A Handspun Sock Update: 2.5 Years Later

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

In 2016 I spun yarn to make a pair of socks. I used Louet Northern Lights Roving, which is a neither soft nor scratchy 100% wool, to spin a sock yarn with an opposing 3-ply construction. The one ply that is spun in the same direction as the plying twist is thought to add elasticity and durability because of the extra twist. I wanted to test this idea for myself. Would an opposing 3-ply be more durable than the traditional construction? I knit the yarn into a pair of socks for The Bearded One and they’ve become one of his favorites. They have seen constant wear during the chillier months for the past 2.5 years.

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

So how are these two and a half year old socks holding up? Really well. There are no holes or thin spots threatening to become holes. The bind off at the cuff shows no sign of fraying or extra wear and tear. The soles may be more felted in spots, but overall the stitches are still distinct and can be stretched apart.

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

The only real difference that I can see is how much the yarn has pilled on the inside. So far, this pilling doesn’t seem to affected the sole’s durability. If anything, the “loose” wool is making the socks more cushioned and insulating. The only other sign of wear is that the surface of the socks that rubs against pants and slippers aren’t as smooth as they used to be.

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

As for how the socks are washed, I treat them no differently than any of my other handknit socks. They get a 20+ minute soak in warm water with Eucalan. Then I roll them up in a towel and squish out the excess water before hanging them up to dry.

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

2 years ago I was curious if an opposing 3-ply sock yarn would be more durable than a traditional construction. I even shared an update showing how the socks were wearing after a few months. Comparing the then and now photos shows that the socks have held up wonderfully. I expect that it’ll be a few more years before I need to make any significant repairs. This is a major difference from thick house socks that I’ve knit from 100% wool commercial yarns. I’ve got a whole pile of them with holes in the toes, soles, and heels that I’ve been meaning to repair for years. It’s refreshing to see a pair of 100% wool socks that are still going strong after years of dedicated wear.

2.5 years later, this pair of 100% wool handspun socks is still going strong! No holes, thin spots, or fraying. The opposing 3-ply yarn construction makes a really durable sock yarn. #handspunyarn #tuffsocksnaturally | withwool.com

If your interested in spinning your own wool sock yarn and ditching the nylon, check out the Tuff Socks Naturally project which aims to knit a sustainable sock without nylon or superwash wool. The #tuffsocksnaturally tag on Instagram has some beautiful and interesting examples.

I still can’t say if an opposing 3-ply yarn is more durable than a traditional 3-ply because I haven’t spun a traditional sock yarn yet. I’m definitely considering giving each construction a try so I can make a pair of handspun socks (or two) for myself.

The Sockhead Hat

How the Sockhead Hat pattern showed me the greatness of hats knit from fingering weight yarn. | withwool.com

I was kicking myself for taking so long to make this hat because it seemed like I’d finish it just to pack it up for next Winter. But then it started snowing the afternoon I bound off. So, I guess my timing was perfect. 

The Sockhead is the first hat I’ve made out of fingering weight yarn. Every other hat I’ve made has been knit from sport, worsted weight or bulkier. Those yarns certainly work up faster, but I also thought they’d be warmer because it’s a thicker layer. This hat, worked at reasonable gauge of 8 stitches an inch, certainly proved that theory wrong. The Bearded One and I went on a spontaneous 8+ mile walk through the falling snow. I wore snow boots, a down jacket, this handspun cowl, and of course the Sockhead hat. Not once did my head get cold even with the wind and heavy snow flakes. 

How the Sockhead Hat pattern showed me the greatness of hats knit from fingering weight yarn. | withwool.com
How the Sockhead Hat pattern showed me the greatness of hats knit from fingering weight yarn. | withwool.com

And the other thing that makes this hat awesome is that it has the perfect amount of slouch. I can fold up the ribbing for a medium slouch (and extra warm ears) or not fold it all for maximum slouch. 

There’s also something to be said to have a hat that looks good with pretty much every coat I own. And having enough yardage leftover to make a matching pair of mitts is icing on the proverbial cake. 

How the Sockhead Hat pattern showed me the greatness of hats knit from fingering weight yarn. | withwool.com

I know it’s a lot of “boring” stockinette, but if you’ve got a skein of fancy sock yarn that doesn’t want to be socks or a shawl, consider making a Sockhead Hat. The finished hat is definitely worth the effort. 

The Specs:
Pattern: Sockhead Hat by Kelly McClure
Yarn: 319 yds Rio de la Plata Yarns Sock Multicolor (sadly discontinued)
Needles: 2.5 mm circular needles
Dates: February 19 - April 27, 2017
@Ravelry

Plied Tour de Fleece Sock Yarn!

The Tour de Fleece sock yarn didn’t turn out exactly like I wanted, but it’s still a success. Plied Tour de Fleece Sock Yarn! | withwool.com

The last week and some change of my Tour de Fleece spinning finally moved to the next step over the weekend. I finished drafting all 6 sock yarn plies and rewound them onto storage bobbins so I could spin them from the same end. I only have 3 regular bobbins for my wheel which wasn’t enough to leave the plies as they were. Also, it was an attempt to hack my brain. If I stopped midway to ply the first skein, I knew it’d be harder for me to sit down and spin the remaining 3 plies I needed. Assembly lining the process definitely kept the motivation going. 

A video posted by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

I made the last minute decision before drafting the 3rd ply that I wanted to go for an opposing ply construction, 1 ply going in the ply twist direction. The general thought is that this construction makes for a more durable yarn. I haven’t conducted my own tests on the matter though. I’ve spun sock yarn with this construction before and I don’t remember plying being this aggravating. Should have taken better notes. Anyway, I started plying the first skein and it didn’t go well from the first yard. Because one ply shares the plying twist direction, it was hard to tension all the plies equally. It looked like the 2 other plies were wrapping around the opposing ply instead of bonding together. Didn’t look like the most comfortable thing to walk around on. Plus, adding slack to a fine yarn with hard twist meant that I was constantly unkinking the yarn. Ugh. 

