Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On sock yarn (warning: many pictures, possibly too many)

Come for the sweaters, stay for the socks.

I think this sums up my and many other knitters' experience with knitting. You start because you imagine yourself parading around town in a new handknit sweater every week, and before you know it, you're looking at a basket full of dismembered cardigan bits wondering where you went wrong. The sweater wardrobe is an illusion.

Socks, on the other hand, are doable. You probably never imagined yourself knitting them, and now find yourself with drawers full of sock yarn. Socks you can finish. Socks don't fill your lap with heaps of wool in July. Socks don't care if you've gained 10 pounds. Socks are the new sweaters.

Sock yarns get a lot of attention because they're pretty, colorful, and versatile. What's not apparent from a session of snorgling the sock yarn is how well the yarn will wear which, at the end of the day, is kind of the important thing. So today, we're going to take a look at a few different yarns and see how they've fared over the last year or so.


Up to bat: The Sanguine Gryphon Skinny Bugga!; Sundara Sock Yarn; Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Select; Madelintosh Tosh Sock; and Koigu Painter's Palette Premium Merino (KPPPM)

A note on care: I have a front loading washing machine, which they say won't felt wool (haha!), and all of these sock yarns are superwash, so I generally wear each pair a few times, then wash them in the machine on the gentle cycle, and hang them on a drying rack. They never go in the dryer.

(And I know I shouldn't, but I do wear my socks with shoes, which roughs them up.)

Let's start with Skinny Bugga! (80% merino, 10% cashmere, 10% nylon)



I finished these socks in January 2011.



Color has faded a bit, and there's a lot of shedding/pilling on the heel and sole. I've already taken a sweater stone to this pair once earlier this year.

I finished this pair in July:


And they've met a similar fate; color is still bright, but a fair bit of shedding.


That said, Skinny Bugga! has 10% cashmere, so it's a trade off--softer socks = more shedding. The faded color is a little disappointing, but keeping them out of the washing machine might help. A sweater stone will help get rid of the fuzz, but remember, you're basically shaving off fiber, which will ultimately weaken the fabric, and probably result in holes in the long run.
I don't know what the future holds for The Verdant Gryphon and Cephalopod Yarns, the two companies born of the ashes of the Sanguine Gryphon (I believe the story is they will still be selling separate colorways of the Bugga! and Skinny Bugga! bases). Just make a note that you might want to make Bugga! and Skinny Bugga! socks your house-only socks.

Let's see, what's next? How about Madelinetosh Tosh Sock? (100% merino)



These socks were finished in June (gosh, I really miss my basil).



A bit of fading, particularly on the sole, but overall, they've held up well. Let's take a closer look:


Just a hint of fuzz on the heels.

I'm quite pleased with these socks--the yarn isn't as soft as some sock yarns, but it's quite sturdy. Note to self: buy more Tosh Sock.

Let's look at another pair of summer socks, made in Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Select (100% merino).



Finished in May.



Unfortunately these aren't easy to photograph--they're the Skew socks, so they don't have the same shape as a standard sock. What we're interested in is the yarn, though, and it's held up pretty darn well. Not much fading (though the colorway was more muted to begin with) and very little wear, just some light fuzz on the heel again:


So, another sturdy yarn. The Tosh Sock is softer than this one, though, and seems to wear about as well.

And my last pair of summer socks, knit in Sundara Sock Yarn (100% merino).
(The yellow; the green is leftover Bugga!)



Finished in July.



Not bad! Minimal fading, few signs of wear, even close up:


(I will note that I've probably worn this pair the least, so that may factor in.)

The Sundara sock yarn appears to be wearing well, but it's thinner than I prefer for sock yarn, and the yardage is low compared to others (370yds/skein).

And now, we're going to look at my oldest pair of socks, knit in Koigu Painter's Palette Premium Merino (100% merino).


IMG_2228 (2)

Finished in February 2010.



I'm ready to go out on a limb here and say this is nothing short of amazing. I wear these socks all the time. I'm wearing them right now. For nearly a year, they were the only handknit socks I owned. They should, by all rights, be falling apart by now.

They've faded a bit. I think they may have shrunk a little too. But heels, soles and toes are all in great shape:


KPPPM isn't ultra soft, and it comes in 175yd skeins, so you have to buy 2 or 3 for a pair of socks, but it gets a thumbs up from me as far as wear. I haven't bought any since I made these socks, but I think I might have to invest in some for everyday wear socks.

Another non-resolution, more-of-a-general-goal-type-deal I have for 2012 is to do more with the blog than ramble about my knitting. I've been busy thinking up ideas for making my blog more useful for knitters (without making it a carbon copy of other knitting blogs) and today's sock yarn review was the first in what I hope will be an ongoing series of topical posts. What do you think?


Minding My Own Stitches said...

I think it's great to see before and afters. Mostly it has set my mind at ease about the wear I'm seeing in my Handknit socks - two pairs worn through in just the last two weeks :(

betty said...

This was indeed a very helpful posting, though more for others than for myself. I never knit socks because other than for running or hiking, I dislike wearing socks.

Alrischa said...

Interesting to see the difference! Mine wear a lot quicker, I think... but if I cared for them a bit better they would last better. I've been avoiding my merino sock yarn, but maybe I will use that bright pink Tosh Sock after all.

Heather said...

Your socks are beautiful! I started a pair, and promptly quit when I realized I had to make a second sock! However, I love that you reviewed how the yarn wears. That is info I need - if I'm going to knit something, I want to know how it will hold up!

Anonymous said...

This is a great review! Also, I love the purple socks and need a pair just like them! Do you happen to recall what pattern you used? :-)

Kristen Jancuk said...

The purple socks are Kirsten Kapur's 2009 Mystery Sock-along pattern, here's the Rav link!

Anonymous said...

Terrific, thanks!

Anonymous said...

This is a brilliant idea! Keep the reviews coming!!!