I first encountered Solitude at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival in 2009. Gretchen Frederick’s farm is in western Loudoun County, Virginia, and she sells regularly at DC-area farmers markets but also does mail order. Her service is great - she took photos of her available sock yarn colorways and emailed them to me so I could make a decision! I got this color, called “Oregon Forest,” for me, and a manly navy blue for Steven.This special yarn is a Suffolk/Dorset/nylon blend. I’ve never before seen sock yarn made from these breeds. Clara Parkes’ latest book (The Knitter’s Book of Wool) says both Suffolk and Dorset would make nice, springy sock yarn, so I was eager to try it!
This is a 3-ply yarn in a heavier weight - 13 wpi is right between sportweight and DK. Gretchen said that the 240 yards would make a pair of boot socks.
To a sock knitter, 240 yards sounds like way too little, so I wanted to knit these conservatively. I split the skein into two equal(ish) balls and started a simple toe-up sock on US 4 needles (so big for me!). In order to fit my foot, I only needed 36 stitches on the leg and foot. Weird. I started with the figure-8 cast-on and whirlpool toe described in Cat Bordhi’s New Pathways for Sock Knitters. I don’t care for short-row heels and I didn’t have the brainpower (sinus infection) to do all the math in Cat’s book for a toe-up heel flap, so I decided to try an afterthought heel. I knit half the stitches onto waste yarn when I felt like it was time and kept knitting up the leg. I started a graduated rib pattern on the leg for a little interest, but I didn’t want anything too crazy because this yarn is fat and I felt the finished sock would be really lumpy if I used fancy stitch patterns. For the first sock, I took a break knitting the leg and went back to pick up the heel stitches fairly early. I wanted to be able to knit the leg as long as I wanted without worrying about leaving enough yarn for the heel. I knit a simple star toe, but on the heel. Here it is before I have woven the end in: These knit up incredibly quickly (because of the gauge) and should be good socks for padding around the house. I don’t think, though, that I want to knit more socks at this gauge. The stitches look pretty uneven. That may come out with the first wash, perhaps. I got plenty of length on the legs – the cuffs are a full 8” high. And these are comfortable. I’ll let you know how that star heel with purse-style closure wears. I really, really like this yarn blend. The yarn is springy and sproingy and tightly twisted with just a subtle little sheepy halo. I would LOVE for Gretchen to have this spun in a true fingering weight, or even sportweight.
Overall, knitting these was a fun experiment on many levels – a new blend of sock yarn, a new yarn weight, and a new construction. And now I have my first new socks of 2010. Hooray!