In just two days it's officially Socktober! Are you as excited as we are? As we were getting ready for this joyous time of year, I came across a post I had written back in July 2019 when we were running our Summer Sock KAL; Our Love For Natural Sock Yarn (And How To Care For It!).
Over the years, our love of socks and natural sock yarn has continued to grow, so I thought this was the perfect time to update that original blog post and talk about why we love natural sock yarn!
When we say 'natural sock yarn', we simply mean yarn that is plastic free and non-superwash. When it comes to choosing a sock yarn, it's become the norm for knitters to reach for a superwash blend with nylon added for strength, and I can see why. Firstly, the convenience of being able to pop your socks in the washing machine is a huge bonus, and secondly, we know the addition of nylon gives strength to yarn and will make your socks more hard-wearing and less likely to get holes (though this isn't a guarantee!). And if that is your favourite yarn for sock knitting, I'm not going to tell you you're wrong, because, at the end of the day, you do you! But some drawbacks come with using superwash yarns that outweigh the convenience, especially if we are considering how sustainable our new cast-on is. Let's take a look!
But the short version is this; 75% of superwash yarns use the Chlorine-Hercosett process which uses harsh chemicals to burn off the scales found on the surface of wool (these are what make it felt!) and then coats it in a polyamide-epichlorohydrin resin, a type of plastic which is why you'll also find superwash yarn described as 'plastic-coated'. Over time, this plastic coating will wear off as you wash your yarn, depositing microplastics into the water systems. The same problem is created by having nylon in the yarn too. So what's the alternative? You can explore more sustainable superwash options (see 'Are There Sustainable Superwash Options', or you can try knitting with a natural sock yarn.
Feeling a little apprehensive? I get it! You want to make sure you make a pair of socks that are going to stand the test of time, and a 100% wool yarn makes you a little nervous. Let's take a look at some of the ways yarn producers are creating natural yarns specifically with socks in mind!
What Makes A Great Natural Sock Yarn
Socks have traditionally been knit out of wool, and there's a good reason for that. Hardwearing, temperature regulating, and moisture-wicking, it's no wonder it has always been the fibre of choice for socks. It's also very elastic, which is so essential for both a comfortable fit and for retaining shape after wearing. To create a stronger sock yarn, we are now seeing spinners and yarn companies adding natural alternatives to nylon to strengthen such as mohair and silk. They also tend you use a wool breed with a long staple which adds to the strength of the yarn. If you'd like to learn more about the different characteristics of yarn, check out 'Exploring Fibre: Wool'. (https://making-stories.com/blogs/blog/2020-6-9-what-is-breed-specific-yarn)
You will often hear people talking about how much twist a yarn will have. This simply refers to how tightly a yarn is spun, and it can affect the strength of a thread; the tighter the spin, the stronger the yarn. Natural sock yarns will often have a high twist for this reason!
Over the years, we have discovered a plethora of gorgeous natural sock yarns, and we're so happy to be carrying a selection in our webshop. If you'd like to check them out, click the button below!
While choosing the right yarn for your project is super important, there are still things we can do to make sure we're going to end up with hardwearing socks that will last years to come. Let's look at things to consider when working with natural sock yarns.
There's a reason sock needles are always so tiny. A tighter gauge will give you longer-lasting socks as there is less room for the stitches to move around. A looser gauge leads to the stitches rubbing against each other, causing friction and wear.
The Stitch Pattern:
The pattern you choose for your socks can have a significant impact on how long your socks last, particularly in the areas that take a lot of wear. There's a reason you never see fun lace details on heel flaps, they wouldn't last a week! Often you will see designers add slipped stitches to 'high-traffic' areas such as these to create a more durable fabric. They look pretty nice too!
Washing Your Socks
Hand washing your knitted socks is obviously not as easy as throwing them in the washing machine, but it is easy and not as time-consuming as people think. By investing in a good wool wash such as Euclan or Soak, all you need to do is give them a good soak, gently squeezing out any air bubbles and making sure they are completely submerged. Leave them for about an hour and lay flat to dry. The most important things to remember are to never have your water too hot and don't agitate your knitting, this will lead to felting, and never wring out your hand knits, or you'll be left with a misshapen sock. Roll them in a towel to take out any excess water.
Mending Your Socks
You've made socks that you love, and you never want to wear anything else! It doesn't matter that you've picked a durable wool yarn with a high twist and knit to a tight gauge with slipped stitches at the heel (phew!). At some point, you're going to discover some wear and tear. At one time, sock darning was not only a way of life but a necessity, which has, unfortunately, gone out of style. It's the perfect way to breathe new life into a well-loved item, and for some, it doesn't stop there. If you find mending a chore, check out Visible Creative Mending from Flora Collingwood-Norris. She turns woolly holes into works of art, and it's a great way to add your own creative spin to your mending!
What is your favourite sock yarn? Share in the comments below!
Happy Socktober, lovelies!! If you've been following us even for a little while, you've probably noticed that I absolutely love knitting socks.
They're the perfect portable project, great for trying out new techniques or stitch patterns, and just so, so rewarding. There's just nothing like the feeling of opening your sock drawer on a cold fall morning, picking out the pair of hand-knit socks that calls to you, and walking around with cozy, warm toes all day long.
I couldn't resist putting together a short, sweet list of 3 sock patterns I'm loving right now to kickstart this month – one makes for excellent TV-knitting, the second one is a bit more complex, and the last one is one that I've been wanting to knit for years!
One of my all-time favorite tasks when we get a new yarn in is to put together pattern and color combinations. And with Bérénice, De Rerum Natura's sustainably produced Mohair / Merino / Silk yarn (fluffy like a cloud!), the possibilities for patterns and colors are close to endless!
I'm thrilled to be back in this space, and with something really, really exciting at that! For the past year, I've been on the hunt for a sustainably-produced fluffy yarn - we used to carry Knitting for Olive's Soft Silk Mohair which is delightful, but also... everyone has it now? So I was looking for something that was a little out of the ordinary, but also responsibly sourced, and as it goes with anything that involves mohair and silk, that was really hard.
Cue De Rerum Natura, who secretly have been working behind the scenes at exactly that yarn I'd been looking for: An "as sustainably as it can get" fluff yarn that works perfectly for a broad range of projects, from whispers of lace shawls to holding it together with more substantial yarns.
We're a delightfully tiny team dedicated to all things sustainability in knitting. With our online shop filled with responsibly produced yarns, notions and patterns we're here to help you create a wardrobe filled with knits you'll love and wear for years to come.
Are you part of the flock yet?
Sign up to our weekly newsletter to get the latest yarn news and pattern inspiration!
Join the Making Stories flock!
Every Tuesday our newsletter arrives in your inbox, full to the brim with Making Stories goodness. If you would like to join in on the fun, fill in the form below.
As a thank you, we gift you a digital publication of your choice!