toile or you can take measure 1 + measure 3 (as shown below) and draw them as a square on the fabric. Add some extra material around. The most stretchy part of the fabric should go diagonal over the hose. I usually make mine from leftovers from other projects and fit smaller pieces together.
You can start with a ready-made pattern, or make your own. Either way, you will have to adjust the pattern to your body, by fitting your hose onto your body for the perfect fit. Each wool fabric you use may be different, so if you are making several pairs in different fabrics adjustments might be needed for each pair.
Also, note that I make my hose right and left-sided, you don’t have to do this but I find that the overall fitting is nicer when I mirror the pattern I have.
If you decide to make your own pattern from start rather than buying one readymade, I prefer to draw some straight lines on a piece of scrap fabric and then drape this directly to the body. Of course, a friend to help you is great but not necessary.
You can also create a pattern on a flat piece by measuring and draft lines.
Start with taking the measurements:
1. Length of hose.
2. Width just under the knee.
3. Width around the calf (thickest part of the leg).
4. Width around the ankle (thinnest part of the leg).
7. Measure around the heel like shown in the picture.
(5 + 6 will show up later)
To make a flat pattern, also take measurements between the numbers above. Take the measure along line 1; what is the measure between 2,3, 4 and 7? Then you can use this to draw up this starting pattern for your hose; draw line 1, and then horizontally draw the lines 2,3,4 and mark the placement for 7 with just a dot.
This is my ready-made hose pattern. Yours will have the straight lines now, but lacking the sole and the form of the foot as well as the triangular gore.
Make the sole by drawing your foot on a piece of scrap fabric/paper. Make sure you stand straight while doing this. Add 1 cm of seam allowance around. This is piece number 5, and you make it the same way for both methods.
Now you can either try drawing the upper foot part on the flat pattern or cut out what you have and continue draping the hose directly on your body. If you want to draft the shape, line 7 is the width you need to fit your heel inside the hose. Draw that in a curved line like shown in the picture above. Then loosely draft the form of the foot and add some space needed for fitting around your drafted pattern. Don’t make any gores or slits yet (number 6) do these while you are trying on your pattern instead.
The measure of line 7 is worth taking into consideration while trying on your hose. You may pin it perfectly close to your body, but if you have a thin ankle you might not get the hose off because that measurement (4) is smaller than that around your heel (7). Remember to check this measurement while drafting the pattern or when trying on the mock-up. The hose should just go on and off your foot.
Draping rather than drawing
I prefer the draping method and use it in my beginner’s workshops because I think it is effective and easy. If you would prefer to drape the whole pattern, just mark line 1 on scrap fabric and then pin it to your body (use stockings, leggings or shorts but nothing bulky like jeans). To use the fabric’s stretch, you should draw line 1 horizontally over a piece of tabby weave or along the edge on twill fabric. The stretch should go across the leg of the hose, not alongside line 1.
Step 1 of the draping method. A piece of scrap fabric pinned above the knee, hanging loose. Line 1 will go from the pinned point to the toes, straight down on the middle front of the leg.
Steg 2: Loosely pin the fabric to the leg, following the natural shape of the leg. Make sure you don’t pin in fabric folds. The pins (the future seam) should be at the backside of your leg, running straight down over your heel. When you have an approx fitting; cut away the excess fabric leaving only a 2 cm seam allowance. Stand with the leg straight, foot on the floor when fitting the fabric.
Or you could get a friend to pin you in, while you stand on a table…
Step 3: Pin the hose more closely to the body. Pin on the sole from toe to the middle of the foot. To make the fabric lie smoothly on the body, stretch it gently in the directions of the darts. Toward the toes, down the side of the foot, towards the heel. Above the ankle, you change the direction and smooth the fabric out upwards. Every little crease will not disappear yet.
Step 4: When the general fit is good, it is time for the heel and the slit with the gores (number 6). Cut this one while the hose is on the body, from where the heel meets the sole, straight up on each side of the foot. Cut a little at a time, and check how the fabric behaves.
Straighten out folds and creases by stretching the fabric and pinning it more fitted to the body. This step is a process, and your personal foot shape will decide how long you will have to cut before all fabric lies smoothly. When you are satisfied, pin the rest of the sole to the upper fabric, leaving the new slit open.
Step 5: Now you have the overall shape of your new hose. You can baste it together if you want, and try the fit by taking it on and of.
This step with cutting the slit and inserting gores I do on every pair of hose I make when trying out a new fabric quality. If I work with a piece of fabric I am used to, I still make the gores while fitting the hose on the body. Note; I don’t make two mock-ups for left+ right, I just have one and then I will mirror that when laying it out on the wool fabric to get a left and a right hose.
Step 6: I find it easiest to just pin or baste a piece of fabric (generally triangular) to the hose while wearing it, and then cut off excess fabric. Then I can use that as a pattern for the other gores (notice that inner and outer gores might be slightly different in shape, which is normal depending on the shape of your foot and how you work with the fabric).
Step 7: When I have come this far I am content with my pattern, and take it apart (removing basting or needles) I also cut it clean, add seam allowance and label it with size and date. I also like to add some notes on the pattern for remembering things or if I lend them to friends;
Sewing the hose from wool fabric
Draw your hose pattern on wool fabric, laying line 1 horizontal across the fabric if you have a tabby weave (making the most stretch across the width of the hose). Cut the hose out with 2 cm seam allowance, 1 cm around the sole. Baste your pieces together; leg first, then the sole to the foot from the toes and back to the heel. Try the hose on, make adjustments and cut out the slit + fit the side gores.
Then you can sew your hose with back stitches, and fold down the seam allowance with whipstitching, or sew it on the sewing machine if you prefer. The gores I set in last, on the inside with whipstitching. Fold the edge at the top, stitch it down, and add garters to hold the hose up.
Other designs on the medieval hose.
The pattern with slits and gores are one of several finds on hose designs. You can also adjust your hose pattern to another design with a sole and a separate part for the foot, and one part for the leg. This saves you a bit of fabric and is quite easy to make. On the photo above I have marked this design with a dotted line straight over the hose. The grey hose below is made with that pattern.
There is also variations with the gores as parts of the sole piece (shown above in the photo of a find), a hose with the foot and sole joined, and several examples of patching, mending, and seams for joining small scrap pieces when making hose.
You can also add a second sole made out of thin leather to be able to walk without medieval shoes on dry ground. Avoid adding a thick sole, that will only rip your hose and be uncomfortable.
Want to make this project on a sewing machine? Check out this guide and more at Crafty Hangouts.
Good luck sewing!