Sock Yarn Review: Socks That Rock

I have knit a lot of socks.  As in, there are 50 pairs of socks on my project page on Ravelry.  That’s not even counting socks that were ornaments.  A lot of these socks were gifts, but I have kept a couple dozen pairs for myself.  I wear pretty much exclusively hand-knit socks, summer and winter.  I put my socks through a LOT — they are worn in hot, sweaty sneakers at outdoor dog agility trials,  in boots on snow-tubing trips, and nearly every day in my favorite pair of black leather shoes.  About the only abuse they don’t get is being worn alone — even indoors, I usually have slippers on my feet. In the beginning, I took sock yarn at it’s word, and I used to machine wash AND dry all my socks with all the rest of the laundry.  Eventually I decided that my socks had a hard enough life already, so now my socks get medium hand-knit treatment: I machine wash them in a separate load on the “hand wash” setting (cold water, intermittent agitation), and I hang them on the banister to dry.

I’ve noticed that some brands hold up better than others, and I’ve decided to share my thoughts with you, dear reader. This post will be the first in a series of sock-yarn reviews. I will address the aspects of sock yarn that are meaningful to me: beyond the initial pleasure of creating the socks, how do the socks wear?  Propensity to felt, pill, fade, or shrink can ruin a beautiful pair of socks, and I’ve had a few brands become card-board stiff over time. Please allow that this is only my personal, unscientific opinion!  All usual disclaimers apply.

The target this week is one of my favorite brands of sock yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock Lightweight and Socks That Rock Mediumweight.  For the last few years, I’ve been a member of the BMFA sock club, which ships yarn and two gorgeous full-color patterns every other month.  I adore their base yarn — a tightly spun, springy fiber — and their dyer creates vibrant, gorgeous colorways.  It is a joy to knit with, whether in plain stockinette, lace, or cables. Here are the seven pairs of socks that I’ve knit over the last few years with STR, along with the date I finished the project:

Cascadia (Feb 2010)

Still soft, mild pilling and felting (toe and heel), mild shrinkage, severe fading.

Then:

9655 Cascadia socks9630 Happy Go Lucky Cascadia

Now:

IMG_3538

Secret Garden (April 2010):

Still soft, mild pilling, moderate felting (toe, heel, sole), mild shrinkage, moderate fading.

Then:

9900 BMFA STR March 2010 socks

Now:

IMG_3531

Firecracker Corners (Jan 2011):

Mostly soft, moderate pilling, moderate felting (toe, heel, sole), no shrinkage, moderate fading.

Then:

1339 firecracker socks

Now:

IMG_3530

Jan 2011 RSC Socks (Jan 2011):

Still soft, mild pilling, moderate felting (toe, heel, sole), no shrinkage, severe fading.

Then:
1939 Jan 2011 STR Social Network

Now:
IMG_3533

Mar 2011 STR (May 2011):

Still soft, mild pilling, mild felting (toe, heel), no shrinkage, mild fading. ALSO — I had to darn a hole in the leg already, and another hole has appeared near the cuff. I think this is a fluke for this particular colorway (possibly even just this skein), as I have never had any trouble with holes/breakage with this yarn before or since.

Then:
2357 Electric Kool-Aid Acid Socks

Now:
IMG_3534

Problem:
IMG_3536IMG_3535

July 2011 STR Socks (Oct 2011):

Still soft, mild pilling, mild felting (toe, heel), no shrinkage, mild fading.

Then:
IMG_2911(rev 1)

Now:
IMG_3537

Shoreward Socks (Jan 2012):

Still soft, no pilling, mild felting (toe, heel), no shrinkage, no fading. (These socks have only been worn a handful of times, and likely will fade and pill at least a little bit.)

Then:
IMG_3291

Now:
IMG_3532

 

Conclusions:

Softness: 5/5

Pilling: 4/5

Felting: 4/5

Shrinking: 4.5/5 (do not wash/dry with regular laundry)

Fading: 3/5 (some colorways fade more than others — red/pink seem particularly vulnerable)

 

 

Average: 4.1/5

I will continue to buy STR yarn. I don’t think it holds up well to regular laundry treatment, despite being “superwash.”  After I switched to gentler laundering, I no longer had a problem with shrinkage.  I expect all my socks to felt a bit at the toes and heel (tennis shoes! summer!), and pilling a bit is also expected.  I have been disappointed with how faded some of the socks became — after all, the gorgeous colorways are a big part of the draw for STR yarn.  I would be hesitant to buy a lot of red/pink yarn from them (although I still love getting it in the sock club!).  I may try a vinegar bath with any future red/pink colorways.

