No-nylon sock yarn review: Doulton Flock Border Leicester 4ply

It’s been just over six months since I finished my Easy Lace Socks using Doulton Flock Border Leicester 4ply yarn and it’s definitely time for me to give you an update on how the yarn has worn.

As soon as I saw that fabulous purple colour (it’s called Cringle Moor), I knew that I wanted to do more with it than just knit a plain sock, and it worked beautifully with the very easy lace pattern that I wanted to use for these beginner socks.

Before I start the review, there are a couple of things that you need to know:

  • I am tough with my no-nylon socks, perhaps tougher than I am with socks knitted with nylon yarn.  This is because I want to know that this yarn is equally as good for socks as commercially-produced yarn and provides good value for money.
  • Being tough with my socks means that they’ll get worn for a few days at a time; there’s less need to wash natural fibre socks anyway even though we’re in the habit of wearing our socks once and then washing them – you don’t see sheep showering all the time, do you? 🙂 It also means they’ll be worn in boots on long dog walks whatever the weather and will probably go into the washing machine because that’s how most people choose to wash their socks.
  • I’ve got pokey toes so unless I reinforce the toes of my socks, there’s a good chance that I’m going to go through them faster than many other people – this isn’t always helpful in a yarn trial but on the plus side, I can test that aspect out more quickly! 🙂

What’s the yarn made from?

The yarn is 100% Border Leicester.  This is what Border Leicester sheep look like …


How could you fail to fall in love with sheep with such marvellous bunny ears?!  They’re very handsome with thick woolly coats, and originate from Leicester in the mid-1700s so they are an old established British breed.  You can read more about the history of Border Leicesters here.

Where does it come from?

The yarn that I used comes from the Doulton Flock of Border Leicesters.  It’s the largest flock of Border Leicesters in the UK with over 300 sheep, all of which are allowed to grow old and are never sold for meat so for those with animal welfare issues, this yarn is perfect.  Ellie, who owns the flock, is passionate about her sheep and her yarns, the sales of which are now (along with the sales of her breeding rams) supporting her flock.

What does it feel like and – most importantly – how soft is it?

The yarn is worsted spun so it’s a smooth yarn, and it feels nice in your hands, which I think is always important.  It’s not super-soft but it’s got a spring to it that you would expect from seeing that woolly sheep fleece, and it feels like a yarn that’s going to be a good workhorse yarn for socks.  I’d say that in terms of softness, it’s more at the Northern Yarns Poll Dorset end of the scale than Blacker Yarns Tamar but I have learnt that super-softness isn’t always a bonus with no-nylon yarns.  One of the things that I hope to encourage with these no-nylon reviews is for people to look beyond the obvious first-touch impressions and think more about whether a yarn is fit for purpose; I like soft yarns as much as anyone, but it’s no good if it wears through straight away!

How long is a skein?

There are 340 metres in the skein.

What’s it like to knit with?

It’s very easy to knit with; the lace pattern called for decreases and yarn overs and the yarn coped with both of those beautifully without splitting or losing definition.  It’s certainly a very good yarn for a lace pattern and I thoroughly enjoyed knitting the socks.  It knits up slightly bigger than commercial 4ply but not so much that I felt the need to change stitch count or needle size.

Did you do anything to make it more hardwearing?

I used heel stitch on the heel to give that nice cushioned feel but decided to knit plain toes (despite my pokey toes) to see how the socks wore.  Other than that, I felt that the yarn would be sturdy enough to stand up to being worn without any other alterations to the pattern.

How does it wash?

The ball band states that the yarn is hand wash only – so of course I threw it into the washing machine!  After the 40 degree incident with the Tamar socks, I decided to learn my lesson and wash them very carefully (albeit in the washing machine) and used a 30 degree hand wash cycle.  The socks came out beautifully.  Apart from the fact that they were clean again, you wouldn’t know they had been in a washing machine at all.

However, here’s an interesting thing … one day I forgot I had them in my bag of socks to be washed (all the socks that go into the washing machine go in a laundry bag so that the washing machine monster doesn’t eat them) and they went into a normal 30 degree wash.  When they came out, they had shrunk ever so slightly and actually fit better than they had before, but the point is that they had changed.  If you weren’t taking notice, you probably wouldn’t have seen anything different but it was something that I noticed because I am taking particular care over spotting anything that changes with these no-nylon yarns.  My thoughts on this are that it shows that it’s not just the temperature but also the spin speed that damages socks and other knitted items in the washing machine; a friend suggested that it might just be that the socks could only cope with so many cycles through the washing machine before they shrunk, but nothing has changed since so I am more inclined to think that it’s the spin speed.

How does it wear?

They have worn extremely well, I’m delighted with them!  They haven’t fulled or worn through (although I will need to keep an eye on the toes because of my pokey toes), they now fit even better after their washing machine experience and I don’t think they look as if they’ve had six months’ tough wear.

Are there any holes?

