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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Compression socks and fashion or lack of that

I have been putting off writing this post because I don't like to do the personal medical detail thing but this does have a fashion angle.

So I am seeing this as sort of a PSA, public service announcement.

As I wrote a while back I have a genetic clotting disorder called Factor V Leiden. I have only one gene so my situation is not very serious, and raises my risk of blot clots only after surgery, below the waist, long travel and if I were on any kind of hormone therapy or the pill which I am not.

This is a common genetic disorder among those of European descent, about 1 in 15. It is estimated that about 40% of folks who have clots after long haul flights have it.

I wouldn't even know about this except for a clot in my leg after a C section thirty years ago before they knew about all of this. If I had got up and moving and had been taking an anti-coagulant at the time, standard practice now, something my daughter did after her last baby, I would be fine.

As it is I have some valve damage in that leg which means in certain situations, like after I injured my foot in the fall, the blood return and swelling are slow to move. In normal circumstances I have zero issues but of course this might change when we are dealing with an elderly Babs.

I saw an excellent doctor who told me that if I wore compression socks during the day I would be taking care of things. She also referred me to a specialist who does vein surgery in a private clinic and I will see him when I get back. I need to find out if my clotting issue makes sense for surgery when socks will do the job.

This is no big deal at all. Everyone has something they have inherited and this is one of mine and a minor issue.

Now onto what is important.

Finding compression hose as they call it, that does not make you look like an idiot is no small feat.

This really annoys me.

Compression socks at the strength I need, 20-30, are not just for old ladies and even they need to be fashionable.

With long haul flights this concerns young folks too (I was 32 when I had my clot). My physio says that sometimes healthy folks with low blood pressure can be more at risk - she knows a marathon runner who has had several DVTs after big flights to races. Think of Venus Williams.

Also compression is easy on your legs. Every person at the vascular clinic, nurses, techs and docs were wearing them. My brother-in-law wears them when he is on his feet performing surgery.

For folks like me who need them the doctors tell me that the main issue is compliance - meaning people should wear them but don't - they are too darn ugly and often hard to put on.


So tell me why there are 2,000 different kinds all weird beige and very few other options?

The principle seems to be that if you skin is lighter it is yellow and if it is darker it is dark orange. I wore a pair out for lunch with my new friend Susan here and we agreed they made my real legs look like prosthetics. I mean I had a sewing student who made fake legs for a living and hers looked more realistic.

When I got mine measured it was in a place where they were also selling commodes and walkers. Me and a young woman with three little kids were being fitted - we felt right at home.

I was handed a pair of XL rubber gloves for "donning" and told I would wear them for life and the minute I got out of bed to bedtime. They were also expensive $100 for knee highs and $150 for pantyhose (I have good insurance that covers a few pairs which is helpful). I need graduated compression, tighter at the ankle and looser as they go up (think squeezing the toothpaste) and can't wear leggings or anything footless because they might cut off circulation at my ankle which really isn't the point. Few athletic socks are graduated compression at 20-30 (firm support and opposed to moderate - the doctor said if you are going to do it you might as well do it and that's what she wears).

So these are the challenges:

  • Ugliness. Would it kill most of these manufactures to consider that people who wear these things might be young, active, or just plain fashion conscious? Would it be possible to make at least on pair of white lace something or a pattern knee high to wear with a summer dress for instance?
  • Many of the knee highs are fine except they have a tight band at the top that digs in - since this isn't good for circulation this makes no sense to me. The lady at the fitting suggested I carry my giant rubber gloves with me for frequent adjustments during the day. I think not.
  • The pantyhose are nuts. For a start you ease on leg on at which point you have encased yourself in super Spanx up to the crotch and then you are supposed to do leg two which means you have to get your second ankle up to the crotch without falling off your bed. Takes about 20 minutes, makes even the dog laugh, and would be useful only if you wanted to get a million hits on Youtube for laughs. Plus the fact that there is a real possibility that you make a snag in your $150 pair of pantyhose the first time out. Exactly what I did.
Here however are the benefits:
  • Your legs feel great. If you have ever come home from a long day and just wanted to get off your feet you don't have that feeling any more. One of the things I have been thinking of about possible surgery is I would probably keep wearing these things most of the time for comfort. It is hard to describe - think of the difference of going running with and without a bra. Best I can do for an analogy.
Here are my strategies:
  • I am not wearing those ugly pantyhose. Take me out behind the barn and shoot me first. I will be wearing those about the same time I start accessorizing with giant bright white velcro runners which will be never.
  • In the stocking department I wear thigh highs by Sigvaris. The colour is terrible but they are comfortable and easy to put on and you can actually do a bathroom break with them in under two hours. I can wear them under maxi dresses and will wear them under my regular tights which you can wear in Nova Scotia all but three days of the year.
  • I am wearing knee socks and if I want to wear sandals yup I am doing the Birkenstock thing until I can think of something else, maybe clogs. Further footwear reports. This is a fashion challenge and requires some reconfiguration of the look into sporty and opposed to whatever I was when I wasn't wearing knee socks, but I decided I would rather look eccentric than as if there was something wrong with me, because there isn't.
  • Search high and low for options. Contact manufacturers and lobby. Maybe young people who fly a lot and could benefit or people of all ages who would feel great in these socks would do so if they were not so terrible looking and fitted in places that sell commodes.
Here is the good news. There are some limited but excellent options. Here is what I am wearing by company:

Sockwell. American made in Tennessee.

