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A Sock Yarn Experiment

November 5, 2007

I love to knit socks. I love to spin. The minute I laid eyes on Sam’s blue sock yarn I knew the time had come. Then came the question: 3-ply or 2-ply, which for me? Dunno, I said. Guess I’ll try both. A few months later I completed two FOs, and a fascinating experiment in spinning.

For fiber, I chose two of the Silkworker’s Romney/silk blends. I spun both on the Journey Wheel using a short draw. I knitted both pairs of socks on the same set of 3.5 mm (U.S. 4) dpns.
For the 3-ply, I spun a colorway called Twinkle Toes semi-worsted style, splitting the batt into lengthwise strips and spinning from the end of the strips. I continually smoothed the newly spun yarn as it fed into the bobbin. I Navajo (chain) plied the singles, to maximize the long runs of color in the silk. The goal was a smooth, firm yarn showcasing the color of the silk and the luster of both silk and wool.

For the 2-ply, I spun a colorway called Let’s Boogie semi-woolen style. I split the batt crossways into sections, and rolled up each section like a cigar. I drafted from the end of the rolag, which draws out the fibers from anywhere along their length and traps a lot of air within the yarn. I smoothed the spun yarn only enough to keep it from catching on the flyer hooks. I plied it firmly, but not so tight as to flatten the open Romney crimp. The goal was a lofty but strong yarn, highlighted and softened with flashes of silk.

TWINKLE TOES 3-ply semi-worsted.

The batt: Quoting from the Silkworker site description, “Natural silver grey medium gauge Romney with silks in petal pink, white, and apricot.”

The singles: Smooth, with long color runs.

The 3-ply: Firm, round, and smooth. The color transitions are subtle and spectacular, unlike those of most sock yarns which are dyed after the yarn is spun.

You can see the loops of the plying chain. Next time I will take care to ply firmly across the loops. Face it, I’m no Sam.

On the needles: Clouds of color come and go at random. The fit is close; the yarn is soft against my skin,

Twinkle Toes socks: Lustrous stockinette with a restrained texture, not too heavy, a perfect companion for street or walking shoes.

LET’S BOOGIE 2-ply semi-woolen.

The batt: “Lustrous, medium gauge Romney is colored a rich, dark teal and accented with silks in peach, amber, robin’s egg and soft taupe.”

The rolags: Fat and airy from the open Romney crimp.

Spinning the singles: The loft of the woolen-prepped fiber is amazing; the rolags, uncrushable.

The 2-ply: Shining…..

…soft, and fuzzy.

Let’s Boogie socks: Soft, warm and lofty 3×1 rib. The colors make distinct lines, similar to the color patterning in handpainted yarn. Perfect to wear with sport shoes, or to pad around the house on a cold winter day.

What a lesson! Same fiber, wheel, draft, and needles. Only the predrafting changed. That change, though, made two very different yarns—each one a delight to knit and a pleasure to wear.
And the l’il socks? From here.

Frosting on the cake. Thanks, Carol, for the photo.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. Katie K permalink
    November 5, 2007 8:19 am

    Very very beautiful socks. I love the clouds of color.

  2. Sam permalink
    November 5, 2007 10:33 am

    Jan, that’s all just gorgeous! I love your clouds of color, and know first hand how lovely your socks are – big fun and great results with this project. They’re just beautiful, and I can feel how soft they are from here! You and your Journeywheel are obviously dear friends to produce such wonderful collaborations. 🙂

  3. November 5, 2007 10:47 am

    Thanks so much for sharing your process and observations! The yarns are scrumptious and the socks are delightful. I love that bit of sheen that the silk gives the yarn.

  4. November 5, 2007 10:54 am

    That’s really cool! I need to practice spinning woolen.

  5. November 5, 2007 3:57 pm

    So, did you develop a preference for 2 or 3 ply?

  6. November 5, 2007 8:26 pm

    I would never have guessed that Let’s Boogie would turn out like that! I love it! Both pair of socks are great – I love it when experiments turn out! Those will be so nice and warm for winter.

  7. November 5, 2007 10:22 pm

    Excellent post! Loved seeing the before and after photos of the fiber and then the finished socks. Great job on everything!

  8. ruth permalink
    November 6, 2007 4:42 pm

    Twinkle toes is beyond awesome.

  9. November 6, 2007 7:17 pm

    Wow, those look warm and comfy. Really luxurious treats for winter time!

  10. Lynn in Tucson permalink
    November 6, 2007 9:05 pm

    That’s really great! Thanks for cataloging and sharing your efforts.

  11. Jan permalink
    November 7, 2007 7:32 pm

    Thank you for all the nice comments. I love the process as much as the results. I didn’t end up with a favorite spinning style. It’s just so amazing to be able to control the kind of yarn that comes out, and match it to the personality of the fiber and the intended use.

  12. November 7, 2007 11:37 pm

    Gawjus! May they live long and be cozy. Beautiful work, Jan.

  13. November 8, 2007 8:12 am

    Thanks for documenting that whole process! it’s fun to see how the fiber looks at each stage.

  14. November 10, 2007 6:23 pm

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful spinning with us. It gives newbies like me real inspiration!

  15. November 11, 2007 3:02 pm

    Thank you for the careful attention to detail. And for taking the time to shar it with us.

  16. Astrig permalink
    November 11, 2007 3:24 pm

    Let me join the chorus! Your socks look fantastic and I can only guess that they feel even better! Obviously you have a talent for both spinning and teaching the finer points of detail. Thank you for sharing the experiment…I’ll give my drafting more forethought next time!

  17. November 15, 2007 9:19 pm

    Very interesting about making the rolags. Loved the blue socks. Very well explained post.

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