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Friday, 27 December 2019

No-nylon sock yarn review: West Yorkshire Spinners Colour Lab DK

As we're fast approaching the end of the year, I wanted to tell you about one last pair of no-nylon socks that I knitted to try out.

The yarn is West Yorkshire Spinners Colour Lab DK which was launched earlier this year to offer a 100% wool alternative to their nylon-containing Aire Valley DK which has now been discontinued.  

A photo of a pair of feet wearing hand knitted socks taken from above with the sides of the feet showing.  The sock yarn is stripes of yellow, maroon, dark blue, light blue and green.  The background is a wooden floor

Before I start the review, there are a couple of things that you need to know:
  • I used to be really tough on my no-nylon socks because I felt that they should be able to stand up to the rigours of being worn as well as socks containing nylon.  My view on this has changed - my belief now is that no-nylon yarns have their own qualities which make them different from commercially-produced yarns and to try to compare them as the same thing doesn't work.  I have learnt that no-nylon socks just don't last as long as ones with nylon in (on my feet anyway - I have pokey toes!) but the pleasure of knitting and wearing them is different to other yarns and they should be appreciated for that.  
  • I still expect no-nylon sock yarns to be good value for money - after all, it's no good saying a yarn is suitable for socks if it wears through after one outing! 
  • 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 - although painful experience has taught me that the dial goes no higher than a 30 degree hand wash!  (No point in experimenting unless you learn something, eh? 😀 )
  • 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?

Now you should know by now that I can't resist trying out no-nylon yarns and as the yarn was so very new when I got my mitts on it, it hadn't been tested out for socks at all.  I had a chat with Peter, the Managing Director of WYS about how he thought it might hold out and whether it would be worth trying - and he thought it would!  The yarn is 100% British wool - there isn't an individual breed listing for the yarn.  However, Peter told me that the fleece they have used has a long staple length which makes the yarn stronger, and it is also spun on a high twist which adds to the strength but doesn't make it uncomfortable to knit with or wear (some yarns that are spun in a very high (tight) twist can feel a bit like string to knit with).


Where does it come from?

It comes from British sheep!  I can't be any more specific than that, but I can point you in the direction of my blog post about British sheep breeds from when I went to listen to a talk by Zoe Fletcher of The Woolist in September if you'd like to know more about the breeds we have here 😀


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

Colour Lab is a double knit (8ply) yarn so it feels quite a lot thicker to knit with than my usual 4ply socks.  It's pretty soft, though, and of course with being DK, it knits up soooo much faster than 4ply!  (You can find a DK (8ply) pattern here on my blog, and you can use the Sockalong tutorials to help you too if you've never knitted socks before).

A photo of a half-knitted sock and the ball of yarn on a pale wooden table background.  The sock yarn is stripes of yellow, maroon, dark blue, light blue and green.


 How long is a skein?

This yarn comes in 100g balls which are 225 metres long.  I worked from two balls - a striped ball (shade 093) for the main body of the sock and a solid yellow ball for the cuffs and toes.  My feet are UK size 5 and I think there's enough yarn left to get a second pair if I reverse the colours.  In theory, unless you have large feet, you can get a pair from a 100g ball, although it's always a good idea to have a second one on hand just in case!


What's it like to knit with?

It's great, because it knits up so quickly!  I still knit DK socks on a short circular needle and the stitches slipped around the needle very well.  It doesn't feel heavy to knit with either, if that makes sense. 


Did you do anything to make it more hardwearing?

Yes!  Because I haven't used this yarn before (and because it had never been tried out for socks at the time), I decided to continue the heel stitch along the sole of the foot to the toes.  I was expecting to put my pokey toes through the socks at some point so I always use heel stitch at the toes of socks that are just for me, but I thought it might be a good idea to reinforce the rest of the sock too.  There's a tutorial on how to do that here.  (I was asked recently about whether I find the sole comes up short compared to the top of the sock as heel stitch does compress the stitches, but I have to say that I haven't had a problem with that - it could be that I've only used this technique with thicker yarns so it's less noticeable, or it could be that I am keeping my slipped stitches looser than the person who asked the question.  In any case, if you try this, it's something to bear in mind and don't pull the yarn too tightly across your slipped stitches!)

A photo showing the heel and sole of the sock being knitted in reinforcing heel stitch.  The sock yarn is stripes of yellow, maroon, dark blue, light blue and green.