I can't say enough great things about these socks. They are super comfortable, have excellent compression and are in natural, breathable fibers. Only downside is the dark colours which limit summer wearing. I love, love these socks and think everyone should be wearing them:


This company was started by a young entrepreneur and DVT survivor. I have these rosebud socks and love, love, love them. They are synthetic but have a nice rib knit and have zero cutting in at the top. Excellent socks and I am keeping my eye on them for more options.

Of all the compression sock companies this one has the most fashion options. Unfortunately they are right now only offering 15-20 compression but are going up to 20-30 in August. I can hardly wait to try them:

Finally the athletic compression socks:

Very few of these are true graduated compression but I did find something reasonable at Runningskirts. These are my husband's, and surely the little girls', favourites:

A bit of a challenge but I am not giving up on this and will keep you posted on any updates.

And that's it for this morning's PSA.


RinaL said...

Thank you so much for offering alternatives! I have a Faktor V Leiden too, had my first Thrombosis with 32 and despite the fact that I am not very fashionable I refuse to wear those ugly tights in summer. They aren't really comfortable and on hot summer days I am pretty sure I would die rather because of overheating than another Thrombosis. ;)

barbaraq said...

Amen, Sister! I have just plain old varicose veins, but need to wear 20/30 compression socks all the time, and wow, did you ever nail it with the "skin tone" so-called sheers. I am hoping that as the baby boomers age, the Sigvaris, et al, people with improve their technology. Luckily, I live in Seattle where we rarely get hot weather, but when we do, compression socks are truly hell on earth. Thanks so much for the review of fashion-conscience brands.

Carolyn (Diary of a Sewing Fanatic) said...

How can you make a PSA so funny and entertaining?! I understand the need for this hose and it's a great post with wonderful resources!

Kathleen V Crawford said...

I had blood clots in my lung ( I only have 1 lung) and almost died before my doctor figured out what was going on. I have had varicose vein surgery but the veins came back. I should be wearing compression stockings too but they are ugly and very hot in the Las Vegas summer which lasts 6 months. Thank you for the sock ideas. I will get some as I do feel better wearing compression hose except for the psychological impact of having ugly looking legs.

Mary said...

Huge thank you for the links. And for the laughs. I've had a few "fall off the bed" moments trying to get compression hose on; happy there were no cameras around. Needed another shower after that exercise. And don't get me started on the knee highs that strangled my legs so badly I had to strip them off midway on a cross-country flight. Did continual calf flexes the rest of the journey.

Angela M. said...

Kathleen - I hear you about the Las Vegas summer, I live here too. :) As mild as this past winter was, I'm a bit afraid to see what summer brings.

I've been pondering these socks as my legs ache so much and I have a few varicose veins. My mom and sister both have that Factor V Leiden problem also, so I have heard of it. I didn't realize that people with this were supposed to wear compression hose, I will ask my mom and sister if they have ever been told such a thing.

annie said...

Boy is this post a deja vu. I was 20 when first pregnant. A VERY long time ago. I was prescribed those things. A toeless deal up to the knee and an Ace bandage the rest of the way. Cost was phenomenal. I wore them through 5 pregnancies. They were uber-ugly. Seems as if very little has changed. Glad to see the attractive knee socks. And in the winter you can wear slacks. But tough in the warm weather with shorts. I really can relate to this.

Barbara said...

The reason I have to wear the compression is because of vein damage caused by a clot probably caused by Factor V. Without the clotting history I don't think they would be necessary although I was told all Factor V folks should think about them for travel.

Anonymous said...

I discovered Ames Walker last year, after I badly sprained both ankles. Their compression products really compresses and is a good value (sturdiness-cost balance).

I wore the open toe socks all last summer and autumn.


Anne james said...

Check out Jobst. My mom used to use their products

Sox said...

Juzo USA has some lovely coloured ones. I have some of the footless tights. They're fine now but I'm not sure how easily I'll get them on once summer comes and the humidity increases...

Sox said...

Oh, and I love Sockwells too. I wear them all winter, either with trousers or under my tights -glamourous I know, but it's cold here.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reviews! I love Sockwell, I'll have to try some of the others too. Kimmen

linda said...

