This week I’m taking you behind the seams at our Fully Fashioned Stocking factory. A couple of months ago I asked you what content you wanted to see at What Katie Did and had numerous requests for behind the scenes factory info. As I’ve already covered our lingerie factories it was time to take a trip to Derbyshire where our Fully Fashioned and RHT nylons are made.
If you're new to retro style hosiery, or hosiery of any kind, then the terminology can be confusing - but help is at hand!
Check out our guide to hosiery and all will be revealed.
Reading Knitting Machines
Although I had been a fan of seamed stockings for a few years before I discovered fully fashioned stockings I didn’t know the difference between the modern version knitted on circular knit machines and genuine fully fashioned stockings and certainly didn’t have much time for the big price difference.
In the mid 1990s I worked at fetish boutique Skin Two in Ladbroke Grove (only a mile or so away from our What Katie Did boutique) and it was there that I was introduced to fully fashioned stockings. We used to import Sweet Caroline stockings made by Magnolia Mills in the USA which seemed very exotic at the time!
After leaving Skin Two and losing my staff discount real fully fashioned stockings returned to being unaffordable to me so I decided to set up a little stocking website which would allow me to access wholesale rates and sell a few on the side. The rest, as they say, is history.
What Makes the Seam So Special?
Fully fashioned stockings really are special as there are no short cuts when it comes to making them. They have to be made on Reading knitting machines and are knitted flat with the seam being an integral part to the stocking in holding it all together.
The machines are over 57ft in length and weigh 17 tonnes. While modern circular knit machines are cylindrical and pour out stockings endlessly, the Reading machines can only make 30 pairs at a time, each on its own head, which each contains 500 needles (so in totally there are 15,000 needles!)
I often get asked why the remaining machines aren’t export to somewhere cheaper to manufacture but the combination of the size, weight and skills needed in moving and setting up the machines the other side of the world would be impossible. As it is the remaining working machines often have to have parts especially engineered to fix them as there are now very few spares (our factory has two old machines for spares, but some new parts do still need to be fabricated from scratch).
The Finishing Touch
Of course this is only the first part of the production process. Once the stockings have been knitted they need to be ironed flat, tumble dried for shrinkage before being sewn which is where the seam comes in. Each and every seam is actually sewn by hand on a special type of overlocker. Then they go off to the dye house before being steamed, checked and packed.
FF Made in China?!
Do beware of companies selling Chinese Fully Fashioned stockings on Ali Express (I’ve also noticed these popping up on eBay too recently and yes there is a video in the pipeline!) as they are no such thing. Instead you’ll receive a one size stocking made on a circular knit machine with modern seam that is very hairy inside! ‘Hairy’ is the term I used to describe modern seams which are all fluffy inside so you don’t get a nice smooth line: if you’ve encountered these you’ll know what I’m talking about otherwise you’re probably a little bemused!
Your Road Trip Bonus Features
Curve Size Fully Fashioned Stockings
Several of you asked the possibility of us making a Curve Size Fully Fashioned Stocking: as ff nylons are made from non stretch nylon sizing is far more critical than for our Glamour Seams.
Katie gives you the bad news...
Thicker Fully Fashioned Stockings
You also asked about the possibility of thicker fully fashioned stockings - and there is a little light on the horizon when it comes to these (plus something to keep you going in the mean time!)
Before You Go
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