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Friday, 8 April 2016

Engineered Sock Yarn

This is a project I've been meaning to try for quite a while.  I wanted to design a yarn that would be tough enough to wear as socks for more than a month or two.  Having read various books and articles I decided a 3 ply would be a good option with some mohair included for strength - time to go stash diving!

The mohair is the one in the centre, and I chose some Bizet sheep fleece (feels quite sturdy!) - on the left, and some gorgeous cria alpaca (first shearing) to add a bit of softness and comfort (on the right).

After blending these on my drum carder I was ready to go.  One quite important (I think) thing was to spin two plies to the right (z-twist) and the third ply to the left (s-twist).

The odd man out is up there on the left on the natural coloured bobbin.  Surprisingly, this took at least twice as long to spin as the other bobbins, possibly because I'm not used to spinning s-twist yarns, but more likely I was being very careful not to put too much twist in this one so it was quite slow going.  I put extra twist in the other two bobbins so that they didn't lose too much twist when plying.

The three bobbins were then plied together to the left (s-twist) - the low twist s-spun yarn picked up more twist, thus adding (I hope!) more strength to the finished yarn.

This was never going to be the softest yarn I've ever made but I reckoned that feet maybe wouldn't notice in the same way as your neck would notice a rough scarf.  I was actually quite surprised at how un-scratchy the finished article was, especially as I'd previously spun a skein of the Bizet by itself and it was quite scratchy.  The alpaca and mohair must have calmed it down a bit.  I'd be happy wearing this on my feet!

After a nice hot bath to remove the lanolin, I separated the skein into two (one for each sock) and dyed them, one on top of the other, so both would take the dye in approximately the same way.  I used acid dyes for this - turquoise, orange and bright yellow, but the colours are a bit subdued because of the colour of the fleece, and they have blended a bit where the colours overlapped.

For my first attempt at engineered sock yarn, I decided to try them out on "The Resident Engineer" who has relatively normal feet (he was quite pleased that I said part of him was normal!)  The plan is to write up a chart so I can record how many times they're worn, how often they're washed, and how they're coping with wear as we go along.

A tougher test would have been to make them for my feet, but I decided to wait until I'd tried them on normal un-scabby feet first.  If they don't last on those, there's absolutely no point in making any for me!!

Here's the first sock - I quickly realised I wouldn't have quite enough yarn for these (hubby has quite large feet) so I spun up some more and dyed it dark grey for the heels and toes.  By the way, the colour scheme was chosen by himself and he was very pleased with the result.  Now I've got to be quick knitting up the second sock as he wants to wear them!


  1. I love the subdued colours you get from dying coloured wool :) This is a stunning colourway!

    1. I was actually a bit worried when he chose turquoise, orange and bright yellow! But, like you say, on coloured wool they came out fine.