[my new bike socks!]
The yarn is my own handspun 3-ply; southdown fiber. The socks are knit on 1.5mm (!!) needles, and are quite thin. They are extremely elastic and feel almost like store-bought cotton or polyester socks with a lot of lycra in them.
These will be my bike socks; I'll be wearing them in my cycling shoes, which are really tough on socks (the heels, especially, see a lot of friction). Because the yarn is so thin and there is no nylon in it, I have taken some precautions to fend off premature holes.
1. I have done some pre-emptive darning on the toes, which is where my socks usually go first. I've simply done some duplicate stitch over the big-toe area, thusly: I put the sock on one foot, then outlined in running stitch (with needle and black sewing thread) where I expect the wear to happen (which is where my toenail rubs the sock). Put the sock on the other foot and repeat. This defines the pre-emptive darning zone!
2. I have also put in a single row of contrasting yarn right before the toe. If and when the toe goes, I will be able to use this contrast row as a guide to running a lifeline and I'll be able to easily remove the entire toe area to reknit it.
[kind of hard to see, but duplicate stitch across the toe,
plus the contrast thread row to help with remove-and-reknit]
3. similarly, I've put in a contrast row right at the beginning of my afterthought heel. If and when the heel gets a hole, I'll be able to pick it out quickly and reknit it! (note: I put in a bunch of rows of plain stockinette above the afterthought heel, before starting the stitch pattern again. This helps with the fit: starting the pattern too soon tends to make the sock ride down.)
[afterthought heel with contrast row]
My other Southdown socks are not showing any signs of wear at all. They aren't even pilling.
Update 2015: ah, sadly, no. Certainly my thin handspun, no nylon, non superwash downs breed socks DO NOT outlast millspun-with-nylon. Not by a looong stretch. The thick handspun socks, sure. They last better than commercial hiking socks. Dress socks? Nope. So far (two years into the spinning adventure), I'm better off with nylon in there for thin socks like those in these pictures, which after 6 months developed holes. I still agree with myself for these last two statements though...
This amazes me. I am officially no longer a fan of merino yarns for "everyday" socks.
For non-spinners: you can enhance longevity for millspun if you avoid the stuff advertised as "merino".