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There are three things to consider when selecting sock yarn:
- fiber content
- thickness of the yarn
However, even if you select a good quality sock yarn your socks might wear out quickly if you have knit them too loosely.
1. Fiber content
Yarns that are specifically labeled “sock” yarn aren’t always a good choice since sometimes the word sock on the label refers to the thickness of the yarn. That’s why it’s always a good idea to check the fiber content of the yarn. A good example of this kind of yarn is the Malabrico Sock that is 100% merino wool and the yarn is so soft that you end up having holes in your socks pretty fast.
I prefer making my socks with wool and nylon blend yarn because wool absorbs moisture away from the skin and is insulating but also breathes which makes it a perfect material to keep your feet warm during the winter and dry during the summer. Wool is also elastic so your socks will adapt well to the shape of your foot and after stretching it will always go back to its original shape.
Wool alone, however, wears out quite quickly so it needs to have some reinforcement if you are going to wear your socks in shoes for instance. Most commonly the reinforcement is nylon (also known as polyamide) but if you prefer non-plastic sock yarns there are ones that are reinforced with Tencel or mohair. Some sock yarns have no reinforcement at all because they are tightly spun with very little loft or “squish.”
If you have sensitive skin you can use soft wool such as merino but I recommend something a bit more rustic because merino pills and it’s not as durable as the “woolly” wools. In the end, this is a matter of taste: if you prefer softness over durability then by all means use merino wool.
I use thin wool socks in the summer as well but if you find pure wool socks too warm for summer I recommend that you try fingering weight wool and bamboo blend yarn. Read more about good yarn options for summer socks here.
Some of my favorite wool based sock yarns
Fingering: Knitpicks Felici is quite affordable basic sock yarn. It’s a self-striping yarn with very addictive colorways (one more stripe) and it’s merino which makes it soft.
DK: My current favorite is Novita Nalle which is a bit rustic, machine washable, light DK weight yarn. It has a beautiful stitch definition and it knits up quite fast but the sock is still thin enough to be worn in shoes. Nice yarn for cables and colorwork and I have used it for mittens as well. It has solid colors and many self-striping options as well.
Worsted: One could say that Novita 7 brothers is some kind of national sock yarn of Finland. Here in Finland you can find it in almost every grocery store. It knits up super quickly and it’s perfect for boot socks or house socks. It is durable and machine washable. For non-Finns it’s available on Lovecrafts which ships worldwide. You can find there both solid and self-striping options.
1.2 Plant based fibers
If you for some reason cannot or don’t want to use wool there are also many plant-based options such as pure cotton yarns. With plant-based fibers you just need to remember that they are not as elastic as wool so you might have to buy an elastic thread.
Some popular plant based sock yarns are for instance:
- Regia Tutti Frutti (72% Cotton, 18% Polyamide, 10% Polyester) has very nice self striping colors suitable for summer. It’s available at least on Etsy, Amazon and Lovecrafts.
- Universal Yarn Bamboo Pop Sock (55% Bamboo, 37% Cotton, 8% PBT). It’s available at least on Lovecrafts and Amazon.
- HiKoo CoBaSi (55% Cotton, 21% Nylon, 16% Bamboo, 8% Silk) is super soft and the colors are vibrant. It’s available at least on Lovecrafts and Etsy.
- King Cole Summer 4Ply (55% Bamboo, 37% Cotton, 8% PBT). It’s available at least on Lovecrafts
My personal opinion is that acrylic yarn is not a good choice for knitted socks because it holds the moisture next to your skin and does not breathe. What happens is that your feet gets easily sweaty and because the moisture stays next to your skin your socks start to feel uncomfortably wet.
2. Yarn weight (thickness of the yarn)
If you want to wear your sock in shoes pick fingering weight yarn (also known as sock weight yarn or 4ply yarn) or if your shoes are loose fitting you can pick a little bit thicker sport weight yarn. For boot socks select DK or worsted weight yarn. For home socks you can use also chunky yarn such as the Novita Isoveli. They knit up super quickly.
The last thing to consider before buying a skein of sock yarn is the aftercare. Check the label to see if you are required to hand wash your socks or can you machine wash them. If wool yarn is machine washable it is often treated with the superwash method that prevents it from felting.
Non-superwash wools need to be hand-washed but the good news is that wool is naturally dirt-resistant so it does not require wash as often as other fibers.