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When we talk about “stockings” as opposed to “socks”, we mean the high-nylon content styles that more often than not have to be held up with a garter belt. Though most are sheer some, like the Lycra Cuban Heeled Two Tone Stockings (shown on the far right), are semi-opaque.
On top: Ultra Sheer Retro Backseam Stockings. Beneath, from left to right: Lycra Cuban Heel Stockings, Cuban Heel Thigh Highs, Lycra Sheer Cubans with Lace Up Tops, Lycra Cuban Heeled Two Tone Stockings.
Flattering, fancy and just the thing to finish off a dressy outfit, nylons have a fascinating history. Though our focus here at Sock Dreams is on socks, we do carry and love stockings. And we’re also big nerds who love to share history and facts. Today I’ll share a quick overview of the history of nylons, with some helpful facts for folks interested in rocking these classic and classy stockings. If you want more info, there are great, in-depth, histories of stockings all over the place. I’m super partial to the Smithsonian’s Stocking Series.
Nylon stockings were introduced at the 1939 world’s fair by Dupont, who have a great little timeline with some awesome pictures from 1939. They decided against registering “nylon” as a trademark, so that the word would become synonymous with stockings. Early stockings had back seams and when folks had to give up their nylon stockings for the war effort, they reproduced that backseam with leg makeup (great article at GlamourDaze about it!), creating the illusion that nylons were still covering their legs. I love this picture we have on our Pinterest from the Library of Congress image archives, showing a barrel of nylons on their way to becoming parachutes and cords.
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection. “Here’s where your parachute came from.“
It’s because of this temporary lack of nylon that we have the wide range of cotton stockings and tights we see today. But that’s a story for another day! We’re still talking about nylons. Join us after the jump for comparisons of new nylon stockings to actual mid-century pairs and some helpful tips about these fantastic, feminine stockings.
They can be unsightly, those little balled-up bundles of fibers that build up on your socks. Where there’s wear, pills will happen; common causes are shoes rubbing against socks, where your thighs touch or really any spot that is subjected to abrasion.
Wool and acrylic are especially prone to pilling (though cotton, polyester and nylon like to do it too). Linen and silk are the safest from the perils of pilling. Wool has an advantage, as it is more likely to shed pill build-up. Synthetic fibers are tougher and more stubborn, keeping those pilled bits secure to the fabric. Washing pill-prone items inside out on a short, gentle cycle (or hand washing) helps prevent this kind of wear, but often it is inevitable.
However or whyever there are pills, they’re a problem that you can solve. One of the most common ways is with an electric sweater shaver. Electric sweater shavers are fun and kind of loud (which is also fun). They require batteries and are sort of like a teddy bear’s version of a beard trimmer. A lot of them are even made by the same companies who make electric face razors!
And one of those can bring some freshness back to a tired looking pair of socks or armwarmers, like this pair of Harajuku Arm Warmers. That area between the thumb and fingers gets a lot of wear and shows it.
But all it takes is turning on the sweater shaver and lightly running it over the arm warmer, either while wearing it or laying it flat. The key word here is lightly, just gently brush the shaver across the top. If you’re too rough you could put a hole in whatever you’re sprucing up, particularly if it is a delicate item.
And the pills are gone, turned into easily-disposed of fluff! The softer look of a much loved-and worn item doesn’t disappear, but the pills do. It even does a solid job removing all the pills on the heels of my poor old Extraordinary Thigh Highs, which have had a lot of hard wear.
Electric sweater shavers are definitely rad, but there have to be some non battery powered options out there, right? Tumblr Fairy Zaf prefers the Sweater Stone and I’ll walk you through that technique next. Why don’t you let us know your tips and tricks for removing pills? In looking up information on pilling I saw that some folks use the hook side of Velcro—have you tried it, does that work? I’ve definitely gone the sticky tape route myself.
Knee highs are pretty straight forward. Our Measurements & Sizes page shows how they come to just below the knee, that’s pretty much the total of their definition. But you may have encountered the phrase “knee sock” when browsing our styles and wondered how it differed from plain ol’ knee highs.
There isn’t a whole lot of difference and sometimes we do use the phrase “knee sock” when we’re talking about knee highs. But, more often than not, when we call something a “knee sock” we’re talking about a sock that ends somewhere around the knee—sometimes below, sometimes above, sometimes right there in the middle of your knee cap—depending on your leg shape. The Bess Cashmere Slouch Rib Knee Socks are a perfect example of this, you can see how they end at different spots on different models’ legs:
Since we try on all the styles we sell and almost all of the models you see in our pictures are Sock Dreams employees, we get to see how socks act on different leg types. Long legs and fuller calves mean some shorter over the knee styles don’t fairly deserve the name “OTK”. But those same socks can’t properly be called knee highs either because just as many other folks had them go over their knees. So, we started using the phrase “knee sock” to highlight that ambiguity.
