Thoughts on Non-Superwash, Nylon-Free Sock Yarn – Laine des Iles

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Thoughts on Non-Superwash, Nylon-Free Sock Yarn

Thoughts on Non-Superwash, Nylon-Free Sock Yarn

February saw the release of Laine Publishing’s beautiful new book, 52 Weeks of Socks. Our first and second batches both sold out very quickly, but we are happy to announce that Laine has commissioned one final print run and we are now expecting more stock in mid-April. So I would like to use this opportunity to talk a little bit about sock-knitting, and sock yarn.

As you know, here at Laine des Iles, we don’t sell superwash yarns. We do sell Tukuwool Sock, which contains nylon, however ultimately we would prefer to carry only completely natural yarns with no synthetic fibres at all. Many knitters would assume that this means they wouldn’t be able to knit socks with our yarns. But of course this isn’t true, and we’d like to share the thoughts of designer Albina McLaughlin about knitting socks with all-natural yarns. The following excerpt is taken from an article published on Albina’s blog in November 2018:

 

Some of my first memories from childhood, are of my grandmother knitting socks. She used steel double-pointed needles, which seemed to move in her hands at the speed of light, while her ball of yarn likewise swiftly diminished. The yarn she used was usually whatever was left over from larger projects, such as sweaters. It was roughly sportweight equivalent in weight, and always 100% wool. No superwash treatment. No nylon. The socks lasted for years. 

It is perhaps for this reason, that the concept of sock yarn has always amused me, as have the occasional startled reactions to my “inappropriate” sock-knitting yarn choices. It has been the dominant narrative in the knitting industry for some time, that sock yarn should contain nylon and be superwash-treated. The reasons being, that both of these features make the socks more hard-wearing, and that, in addition, the nylon content facilitates stretch. The argument, however, never rang quite true to me. By all accounts, socks were plenty hard-wearing before the widespread use of nylon and the invention of superwash (one older friend describes socks lasting so long in her family, they were passed down from one sibling to the next!). Also, as a fibre that is inherently elastic in its own right, wool should not really need synthetic help in that regard.

Still, around two years ago I decided to keep an open mind and give “sock yarn” an honest try. Which I did, making pair after pair out of the usual suspects - including commercial yarns from several big brands, and hand-dyed yarns using various merino/nylon and BFL-nylon blends. At the same time, I continued to knit socks out of various “non sock” yarns.

And?

According to my experience with the socks I wear myself, and to feedback from others who wear the socks I make, my impression is that it makes no difference. The main factor determining how hard-wearing a sock will be, seems to be the tension it is knitted at. Knit a sock densely, and it will wear wonderfully - superwash or not, nylon or not. Loosen up on the tension, and it will not.

I can show you socks that are superwash treated and 25% nylon, which felted grotesquely at the heels after their 2nd or 3rd outing. And I can show you socks that are 100% non-superwash wool, which look nearly new after a year of regular wear. A difference of even 1 stitch per 10cm in tension seems to play a larger role in a sock’s durability, than the presence or absence of nylon content and superwash treatment. The superwash, nylon-blend socks are not worse. But neither are they better.

Of course, the above is just my experience. And if it contradicts yours, by no means do I want to dismiss that. But considering that my experience has been as described, I have decided at this stage to go back to using yarns that are 100% natural fibres, and minimally processed (no superwash). Even for socks.

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Albina has herself designed a sock pattern specifically intended for knitting with non-superwash, no-nylon yarn (Berry Lane, pictured above), and 52 Weeks of Socks also features a number of patterns knitted with all-natural yarns (for example Veera knitted in Ullcentrum 2-Ply, pictured at the top of the page). So we hope this will give you the courage to leave the nylon behind and try all-natural socks!

 

Albina McLaughlin (Ailbíona McLochlainn in Gaelic) is a handknit designer based in County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. Her preference is to work with natural fibres and with locally sourced yarns wherever possible. You can find her on Ravelry as LB Handknits or on Instagram as @lbhandknits. Do check out more of her beautiful designs.

Sep 10, 2020

Merci pour cet article très intéressant. J’aimerais bien me lancer dans des chaussettes plus “authentiques” sans nylon.
Si je comprends bien le secret serait la tensiin/ densité . Donc tricoter avec un numéro plus petit. Je tricote pour ma part en 2,25 ou 2,5. Dois prendre encore plus petit.

Salabert
May 20, 2020

Bonjour,
Merci beaucoup pour cet article très intéressant!
Moi aussi je tricote de plus en plus mes chaussettes avec des laines sans nylon.
Mes 3 dernières en date sont en
Finull garn Pt2 (en 2,5 mm)
Aurinkokehrä teinture naturelle (en 2 mm)
Ulysse de de rerum Natura (en 3 mm)
J’ai tricoté des modèles du livre 52 weeks of socks avec ces trois fils, je suis très contente du résulat mais je ne peux pas encore témoigner de leur durabilité, c’est encore trop tôt…
Vous pouvez les voir sur ma page Ravelry sous le pseudo Cathetfred
Catherine

Catherine Mühlhäuser
May 07, 2020

Bonsoir,
Je viens de voir ce post qui tombe à point nommé pour moi.
j’ai découvert le tricot chaussette il y a moins d’un an et j’ai tout de suite voulu débuter avec une laine sans nylon. De l’authentique ! Malheureusement pour moi, ma paire n’a tenu que 4 jours… Et après avoir reprisé de nombreuses fois (un reprisage très mauvais d’ailleurs, j’ai tout à apprendre !), j’ ai laissé tomber et suis passée à une nouvelle paire avec nylon (qui tient très bien jusqu’ici).
Mais ! Je ne m’avoue pas vaincue… Surtout après avoir lu votre article.
j’ai commencé une nouvelle paire avec un mélange de laine et fibre d’ortie, et j’ai choisis de tricoter plus serré.
il me semble que la clef de la longévité des chaussettes ne réside pas forcément dans la présence du nylon; mais plutôt dans une laine bien retordue et dans une forte tention pour créer des mailles bien serrées.
Du moins, c’est ce qu’il ressort avec les retours que j’ai.
Merci donc pour cet article enrichissant

Solène
Mar 22, 2020

Je suis d’accord avec Albione, moi aussi je tricote mes chaussettes avec des laine sans nylon et ça marche très bien. Merci de m’avoir fait connaître cette belle personne….

Cris
Mar 15, 2020

merci pour ce bel article

maddalena

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