Ravelry Monday: Cthulhu Scarf, Ziprelaxagon, and Jardin Cardi

First Pick: Cthulhu Scarf, by Merelen (FREE!)

What’s not to love about a Cthulhu scarf? This first-time designer has produced a clear, simple pattern that captures the horror that is the Great One’s tentacled madness. The scarf is mostly garter stitch, with Cthulhu’s face in washcloth-style knits and purls.

Second Pick: Ziprelaxagon, by Kirsten Hall ($6.50)

Seriously, how OMG cool is this pattern?  Perfect for all that gorgeous hand-painted sock yarn that tempts us sock knitters, then refuses to look pretty when we knit it up.  Entrelac meets short rows and beauty results. The designer re-assures us that despite the tiled effect, the foot and leg are knit in one piece — no interminable ends to weave in.  This one is definitely a challenge … but sometimes isn’t that just what you want?

Third Pick: Jardin Ruffled Cardi, by Nitza Coto ($6.50)

This is a sweet little cardi with pretty details. It reminds me a bit of Titania, which is one of my favorite sweaters.  I would knit it in some slinky cotton/silk/bamboo yarn and wear it all spring.

FO Friday: Queen Anne Mystery Socks

1481 Family Jewels Mystery Socks

Yay, my socks are done! I have really enjoyed this mystery sock-a-long sponsored by the Knitters Brewing Company.  I talked about yarn selection and knitting style already, so instead of repeating myself, I will instead say how much I have been looking forward to having these socks done and on my feet. So pretty! I can hardly stand it. Easily my favorite detail: the heart cuff.  How charming is this?

1484 Family Jewels Mystery Socks (heart cuff)

Pattern: Mystery Socks III: the Family Jewels

Designer: Wendy Gaal

Available: free! on ravelry (kits are available with matching yarn and beads)

Yarn: Stroll Tonal in Queen Anne

1483 Family Jewels Mystery Socks (bead motif)

This pattern has a number of “new to me” features.  One of the big reasons I signed on was the opportunity to try a big bead on a sock.  When the time came, I ran off to Legacy Beads to find a 15mm-ish flat bead that worked with my yarn — no clashing colors, not so matchy as to fade into the yarn, but not too contrasty either. I settled on a “twist” Swarovski crystal bead in “Golden Shadow.”  My mad beading friend inspected the bead and determined that it had an “AB” finish on the back, but not the front, which helped it keep it’s own color while still reflecting some of the yarn color.  This makes sense to me — I had tried a clear crystal version, and it completely disappeared into the yarn.

1485 Family Jewels Mystery Socks (fleegle heel)

Another cool new-to-me thing is the Fleegle Heel. I didn’t know this was in the pattern when I signed on, so it’s pure bonus! I found it easy to do, and a nice fit.  I enjoyed it way more than a toe-up heel flap (those joins! ugh!), and it fits way better than a traditional short-row heel.  You can see a small err in my photo — the racing stripes on the gusset were supposed to blend into the leg, but I failed my “read the directions” roll and started the racing stripes one stitch too soon.  Oh well — only the designer and the 200 other people in the knit-a-long will even notice.

In general I found the pattern to be extremely well-written and mistake-free.  I prefer a charted pattern to words, but I understand the designer’s desire to “surprise” — and how a chart could potentially ruin the surprise.  I believe a complete version of the pattern will be released with full charts and so on, so chart lovers need not despair (or resort to home charting, as I did).  All unusual techniques were well-explained and/or had links to good videos.  Great fun, great community of KAL-ers!

1482 Family Jewels Mystery Socks (front and back)

What’s On My Needles: Knitters Brewing Co. Mystery Socks III

A few weeks ago, I heard about a free mystery sock knit-a-long being hosted by the Knitters Brewing Company. This was just the kick in the pants I needed to get my Firecracker socks finished and off the needles. It was hard to wait for the KAL to start! Although I was tempted (as I always am) to buy their kit for the KAL, I controlled my desire to own every ball of sock yarn in the world, and instead selected a pretty little colorway from my stash:  Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in “Queen Anne.”

0701 KP Stroll in Queen Anne Tonal

I made a shawl out of Shadow Tonal in  “Queen Anne,” so I knew I loved the color already.  (Actually, that was a mystery KAL project too!  Interesting….)

