It’s taken me a long time (and many pairs of socks) to perfect my vanilla sock recipe, but I think I’ve finally done it!
I used this pair of socks as a canvas for trying out new techniques, so this might be a bit of a bumper post… you have been warned!
My basic sock recipe before this pair was: 60sts, on 2.25mm double pointed needles, with a standard slip-stitch heel flap and gusset and extra wide toes at the end.
The new techniques I tried out on this pair were:
- Helical stripes: I used this technique to fade one colour into the next, and I was surprised at how easy it was (especially with this fantastic tutorial). Also, I liked how you never change straight from one colour into the next, so you’re only ever weaving in one end at a time.
Which brings me to…
- Weaving in ends as you go: I was worried that this wouldn’t be secure enough and my socks would start unravelling after a few wears, but it seems to be holding up really well! However, I think this technique would work best with a stickier, non-superwash yarn, so the ends would felt together with the fabric over time. As with the stripes, I followed a tutorial from Jen Arnall-Culliford.
- Magic Loop: Prior to this, all my socks had been knitted on dpns, although I’d used Magic Loop on jumper sleeves a few times. At first I used some Lykke Driftwood needles, but the varnish started flaking off after knitting only half a sock, so I switched to Chiaogoo Red Lace Circulars instead, and OH MY GOD these are the best needles EVER!!! They have just the right amount of pointiness and the cables are super flexible. I’ve made lots of socks with them since, and they show no signs of wear! As for the Magic Loop method; I absolutely loved it! It felt like the stitches flew off the needles compared to dpns, and I was also less worried about the stitches falling off the needles in my bag. I’m now a magic loop convert!
- Square Slip-stitch Heel: I noticed the heel turns were wearing out on some of my socks, so I went on a hunt for a stronger heel turn. I was so happy when I found this blog post by Kate Atherley, where she explains how to continue the slip-stitch on the heel flap down onto the heel turn. It makes so much sense! I’ve since started doing this on all my socks.
- Toe Shape: I wanted to work out a toe decrease that was easy to remember, so I worked out my own version of a wedge toe. Basically, I decided I wanted to decrease from 60sts to 28sts, worked out how many rounds it would take to do that, measured how many rounds there were per centimetre, and did the maths from there. Simple but effective!
This is the first project I made using the mini skeins from my LottieKnits 2019 advent calendar (which was fantastic, by the way!). The skeins are arranged in sets of five colours that all go with each other, but I actually disregarded the sets and put together some purples and blues to form a fade.
I loved knitting with this yarn; it’s well behaved and makes your stitches look lovely and even, plus the colours are obviously amazing! High-twist, 2ply yarns are my favourite type of yarn construction for sock knitting, because they’re hard-wearing and elastic, therefore making supremely comfortable socks.
That being said, the socks haven’t worn very well. I don’t think this is due to the yarn construction– as I said it ticks all the sock-suitability boxes- instead I think it’s due to the fibre itself.
When I say they haven’t worn well, I don’t mean that they’re developing holes or anything. My main concern is the yarn’s recovery… or lack thereof. I personally think this is due to the yarn’s super wash treatment.
Since making this pair of socks I have discovered the magical world of non-superwash, nylon-free sock yarns (Retrosaria Mondim, I love you!) and I’m never going back. I recently did a ‘wear test’ to compare my Mondim socks with my superwash merino ones, and there was such a massive difference in stretch recovery. Sure, those merino socks are comfortable at first, but by the end of the day they’ve lost all elasticity and have doubled in size. In contrast, the Mondim socks have endless resilience: they’ll comfortably stretch to fit your foot, and will spring right back to their original size when you take them off. For this reason, I prefer non-superwash.
I wore my scrappy socks regularly at first, but now they’ve been relegated to slouchy bed socks because they just don’t fit anymore. Alas.
To be clear, the last few paragraphs are not a dig at the specific yarn I used, but my thoughts on sock yarn in general. The Little Bird Sock yarn could potentially make a gorgeous pair of socks, but perhaps knitted at a tighter gauge and with less ease. It would also be perfect for a shawl or pretty much any garment that requires drape and stitch definition.
If you made it to the end of this blog post, I applaud you! I know this kind of stuff is probably boring to a lot of people, but if you’re a sock-knitting nerd like I am, I hope it gave you some ideas on how you can fine-tune your vanilla sock pattern!
Where do you stand on the non-superwash VS superwash sock yarn debate?