Fat Knitting Superhero, disguised as Mild Mannered Yarn Shop Employee.

Archive for November 7, 2011

Top-Down Socks – yarn

As promised, I’m finally doing a sock post!  This is for EvaBla on Ravelry who hasn’t yet successfully knit a sock.

Let’s start with a basic top-down sock.  The first step is…  Picking yarn, of course!  And actually, that’s the least understood part of the deal for most knitters.

Yarn for socks should have multiple plies – at least 4 IMHO, and should be firmly spun and smooth-textured. It shouldn’t be terribly squishy or fuzzy. That smoothness and firm twist are what give sock yarn the strength to resist abrasion and avoid pilling or developing holes too quickly.

Another important issue is fiber.  Yarn for socks should be made of a fairly elastic fiber, like wool, and should contain about 15-20% of a something strong and abrasion resistant, like nylon or silk.  Wool gets a bad rap sometimes because people think it’s itchy.  Luckily, the same firm, smooth twist that makes sock yarn strong also makes wool lie down and behave and NOT ITCH.  Others will say that wool is too hot.  Not so.  At the same weight, wool feels cooler than cotton.  This is mostly because, unlike cotton, which feels wet instantly, wool absorbs about 30% of its weight in water before it even begins to feel damp.  This means that the average 50 gram wool sock can absorb 15 grams of sweat (that’s about a tablespoon) before your feet will start to feel damp.  The wool will also allow the moisture to move through the fabric, so that perspiration absorbed at the toes can evaporate outside the shoes from the sock’s cuff.

Lastly, size.  Most yarn sold as “sock yarn” in North America is fingering weight (Craft Yarn Council’s size 1) and many yarn stores put all their fingering weight yarn together and call it all “sock yarn.”  It isn’t.  Even if it’s in the sock yarn section, if it’s fuzzy or single-plied or lumpy, it’s not sock yarn.  Go ahead and buy it, but do me a favor and use it for hats or fingerless mitts or scarves.  That way, you won’t have to darn your socks quite so soon!

Tomorrow – NEEDLES for socks!

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