Saturday, February 12, 2011

Fully Fashioned Stockings

Davenport Hosiery Mills building once located at 400 E. 11th St. (home of today’s Chattanooga Times Free Press) Chattanooga TN owned the trademark for Hummingbird hosiery (1942-expired). They did make the Hummingbird brand and Davencrepes (circa 19390). It appears the Davenport Mills company is extinct.

Previous posts on this topic: hosiery history links post

The Worker-Dandyist International blog has a nice feature on the parts of a full-fashioned stocking from May 2007. This post took me back to the project this blog supports--a lingerie dictionary--and the entry on Fully Fashioned Stockings.

tips for storing and caring for stockings from Behind the Curtain. She has some updates here and here (with some discussion of how to layer panties and garters for greatest practicality.

Fully Fashioned Stockings
Before the advent of pantyhose, stockings were knitted flat, then "fashioned," or shaped, by hand and hand-seamed up the back. Traditionally, all stockings were made with a functional back seam and were known as "Fully Fashioned". Modern "seamed" stockings are knitted in a tube shape; the back seam is added afterwards purely for decoration.
Fully Fashioned stockings are tailored to the shape of a leg by decreasing and increasing the number of needles used for knitting. On a pair of full-fashioned stockings, the toe and heel sections have been reinforced during the knitting process, making them darker than the rest of the stocking. But the feature that separates the real full-fashioned stocking from the imitations is the doubled over, key-holed welt at the top of the stocking.
Full-fashioned stockings are knitted flat, fashioned by mechanical manipulation of programmed chains that articulate cams to drop needles from the knitting process creating the famous "fashioning marks" on the backs of the stocking. The stockings are then joined by hand on a looping machine, creating the seam up the back. The actual knitting is done on a flat knitting machine first developed in Loughborough, Leicestershire, England by William Cotton in 1864.
The stocking is started at the top, with the welt, an extra-thick section for gartering. Reducing the number of needles at the ankle, then adding needles at the heel, and again reducing the number through the foot shape to the fabric.
The modern fully-fashioned machine was made from 1940-1960 by Reading Machinery Company in Reading, Pennsylvania, who stopped production of the machines in the early 1960's. In 1959 and the early 60's to purchase one of the later models, the R100, the cost was a little over $750,000 each, minimum 4 machine order.
The length of the machine is about 45 feet long, and it could make 30 stockings concurrently. The company started out in its early days making a single section which made one stocking. Soon after machines added length, to make 15 (half section machines) stockings, and then went to full section machines (30 stockings).
Gio manufactures their Fully Fashioned stockings on the original 1950's Reading machines (from the old Aristoc factory). These are 57 feet long and have to be kept at a constant temperature of 80F during the knitting operation. Each machine has 30 knitting heads that can each produce just 15 pairs of 15 denier stockings in an hour. There are fewer than ten working machines in the world today; and, there are now believed to be only 4 manufacturers of Fully Fashioned stockings in the world, two of which are in Derbyshire.
The Process:
1. Fully Fashioned stockings are knitted white, each stocking is then sewn by hand on a machine by experienced seamists. The 'finishing loop' at the top back of the stocking is a result of the finishing process, and is created because the seaming machinist has to finish the seam by turning the welt in a circle.
2. Next the stockings are dyed in large vats and dried.
3. Although the stockings are knitted to the shape of a woman's leg, they are also "boarded" - each stocking is put on a dummy of a leg and steamed at a high temperature to tighten the knit, define the leg shape and remove creases.
4. Finally each stocking is checked again for quality control, and then matched with a pair of identical size and carefully packed for sale.
Heel Types
There are four different styles of reinforcing for a stocking heel; these are all based on a small triangular reinforcement extending slightly up the back of the ankle.
1. French point heel: this can just be called a "Point Heel" or "French heel" and sometimes a "swing heel". A basic triangle with the point extending up to the seam of the stocking.
2. Cuban heel: Similar in shape to the French heel except the Cuban heel is flat at the top.
3. Havana heel: similar to the Cuban heel in shape except that the Havana heel is wider than the Cuban.
4. Manhattan heel: This is similar to the Cuban heel however the Manhattan is fancier with a additional row of stitching around the edge, it is suppose to resemble a Manhattan skyscraper.
Anatomy of fully fashioned stockings:
Welt:- Reinforced area at the top of a stocking where the stocking is clipped onto the garter. Usually a double thickness of fabric folded over at the top and sewn onto the stocking above the run guard.
Finishing Loop:- Hole at the top of the seam where the seaming machinist finished the seam and turned the welt in a circle.
Run Guard:- A narrow strip below the welt designed to catch any runs which may develop. (see Under Welt)
Fully fashioned leg
Reinforced heel, toe and foot:- Much of the wear on a pair of stockings is where the foot touches the toes and shoe; so hosiery manufactures added reinforcement to these area in a attempt the extend the life of the stocking. This reinforcement starts off going over the toe area and continuing under the ball of the foot to the heel and going up the back of the ankle to join into the seam. By 1960 stockings knitted without the seam still had reinforcement--they are called RHT stockings.