I’m back from a quick trip to Sock Summit and just in time for the release of the Fall 2011 Twist Collective issue. It’s up now and I’m so excited to see Allison Haas’ beautiful new his and hers sock design called “Footsie”. She’s worked these intricate cables and twisted rib socks in both our BFL Sock and CashLuxe Fine.
Clara Parkes’ Sock Yarn Stories at Sock Summit
Going to Sock Summit was a late, late decision on my part. Initially, I got all worked up about trying to arrange for a vendor booth, but it was around the time of our wedding and we decided that making the Sock Summit our honeymoon was a bad idea. Instead, it turned out perfectly that the best decision was to work with one of our retailers, Dublin Bay Knitting Company and have our yarn at their booth. A few weeks before the wedding, it seemed that everything was falling into place and it wouldn’t be such a difficult thing to squeeze in two days in Portland following our honeymoon. Long story short, I managed to get classes with Amy Singer, Sandi Rosner, and a lecture with Clara Parkes of Knitters’ Review. All of the content was exceptional. These classes were worth the trip alone. But more on that later.
Clara gave a knowledgeable and endearing lecture, tripping through the recent history of sock knitting yarns. She offered stories and anecdotes about the rise in popularity of everything from self-patterning yarns to indie hand-dyed yarns to the future of high-tech manufactured fibres. Having amassed a large archive of different yarns and swatched with many (if not all?) of them, Clara speaks with great wisdom when it comes to sock yarn. She is called the “yarn whisperer”, I’ve heard.
What I gleaned from her lecture, I’ll share here. It’s solid advice for sock knitters and it’s very possible you’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again.
Sock yarns need a little boost from either nylon or silk (up to 25%) to make them more durable and wear-resistant. Sock yarns need to be knit quite firmly… a regular fingering weight might be most appropriately knit at 9 sts per inch or even 10 sts per inch. The looser the knit, the more room for abrasion and the greater the chance of the yarn wearing through. Even though superwash yarns are available, Clara still recommends that hand knit socks be hand washed.
Finally, she lingered on cashmere-blend sock yarns and their popularity. Clara talked about how the cashmere content of a sock yarn can help bloom and puff up the stitches, making the overall knitted fabric smoother looking. Of course, the softness of the cashmere lends to the luxurious feel. And the nylon content will help keep it strong. I stayed a bit after class and she talked about how the more rare sheep breed, Bluefaced Leicester (BFL) makes a wonderful sock yarn. The staple length of the BFL fibre being longer and glossier than standard merino, and therefore harder-wearing.
I geek out about these kinds of details because I believe this is where knitting begins. All these bits of info help you decide what yarn to choose for what project and purpose… it’s part of designing your project and the most fun part for me. I hope you’ll enjoy Allison’s new sock design and choosing new projects to knit this fall. All my project knitting has already begun in my head. Let’s see if I can actually get it on the needles.