0175 completed Mandala II (edge)

Anyway, back to the mystery socks.  Clue #1 came out right on time, and everyone dove in.  The socks are toe-up, so I used Judy’s magic cast-on and magic-looped through the nifty twisted-stitch toe pattern with stately aplomb.  I finished one toe, and decided that I really needed to do two-at-a-time with this pattern.  Usually I hate having two socks on my ML at a time, because the “extra” sock drags at my needles.  That’s because socks are often my “take-a-long” project, and I sometimes knit standing up or even walking!  But, since these socks will be worked on in quick weekly bursts, it seemed like that wouldn’t be a problem. Also, I really wanted to have them DONE and wearable when the last clue came — and not have a whole second sock staring me in the face.  So, a rare bird in my knitting life: two at a time socks:

1347 queen anne mystery socks (clue 1)

Impatiently I waited for the next clue …. and waited … and waited … until Clue #2 was released a whole day early! Yippee!  I got right to work.  A few rows in, I decided I just couldn’t handle the written instructions.  I’m more of a “chart girl” you see — I like to see where I am in the pattern, and written instructions just can’t do that.  So, I stopped and made my own chart. After that I flew along at warp speed.  The twisty stitches are fun and pretty too, and even though my yarn choice is colorful, the tonal nature allows the stitch pattern to shine through:

1364 mystery sock (clue 2)

Now I’m waiting again — browsing the KBC forum, which has multiple threads devoted to this KAL. I always love the community aspects of participating in a knit-a-long, and this time is no exception.

Speaking of which … it’s not too late to join in!  Grab some sock yarn, print out the first two clues, and catch up before Friday’s Clue#3 (or maybe Wednesday? Pppppplllllease?).

Ravelry Monday: Pansies, Alassë Míriel Hooded Cowl, and Grecian Goddess Socks

Happy Monday! Time to look back at the previous week’s recently added knitting patterns on Ravelry and pick a few favorites.

First pick: “Pansies” by Rebekkah Dickson (FREE!)

My favorite flowers are pansies, so I’m always on the lookout for good patterns (heck, good anything) that include pansies.  These are far and away the best knitted pansies I’ve seen — true to the flower, without being fussy.  The petals are knit flat, then sewn in place.  The pansy “monkey face” in added in post-production with duplicate stitch.  I can see myself adding pansies to a lot of upcoming projects … all I need is a little purple/blue/burgundy and yellow/white yarn, any weight will do.  Whee!

Second Pick: “Alassë Míriel Hooded Cowl” by The Jane Victoria ($5.00)

Can I just say, WOW, what an ingenious garment! Part cowl, part hood, part shoulder cozy… I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and I LOVE it already.

Third Pick: “Grecian Goddess Socks” by Katie Franceschi ($5.95)

I’m a sock lover, it’s true.  I just washed (nearly) all my hand-made socks, and stopped counting at pair 24.  I’m in the middle of a sock-a-long as we speak (where is clue #3, people?), and eagerly awaiting my first 2011 Rockin’ Sock Club shipment. But these socks call to me too! Alas, there are other things on my needles, so these faux lace-up socks will have to wait in my queue.

Alassë Míriel Hooded Cowl

FO Friday: Rockin’ Socks in Firecracker

This week I finished a pair of socks!  My Firecracker Corners are on my feet as I type, and I love them.  The yarn and pattern were part of the July 2010 shipment of the Blue Moon Fiber Arts (aka BMFA)  Rockin’ Sock Club. There were six shipments last year, and (alas) until this week I’d only completed two pairs of socks!  For Christmas my dear sweet husband who knows and loves me well gave me a membership in the 2011 Rockin’ Sock Club, and I’m expecting the first shipment soon … so I thought I had better get my rear in gear and finish the pair of socks I’ve had on the needles since July (gasp!).

1339 firecracker socks

Pattern: Dusty Corners

Designer: Linda Welch

Available: to 2010 Rockin’ Sock Club members only for now (available to the general public sometime after July 2011)

Yarn: BMFA Socks That Rock Lightweight in Firecracker (a club colorway)

1337 firecracker socks (close)

As usual with any socks that I’ve let languish, when I finally pick them up again I’m done so quickly I can’t quite believe I let them sit so long.  Something about the purple-red with surprising bits of pale blue really made me happy as I knit along.  The pattern was simple, but attractive. I especially appreciated the contrast between the 1×2 cable and the larger mostly-stockinette waves within the variegated colorway.  I did get a bit of a self-striping effect on both socks, but not so much as to detract from their overall beauty.

I wanted very badly to cast on a new pair of socks as soon as I finished these, but I managed to refrain.  (Honesty moment: I did wind yarn for a rogue pair of socks! But I didn’t cast on.) Given that I’m planning to join a Mystery Sock-a-long that starts in just a few days, and of course I’m expecting the January shipment from BMFA … I really shouldn’t put needles into ANY socks just yet.  Instead, I’ve picked up a few other sad WIPs that are in need of attention. With any luck, I’ll get to share them here on a future FO Friday.