Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life

Secrets of the Socks, Part 3

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In my last post I promised to tell you how my socks have fared since I started knitting them three years ago.

I have been thinking about how I can present information about the socks in the most informative and least boring way and without grossing you out with too many pictures of worn socks!

I have decided that the information would be best categorised by yarn makeup.  I am not going to be too fussy about identifying brand, as I think that it’s essentially yarn fibre makeup and spin that accounts for their performance. I believe the other two factors to take into account are how hard people are on their socks (just like shoes – some people wear through them faster than others) and how they are cared for.

In very interesting conversations with other knitters about how their socks have worn, I find that how a yarn has performed with me has not necessarily been their experience.  It’s interesting for example, that I find Opal sock yarn extremely hard wearing, and yet a very lovely knitter recently told me that her husband wears through Opal very quickly!

I leave the reader to make their own informed and personal conclusions!

Merino/nylon sock yarn

Yarn makeup:  75% nylon/25% merino or 20% nylon/80% merino

How has it worn?  Not one of my merino/nylon pairs have holes, despite the first pair being three years old, and worn almost every week for the first two years solid.  It doesn’t really seem to matter how the yarn is spun, it still wears well.  The New Zealand spun yarn is slightly stretched, and has lost a lot of its spring, and is now looking a little worn on the soles.  However, I have noticed that the same yarn more tightly knitted and with less ease, has performed a lot better.

Also, thinking about it, when I first started knitting socks, I was not too precious about washing them gently, and threw them into the regular hot wash along with the general laundry (superwash, right?)  You’ll see further down that I quickly learned this was not a good idea… but in the mean time I might have damaged the wool in the two pairs of merino/nylon that I knitted that I refer to above.  It might account for their loss of bounce, as I notice this hasn’t occurred in other merino/nylon socks that I subsequently knitted.  Superwash or no superwash, I do not ever wash my socks in hot water or with laundry detergent.  It’s cold water and a good quality wool wash every time for me!

Some socks of his type of yarn that I have knit:

Vintage purls sock

This is a Vintage Purls sock, and the below are a pair of Opal yarn socks.

Opal socks

 100% supertwist merino

Yarn makeup:  100% merino, of course.  Supertwisted spin (also known as high twist).  You can also get supertwisted yarn with a nylon component. Some yarn is spun 2 ply and some spun 3 ply.  My absolutely favourite sock yarn.

How has it worn?  To be honest, I have put holes in the soles of the first couple of pairs I knitted (100% merino) and have worn continuously and very regularly for two years.  Nothing that a bit of darning hasn’t fixed, and the rest of the sock still looks very fresh and new and feels just as snuggly.  I especially like how the yarn has kept its bounce, and the socks fits as nicely as the day I knitted them.  They definitely perform better knitted tightly (2.25mm needles are now my preferred “weapon” with this yarn).

Socks that I knitted a year ago are still as fresh as the day I finished them.  This is because I have knitted quite a few socks since the first pair, and can now rotate them with less regularity.  Less wear = longer life!

Some of my 100% merino high twist socks in Knitsch and Sokkusu yarns:

Knitsch sock

Knitsch sock

DSC00526 (600x800)

 

 100% BFL sock

I love BFL sock yarn.  It’s the perfect lace sock yarn.  The first pair of BFL socks I knitted are still going strong, although I notice I should do some pre-emptive darning on the soles as they are now looking thin.  (Better to reinforce before the break than try to stitch up a hole after it happens!)

I know that others have had different experiences with this yarn, and again, perhaps it’s about how we wear our socks that plays a part in the way they last.

This pair, in yarn from Happy-go-knitty, were finished in December 2011, and have been worn almost every week since then.  I figure it’s quite good going that I am only now needing to think about repairing them.

Happy Go Knitty sock yarn

This pair are still very lovely one year later:

Freja socks

Alpaca/merino/nylon sock

Yarn makeup:  approximately 50/60% alpaca, 20/25% merino, 20/25% nylon

The thing about this yarn is getting used to the feel of alpaca in socks.  If you are familiar with alpaca, you know that it’s much denser than wool, and is a lot more ‘drapey’.  It does not have the spring and stretch of a merino yarn, for example.  I would hesitate to knit socks with heavy cables in this yarn, although small cables could be okay.  However, once you knit a pair, and find that they are the perfect thing to wear on a very cold, frosty day, there is no going back…

The first pair I knitted were foolishly thrown in the machine with all the clothes and washed in the regular hot wash cycle… this worked fine for the first few washes, but on the fourth or fifth wash, I pulled out a pair of very small, child-size felted socks… I was very sad.  I still mourn that lovely colourway.  Since then, I have washed all my socks with wool wash in cold water on the handwash or wool cycle.  I’m too lazy to hand wash them, and it works fine.

