Thread (Linen) Stockings

Because of the high level of flax production in Eastern Pennsylvania in the 18th century, it is thought that everyone, from wealthy landowner to indenturered servant, wore thread (i.e. linen) stockings.   Linen thread was abundant, easy to work with, and cool.   For those who couldn't afford imported cotton stockings, thread stockings were a great alternative in the heat of summer.   And since almost everyone had access to a linen crop, it was a simple task for even the poorest person to have her own pair. My experience with knitting thread stockings may have been a little different than the average 18th century woman, however.   I am a novice knitter and have only thus far worked in wool.   Linen thread is an entirely new experience.   It is very unforgiving.   In my wool stockings, my tension tends to be very even since I keep my yarn consistently taut while knitting. &nsbp; While knitting my thread stockings, I found that I was keeping my thread so tight that I had trouble slipping the needle into the stitches next time around.   I also found that this constant adjustment and readjustment on my part made the knitting develop loose places which did not spring back into shape as would wool.   Indeed, my first thread stocking is the work of a beginning.   But I am certain that beginners in the 18th century also wore similarly afflicted stockings...

Thoughts or questions? email me!


  1. Nancy Bradfield. Costume in Detail 1730-1930. 1997: Costume and Fashion Press, New York.
  2. Ellen J. Gehret. Rural Pennsylvania Clothing. 1976: George Shumway Publisher, York, Pennsylvania.
  3. Tandy and Charles Hersh. Cloth and Costume 1750-1800. 1995: Cumberland County Historical Society, Camp Hill, PA.

© 2002, 2003 Kass McGann. All Rights Reserved. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.

Thoughts or questions? email the Historian!