The “stocking frame,” a machine for knitting stockings commercially, dates to the 1500s, and many Americans purchased silk and cotton stockings imported by the thousands from Europe. Women also continued to knit stockings at home in great numbers in wool, cotton, and linen. Probably many men and women owned both hand-knit stockings made by a family member and some store-bought, machine-made ones. Homemade stockings often have openwork stitching and embroidery to stimulate the back seams; whereas decorative “clocking” designs are found on the ankles of machine-knit stockings.
Left to right: Natural linen hand-knitted stocking , early 1800s, 3568.1, gift of Anna E. Black; man’s or woman’s linen hand-knitted stocking with knitted monogram, c. 1800-1810, 96.70.1.A, gift of Sally A. McKean; silk hand-knitted stocking with linen heel reinforcement, c. 1820, 163.A, gift of Jeannette and Nellie Anderson; hand-knit embroidered cotton stockings with clockwork and monogram, c. 1820, owned by Eliza Robinson Bradford, 60.8, gift of Mrs. Percy J. Lowe.