Socks can be made from practically any yarn. Obviously there are many novelty yarns that wouldn’t be very easy to make socks from, or make very attractive or comfortable socks. That dreaded fun-fur stuff is the first thing that comes to mind and yes, Lion Brand does have a free pattern for a sock with a fur cuff that looks fun and funky. At least it’s just a cuff and not a whole sock!
But socks have to do more than just look good. Socks have to be able to stand up to the things we put our feet through on a daily basis which is why wool is such a popular fiber for sock yarns. It’s soft and elastic but also durable, and it’s warm but it wicks moisture away from your skin so it’s not clammy.
Yarns marketed specifically for socks are usually wool and blended with a bit of nylon for extra strength. Some sock yarns also come with a small spool of reinforcing yarn (usually all nylon) for the heels and toes. That extra strength really helps out in the spots that are usually the first to show signs of wear. The spots that do wear can be darned, and the socks are good to go again!
Okay, I know, wool yarn isn’t the only thing you can make socks with. There are great sock yarns made from other fibers too but every fiber has its pros and cons so you just have to consider them in relation to socks. Other animal fibers like alpaca and cashmere make super soft and super warm socks but might not wear as well as some hardier wools. Cotton breathes well, but it’s also very absorbent, so if your feet have a tendency to sweat, that might not be so comfortable. 100% acrylics and other synthetic fibers are durable and some are very soft, but they generally don’t breathe well and aren’t as warm.
“Sock yarns” are also usually a fingering weight yarn but don’t ever let that stop you from using a sport weight, worsted, or even a bulky yarn if you want. Using the Universal Toe-Up Formula featured on Knitty.com or my favorite Universal Sock Pattern (because I’m toe-up challenged) you can make a sock with any size yarn.
So whether your yarn of choice is animal, plant or synthetic, fingering, worsted, or bulky, you can make socks with it. The most important thing is that you like the yarn. As long as you like the yarn, the chances are pretty good that you’ll have great socks!
Check back next week for a look at the anatomy of socks and the various methods of construction.