Want to start to spinning your own handspun sockyarn? But not quiet sure how to begin and which fibre to use? I had the same problem sometime ago and started to read everything I could find about this theme and to make some experiments. Perhaps my little compilation of what I found out could help to overcome the fear and hesitation and to simply start.
I think, first things first, you have to decide what kind of socks you want. Some durable, thick outdoor socks to wear in your boots? Some everyday socks to wear in you shoes? Or some « lazy-at -home » kind of socks, that you’ll wear only on your couch? Every of these socks will need another kind of spinning or fibre, so it’s important to think about this question in the beginning.
My interest is mostly to spin a yarn that’ll produce
- durable everyday socks I can wear over years in my shoes,
- that won’t felt after the first washing
- that won’t have holes after a month and
- that are nevertheless comfortable.
I found two major points to consider when start spinning for socks:
1. What fibre to use
2. How to spin your yarn
1.What fibre to use:
Except you want to use your socks only in bed, soft is generally not a great option for socks. The softer the fibre, the more fragile it will be and the more it will pill and wear away.
Here are a few things I think a good sock fibre needs:
- difficult to felt or felt-resistance
- durability, goes mostly hand in hand with a higher micron/fibre thickness.
- staple length of more than 3 inches can reduce the pilling
- crimp, that will add some natural bounce for a more comfortable sock and also a sock that keeps its shape
Some fibres that responds best to this points:
- Southdown: felt-resistant, a lot of crimp, dense but bouncy, durable. It makes a strong yarn without being scratchy. Spun worsted it’s perfect for socks.
- Bluefaced Leicester (BFL): longer staple length, natural wave and bounciness add longevity.
- Corriedale: all-rounder
- Cheviot: lustrous and hardy.
- Down breeds like Suffolk and Hampshire: long-wearing, natural felt-resistance
- Romney and Shetland: hard-wearing, though perhaps a bit itchy
Blending fibres to add strength, longevity or warmth:
- Nylon: between – 20–25%, but no more. Could be added to softer fibres like Merino to make them more durable
- Mohair: makes socks extremely tough and durable. Can be added to the initial fibre blend before spinning or as an additional lace-weight reinforcer knit into toes and heels
- Silk: adds sheen and softness, tough fibre, but no elasticity, so only a little amount otherwide the socks tends to become saggy
- Luxury fibres: cashmere, alpaca, yak, and possum to add warmth, but only in small proportions –no more than about 25% of a blend – otherwise socks will be more fragile, pill and loose their shape.
Often used for sockyarn to be machine washable. The superwash processes smoothes the scales of the wool chemically. Afterwards the fibres can be additionally coated in a polymer that reduces the friction between neighbouring fibres. It depends on your taste, if you’ll like or not superwash fibers.
2. How to spin your yarn to become a durable sockyarn
- Worsted spun: more durable yarn, will last longer and have less pilling.
- High-twist singles: tighter spun fibres holds together better and add strength to the yarn. Twist can also reduce pilling and determine the longevity.
- More plies = more durable.
- 2-ply yarn is the minimum
- traditional 3 ply or chained plied, spun with a worsted draft is durable and hardwearing
- Crepe yarn: This 3 ply structure add a lot of elasticity and is very strong and hardwearing.
- 4-ply cabled yarn: 4 ply yarn that’s perfect for socks, very hardwearing, strong, but a lot of more work to do and often difficult to achieve thinner yarns
Focuses on increasing the durability of toes and heels, through
- specific knitting stitches (for example slip-stitch pattern for the heel flap)
- using smaller needles
- using yarn doubled
- adding a nylon or silk or mohair reinforcing thread
One more thing in the end: If you’re new to sockyarn spinning it might be difficult at first to spin a yarn that has the average thickness of a standard sockyarn, especially if you want a 3- or 4 ply yarn. For me at least this was very scary and seemed impossible. But on one hand to spin finer yarn will come simply by practising. And on the other hand there’s no need to spin immediately a fingering weight yarn. There are so many lovely sock patterns out there for sport or DK or even worsted weight yarn that I think this point shouldn’t be an issue to stop you from experimenting. I started like this, my first handspun socks were worsted weight and I still love to wear them at home!