I recently got the sock knitter’s favorite question: “Why would you knit socks when they’re so inexpensive to buy?” My snappy response was that you can also buy birthday cake, but cake you make yourself is more enjoyable to eat and to create.
It’s completely true that handknitted socks are just better, but that’s not the real reason why I knit socks. I have a weakness for handdyed sock yarn that keeps calling me back to the yarn store.
So what makes a great sock yarn?
Here are my personal criteria:
I’m hard on my handknitted socks, which I tend to wear out faster than I would like. Although I’ll darn if needed, the added durability of three, four, or more plies in sock yarn helps fend off holes.
When it comes to elasticity, memory, and moisture wicking, nothing beats wool. Something extra can be wonderful (cashmere for softness, silk for shine, or nylon for durability), but I look for sock yarn that’s at least 65% wool. Although Merino is the standby for softness, many yarn companies are offering sock yarns spun from other breeds. Make mine wool.
I’m told that the process of making wool washable can reduce some of the fiber’s legendary memory, but the risk of felting a pair of socks isn’t one I’m personally willing to take often.
There are exceptions to these three rules of thumb: For a lacy pattern, a two-ply sock yarn can be just perfect. Some thoughtful fiber blends or yarn structures can create elasticity comparable to a higher wool content. And there are special yarns (especially from small producers) that aren’t available with a superwash option. But this last rule is unbreakable:
I’m not someone who wears a lot of bold color combinations in most of my clothes, but when it comes to sock yarn the color combinations are even more delicious than homemade birthday cake. My first love was the riotous multicolored rainbow of variegated yarns. With intricate stitch patterns, though, sometimes a mostly solid yarn hits the spot.
I’m so smitten with the colors of the Fall 2013 Sockupied “One Sock Two Ways” pattern. The colors Franklin Habit and Lorna’s Laces put together under the name “Franklin’s Panopticon” created a combo I’d never have put together myself—which makes them all the lovelier. The “Firefly” color is so hard to describe in one word—“yellow” doesn’t capture it at all. It’s fresher than khaki, brighter than gold, subtler than lemon.
It’s a good thing the yarns for the Sockupied One Sock Two Ways kit aren’t stored here in my office because there wouldn’t be any for you. The Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock meets all of my criteria: 80% wool, 3+ plies, superwash, and available in stunning colorways. But you’re in luck—there are still a few of each colorway left in the Interweave Store. We have a limited number of kits available that include a skein of either Firefly or Franklin’s Panopticon; a Mac or PC copy of the Fall 2013 issue of Sockupied, and a month’s subscription to Craft Daily.