If you have a running store in your neighbourhood, they usually sell some colourful compression socks.

Seattle Sews said...

Thank you for this post. I don't need compression socks myself but your post was so funny and had so much good info, I had to read the whole thing. And laugh.

Alison said...

My husband also has Factor V and vein damage in his leg. I will get him to ask the Dr about the tights. I wear these on flights now cos my legs swell. When I wear them, I get zero swelling so they must be doing *something*!

Barbara said...

Alison I highly recommend Sockwell's men's socks. Comfortable and really nice looking and good price. Just prevents any further issues.

MaryHelen Crowe said...

You are so right. I have recently started wearing Sigvaris thigh high hose for varicose veins. Have you found any attractive thigh high compression hose? I guess the people who design these don't wear them or there would be nicer looking ones. Thanks so much for the great information!

Patricia said...

Thank you for a wonderful post on a very real problem. I wore the knee highs on a long-haul flight to London (Doctor's orders) and also ended up with painful 'strangled' calves, could barely walk the day after we arrived. I do exercises instead, and keep fingers crossed these days. Also had trouble with graduated compression sleeves, post-lymph removal after breast cancer. Turned allergic to a too-tight sleeve, and now fly without 'at my own risks'. It's a nightmare out there, and I salute your request for more variety and definitely some better colours - even black, much better than the horrid beige options. Wonderful post.

Linda said...

You have made my day with this post. I may follow up with a post on my blog and link this one.

I am vain, I admit it. My legs were Tina Turner legs until 50 and then----.Two years ago a red spot showed up on my right leg and one dermatologist thought it was bug bite, did not itch. Skip forward one year and the damn red spot now covers my ankle. Prime doctor said he was due to swelling ankles. Then it started to hurt and referred me to vein specialist. Diagnosis-venous insufficiency supply. Usually caused by a tear in the outer veins of the leg, mine-the main vein which will require surgery. So I have been wearing 20-30 compression knee highs for a year and wear them 6 days a week in cold weather and 4 in hot weather. I will send you an email cause this is getting too long. I will suggest some other sources for these ugly but potentially life saving hose.

Alison said...

Thanks for the Sockwell recommendation. I'm in Australia but have discovered I can buy them from Amazon. I think I'll just get them for DH and see what happens. :)

Anonymous said...

might also be useful for you.

Joyce said...

I have had vein surgery and wear Medivens toeless knée highs. They are comfy except hot in summer. I wish they looked more sheer but feeling good and helping my veins is really great! They don't get to tight around my knee like some. I do try to take them off and put my feet up for a rest at midday.

SewTypical said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I need to get some compression hose and didn't know where to start.

Davidrosetta said...

So far the thigh high using a garter belt is what is going to work for me. Any ideas how to convert the interesting colors to to be used with a garter belt. Hate just beige! Thanks for the the good tips!

Edema Socks

Amy said...

Just wanted to let you know that I have shared these entries about compression socks to sisters and friends. I purchased socks on Amazon from Sockwell(my personal favorite)and Vim and Vigor(I found the band tight on these). Thanks for the articles - I don't need the socks medically, but my legs feel great when I wear them!

Lin Bentley Keeling said...

Thank you!!! I have been wearing compression socks--ugly white ones I got at the grocery store--for about a year and have been camouflaging them with handknit socks on top--great at home when I go without shoes but tight when going out! So happy to see some beautiful alternatives that will work so well with slacks and comfy shoes!! Thanks so much!!! Lin

Anonymous said...

I just found out that I need to wear the thigh high compression stockings due to deep vein incompetency or something. Is it possible to make compression stockings or something that will work in a similar fashion? Like leggings that are tight in the legs and go over the ankle? Is there a stretch fabric that someone can recommend? Thanks for your help.

MENINBLK said...

I've been using Dr. Scholl's compression socks. They were great in the beginning, but I find them strangling my ankles now. I will try some of the others you mentioned here.

Mary Curran Rhodes said...

Has anyone modified 20-30 compression sox to shorten the toe area? Would it be like sewing a bathingsuit?

Our daughter is just beginning to wear compression (lymphedema/lipidema). We may need custom sox because she is very short and the swelling is most visible in her feet. Here's the problem: her feet are very short. Shoe size 6 - 6.5. So there is all this compression fabric at the end of her toe. Toeless will probably ride up her foot during the day. We want a tight fit at the foot to keep the lymph moving.

Appreciate your thoughts.

Barbara said...

Appreciate the issue with length. My goot is 7.5 and it can be hard. Toeless are shorter but not much. You could certainly try shortening them. I would use a reverse action straight stitch and a fine needle with wooly nylon hand wound in the bobbin. Be careful to sew only on the reinforced tow. Good luck. Hard because these are so expensive. Might be woth trying toeless though. They are tight and do not ride up at all. Just pull them down to cover your daughter’s toes.