Stipple in Flagstaff Alpaca

The second pair I knitted were done in a yarn colour that I wasn’t comfortable wearing with shoes, but were perfect as bed socks and Sunday-morning-slouching-around-the-house-in-pyjamas socks.  Now, wearing socks in bed is actually quite hard on the socks because they get rubbed against the sheets all night, so even though the soles do not wear out, they can start to look a little ‘jaded’.

Any gauge ribbed socks test knit

This yarn is surprisingly robust, and now that I don’t do silly things like washing them in hot water in a regular cycle, they have stood up very well to wear, thanks I believe  to the merino/nylon content.  Alpaca is also known to stretch over time and one would think given how sweaty feet can get, that they could become misshapen.  I have not found this to be the case at all, and again, I think it’s due to the addition of merino/nylon to the yarn.  None of my alpaca/merino socks have holes, but I will say that most of the pairs I wear in shoes are less than a year old.  Still, I don’t get the fibres developing into fluff balls on the inside of my socks like other mostly wool yarns (this is an indication of thinning of the yarn on the sole), and I’m tempted to think that they might actually wear a lot better than I initially thought.

Self-striping socks

I think I’ve actually developed a bit of a fetish for this yarn… I can’t get enough of it!! Flagstaff Alpaca is the source of this sock yarn, and I am very pleased that some indie dyers like Happy-go-knitty and Doespins use the base in their creations – more variety to choose from!!

Silk/merino/nylon sock yarn

Yarn makeup:  various percentages, see below.

I’ve tried a few different yarn bases in merino/silk.  I was not very happy with my first experience using 25% silk/65% merino/10% nylon as I thought that the nylon was far too dominant, despite its small percentage and it felt ‘squeaky’ to knit, and there was no lively bounce that I prefer in sock yarn.  However, they have worn surprisingly well, and even though I expected the silk, like alpaca, to stretch out of shape over time, these socks have surprised me by not doing so.  I suspect the reason is the same as the alpaca – the merino and nylon have added strength and elasticity.  They have also developed that nice ‘worn in’ feeling that raw silk can develop after being washed a few times, and I find them not quite as objectionable as when I first knitted them.  I’m tempted to have another go with this yarn.  You’ll recognise the pattern as being Hermoine’s Everyday Socks.

Hermoine's everyday socks

My second experience of merino/silk was heavenly decadence, as the fibre makeup is completely different (50/50) and without the nylon and using a different sort of silk.  They are extremely luxurious feeling.  You’ll probably remember these lovely Rumpelstiltskins  as I knitted them only recently.  I don’t know how they will wear – I keep them for “best” because they are so pretty that I don’t want to ruin them!

Rumpelstiltskin socks

 

And then there is another silk/merino base that has a different nylon component that I got from Travelling Threads.  I loved knitting with that yarn, and it is only my own fault that I chose to knit them on needles a size too small which made them a bit tight to knit and quite hard on the hands.  I don’t think I ever showed you the finished product:

Silk/merino sock yarn

I haven’t worn them enough to say how they will wear, although I expect the result will be similar to the Hermoine socks above.

Possum/merino/nylon

I have only tried one brand of possum/merino/nylon so far.  They were the John Q Earth Wear sock yarn, Knit World’s house brand (Knit World, for my overseas readers, is one of NZ’s largest yarn store chains).  That yarn converted my eldest son into hand-knitted sock lover. “These socks” he said one night, looking at them in a puzzled fashion, “are very nice.”  That is quite a compliment! Even better, he has loved his socks so much and so well that they are now a perversion of socks.  No holes, but so very, very, worn, threadbare, pilled and generally well… “munted”, as we say in Kiwi land.  That’s what you get from being worn every day for six months and scuffed (someone doesn’t like lifting his feet when he walks) and rubbed all over the carpet.

Here they are in pristine, just-knitted condition:

Earth ware possum socks

 

I must knit him another pair, and quietly dispose of the offending articles.   Although of course, I am very pleased they have been so happily worn and not just stuffed at the back of the drawer!

I hope Knit World do another run of this yarn again, as I really, really, like it.  I’m just relieved I got more than one ball at the time.

