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The Skinny on Sock Yarn

Ah, sock yarn! So beautiful, so dainty, so many colors and endless variations!

A Basket full of hand-dyed yarn

But what even is "Sock Yarn"? Can it only be used for socks? Is it just for knitters?

In the most general definition, sock yarn is any yarn used to make socks. I am currently making a pair of "But First, Socks" with Prairie Spun DK and love it. They turn out warm and squishy!

However, if someone came into the shop and asked for Sock Yarn, I would not direct them to the DK. Because I know they mean the skinny stuff.

"Sock yarn" usually refers to a type of fingering-weight yarn that was created specifically for making socks. Sock yarn needs to:

  • Be made of a durable and sturdy fiber, because socks get a lot of wear

  • Be "springy" or elastic, because it needs to stretch over one's foot, but also snap back into shape so the sock doesn't fall down

  • Have a high or tight twist, so that the yarn holds it shape and won't be prone to splitting

  • Be able to handle moisture effectively, because...feet

Because of these reasons, sock yarn is usually wool or a wool-blend. Wool is naturally temperature regulating, moisture-wicking and odor-resistant. For sock yarn, wool is often paired with another fiber, such as nylon, to add strength, but it doesn't always need to be.

Side track: Sock Yarn is classified as #1 / Super Fine Weight, which is often called "Fingering Weight." However, not all Fingering Weight yarn is going to be suitable for socks. You can learn more about yarn weight definitions here. MDK has a great write up about the differences between Sock Yarn and other Fingering Weight Yarns: YARN DETECTIVE: SOCK YARN VERSUS FINGERING-WEIGHT YARN

Sock Yarn: Beyond the Sock

In a nutshell then, Sock Yarn is a thin, super-fine yarn blended and spun to make it perfect for knitting up socks. But with so many colors and variations, does it have to be used for socks? What is a girl to do if she doesn't make socks?

Hand-woven scarf
"Lo-Fi Rainbow Scarf" Walther Handmade original.

If that girl were me, then I would probably weave with it. One of the reasons I love to weave on a rigid heddle is that one can weave with "knitting" yarns. When weaving with variegated sock yarns, the rigid heddle creates a totally different pattern than knitting or crochet would. The colors seem to streak across the fabric, creating an ever-moving plaid. The resulting fabric is wondrously drapey and soft.

But that's just me.

There are a myriad of knitting and crochet patterns that call for fingering weight yarn, where sock yarn could be easily substituted. (Of course, check your gauge and use common sense and all that good stuff).

Here are some fun knitting patterns that are perfect for sock yarn:

  • Flax Light by Tin Can Knits

    • This is a beginner-friendly sweater knit from the top down. Like all the patterns in the Simple Collection, it is free and includes lots of instructions to help build your knitting skills!

  • The Beekeeper's Quilt by Tiny Owl Knits

    • This quilt is made by knitting a bunch of hexagons, stuffing them, and then sewing them all together. It's a great way to use up scraps!

  • Stibenden Fingerless Mitts by Anne Regourd

  • Loch Hat by Tin Can Knits

    • Another pattern from Tin Can Knits, the Loch Hat features a delicate lace pattern

And of course: SHAWLS! One skein of sock yarn is usually enough to make at least a shawl-ette or a simple cowl. Shawls, scarves, and cowls are also a great way of showing off color changes or variations in a yarn. Here are a few patterns I've found for which sock yarn would work great!

Can I Crochet with this?

Another common misconception - or maybe even fear - is that sock yarn is just for knitters. Many crocheters seem to think they can only crochet with worsted weight or bulky yarns, and that's just not true! Think of all the doilies and lacework from days past; these items were crocheted with threads that were much thinner than sock yarn. Crocheting with sock yarn can yield beautifully lacy designs, that often appear more intricate than they really are.

Another common fear (that I have dealt with myself) is that crocheting with sock yarn is going to take forever. If one were crocheting a bedspread using single crochet, a tiny hook, and sock yarn, then yes, that project would take quite a long time. However, if one were making an open-work type shawl using a medium-sized hook, then the project comes together quicker than expected.

And a bonus: Did you know you can crochet socks? Not just slippers, but actual socks. Yes, Crocheters, you can get in on all the Sock Yarn Fun!

One of my favorite designers for crocheting with sock yarns (including crocheting socks) is AddyDae Designs. From sweaters to sweeping shawls to ribbed socks, AddyDae offers a pattern for every taste. A few standouts include:

Another designer who isn't afraid to crochet with fingering weight or sock yarns is Julie Desjardins, aka ACCROochet. Julie has created patterns that were included in both Friends: The One with the Crochet and Harry Potter: Crochet Wizardry. She also has a wealth of patterns available online. Here are links to a few of her crochet sock patterns:

Where do I find all this beautiful sock yarn?

Now that you know many (I dasn't say all, because there's so many more projects than I could ever think of) of the possibilities for sock yarn, for both knitters and crocheters, all that's left is to get your hands on some!

Your first stop should be your local yarn shops! LYS's usually have a lot of sock yarn on hand and will be happy to help you find just what you need for your next project! At an LYS, you're more apt to find hand-dyed or specialty sock yarns that are a premium quality, so your project will really stand out as an heirloom piece

If you are in Harriman, TN on February 25, then be sure to stop by Walther Handmade for our "Sock Hop Yarn Show" featuring only sock yarn by Aisling Yarns.

If you can't make it this weekend, stop by anyways! We carry a variety of yarns suitable for socks and other projects calling for "superfine" yarns and are adding to our collection all the time!

Happy Crafting!

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I stopped this morning and got the “skinny” on these beautiful sock yarns. I couldn’t resist taking one home with me. You all should go check out the trunk show.

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