It was Sourpuss’ styles that made us first start using the phrase more actively, they’re shorter for over the knee styles and even though Sourpuss called them OTKs, we couldn’t after testing them, even though we love them.
The DreaM Stockings “knees” styles are another great example of a knee sock. Available in seven variations (with lots of varieties for each!), they can be worn as over the knee socks or knee highs, depending on your legs (or on your personal taste, I prefer them as knee highs, even though I’ve got short legs).
A way to find these in-betweeners is also to choose both “knee high” and “OTK” in Advanced Search then click the word “ALL” next to the header for Coverage. This shows you styles we’ve found fall both above or below the knee, depending on your leg. If you’ve got longer legs or fuller calves, you may already know the trick of wearing OTKs as knee highs, cuffing or double-cuffing to take care of any extra length.
A knee sock isn’t a style that couldn’t cut it as an OTK, nor is it just an over-achieving knee high. They straddle both coverage worlds, offering their stylish services to more leg types.
Ever popular, Gumball Poodle’s made in the USA “word socks” are a fun way to label and proclaim. We’ve totally done a style spotlight on them before, but with the introduction of their crew style, they’ve now got three great ways to say it with socks. Wait, three?! That’s right, all the Gumball Poodle knee highs aren’t created equal and there are two distinctly different ways you can wear a word.
One style Gumball Poodle calls “dress socks.” You can spot ‘em by their contrast heel and toe. Smooth textured and thin enough for snugger shoes, they’re perfect at hiding under office slacks, looking like a plain dress sock at the ankle while secretly being like, a ninja.
The other style is called an “athletic sock.” True to its name, this style is rugged and ready for anything. A terry lined foot cushions and absorbs—in the copy for the athletic styles we even say “Keep in mind that they are SO cushy they bring your shoe size up by half a size, so they’re best for roomier sneaks and boots.” Their lightly ribbed body is a pro at staying up, they’re no sissies.
Beyond just style, the differences between the dress and athletic socks affect the fit. The dress socks don’t stay up as well on some legs as the athletic socks and there is no way the athletic socks are fitting into snug dress shoes. But with over forty words and phrases to choose from we know you’ll find a fit that strikes your fancy and says exactly what you mean.
This might be one of the easiest sock DIYs and I can’t believe that we haven’t shown you how to do this yet! You’ve probably encountered those little bean bag sort of packs that you can chill in the freezer or heat in the microwave. They’re fab because they drape so comfortably over whatever sore spot needs comfort. And they’re also a perfect sock craft, sewing optional! You really just need two things: socks and filler.
Sock-wise, all you need is a Crafty Bundle or a (clean!) old sock that lost its mate or got holey in the toes. We like styles that are little longer, especially if you want to make this a sewing-free project. If your sock is open on both ends, make a knot in one end, so you have a closed tube. If you want, you could also sew that end shut.
For filler, there are a lot of great options: uncooked rice, feed corn, buckwheat hulls, barley, oatmeal, beans! Rice and barley are the most common options. Keep in mind that their grainy smell increases when you heat up the pack, so if you prefer a less hot-cereal scent you might like to add dried herbs and flowers like lavender and rose petals or mint and rosemary. If you decide to add a scent, mix it in with the filler and let them hang out together in a closed container for a while, so the smell gets nicely infused and distributed.
Now, all you’ve got to do is fill the sock with the filler! You want to aim for half to three-quarters full, this leaves enough room for the filler to scootch around and drape comfortably. Sticking the sock in a large glass and cuffing it over the top makes the filling process easier. A funnel is useful too, but so is a heavy piece of paper folded in half to make a sort of slide. Whee!
The second and last (!) thing to do is close it up! Again, a knot works just fine, but you can sew it if you want. Cut off any excess sock.
To heat your pack up, microwave for a minute or two and keep an eye on it for safety’s sake. You might also want to stick a small glass of water in the microwave with the pack while you heat it, the moisture helps heat sink into your muscles and helps ensure nothing catches on fire.
All ready to relax! But, what do you do if you don’t have the leisure to sit still and let the pack do its work? Here’s where a long sock comes in handy. Slip your pack into a long sock and let it fall to about the middle. Then use that long fabric to tie the pack in place! This works particularly well for lower back stuff (tie it like a belt) and shoulders (tie like a sash).
Now you can relax on the go, all thanks to this quickie craft (and socks!).
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