All About Socks: Yarn Basics

As promised, I’m going to talk about some sock basics as we get ready for our Socks with Sarah KAL. Today’s topic is probably everyone’s favorite: Yarn.

Right off the bat I want to say that if you want to know everything you can know about what cocktail of fiber & twist you want for the ideal socks, I will direct you immediately to the one & only Clara Parkes and her bible for sock knitters:

20140103-134126.jpgThe Knitter’s Book of Socks

This book is jam-packed with information. In fact, it is so dense that in order for me to absorb the details I have to read just a few pages at a time. From elasticity to moisture control to twist to fiber content to stitch tricks to the 20 lovely patterns — well, let’s just say that this book is pretty much worth its weight in gold to the serious sock knitter.

Being a spinner and all around fiber junkie, my favorite part of this book — aside from the patterns which are fantastic — is definitely how Parkes walks you through each individual aspect of yarn & fiber and what role the most basic elements play in the personality, longevity, and overall wearability of a sock. Wool gives you moisture wicking qualities and warmth — all of my socks are predominantly wool. Often blended with wool in sock yarn, nylon gives a good deal of strength to yarn and can prevent — or at least postpone — holes.  Mohair will act a lot like nylon and give your socks a little halo, too. Alpaca offers extreme warmth — I don’t generally go near alpaca for socks as my handknit socks are almost always in slippers or warm shoes and I fear my feet would totally overheat. Cashmere, well, in a good wool/nylon blend it can be a little pilly, but boy will those socks be warm, cozy, and the softest things you ever put on your feet. It is easy to get overwhelmed quickly though, so let’s start with a good, basic sock yarn.

The vast majority of my socks are made from wool/nylon blends — 75% wool/25% nylon is the most common. Sometimes I see 80%/20%… you know, it varies from base to base and anything in that ballpark is pretty similar. I look for these blends because they are really the workhorse of sock yarns. Sometimes they will tell you what kind of wool ie BFL, merino, etc. BFL is known for its strength and durability, merino is a little softer – they all have their own little personalities, so it is great to experiment. Oftentimes these blends are also machine washable which I appreciate, especially when I make socks for my husband. Do check the tag though before putting them through a spin cycle!

I have worked a lot with Regia sock yarns. It is what my LYS  carries & it is just an all around great quality yarn. Over the years it has proven incredibly strong & handles machine wash & dry well.regiaI picked up this skein online at WEBS. It is a fingering weight wool/nylon blend. One reason I love Regia yarns is they tend to come in generous skeins. 460+yards in fingering, 400+ yards in sport/DK — way more than enough for a pair of socks. I knit a fair number of top-down socks, so I love that yardage cushion. If you are a little wary of second sock syndrome or are a slower knitter worried about finishing or you just want to knit a pair of socks in a flash, try the sport/DK weight. The Churchmouse Yarns & Teas Basic Sock has instructions for this slightly heavier weight and they knit up much faster than fingering weight. Either way, for a first pair of socks you really can’t beat Regia!

Just in case you don’t have access too Regia yarns, I am planning to try out some On-Line 6-ply as well as some Opal in the Petit Prince series during the KAL. They should be pretty comparable — I will be sure to report back to you with my thoughts!

Of course, I don’t always use commercial yarns for sock knitting. I am a complete and total sucker for hand-dyed yarns and my stash is a testament to that. Really, at the end of the day sometimes you just want to work with the most beautiful colors & yarns around. And if that’s what keeps you knitting socks, then by all means go with it!

