Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sock Fiber Review - 1

I've started on a program of spinning different sheep breeds for sock yarn, and then using it to actually make a pair of socks.

I'm hoping to learn about how different breeds feel (for socks). Mostly, I use the same setup for my sock spinning: highest whorl on my Traddy's DD setup, drafting about 1"/treadle to give me ~10 twists/inch. My goal is always 4-ply sock yarn, although sometimes I have to go down to 3 plies if I haven't managed to spin fine enough.

My preferences are for a sock yarn that is really hard-wearing and pill-resistant. I am not very interested in "soft" sock yarn - my feet are not sensitive, I have no trouble wearing "rough" wool on my feet.

So far, I've done:


 [UK southdown sheep]

The fiber is from an Etsy shop based in the UK (and, oddly enough, shipping fro the UK is cheaper than shipping from the US. WTF??) Another source - this one for undyed fiber -  is this outfit, also in the UK. Southdown sheep are primarily a meat breed, at least in the UK. The Southdown sheep found in the US (aka "babydoll southdown") are different - much smaller, rarer, and mostly kept for pets and their fiber (which is so springy that it feels like elastic). Apparently it's closer to the original breed from the mid 1700's. Anyways. The UK fiber is short, very crimpy (curly) and not so easy to spin because of this. It does not draft as smoothly as, say, BFL. I've found that liberal use of spinning oil helps tame it and makes it much easier to spin. I've made 3 ply and 4-ply (cable plied) yarns with this now and the result is a very, very springy and elastic yarn. I really like the resulting socks - they are not soft, but super hard-wearing and very warm. Very minimal pilling and almost no felting after a year of wear and washing. Even without reinforcement in heels/toes, the socks are wearing extremely well and I have not had to darn any of them.

[southdown socks on my husband's feet]

This is my favourite so far!

Dorset (Horn)

 [dorset horn sheep]

Another "downs" breed from the south of the UK, from same source(s) as above. This fiber is a little longer and not as crimpy, so a little easier to draft. Again, not a fine wool, so very hard-wearing, hard to felt and pill-resistant. Not "soft". The yarn is springy and elastic, but not as much as Southdown.

[dorset hiking socks on my feet]

An excellent sock fiber.

I've spun up some Border Leicester and some Blue Faced Leicester ("BFL") and will be knitting those up soon, so stay tuned!

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