Today I am proud to present to you another family collaboration project: socks knitted by my mum from yarn that has been dyed and spun by me.
My mum loves knitting socks so for her birthday I decided to spin a stripy sock yarn for her. I had never attempted to spin sock yarn before so it was an interesting experiment for me. For strength and durability, I decided it make it a 3-ply yarn, spun worsted and have some nylon blended into it.
In Finland people tend to wear woolly socks on top of normal cotton socks so I could use wool that is reasonably strong, rather than something that is soft and delicate as it wouldn’t be worn next to the skin. I chose some natural coloured dark grey Jacob and white wool of mixed English breeds that seemed quite robust but not too coarse. The dyed wool was all Finnsheep, which is a great all-round wool, soft, but not too delicate. The nylon I used was white, and I didn’t bother dyeing it, as I was going to mix the colours on a drum carder and I thought it would just blend in. When blending I added approximately 10% of nylon.
I had great time designing the colours. My mum likes blue and red, and I also wanted to blend in some natural greys and whites for a wintery colour palette that has a traditional Scandinavian feel to it. And I think I succeeded as my sister said that the colours look very old fashioned (in a good way). The Finnsheep top was dyed with acid dyes. I used some basic primary colours: navy and royal blue, magenta and scarlet red as well as some black and grey.
I created lots of different colour blends on my drum carder. Most of them were sort of melancholy pale and medium blues, with a fair amount of black and grey blended in. I also wanted a nice lingonberry red for an accent colour. It was mostly magenta with some scarlet red and a hint of black and navy blended in. I loved this bit in the process, it was just so much fun taking a bit of this and a bit of that, feeding it into the drum carder and see what comes out.
Once I had all my colours, I took the batts and pulled out some small bits, approximately 1g each, and used these as building blocks when designing the stripes. As I was going to have two yarns with 3 plies each, I needed to spin 6 different singles. I placed my 1g bits of wool in six different lines on the floor, moving colours around until I was happy with the stripes. Some stripes were made of identical colours in each of the singles, other stripes were made of different colours, for example white on one singles and two different blues on the other two.
I spun and plied the yarn for each sock separately as I was hoping to have identical stripes for each sock. But as I didn’t weigh my building blocks, they weren’t exactly identical, so once spun and plied, the two yarns weren’t exactly the same. So the socks didn’t end up identical, but they are not so radically different that it would matter. I can see that if you really wanted stripes that are exactly the same using this method, you would have to be very careful with measurements and spinning. I think it would be more hassle than it is worth.
I was slightly worried that I had plied the yarns too loosely and that they would split when knitting, but my mum said this was not a problem. With three plies spun worsted style, the yarn ended up being quite thick and dense, so they took quite a bit of wool, approx 70g each and my mum nearly ran out of yarn. Being so thick, the socks are definitely going to be warm, but I am also very interested to see how well they last.
I really enjoyed this project. In a way, making sock yarn is an ideal colour spinning project – you can play with lots of colours and you don’t need to spin a huge amount of yarn so you get quick results. And the knitting of course won’t take too long either. I will definitely be trying this again.