After my last sock post, reader Ariel asked if I would talk a bit about sock yarns that I've used, and what I think about them, so that she can more confidently buy sock yarn online, which I'll admit is what I mostly do as well. I am in no way a sock-knitting expert, nor have I knitted a million socks, so just keep that in mind. So! Here's what I think about the yarns I've used in the past. These are all socks that I've knitted anywhere from one month to three years ago. I'm showing them to you straight out of my sock drawer, in their natural, clean yet pilly/cat furry/fuzzy state.
I wash them all the same way: fill up the sink with warm water and a bit of Woolite, sort by color family in case of bleeding, toss several pairs on top of the soapy water, come back in half an hour after they've sunk into the water, then sort of squish them around in the water. Rinse, roll up in a towel, squeeze some water out, lay them on towels on the floor in the spare bedroom to dry. I know that sock yarn is machine washable, which is sort of the beauty of sock yarn, but there was a green sock-white shirt incident a while back and I just don't want to risk it. I don't mind hand-washing.
Pattern: Sugar Maple from 2-At-A-Time Socks by Melissa Morgan-Oakes
This is a great yarn. It doesn't bleed in the wash, and the socks are holding up pretty well as I wear them. There are some pills, but it's pretty unusual for a sock to NOT pill. The colors are saturated and lovely, and this yarn has my personal preferred amount of twist: not too much, not too little. I would absolutely buy this yarn online... but it's not necessarily cheap. I think I got it for about $19 at my LYS.
Pattern: Plain Vanilla Socks
Yarn: Plymouth Yarn Happy Feet
What on earth was I thinking when I bought this yarn? This is the goofiest colorway I have ever seen. Ok, maybe not EVER, but come on, past self, what the hell? I actually started knitting.... something, can't think of what now with this yarn a long time ago, frogged it, and rolled it back into a ball. It did not like to be frogged. That part of the yarn was so ragged. You can't really tell in the knitted socks, but. I could think of no pattern that would not look awful with these colors, so I just knitted plain socks. I only wear these with boots so that no one can see them. That being said: This is not my favorite sock yarn. It has a really tight twist, which is not my preference. The colorways are all sort of goofy. One thing that I DO really like is that this yarn comes in half-size hanks, and the price is good- I think it was about $7.50 a hank at the LYS. Great for colorwork socks, or if, say, your brother is a real goofball and never wears matching socks, then maybe you could buy two different half hanks and make him two different socks. That's my working plan for him for Christmas. But! It won't be in this yarn, because I don't plan on buying it again. Too weird.
Pattern: I don't even remember. Something with knits and purls.
Yarn: Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine
This is an unusual sock yarn because it's alpaca instead of the standard superwash merino + nylon. The thing with alpaca is that it's fuzzy. I dislike fuzzy socks. I didn't know this about myself before I knitted these socks. It was fine to knit with and the socks are holding up decently well, but I personally do not want alpaca socks. I recall that this yarn was pretty cheap at the LYS.
Pattern: Hermione's Everyday Socks
Yarn: Neighborhood Fiber Co. Studio Sock
Has every sock knitter made this pattern by now? Probably. I love, love, love these socks. This yarn was a splurge (about $25?) at Stitches West in California last year, and it was worth every penny. These are my go-to socks, but they're not showing any wear. (Granted, they are a fairly new addition to the sock drawer, but I wore them all the time when it was cold, and I even took them on planes with me this summer. Because my feeties get cold on the plane.) Ironically, these have the same tight twist of the Plymouth Happy Feet, but it didn't bother me. Maybe because the color is stunning and not goofy? Not sure. I would absolutely buy more of this yarn, and I think it would have to be online, because the only time I've seen this yarn was at Stitches. Dang it, now I'm totally gonna buy some online right now. Like I need more yarn.
Patterns: Embossed Leaves (the green) and Sailor's Delight (the blue)
Yarns: Etsy indie dyers
I'm lumping these two together. Both are from Etsy shops, but I'm not sure which ones anymore. The blue was actually a trade on Ravelry for a yarn that I'd dyed myself. The green yarn is a NIGHTMARE. It was the culprit of the laundry incident I mentioned at the beginning of this ungodly long post. I have to wash these by themselves because they still leach out enough dye to ruin things, and they are absolutely starting to look faded, even though I rarely wear them. I knitted these in 2011. That's three years of dye. They're also looking definitely worn (apart from being faded), but that could just be that they're the oldest socks in the drawer. These are my (gasp) first socks. Bold pattern choice for my first, but that's how I roll.
The blue is fine, I guess. Not the sturdiest of yarns and they always look dirty on the soles, no matter if I've just washed them or not. My advice about buying hand-dyed sock yarns on Etsy is, I guess, only buy if you absolutely must have that color, of if you have used that particular shop's yarn before and know for sure that it's good. There is so much variation in dyeing (and skill) that I don't want to risk it. I hate saying this, because I'm all about supporting indie shops, but the green dye, people. The green dye.
Patterns: Plain Vanilla (the pastel), Twilight (the pink), and Love Socks (the stripe)
Yarn: Knit Picks Stroll Hand Paints
Love. Pure and simple love. This yarn is a great deal, even when it's not on sale, and the colors are lovely. I will admit that the plain socks, which I call my ice cream socks, are slightly goofy, but you know what? I got that skein of yarn for $5 during the Black Friday sale. You cannot beat that. The pink was also on sale for five bucks. This yarn is so soft, the colors don't bleed, and knitting with it is a real joy. I love everything about this yarn. I used the leftovers from my ice cream socks along with some leftover KP Stroll in solid gray to make the Love socks. I absolutely plan to knit more socks from this yarn... once I order some more. Which I shall now go do.
Pattern: Plain Vanilla
Yarn: Knit Picks Felici
As much as I love KP Stroll yarn, that's how much I hate Felici. HATE. I have no idea why I have two pairs from this yarn. I think I ordered them at the same time, because I will never order this yarn again. It looks nasty, especially the pink. Those socks look dirty no matter what I do. They've pilled, they're not holding up well, and just ugh. Also, what the what do you do with yarn that has this thick of stripes, besides make plain socks? If I want plain socks I want to choose to make plain socks, not have the yarn dictate that, thankyouverymuch.
Yarn: Dream in Color Smooshy
This is not my favorite yarn, which is ok, because it's pricey. Most of my socks are softer than these, and I'm pretty sure that this yarn is a bit thin for a fingering. The color is also just slightly odd. I have another skein in my stash that's a light blue, and it also has these sort of yellow-y patches in it. Not sure that I'll buy this yarn again, especially when I know I can get KP Stroll for way, way cheaper, and that it's softer, too.
Lorna's Laces. It was, ahem, not cheap. I haven't started knitting with it yet, so I will have to let you know what I think, but I can already tell that it's softer than the Dream in Color. Lovely color, too.
Wish list for future sock yarn experiments: Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock (might be awhile before I get a skein of that... $$$), Lorna's Laces Solemate (again... $$$), and Blue Moon Socks that Rock.
If you've made it to the bottom of this incredibly long post, congratulations. I hope you learned something (anything!) about socks and sock yarn, and if you didn't, well. I did my best. Now go forth, and knit some socks!