How does it wash?

Very well!  Colour Lab yarn is machine washable at 40 degrees which is great - don't forget, it's not just for socks so if you've knitted a jumper (sweater) or other project, it's not always convenient to have to wash by hand.  The label does say not to spin, though, and I think it is the spin cycle and not always the temperature that does the damage so this is good advice.  My socks have been through the spin cycle but only on the handwash setting and they have been fine - I'm not sure that I would risk it with a jumper, but I'm OK with it for my socks.  I also make sure that they go into a laundry bag - I count them in and I count them out! - so that there's no risk of any ending up left in the machine or (disaster!) going into the dryer by mistake.  These socks went into the washing machine with my others, made from both no-nylon and commercial yarns, and they came out looking just fine.  


How does it wear?

It has been great!  These are lovely comfy socks, not least because they've got the cushioned soles as well as the heels, and I've really felt that my feet have been warm and cosy when I've been wearing them.


Are there any holes?

Yes ... but not where you'd expect!  I was fully expecting to put my toes through the socks as that's where I always wear them out, but that didn't happen - this did ....!

A photo showing the heel of the sock after some months' wear.  The heel has worn through in places and the yarn has been worn away

I don't think I've ever worn my socks out on the heel before, so I really wasn't expecting to see this, and it was only when I noticed that I could feel the floor under my heel that I even spotted it!  The slipped stitches with their double layer of stitch and yarn are fine, but the stitches in between have completely worn away - but only on one sock!  It must be something to do with how I walk on one foot, perhaps, but it's mendable and the rest of the sock is looking perfectly fine.


Would you do anything differently next time?

No, I don't think so.  I don't know why the sock wore out on the heel but it wouldn't stop me from making more of them, and I'd use the same reinforcing technique as that feels very comfy and has worked for the rest of the sock - no sign of my toes coming through so far!



Would you buy this yarn again?

Yes, I'd definitely consider it if I wanted a pair of DK socks.  I've got enough left to make another pair from the yarn that I have, but I would buy this again. 



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

You should be able to get it from any yarn shops that sell West Yorkshire Spinners yarn, whether a local yarn shop or online.  If you're overseas, it's worth checking the WYS website for stockists, and also many UK stores are able to post abroad so don't feel that you have to miss out!

A photo of a pair of feet resting against each other so that you can see the sole of the right foot which is knitted in reinforcing heel stitch.  The sock yarn is stripes of yellow, maroon, dark blue, light blue and green.  The feet are resting on a wooden floor.


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 was in my gift bag from the Knit Now Online Innovator of the Year awards.  

6 comments:

  1. Hello Christine, thank you for this great review! I have knitted several pairs of socks for my family but my oldest son wears them as slipper socks. Consequently he wears through the balls of the feet even when they are reinforced and darning was too uncomfortable when worn so I've had to improvise repairs by knitting a whole separate sole (in reinforcing stitch) and sewing it on. He loves the cushioning effect that results! He now wants me to reinforce the toes as well which have also worn through. Not sure how to do that as I can't cut them off and reknit them now I've sewn on the extra sole... Any ideas?!

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    1. Hi Nicky! I'm not quite sure how you'd reinforce the toes now if darning isn't an option - although Swiss darning over the existing stitches might work? For future pairs, have a look at the Joe's Toes website (https://joestoes.co.uk/) as Amanda has felted soles for slippers which would work well with the socks that you're making - you would sew them on afterwards much as you have done with the new sole. Hope that helps! xx

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  2. Hello, I've made several pairs of basic socks and now am ready to try your simple cable sock. I like to hold the pattern in my hand and study it while I work. Is there a printable instruction sheet for these? They are lovely!

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  3. Hi--I just sent you a note about the cable sock pattern---I found the link within--so I'm ready to go! Have a printed copy in hand! Thank you~

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    1. Glad you're sorted, Lynn - and don't forget that there are videos for that sock too if you get stuck! :) xx

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  4. A great review and I will be trying this out in the new year - my sister wants some more DK socks for her dog walks and I like the look of this WYS wool! I too wash all my socks on the machine (after two to three days wear) and put them in laundry bags for safety but use the standard programme on 30C in my Miele washing machine - no mishaps so far - 100% wool and blends! Works even for Gruendl wool with cashmere! Happy 2020!!

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