Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Baaaaaaad superwash merino

You’ve heard me diss 100% merino sock yarn before (especially the superwash stuff).  It just doesn’t hold up.  Merino is a short-stapled, very fine fiber.  It’s heavenly soft and takes dye beautifully, but it doesn’t withstand the rigors we put our socks through (friction, moisture, stretching over our heels).

Once I understood this more clearly, I stopped stashing superwash merino sock yarn.  But I had plenty of socks already knit from it.  So, I learned to darn – and I darn with a different yarn than the weak one from which the socks were knit.  Still, there is only so much that darning can handle.  Here are some sad socks that are bound for the Great Sock Drawer in the Sky:IMG_7800 I darned the sock on the left – and the darned part held up – but the yarn right next to the darned section broke through (as did the other sock).  I knew it was a losing battle.IMG_7797Below is a pair of commercial socks, the popular SmartWool brand.  I really like SmartWool socks, but the ones that aren’t true hiking socks don’t hold up nearly as well as the hikers.  This is one such pair:IMG_7790See the white spots near the ball of the foot?  That is nothing but nylon.  The blue, wooly part has worn completely away.  I can feel the floor through my socks when I wear these (which is why they, too, are soon bound for the Great Sock Drawer in the Sky).IMG_7794

My socks normally wear most at the heel and the toe tip.  It’s unusual for a sock to wear this much on the ball of the foot.  But these did, because they aren’t reinforced there.  See how the fabric changes?  The heels and toes of these socks are made much more strongly than the ball part.  On the SmartWool hikers, the balls are much sturdier.  That’ll teach me to steer clear of non-hikers in the future, I guess.

There’s a reason that those workhorse German sock yarns like Regia and Opal contain nylon or polyamid.  If you’re anti-synthetic, try a yarn with mohair in it – I’ve heard mohair referred to as “nature’s nylon.”  It has a really long staple, is non-springy, and is very strong.

I’m sad to say goodbye to these socks – Steven and I dyed the yarn together using Kool-Aid, and they were very attractive.  I bought that bare sock yarn before I imposed the “no 100% merino sock yarn” rule. 

RIP, Kool-Aid Socks.kool aid socks


  1. Sad! If it makes you feel any better, I managed to felt the green ones I made.

    Love the analysis on the wear and tear. I've popped stitches on a few socks, but I haven't managed to wear any handknit socks yet...

  2. There's got to be some way to salvage the situation (as you know I have far too many pathetic socks and far too much money invested in yarn to feel comfortable with "the great sock drawer" metaphor. I guess we could unravel and make lots more Christmas tree ornaments...