are pliable and can be bent to form loops without breaking, because—unfortunately—the knitted loop has this disadvantage, that when the fabric is stretched, a broken thread easily draws through a number of loops, causing what all women know as a ”run“ or ”ladder“ in the stocking. The illustration (Fig. 2) explains pictorially the difference between courses and wales, when referred to in a knitted fabric. The wales are the loops going in an upright direction. The courses are the loops which run horizontally.


Behind every pair of stockings sold over the counter there is a pedigree which dates back, not only to the first knitting machine made, but to primitive men and women who decided they must have some protective clothing for their legs. William Felkin states, “There is no historic mention of the art of knitting till the time of Henry IV. It was first named in an Act of Parliament of Henry VII., and in several following Acts, knit hose, caps, and also hosiers were mentioned. Henry VIII. wore knitted silk Spanish hose, and Elizabeth wore a pair of English hand-knitted silk stockings.”

It is fair, therefore, to draw the conclusion that up to the periods mentioned, no-one in England—from King to humblest peasant—had anything better than woven cloth stockings.

Harrison, writing during the time of Queen Elizabeth, gives the impression that knitting came to this country from Spain. “At this period a change of dress was brought in by the Spaniards, several features being the ruff, or loose collar, a fanlike structure of lace or lawn upheld by wires overtopping the fantastically-dressed hair; equally ridiculous was the hoop, or farthingale, and men’s dress followed suit, though with less extravagance. They now wore trunk-hose, and beneath them curiously wrought stockings.”

Knitting might possibly have been introduced from Italy, because it was now a part of every scholar's education to visit Italy, whence they brought back both ideas for dress, and artistic intellectual tastes. Later, Italian influence and dress was strong in every department of Elizabethan life.


Fig. 3 Showing the side parts of the knitted loops
FIG. 3. Showing the side parts of the knitted loops, forming the surface which is exposed to view when the stocking is worn.

Knitted stockings admit plenty of air by virtue of the interstices between the loops, also these loops can be made larger or smaller according to coarse or fine yarns used. This admittance of air makes knitted fabrics most suitable for use in articles which lie close to the skin.

The knitted loop allows a current of air to be passed constantly through knitted clothing which lies next to the skin, and the strength of this current through the loop depends upon:-

1. The difference of temperature between the internal and external air.

2. The velocity of the surrounding atmosphere.

Fig. 4 Curved parts of the knitted loop
FIG. 4. Showing the curved parts of the fibres of the yarns used knitted loops which lie next to the skin.

It will be seen, therefore, that the knitted loop used in stockings fulfils the real function of regulating the admittance of air to the legs in so subtle a manner that the movement of air is imperceptible to the wearer. Actually it is the material from which hosiery is made that decides warmth or chill to the skin. Silk is warmer than rayon and nylon colder than rayon.

Stockings can be made from numerous durable materials, and in various colours, providing the fibres of the yarns used