How to Choose the Best Yarn for Your Socks
Your choice of sock yarn can be the difference between a pair of socks that you love to wear and a pair that goes unworn (or worse, in the bin!)
Finding your perfect sock yarn is a very personal thing. Every sock knitter has their own preference and finding out which yarn works for you is often a matter of trial and error.
That being said, for those of you who haven’t yet found your dream sock yarn, there are a few things to consider. They all boil down to the fact that a great handknitted sock should be able to withstand the constant stretching and abrasion that comes with regular wear.
Whilst you could knit a sock in any yarn, following the suggestions below will help you get the most wear out of them.
Choosing the Perfect Sock Yarn
I am a huge fan of using natural fibres for my handknits, particularly wool. Wool is extremely well-suited to sock knitting because it is breathable and will regulate your temperature. This means that it will keep your feet warm in the winter and cool in the summer - very clever!
Wool is also very elastic, which is super important when it comes to socks. A sock yarn should have good bounce and memory, since socks are stretched over your heel whenever you put them on and take them off. Wool will spring back to shape, whereas fibres like cotton and alpaca will stretch out.
The only real downside to using 100% wool in socks is that they can wear out quicker than socks that contain a synthetic fibre. That’s why most yarn sold as “sock yarn” tends to have a percentage of synthetic fibre, such as nylon or acrylic - it adds extra strength and durability.
However, I have spotted that Blacker Yarns have a wool sock yarn that is blended with super-strong mohair instead of a synthetic, which is meant to make them very durable. I plan on trying this yarn out very soon, so I shall report back to you on this once I’ve tried it! I’ve heard great reports on it so far.
If you want to add durability to 100% wool socks, you can actually hold fine nylon thread alongside your yarn to reinforcement wherever you need it. Most of the stress on your socks will be around the heel and toe areas, so it’s a good idea to use it in those sections.
Delicate fibres, such as silk, angora and cashmere, are not great options for socks. They are not strong enough to withstand abrasion and will quickly show holes. If you really want to work with fibres like this, you would be better off using a blend. You will get the warmth and the softness of the luxury fibre, but the practicality of the wool.
I like a soft yarn as much as the next person, but when it comes to socks, soft is not superior. The softer the yarn, the less it will be able to withstand abrasion. Not only will your socks pill a lot more, but they will also wear out much quicker.
Thankfully, your feet are generally less sensitive than your hands or neck. What might feel super scratchy on the delicate areas of your skin might feel very comfortable on your feet. Most people will find that they can handle much 'harsher' yarns for socks than they could wear elsewhere. As with all things, test it out and see what works for you.
Sock yarns come in all kinds of weights, but most of them are fingering weight. Personally, I prefer a fine gauge sock as it is more comfortable to wear and you can tailor it to fit your foot better.
If you want to knit with a thicker yarn, keep in mind that the resulting socks will be much thicker than shop-bought socks and will therefore take up a lot more space in your shoes!
The way that you look after your socks once they’re knitted will vary according to the yarn you have chosen. It’s best to consider the level of aftercare you (or the recipient) are willing to commit to and choose your yarn based on that.
Many sock yarns these days are ‘superwash’, which means that you can pop them in the washing machine along with the rest of your laundry. If you find hand-washing too time-consuming, superwash yarns might be the best option for you.
Side note: I have mixed feelings on superwash yarns after finding out how superwash fibre is created. Ashley from Woolful wrote a very informative blog post on this if you’re interested in finding out more.
If, like me, you really don’t mind hand-washing your socks, you don’t have to opt for superwash yarns and can choose whatever you fancy!
Colour is extremely personal, so I shan’t give you too much guidance on this, other than the fact that stitchy socks tend to look better in a solid/semi-solid yarn. This is because a variegated yarn can distract from the stitch, hiding all of your hard work.
When it comes to ‘vanilla’ socks (plain stockinette socks), you can go all out! Hand-painted, variegated sock yarns will really shine.
Using Non-Sock Yarn
If you’ve found a yarn that you’d love to try for socks, but it isn’t labelled as a sock yarn, you could always knit a swatch from it to carry around at the bottom of your bag for a couple of weeks. Apply some friction to the swatch to see how it responds - if it quickly looks worn, I recommend that you avoid using it for socks.
Gaufre Socks: A FREE pattern launching on Tuesday 15th August!
I am so excited about sharing this pattern with you. They look beautifully simple and wearable, yet the stitch pattern is incredibly fun and addictive to knit! I hope you will love them as much as I do.
Sock Knitters of the Sisterhood, put the 15th August in your diary and meet me here! I can hardly wait.