Most sock patterns call for sock yarn, and most sock yarns have around 25% of nylon in their composition. Why? To add more strength to the wool and keep our socks hole-less for more than one winter.
Of course, it is a good idea to make wool stronger, but nylon may add a bit of roughness to the yarn making it coarser. It’s a trade-off we learned to accept. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
There is a simple way to make any wool yarn stronger without sacrificing its softness and without adding any synthetic fibres like nylon.
Here’s how it works:
1. Take a strand of wool yarn in fingering or sport weight (a yarn often used for knitting shawls) and align it with a strand of silk thread (a very fine silk yarn or silk sewing thread).
2. Use these yarns together when you knit the socks.
That’s it. As easy as it gets 🙂
Silk is one of the strongest natural fibres. They say that it’s been used to make the first parachutes, and it will definitely work well for keeping our socks from wearing out.
Aside from making the yarn stronger and all-natural, paring silk with wool has a few other benefits:
1. It allows us to use different types of wool. Alpaca, yak, mink or cashmere combined with silk will make gorgeous one-of-a-kind socks.
These fibres are more fragile than regular or merino wool, so it’s better to make the yarn half-silk, half-alpaca (or other luxury wool).
To make yarn like that, take a strand of silk in lace weight (yarn that has 400 – 500 meters / 437 – 546 yards in 50 g / 1.7 oz) and a strand of luxurious wool also in lace weight, align them and use them together when you work on the project.
2. Another great benefit of double stranding is the freedom to make different colour combinations. You can choose yarns that are very close in shade, as I did when I made this pair of Sneaker Socks:
Or, you can choose colours that are different but look good together as the colours used to make these swatches:
There are other ways to play with colours by double stranding yarns. You can read about them here and here.
The only downside of using silk instead of nylon is that it requires hand washing. If you prefer to wash your handmade socks in a washing machine, use viscose thread with superwash wool in sock weight. Viscose will make sure the socks are more durable without making them rougher.
You might ask – What about the gauge? Will adding another strand make the yarn thicker than the regular sock yarn? Well, it’s easy to check when we look at the yardage of each yarn.
For example, the Sneaker Socks pattern calls for a yarn that has around 200 m / 210 yds in 50 g / 1.7 oz. To make the socks shown in the photo above, I used a wool yarn that has 300 m / 328 yds in 50 g / 1.7 oz and a silk thread that has 500 m / 547 yds in 50 g / 1.7 oz.
The average of these yardages is (300 m + 500 m) / 2 = 400 m / 437 yds in 50 g / 1.7 oz. Because we use two strands together, the actual yardage of the double-stranded yarn will be 400 m / 2 = 200 m / 210 yds in 50 g / 1.7 oz.
That means that using these two yarns together will make a yarn that is very similar to the yarn mentioned in the pattern.
Even if the calculated yardage of the double-stranded yarn is a bit different from the yardage of the yarn used in the pattern, it won’t make a huge difference. Thanks to the stretch of the knitted fabric, the socks will still fit well and will serve you for a long time.
If you enjoyed this tutorial,
here’s something else you might find helpful:
“Neat Side Edges” Book
Learn twelve ways to make side edges of a knitted project nice and tidy. Plus, ways to fix side edges, and a way to improve edges of finished projects.