The Stockings Were Hung in the Exhibition with Care

Pair of Woman’s Stockings, Europe, 1700–1725, purchased with funds provided by Suzanne A. Saperstein and Michael and Ellen Michelson, with additional funding from the Costume Council, the Edgerton Foundation, Gail and Gerald Oppenheimer, Maureen H. Shapiro, Grace Tsao, and Lenore and Richard Wayne

It’s hard to believe that these flashy, red hose on display in Fashioning Fashion were modestly kept hidden under ladies’ skirts. We can see how they were worn from the racy work of the eighteenth-century English artist William Hogarth.

William Hogarth, plate three from A Rake’s Progress (detail), 1735, Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Horace Oakley, 1921.340

 

William Hogarth, The Rake’s Progress: 3. The Rake at the Rose-Tavern, 1734, courtesy Sir John Soane’s Museum, London

LACMA’s stockings, as beautiful as they are, showed signs of their 300-year-old age. They had holes and several long unsightly runs in the knit that were in need of treatment. To address the problem, I proposed re-looping the knit to close up the runs.

Detail of runs

With such a fine gauge knit (approximately 10 stitches per centimeter by 12 rows per centimeter), I used a magnifier, a 0.75 millimeter crochet hook, and size ‘0’ entomological pins for the “operation.” The various yarns were sorted and the knit pattern was re-established. Surprisingly, the cream-colored yarns were very deteriorated, so new threads were added to stabilize the knitted structure.

At work

Detail of the procedure

The back seams tell us that the stockings were first knitted flat on a frame and later seamed.

Before...

...and after

Fastening the delicate stockings to the wall of their display case involved a variety of fastening techniques. We looped silk ribbon around the knee areas to suggest garters. Our mountmaker constructed several unobtrusive supports to hold the weight of the stockings. Look closely at the toes, arch and ankles.

Safely hung, the stockings are ready for Santa—or at least for holiday visitors.

Detail of socks on display mount

Susan R. Schmalz, Associate Textile Conservator, LACMA

2 Responses to The Stockings Were Hung in the Exhibition with Care

  1. Diane S. says:

    Thanks for a wonderful blog entry, Susan. The gorgeous socks, of amazing vintage, caught my eye, but what really made me happy was reading about the way you expertly wove together the object, its historical context, the conservation work needed, the difficulties of displaying such fragile items in an exhibition,and the ways that LACMA’s staff came up with great solutions.

  2. Jean Morgan says:

    Thank you for this lovely article, I never realised that there were knitting machines that long ago. And it is comforting to know that the re-looping method of repairing runs is also used in museums, as I use it for repairing sweaters.
    Also, this has given me a new idea for knitting my own socks, do them flat and seam the backs, like the miniatures I make for my porcelain dolls.

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