The Tour de Fleece sock yarn didn’t turn out exactly like I wanted, but it’s still a success. Plied Tour de Fleece Sock Yarn! | withwool.com

A photo posted by April Klich (@aprilklich) on

The second skein a little better since I knew what to expect. The second skein appears to be more evenly plied than the first too. I upped the tension on the lazy kate and made one other change which seemed to help. For the first skein, I plied with the yarn feeding through the left arm of the flyer. For the second, it fed the right side which is the default arm I use. Note: I also drafted the opposing plies on the left flyer arm. I’m not exactly sure why changing which arm of the flyer I used would affect the twist, but I have a guess. Plying on the right arm changed how the yarn fed onto the bobbin and resulted in less twist. Therefore, the opposing ply was able to better meld with it’s companions. I have no idea if this is true, which means I’ll be experimenting to test this hypothesis in the future.

I have one tip for spinning opposing ply yarns which I’ll definitely be using next time around. Spin the opposing ply with less twist than the other plies. When it comes time to ply, the plying twist will give it the remaining twist without creating hard wire. 

The Tour de Fleece sock yarn didn’t turn out exactly like I wanted, but it’s still a success. Plied Tour de Fleece Sock Yarn! | withwool.com

So, how did the yarn turn out? Well, it’s definitely wild and not quite what I was I was expecting. That’ll teach me not to sample first. Maybe… I was aiming for 700 yds of fingering weight yarn. Some sections are fingering but there’s more heavy fingering and sport weight though. I haven’t set the twist yet either so there’s a good chance this yarn will bulk up a lot in the bath. At least the ~330 yards I have are enough to knit socks for size US 14 feet.  

I was also trying for a striped yarn. The parts of the beginning of the skeins definitely are, but there’s more marl than stripes. Oh well. I knew going into this that trying to line up the colors on 3 different plies was going to be a hassle. At least both skeins match so I got that part right. 

The Tour de Fleece sock yarn didn’t turn out exactly like I wanted, but it’s still a success. Plied Tour de Fleece Sock Yarn! | withwool.com

There was a good chunk of extra yardage with the same twist leftover that I ended up chain-plying. It’s 52 yards of gorgeous. Kinda wish that the rest of the yarn looked more like it. Next time. 

Review: Knit Picks Hawthorne

The Yarn: Hawthorne Fingering Multi 

Company: Knit Picks

Price: $10.99 US


TL;DR: One pair of washed socks later, I’m impressed and will definitely buy Hawthorne again. 

Yarn Weight: Fingering

Knitting Gauge: 7 - 8 sts = 1" on #1 - 3 needles (2.25mm-3.25mm)

Crochet Gauge: 21 – 32 sc = 4'' on B - E hooks (2.25mm-3.5mm)

Yardage/Weight: 357 yds/ 100 g

Suggested Care: Machine Wash Gentle/Tumble Dry Low

A good friend of mine has knit me several comfy pairs of socks and I wanted to knit a pair for her. Even if they have small feet, sock knitters appreciate all the work that goes into a good pair of hand knit socks. I didn’t have anything in my stash that I thought she’d love so I went shopping for a nice skein of sock yarn. I was looking for yarns for other projects on the Knit Picks site and decided look over their sock yarn. One Hawthorne’s colorways, Vancouver, seemed like the perfect choice and, after checking how it knit up on Ravelry, it went in the cart. 

My first impression after carefully cutting open the box was good. The colors were as saturated and true as they appeared on my screen. As for the yarn, it was soft but still seemed strong enough to be made into a pair of socks. The good impression continued when I wound the hank into a ball/cake. I didn’t have to untangle any of the strands and didn’t find any knots or weak spots. The only thing left to do was knit. I cast on for a modified version of the Smokestack socks which you can check out here.

At 357 yards per hank the yardage is on the low side when compared to other put-ups; however, the 2-ply yarn is on the thicker side of fingering weight which is a major bonus for me. Hawthorne is spun to high twist suitable for a sock yarn and held up well to repeated ripping. I couldn’t see or feel any difference between the yarn that I worked with several times and the yarn I’d only knit once. The other bonus of the twist was that it created strong stitch definition. Cables popped and garter ridges stood out. Even with this twist, the yarn isn’t wiry and it didn’t hurt my hands while I was knitting it.

Hawthorne is hand painted and the Vancouver colorway is a combination dark earth tones - green, purple, brown, burgundy - and a bright sky blue. Looking at it directly, the majority of the colors are muted but saturate the yarn. There are no white spots nor muddying between colors. The full color repeat is several feet long while the length of individual colors varies. Thanks to the blended nylon and the smooth tight twist, Hawthorne has a slight luster which really shows up on camera.

Knit Pick’s care instructions say that the yarn can be machine washed on gentle and tumbled dried low. I didn’t machine wash the pair since I didn’t need to do laundry and wanted to save my $3.25 in quarters for another day. The socks got a 30 minute soak in cool water with a bit of unscented Eucalan. I dried them by squishing them, rolling them up in a towel, and stomping on them to get out the last of the excess water. Then I hung them up to dry.  The socks stayed the same size and the colors didn’t bleed at all. 

Since my friend has small feet, I had ~150 yards leftover. I loved working with this yarn so much that I’m going to pair it with a skein of the kettle dyed Hawthorne to make socks for me. The Broken Seed Socks seem like the right pattern.