No, no holes, although I will need to watch the toes as I said above.  This is more due to my toes than the yarn, I think, and I do need to consider reinforcing the toes of my socks in future because of this.

Would you do anything differently next time?

I’d just reinforce the toes; heel stitch works perfectly for this.

Would you buy this yarn again?

Definitely.  It’s a great yarn for socks and especially as you can wash it in the washing machine as well.  There’s a good range of colours too.

I want to try it out!  Where can I get it from?

You can buy it directly from Doulton Flock Border Leicesters here .  You’ll also find Doulton Flock Border Leicesters at various shows around the country during the year so you can squish before you buy too.

If you are interested in no-nylon sock yarns, you can find my other reviews on the No-Nylon Sock Yarn Reviews page.

This is an impartial review using yarn that I bought myself.  

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16 Responses

  1. Lenore says:

    Thank you for the review Christine. I am compiling a list of purchases from Yarndale this year and have just added Doulton 4ply. I think I will be purchasing another suitcase in the UK to carry everything home. Can’t wait, only 8 months to go. Xx

  2. Julie says:

    Great review. I think I need to try knitting lace socks.
    I'm from Leicester but I don't gave bunny ears like the beautiful sheep!

  3. Susan Rayner says:

    Yesterday I accidentally put a pair of lovely no nylon socks made with some hand dyed wool from Northern Yarns into a standard 30C cycle with all the other coloured washing – like you all my socks go into a Lakeland Washing bag to keep them together – and although they have come out a little softer and I did have to pull them back to size – they look unchanged! I am amazed. I have been following your no nylon reviews carefully and have now knitted several no nylon pairs and I am delighted with them (especially for dog-walking!)- so much so that my 75% sock wool stash may have to become scarves or shawls as they no longer feel as sturdy as I would like when knitted up!!! Many thanks for the great and comprehensive review – I love the lacy pattern too!

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Yes, the yarn will change when you wash it and you'd probably be more upset if it was a jumper, but for socks I think it's acceptable for them to come out of the wash a bit different as long as it's not too much! xx

  4. Gemini says:

    Thank you for the detailed review.I used Doulton flock for a scarf last year and it was a pleasure to knit lace with. You mention reinforcing toes with heel stitch. I knit socks but am very much a slavishly following the pattern kind of knitter. Could you publish a bit of help with toe reinforcement.? My daughter also has pokey toes!

    • Winwick Mum says:

      If you have a look in my free patterns section, you'll see a tutorial on reinforcing heels and toes which might help 🙂 xx

  5. luluknitts says:

    Hi Christine – thanks for another great review. On the link you gave they don't say how many metres in a skein so I'm presuming that one skein would be enough for a pair of socks. Is that right? Thanks.

    • Winwick Mum says:

      There's 340 metres in a skein (and you're right, I really should mention that in my reviews so thanks for pointing that out!) so there should be plenty for a pair of socks – my feet are size 5 and there was quite a bit left over xx

  6. Unknown says:

    Natural Born Knitters in Northallerton stock Doulton Flock yarns. The colours are beautiful

  7. TheCraftyCaz says:

    Great review, thank you! Beautiful socks and so interesting to hear how the yarn has coped with your regime. I love the Doulton Flock yarn products and love knitting socks, so delighted to hear how well they have done.

  8. selina says:

    i have just started knitting my first easy lace socks with the wool i hand dyed, am enjoying the pattern; sorry my wool isn't the no nylon type; haven't come across any that i can afford yet. i am going to try knitting some out of some 8ply later (boot socks).
    am enjoying your patterns & your reviews
    thanx for sharing

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Hi Selina, I'm really glad you're enjoying the pattern, and how lovely that it's your own hand-dyed yarn. I've seen these socks knitted in all kinds of yarns and they've all turned out very well, so I hope yours do too – they not just for no-nylon yarns! 🙂 xx

  9. My Creative Life says:

    I finished the first sock from your Super Socks book yesterday. It's for my husband and his size 9 feet. I've unpicked the toe part and lengthened it an inch, so not sure how that happened. It definitely needed to be longer. I used the single short circular needle method. All I can say is, wow! so fast. When I got to the kitchener stitch I got a bit confused, again I don't know why as I've made 2 pairs of socks before. Anyway, I found a youtube of yours talking us through it. Thank you, I now need to do the partner. Cathy x

    • Winwick Mum says:

      It's surprising how long are feet are, sometimes! I always recommend trying them on standing up as it pushes your feet out to their fullest size and you can guarantee if that if you tried them on sitting down, there's quite a difference! The short circulars are fast, aren't they? I love them! 🙂 xx

  10. Unknown says:

    I really enjoyed your review Christine, thank you. I have just read all your yarn reviews and they really are excellent and I'm inspired to try the yarns. I normally knit with Yummy Yarns hand dyed Blue Faced Leicester using the magic loop method on long circulars and really love the socks I've knitted so far. I have not heard of the short circulars so that's something else I will try.

    Thank you again.

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