You can knit socks in pretty much any yarn you like, but the problem is that depending on which fibre it is, the socks can wear through very quickly. The simple answer to this is to add nylon to the mix to make the socks strong and hard-wearing, but did you know that it’s possible to blend different fibres and fleeces to get the same effect without the nylon? Mohair (known as “Nature’s Nylon”), silk, Tencel and even other fibres such as those made from roses and nettles will create a strong blend that’s suitable for socks.
I have learnt that the socks will wear through faster whatever the no-nylon blend but that the pleasure of using these yarns is good compensation for knowing that the socks will be short-lived! I wrote this tutorial about reinforcing heels, soles and toes which will help to extend the life of the socks and I’d recommend having a quick look at this before you start knitting your own no-nylon socks to see if it would be useful for you. If nothing else, it makes you think about where you wear your socks hardest on your feet!
For the reviews, I’ve been knitting, road-testing and reviewing no-nylon yarns to see how they compare with commercially-produced sock yarns containing nylon. These yarns have been produced from British sheep, goats and alpacas and I love the fact that buying these yarns supports our farmers and the British yarn industry.
I road-test the socks for six months before reviewing the yarn (with the exception of the first review which had a tough trial on a trek in Peru on my daughter’s feet) so that I can give you proper feedback on how the socks have worn.
I’m still learning about yarns as I go along, but here are a couple of things that I’ve picked up that are relevant to all the yarns I’ve tested so far:
- Previously, I’ve been 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 now – 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, see below) 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! 😀