I freely admit that these ratings are highly biased. They driven by my own personal sock preferences, which are as follows:
- I prefer a tight, non floppy sock - socks should hug the leg. This means I tend to prefer a yarn that is more tightly plied and less "squooshy".
- I wear handknit socks all winter, so they need to stand up to a high degree of wear and washing. Yarns that pill, felt, or get visibly discoloured are de-rated. Note that I wash my socks in a European-brand front-loader, in cold water with delicate detergent, using a "handwash" cycle. The socks are subsequently air-dried. I do not wash socks by hand.
- I wear them at the office, so they need to be thin - fingering weight only (400m/100g). I do not knit socks with sportweight yarn.
- I knit for a lot of men, so I'd like yarns to come in XY-chromosome-friendly colours like browns, greys, and greens.
- I very rarely use self-striping wool; I prefer plain or "kettle dyed" product that allows intricate stitch patterns to shine. Although lately I have been getting to some wild 'n crazy yarns and patterns, so this requirement is starting to become less of an issue!
- I am on a budget; I'd prefer it if the product cost me less than $20/pair. I will only try more expensive yarns if I can actually see them (I won't order expensive stuff off the interwebs unless I know what I'm getting). That said, if I find a beautiful yarn that also lasts, I will try it and keep in mind for a special gift.
Click on the link to figure out yarn "yardage".
I am now at the point where, unfortunately, I will no longer knit socks from yarns that contain any silk, bamboo (a silk replacement - it's cheaper), angora, cashmere or alpaca; even in blends. Cotton-blend yarns are also more fragile than pure wool ones. These fibres do not stand up to abrasion well and I find that the resulting sock (foot) becomes unsightly quite quickly. These yarns are lovely for other purposes but really, walking on them will ruin them. The only pairs of socks I have had ruined over time have all fallen into this category.
In general, I've found that the best, longest-lasting sock yarns are of European origin, are not advertised as "merino", and contain at least 20% nylon.
My favorite "daily wear" sock yarn is Regia (plain colours). My "special occasion/gift" sock yarn is Woolen Rabbit Pearl. My favorite "self-striping/wild-n-crazy" sock yarn is Schoppel Zauberball Crazy.
For more detail, there are some blog posts:
Sock Wool 1 (Scheepjes Invicta, KnitPicks Risata, Lang Jawoll, Kroy Sock, KnitPicks Stroll)
Sock Wool 2 (Schaefer yarn, Araucania Ranco, KnitPicks Stroll update, Gloss, Regia Stretch)
Sock Wool 3 (Malabrigo Sock, Lana Grossa Meilenweight Cotton Stretch, Araucania Itata)
Sock Wool 4 (Tosh Merino Light, Sweatermaker Simply Sock)
Sock Wool 5 (Schoppel Zauberball, Kroy Sock 3-ply, Lion Sock-Ease)
Sock Wool 6 (Malabrigo Sock and Tosh Merino Light update, Regia 3-ply, Lang Mille Colori, Woolen Rabbit Pearl)
Sock Wool 7 (Regia 4-ply jacquard, Lang Magic Degrade, Online Supersocke)
Sock Wool 8 (Woolen Rabbit Harmony, Turtlepurl Sock, Cascade Heritage Sock)
Sock Wool 9 (Manos del Uruguay Alegria; Ancient Arts Fibre Craft sock yarn)
Sock Wool 10 (Phildar Phil Folk, DGB Confetti Superwash)