Socks that Fit: Choose the Right Yarn

Learn to knit socks that fit!

Learn to knit socks that fit!

It’s really important to know how to choose the right sock yarn. There are a lot of options out there, and sock knitting pro Kate Atherley is here to help you select the best yarn for your project.

Choosing Your Sock Yarn

Because socks are subject to repeated stretching and abrasion, the fabric needs to withstand wear and abuse. A successful sock depends on the careful pairing of yarn and needles to get a sturdy fabric.

The best yarns for sock knitters are those designed for knitting socks. Look for yarns that are specifically labeled “sock” yarn. In general, most sock yarns are fingering weight, but it doesn’t follow that all fingering-weight yarns make good sock yarns. A good sock yarn is tightly spun with very little loft or “squish.” The best sock yarns have multiple strands that are plied together. More strands form a denser yarn that’s more resistant to abrasion.

When it comes to socks, beware of soft yarns! Softness is often an indicator of fragility. Although the temptation is to choose a yarn based on how it feels against your bare skin—your hands or your neck, for example—it’s not a good way to choose a sock yarn. In most cases (unless you suffer from swollen and sore feet), feet are much less sensitive than hands when it comes to scratchy fibers. You don’t want a fiber that makes you itchy, but you do want to avoid something that feels too good on your feet. A sock yarn should feel solid, substantial, and strong—maybe even a little bit harsher than you’d like in a mitten or hat. In most cases, these are yarns that are made up of multiple plies. To test for itchiness, rub a potential sock yarn around the less sensitive skin of your elbow, not on the inside of your wrist or neck.

Many yarns are soft because they’re loosely spun—something you don’t want in a sock yarn. The softer and drapier the yarn, the quicker it’s going to wear out, no matter how tightly you knit it. And softer yarns tend to pill more, so that the finished socks take on an old and tired look very quickly. The exception is the group of luxury sock yarns that include a percentage (typically 10 percent to 20 percent) of extra-soft fiber, such as angora, alpaca, cashmere, silk, or even qiviut. These yarns are more expensive, but they can be wonderful to wear.

—Kate Atherley, from Custom Socks: Knit to Fit Your Feet

Choosing the right sock yarn is just one of the skills you need to know to knit socks that fit, so check out Kate’s book Custom Socks today!


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