July 5, 2010 by Spinningmad Dee (Dionne) Westwood
Sara’s Texture Crafts online store has a wealth of fibre(s) and other accessories from which we can choose whatever craft we enjoy and whatever we may wish to create…..
In this, my first tutorial I would like to concentrate on the basics behind creating a great, strong, long-lasting, hard-wearing sock yarn. Once mastered and understood, the choice of fibres can be altered to create a finished sock with many different characteristics.
As the weeks progress we will travel through every stage of creating our socks until we have the finished article. There will be many photographs and some short(ish) videos that will I hope, support your learning as we travel through choosing the fibre(s) and why I made the fibre and spinning choices I have.
We will then move on to preparing the fibre, predrafting and then spinning using the short draw (worsted) method. Followed closely by plying a 4 ply yarn and how to dye the yarn to make a simple 2 colour pattern before setting, skein-ing and balling the yarn ready to knit and finally block our finished pair socks.
This is probably a big read but there is so much to share with you, so do find time to read on, or if you are in a hurry now, why not bookmark this page and come back later!
On a personal level I have a great interest in alternative, plant and recycled fibres. This is because often I find wool can be itchy; particularly around my arms, face and neck. However for socks, wool is hard to beat; offering us warmth, breath-ability, durability, elasticity and also beauty. It’s widely and readily available at a sensible price and is mostly, easy to care for!
When learning this craft, and beginning to produce these tutorials with Sara, I have spent a lot of time online doing research, reading books and asking questions of others more experienced than myself about their own experiences and knowledge. All this led me to make some firm conclusions and gave me the knowledge to go online and order the following fibres:
200 grams of Leicester (Border or BFL)
30 grams of Mohair (kid, yearling or adult). This is 30% weight of the main fibre
Main Fibre Choice:
Border, BLF and Romney all possess staple of a good length (approx 5-7 inches) and crimp (approx 7 crimps per inch).These characteristics will give our yarn (and therefore, socks!) the ability to retain elasticity during wear, and after washings.
BFL top is available in its natural colours of White, Oatmeal and Brown or a blend of all three known as HUMBUG. It also takes up dye very well and is becoming much more available pre-dyed. BFL possesses a natural sheen and is soft to the touch.
Secondary Blended Fibre Choice:
Why am I mixing two different fibres together? If you look at the fibre content of commercial sock yarns; which are neither as warm or as satisfying as creating our own hand-spun yarn; most often have a 25% content of nylon to a 75% content of wool. This gives the resulting yarn and socks the strength to be hard-wearing against the abrasion that naturally happens as your socks rub against footwear or floors.
I wanted to avoid man-made fibres in favour of an all natural product, (but if you wished to, you could blend tencel tops with your wool tops using the percentages used commercially….) so with this I mind, and following my research, I learned that mohair would be a great natural alternative.
It’s characteristics are great strength, making it durable against abrasion which is probably the greatest enemy of all socks (other than the big black hole where one of a pair tend to disappear into from time to time!).
As a 15% part of your blend, the Mohair in your spun yarn will give it an attractive, but slight haze. It does not matter if the Mohair is kid, yearling or adult fibre, as the qualities it offers are the same. Probably it will more a matter of pricing or availability that determines which you choose; kid being the more expensive. When I made my own order Sara had stock of some pre-carded mohair in stock so this is what I am using in this project, however if available I would try to choose tops as it is much easier to blend. Also if you are going to be combing to create your blend, and a “true” worsted spin is required; tops are a must as well as a set of wool combs!
So together, these 2 ingredients form the ingredients and the basis of a good sock yarn… our aim being to produce a yarn for a sock that is strong, long-lasting, hard-wearing, elastic, durable, warm, breathable, comfortable….
Let us re-cap on what we know by looking again at the important things to consider first when choosing fibre for socks:
Staple Length: Staple of 5-7”
Fleece with longer staple fibres (those with a staple length above 7”) will be more difficult to prepare and short fibres (3” or less) would probably not stand up to natural abrasion well.
Crimp: 7 crimps per inch
Wool with crimp above 10 crimps per inch usually signifies a fine wool, not suitable for socks. Those with fewer than about 5 crimps, usually points to harsher wools which would not be very comfortable next to the skin.
Adding A Touch of Luxury:
If you wanted to create an even softer or luxurious yarn that our BFL and Mohair blend you might wish to blend in some Cashmere, Angora, Alpaca along with the BFL (or Border, Or Romney), but it is important to follow the basic ratio of blending it with Mohair, ensuring that it is at least 15% of the total blended weight,for strength (or a nylon if you choose).
Another option when seeking a more “luxury” yarn would be to ply in a single made entirely from a fine fibre or spun in a different way (long draw/woollen spun)… consider though this may weaken the sock and that this “other fibre” may behave differently, which could make your sock prone to pil or felt…better for a less hard-wearing sock perhaps?
Just a small word about why I didn’t choose to use the very popular Merino:
Though very widely available in a huge array of colours and colour blends Merino has far too fine a staple to produce a yarn that will stand up to becoming a hardworking sock (more of a fashion sock)….. Having said this, if you wished to felt your sock Merino is a good choice to use or add into a blend…do beware though; should you need to darn your sock in future (and you will) the felting will make this a difficult repair job!
So, now that you have come this far, and have the information to know what you need and why, why not join me and begin spinning your own sock yarn along with me week by week? Go to www.sarastexturecrafts.com and place your order…. Before long your package will arrive and we can begin to prepare, blend and pre-draft the fibres ready to learn the art of short draw/worsted spinning together….
If you have any questions, comments or suggestions please contact me via this site or contact Sara who will be happy to help or re-direct any comments you may have and which are always welcomed. Thanks for taking the time and I hope to see you here again next week!
Written by Spinningmad Dee and supplies by Sara at www.SarasTextureCrafts.com