Conclusion

If I have drawn anything from my reflections on the socks, the points are these:

  1. Nylon adds durability.
  2. Pure supertwist/high twist merino yarns are the most comfortable to knit, but you may expect a hole or two after a couple of years’ intensive wear (that still makes them very durable in my opinion, and frankly the comfort factor far outweighs the durability issue).
  3. Care of your socks is just as important as fibre makeup.  Wash them gently and in a good quality wool wash, and they will stay nice for longer.
  4. Tight gauge is also important to keep your socks wearing well.

And finally…

I thought I was done with this topic, but a further ‘need’ presented itself to me as I was drafting this post.  I think I should create a page on New Zealand sock yarns.  This should be a reasonably helpful resource to those wanting a quick list of sock yarn indie dyers and producers in New Zealand and will present more information than the general list on my side bar.   I have got busy on another large project at work which is going to keep me busy for the next couple of weeks so it might take a few weeks for me to get to it.

 

 

 

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Author: kiwiyarns

Welcome to my blog where I talk about knitting in New Zealand and the beautiful yarns you can find here.

22 thoughts on “Secrets of the Socks, Part 3

  1. I just love the Rumpelstiltskins…….they are beautiful

  2. I’ve been wondering about silk content for socks. I might give it a go now. I want some red socks and I’ve got a lovely red fingering/sock yarn in my stash cupbd. I’ve got Odelay on the needles now for my first toe-ups. As always, thanks for the darn good info. (Haha)

  3. These are beautiful, do you offer any patterns? Or were they from a book? Lovely. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Great observations of each sock content.

  5. Love your posts. So informative…and first hand. Those Rumpelstiltskin socks are gorgeous!!! I think I would like to try them… soon. :)

  6. I find my opal socks very hard wearing and ok with a slip on shoe around the house – too hard with sneakers. Looking forward to finishing my socks with Doe’s pretty yarn. What a good resource this post is. Thanks so much for it.

  7. You’re a doll!

  8. I knit a pair of handspun merino and silk socks a couple of years ago and they’ve worn very well too. Getting thin now and they did end up in the wrong wash once and got a little smaller as a result; but I think I can safely say the silk has helped durability. I spun it a little harder than normal too which will have also helped. I love hand knit socks, I have the problem that now, so do the rest of the family.

    • Thanks for sharing that info! I think my impression of silk is formed by the silk garments that I have worn (and worn through), so to me it is a delicate fibre. However, silk is meant to be very strong, and perhaps in socks there is enough of it for that quality to come through.

  9. Great post, awesome resource and I’m thrilled you’ve decided to put together a page for NZ sock yarns.

    My first finished pair of socks was with Naturally Waikiwi prints, gorgeous colourway and nice and soft, but I am so disappointed with its performance. Very fuzzy, gets buildup of fuzz on the inside, on the ball of the foot, was wearing them around the house, they had been finished and worn for a month, they fit perfectly when I finished them and I was so happy with them. But a month later, they had been worn thin on the sole, they had completely lost all shape and had become baggy and would fall down. So so disappointed. I spent a lot of time on those socks, and they’d only had a few washes, handwashed, and just… I’m still mourning them. I now have two projects on the needles with Knitsch – one is actually Odelay, like yours above – and Koigu. Hopefully they hold up much better than my first pair. I’ve yet to finish a second pair.

  10. Extremely interesting. Thanks for sharing your experience of so many yarns.

  11. Fantastic post :)
    thanks for being dedicated & organized enough to document your findings as it is such a great resource.
    Really look forward to you compiling a list of NZ sock yarns . . . . . . :D

  12. Thanks again – great post ! It does make me realize I’ve still got a lot to learn and experience, too. For example somehow I’ve always associated silk with frailness..

  13. Before I can comment, I’m going to go all the way back to Part 1 and learn a lot and the then get back to you. Wow, so much fabulous information. Thank you, xoRobin

  14. May you never be robbed of your socks – they are all worth stealing!

  15. This is a great wealth of information. I’ve not worn through any of my socks yet, but I suspect the knit-sock-wearing-season is shorter in my bit of the world. I’d like to know if you’ve had any trouble with color-fastness and if a certain type of washing has gone better for you.

    • So far, I have had no issues with colour running. But then, I do wash in cold water. It’s generally warm water that makes colour run in my experience. I am too lazy to handwash, so I put them in the machine and choose the handwash cycle, which is very gentle.

  16. really enjoying these sock posts, I have the wool and the needles ready to go for my first pair, I have a fussy husband who does not like knitted clothing so I am hoping to win him over with lovely socks. I saw that knitworld have that John Q Earth wear yarn in their next sale so definitely pick up a couple of balls to try