Cheapskate stockings

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A super thrift store haul of vintage 60’s and 70’s nylons. The “Bachelor Girl” ones are my favorite. Ignore that yellow tag – I paid a buck each.

[A note from the future: since losing enough weight to be downgraded from “obese” to merely “overweight” I have made my peace with tights. But this is still a great way to make stockings out of tights/stay-ups/thigh-highs if you prefer stockings or if you have *ahem* outgrown the “control top” on a pair of tights that still have some life in the legs.]

I hate tights, but I buy a lot of them at the thrift store and on sale at regular retail stores. Why? I whack the irritating-as-hell “panty” off the top and make them into comfy, sexy stockings.

First, some definitions for those of you who aren’t hosiery savvy: Thigh highs, stay-ups, and hold-ups are same thing. They stay up without a garter (the ruched elastic band that gets thrown at weddings) or garter belt (the undergarment with dangly straps). They usually accomplish this either by having an elastic on top that’s so tight your toes will tingle all day, or by having a line of silicone around the inside of the top band that slowly works its way down your thigh, epilating your skin in slow motion over the course of the day. (Is my bias clear enough?) Stockings are what need the belt. No one outside of the vintage-style lingerie industry seems to be able to keep the terms straight, though, so you never really know what you’ve got until you open the package.

Fully fashioned stockings (reinforced top band, sole, and heel, with or without back seam) can be spendy. Nylon ones are about $18 a pair and real silk ones can cost $50 or better. Also, stockings generally come in nude sheer, a little darker sheer, and sheer black. Sometimes sheer white. Thigh highs and pantyhose (pantyhose and tights are essentially the same thing – but pantyhose are usually sheer and tights are usually opaque and/or patterned) come in a rainbow of colors, opacities, patterns, and textures. And they are comparatively cheap ($6 and up).

Making pantyhose or tights into stockings is pretty darn easy. I follow the example of Trish of the blog Simple Up* and cut the legs off at the crotch, fold over twice, and very loosely stitch by hand. Done!

A few days ago, however, I ran into a new challenge: turning stay-ups into proper stockings. I bought a marked-down pair of nude fishnets that I mistook for stockings and discovered the next day were really stay-ups with such tight elastic at the top that I don’t know if I could get them around my upper arms, let alone my thunder thighs. Grr!

Unlike with tights or pantyhose, I couldn’t just whack the tops off – fishnet will rip if you try to attach the garter belt suspenders directly to it. So I needed a reinforced top, something with a tighter weave that could withstand the grip of the garter belt clips. I rummaged around in my drawers (Ha ha! No. My dresser drawers.) and found an ancient, paint-spattered, worn-out T-shirt in a similar color. While trying to determine how long to make the strips I would cut out of the shirt I discovered that the arms of this stretched-out old monstrosity fit my thighs quite nicely.

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So I whacked three inches out of either arm.

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Before cutting up the stockings – and while they were still pancake-flat from their packaging – I marked quarters on both the shirt sleeves and the stockings. I did this because the jersey (T-shirt material) has a lot less stretch than the fishnet and this way I can keep the two different types of material aligned evenly. I used pins to mark the quarters on the jersey but pins didn’t want to stay in the fishnet alone so I used a trick I picked up from a Simplicity promotional film from 1948 and marked the quarters with little knots of contrasting thread.

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Then I cut the constricting tops free from the fishnet by snipping off just the serging.

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Then I turned the former sleeves inside out and threaded them over the stockings, lined up the quarters, and pinned the sleeves to the fishnet. Pulling super duper tight to make sure that the fishnet was stretched as far as the jersey, I stitched around the whole thing using what my “new” machine’s manual calls the ‘Pine Leaf’ stitch (my machine has no less than four stretch-compatible stitches, two of which are mock-serging, but I cannot seem to produce a plain old zig-zag).

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I took a picture that was in focus, too – but I wanted to spare you dear people the sight of all those stretch marks.

Raw (unfinished) edges on jersey will roll but not ravel, so I didn’t really need to finish the top edge, but when I tried the stockings on I found that the rolling made attaching the garter belt clips frustrating so I went back and folded the top edge over 1/4 inch and stitched it down with that ‘Pine Leaf’ stitch.

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I think this took me about ten minutes, which seems like a lot of time to devote to something I am bound to ladder and replace in three months’ time, but I did save ten bucks, which is a week’s worth of mochas for me at our favorite espresso stand!

– Amanda

*Simple Up, also known as Down With Clutter, was one of my favorite blogs, but it has long since been closed to nonmembers.

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