I have no idea how I found Friday Studios out of Sweden, but I have been oggling her updates for months. I finally jumped when she had a Black Friday sale last November….

fridaystudiosAnd now that I have it in hand I am wondering what took me so long! This is a skein of self-striping yarn in the Science Fiction colorway on the Monday Base. The colors are even more vibrant than I expected –so worth the splurge! The Monday Base is 100gr/425m(465yds) and 75%Superwash Wool/25% Polyamide. Polyamide is another way of saying ‘nylon’ — in case you were wondering. It looks & feels like a pretty good quality sock yarn with vibrant, beautiful colors. I am excited to get this on my needles! (FYI-The shop just had an update today. And you can order custom colors including the one above. Just sayin’…)

For my first sock for this KAL though, I am going to enjoy another special treat. You’ve all heard me rave about Natalie from Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber. I’ve spun with her fiber. I’m knitting a scarf with some aran merino/silk from her, but somehow I have never knit with her sock yarn. That all changes come January 15th!


socks cloudlover one_edited-1Ahhhhh….

cloudlover3_edited-1Meet Cloudlover’s own Aegean sock yarn.

I. Am. In. Love.

It is obvious, but the colors are unbeatable & — as always — the base is top-notch. I have no doubt it’s going to be a dream. It just so happens that ALL THE SOCK YARN is currently ON SALE in the Cloudlover shop. I’m not even kidding. ALL THE SOCK YARN. To make it even more amazing, enter code HAPPY2014 and you will get 20% off your entire order. Seriously, I’m not even kidding. If ever there was a time to test drive some Cloudlover Yarns & Fibers, now is the time!

Everything I’ve shown you is a wool/nylon blend, so obviously this is a blend I really believe is a good place to start when knitting socks and there are far more fab yarns in this category than I can list for you in this post. At the same time though, I’ve had great luck with 100% merino yarns like Malabrigo Sock which felt a little with wear, but are awfully warm  &  Shibui Sock which has twist to spare (that’s a good thing).  Spud & Chloe’s Fine is a superwash wool/silk blend makes a darn nice, strong sock, too. And I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews for Rowan’s Fine Art which is a merino/mohair/polyamide/silk blend. I encourage you to take some time during the Socks with Sarah KAL to experiment with your yarn choices. With so many wonderful options — the only thing left to do is start knitting & finding new favorites! Don’t forget to share your faves on the Ravelry thread — I think I can speak for us all when I say your KAL friends want to know what you think!collage sock yarn(here are ‘just a few’ of the skeins of sock yarn in my stash…)

11 thoughts on “All About Socks: Yarn Basics”

  1. Wonderful explanation of sock yarn qualities. I’m going to cast on the Rowen Fine Art on the 15th. I haven’t knit with this yarn, but I can’t keep my hands off of it!! And I’m ordering Clara Parkes book today!!

    1. Awesome! I know you will love the book.

      You know, I don’t know why I keep putting off buying the Rowan Fine Art. I love Kingfisher & almost got it a week or so ago, but then I saw that they’ve introduced some solids and was in a quandary again. Do keep me updated on what you think!

  2. Well now! I joined in with the express intention of knitting the socks intended for the skeins already in my stash! And here you go – even before the KAL begins officially – getting me all excited about the prospect of buying MORE sock yarn!!!! 🙂

    1. Sorry! I’m such a bad/awesome influence, aren’t I? In my defense I had to share some yarn ideas – people were asking! That Cloudlover sale is pretty awesome – under $20 for a lot of those hand-painted sock yarns. Oh, whoops! Sorry! There I go again! 😉

  3. thank you thank you thank you! I’ve been wanting to try some nicer yarns and wasn’t sure where to start. I only have 2 socks worth of sock yarn in my stash (I think). Once I work through those, I can move on to some of these that you have recommended! (btw, your stash is truly droolworthy)

      1. I’m so glad this helped! I will definitely continue adding to the list as the year goes on — I just didn’t want to totally overwhelm anyone before we even get started. The Ravelry thread is also totally alive with beautiful yarns & patterns — I’m absolutely sure there will be a wealth recommendations there, too! There are A LOT of great knitters joining up!

        BTW — Thanks! I kind of love my stash A LOT, too. Fiber & yarn alike. 😉

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