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Wednesday, 20 June 2018

No-nylon sock yarn review: Whistlebare Cuthbert's Sock

It's been far too long since I last wrote a no-nylon sock yarn review so it's time to put that right.  These socks are knitted in Whistlebare Cuthbert's Sock and I've been wearing them for quite a while now so I can give you an update on how they've got on.


Magic Mirror Socks in Whistlebare Cuthbert's Sock

The pattern is called Magic Mirror, it's a free pattern on Ravelry that I thought would be perfect for this yarn, and I'm delighted with how they turned out!  My yarn is in two shades: the turquoise is called Kirk Yelthom and the pink is called Grubbit Law.  They're both named after places along St Cuthbert's Way, which is a long distance walk between the Scottish Borders and Lindisfarne in Northumberland.  As the Whistlebare farm is based in Northumberland, it's the perfect name for their sock yarn!

Before I start the review, there are a couple of things 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?

This yarn is 100% wool made from a blend of 80% Mohair from Angora goats and 20% Wensleydale sheep fleece.  

This is what Angora goats look like:


Source: Whistlebare

Pretty woolly, eh?  And actually very pretty too ...

Whistebare Angora goat
Source: Whistlebare

This is what Wensleydale sheep look like:


Source: www.wensleydalesheep.co.uk

You can imagine that there's a lot of potential for bad hair days on the farm! :)


Where does it come from?

Both the goats and the sheep are reared on the Whistlebare family farm so it's truly home-grown yarn.  A lot of care is taken over the animals' welfare and the environmental impact - even the food that the sheep and goats eat is home-grown or locally sourced - and the fleece is spun in Yorkshire before returning to the farm to be hand-dyed.


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

It feels very soft and very shiny - but not in a 1980s disco way!  Mohair was very popular back in the 80s and many of us will remember wearing clothes made with it, and not always with fond memories.  I remember it being quite itchy and there always being fluff all over whatever else I was wearing - but this is not the case with this yarn!  Rather than a disco ball dazzle, the shine is a beautiful lustre from the mohair which takes the dyes very well and there is gorgeous range of colours.  
Mohair is often called "nature's nylon" which is why it works so well for socks, and the yarn slips beautifully through your fingers.  The smoothness of the mohair also means that bacteria can't take hold and the socks won't smell - it even says "no pong" on the label!  This yarn would be perfect for those people who want their socks to be super-soft but are looking for an alternative to Merino.



What's it like to knit with?

It's lovely!  The yarn has been deliberately spun to be heavier than other sock yarns which means that it's a bit thicker than commercial 4ply yarns and you do notice that when you're knitting.  It's not a problem or unpleasant in any way, it's just how it is.  I stuck to my 2.5mm needles and knitted the smallest size of sock with a 56 stitch cast on and it came out plenty big enough for me.  I didn't have to keep the yarn in the freezer to stop it shedding when I knitted it (I didn't notice any shedding at all), and it knitted up very quickly - no doubt because of the smoothness of the yarn as it slipped around the needles.

I bought my skein at Woolfest in 2016 and the skeins were smaller than they are currently; they were 100g which wasn't quite enough to finish the socks even though they were knitting up a bit bigger.  Alice, who owns Whistlebare, was kind enough to send me a mini-skein to finish the toes which is why my socks are two different colours.  Now, the skeins are a full 300m (about 130g) of yarn which should be plenty for a pair of gorgeous socks.


Magic Mirror Socks in Whistlebare Cuthbert's Sock


Did you do anything to make it more hardwearing?

No, I have just trusted the "nature's nylon" to do it's thing!  The toes are knitted in twisted rib to match the pattern in the sock but there's no other reinforcing in the toes.


How does it wash?

Very well.  It's been through the washing machine on a 30 degree handwash cycle and the socks have come out fine.  They do feel a bit tight when they first come out so I stretch them back into shape by hand and they're absolutely fine to put back on my feet when they're dry.  I think that the pattern pulls them in so it would be interesting to see whether I needed to do this with a plain pair.



Whistlebare Cuthbert's Sock

How does it wear?

They feel gorgeous on my feet; you can feel that soft silkiness against your skin and I love wearing these socks in my boots.  I've worn them out walking with the dog - a few miles in a morning - and I've worn them for a whole day's sightseeing when I went away with my friend earlier this year; quite a few more miles than the dog walk (I think we did about 25,000 steps on that particular day!) and they were incredibly comfortable.

So far, my pokey toes haven't made an appearance which is great news!  The yarn has rubbed and pilled in places - you can see here on the toes ...


Whistlebare Cuthbert's Sock

and I think that must be the Wensleydale content as mohair doesn't felt - it doesn't have the scales that sheep fleece does which is what causes felting.  Unfortunately, I think it might only be a matter of time before that left sock starts to wear through, but I'm not too worried about it because if you look here on the inside of the sock ...


Whistlebare Cuthbert's Sock

you can see where the fabric has pilled and it has become more dense in places so I think that if I darn that spot carefully, it will rub into a thicker fabric and be less likely to wear through.

This is what's happened to the heel ...


Whistlebare Cuthbert's Sock

though this is extra "fluff" that will just pull off and the knitting underneath looks as good as new.  It's wearing extremely well!


Are there any holes?

Nope, none whatsoever.  Not so far, anyway, although as I've mentioned above I think it may only be a matter of time before my toes poke through.  This happens with all my socks, though, and it's no sooner with this pair than any others.


Would you do anything differently next time?

I might choose to reinforce the toes, although it would be interesting to knit them in a plain knit and see what happened - I think that plain knit would produce a stronger fabric than the rib so that might be enough.


Would you buy this yarn again?

Oh definitely!  I love these socks, and there's always room for another pair in my sock drawer :)



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

You can buy it directly from the Whistlebare website here.  You'll also find Whistlebare 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.


5 comments:

  1. Great review. Thanks so much. x

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  2. Very interesting review - and great to know about this yarn! Many thanks...

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  3. An interesting review. I love the colours you chose.

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  4. Beautiful socks! Your colors are so pretty. Thank you for your great review.

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