Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Tale of Two Socks

I think I may have told you my nephew is in the Army.

When he was first deployed I made him a pair of wool socks and a helmet liner.


This is the link, to the pattern which is a charity project. I have made a few, to participate in the charity, before I knew my nephew was going. The wool socks were the basic ones I've always made, so don't know if there is a pattern for them. I think I've posted my disorganized notes about them here sometime ago....

Anyway, when he was home on leave last May, he said that he'd shrunk the socks, somehow didn't realize what 100% wool meant, and his helmet liner was MIA. (He loaned it to a friend when he wasn't on duty and his friend was injured and taken to hospital.) He's since got it back.

So the first thing Auntie(Me) does is pick up the yarn to replace the helmet liner, fairly easy for me to find, and start shopping for better sock choices.

Right about that time, Cascade Yarns released a Superwash Sock yarn. I'd read about it but it wasn't what I wanted. Cascade Yarns 220 Superwash Worsted is the yarn requested by the Military for the helmet liner, you'll see that in the pattern. I made the first one with that because I didn't want him to have it confiscated if it wasn't up to snuff. The first pair of socks I made were intended to be worn in layers and in boots so I didn't think it would matter.

It's seems difficult to find sock yarns that are not an ombre or varigated, or something a MAN would want to wear. Although these yarns are beautiful and really fun to knit up, I can't imagine a soldier not being teased without mercy for donning self-striping socks. Really, without making this a political statement, I would prefer for all military personnel to be using/wearing American made products. Somehow it just seems wrong not to. So if I make something to send for personal use, I would have preferred it be American made.

Not too many weeks later, Cascade 220 Superwash Sport showed up at the same yarn store as I had purchased what I needed for the helmet liner. So, I picked up a skein of the black. (MSRP is $7 for 100gms and 220 yds or 200 meters.) It's content is 100% merino wool from Peru, very soft to work with, but not very tightly wound. The fabric it creates is sprungy (not sure if that's a word, but that's the best I can describe it). I tried toe-up but it was painful. Top down seemed easier. I ended up with one in each direction for the pair, nobody else could tell the difference.

(In fact, this was the socks I was working on at both the Seattle Mariner's Stitch & Pitch and while walking around at Sock Summit II.)

I mentioned at that same shop that I knew Brown Sheep Company marketed their yarns as 'American Made'. When they also produced a washable sock yarn, I hoped to try it also. I was extremely happy to see it when it appeared in the same shop! I immediately pick up two skeins (comes in 50gms, I paid $6.20 had a discount but I've seen it at a few websites for closer to $5) to make a second pair without question. This was exactly what I had wanted. I also like the idea that he would have two pairs. About this time I learned he'd gotten the first helmet liner back, so he would have two of those also.

Brown Sheep's sock yarn is called WildFoote Luxury Sock Yarn, is 75% Washable wool and Nylon. The wool type is not specified, but I have to assume it's sheep, as the company's name. Seems to have great stitch definition and stretch, but it's not soft on the hands. It creates a crunchy fabric, but when I washed it and rinsed with hair conditioner (as a friend recommends, makes sense as the wool fiber is a hair also) both socks are equally soft. In fact after washing and laying flat to dry, or blocking, both pairs of socks seem soft and the stitches are smooth.

I think if it's up to me and the yarn is available to me (as I mentioned in my last post, I've moved) Cascade Yarns makes a great product, but I would prefer my projects be American made fibers as they are knitted by one. Just seems to be more logical that way.
(The last picture is after blocking. The one at the top is before blocking, the black sock at the far right is toe up and the other is top down, the same as the pair in grey.)