The Gunnister Stockings: Knitting Period Stockings

This document is courtesy of a friend from the Early Costuming Mailing List: if you're reading this and realize it's the document you sent me, please mail me your name so I can attribute it to you!

Here's a description of the Gunnister stockings. I have no date for them, but a version of them is used by Plimoth Plantation in their 1627 village.

This description is from "The Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland -- Publication of the National Museum of Antiquities, Edinburgh, 1951-52."

From this description alone, you can probably come up with some kind of stocking, but just in case, here's directions on how to make stockings that fit.


First, you'll need a bunch of measurements:

Should you choose to guesstimate here, The Workingwoman's Guide (1838) offers the following proportions:


This same "guide" also says: "It is difficult to make very correct scales for different sized knit stockings, as so much depends on the quality of the worsted and of the pins, as also on the knitter." Hence, the thoroughness of these directions.


Next, you need to figure your knitting gauge. Decide what yarn you intend to use, and what size needles you want. Knit a sample swatch by casting on 30 stitches and knitting in stockinette stitch (knit one row, purl one row) for 3 inches. Do not omit this step -- I can personally guarantee that you will knit to regret it.

From your sample, carefully determine your gauge, both width-wise (stitches per inch) and length-wise (rows per inch). The most accurate way is to place a straight pin (it won't distort the knit) into the sample about one third of the way across. Measure from that point one inch. Place another pin, and count the number of stitches. Do a similar procedure to measure the number of rows per inch. Don't make the mistake of trying to make your sample smaller and measure from the edge. You don't get an accurate measurement at the edges. You must measure from the inside to get the best measurement.


Center Back Panel


Heel and Foot

Okay, now it's time to put this all together.


I used just shy of 4 ounces of a medium sport weight on size 4 needles for each 25 inch stocking. Plan on eight ounces for the pair, but if you want them longer, you will need to buy extra. It takes nearly the full 4 ounces for one stocking. This gave me a gauge of 5 stitches and 8 rows per inch.