Tuesday, March 4, 2008

ISO the perfect handspun sock yarn

I learned to knit socks about a year ago, and in that year I've managed to knit over 25 pairs of socks. So, naturally, when I picket out and received a spinning wheel, my first priority was to learn to spin yarn for socks.

My first attempt was a Navajo-ply. I split the roving in two, and by the second half, I was really cooking with gas. It resulted in some nice stripy socks.

Handspun sock yarn, part deux Happy Handspun Socks

For my next pair, I did a traditional 3-ply. I tried to spin strips at random to break up any striping. The result was a tweedy-looking sock with subtle stripes.

Forbidden Fruit 3-ply merino sock Forbidden Fruit Sock the First

Both successes. But then I got to thinking, a lot of my favorite commercial sock yarns are 2-ply, so why am I focusing so much on 3-ply sock yarns?

Next up, 2-ply merino sock. The roving was merino from Enchanted Knoll Farms on Etsy, in the Fortune Teller colorway. The roving was slightly felted, which made it difficult to draft in places, resulting in a less uniform yarn than I would like, but it is so bouncy and squishy; I love it.

Fortune Teller Merino

Then the Yarn Harlot wrote about a 4-ply cabled sock yarn, and of course I had to try that, too. I pulled out some superwash merino I had dyed, and I think it came out looking a lot like denim.

Cabled sock yarn-to be

The difference between the finished 2-ply and the 4-ply cabled yarns is night and day.

Handspun Sock Yarn

For one thing, the 2-ply was much quicker and easier to make. Two singles, plied once. The 4-ply cabled yarn was much more involved. Four laceweight singles, plied three times.

The color interplay is also worth noting. The 2-ply should look somewhat stripy when knit up, whereas the 4-ply is all tweedy and marled.

The yardage also came out drastically different. I don't remember the yardage for my 3-ply yarns, but it was at least 350+. Enough for plain socks with some left over. The 2-ply yielded about 400 yards. The 4-ply cabled yarn? 278 yards. And you can see in the photo it's a little thinner overall than the 2-ply, too. I was *so* disappointed.

I agonized over what to do about this. Normally, if I thought I would run short of sock yarn, I'd do contrasting heels and toes. But the whole point of a cabled sock yarn is strength, so it would be pretty pointless to spend all that time spinning a super sock yarn and then use a commercial yarn for the places that would see the most wear. I had just about decided to dye up a couple of ounces in a contrasting color when my husband suggested that I just knit as much as I can with what I have (the yarn is intended for socks for him). I guess that's what I'll do.

I'll continue this discussion once I have socks knit out of these last two yarns, and probably again after a while when we've had a chance to see how they're all wearing.

In the meantime, I think I'll stick to the 2- and 3-plies. I haven't had a pair of socks wear through yet, so I think I will avoid the extra work and extra fiber required for the 4-ply cabled for the near future.

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