Why you should try hand knit socks today. The benefits of knitting your own socks with natural fibres vs store bought socks. Why handmade socks are the best socks

Hand knit socks might not change your life but they can make it more comfortable.

Ever wondered what all the hype surrounding hand knit socks is for? They might not change your life but I can assure you that they might make it more comfortable.

Some knitters can't get enough of socks. There are currently 56,160 sock patterns listed on Ravelry's pattern database and that's just the patterns we know about. More patterns are uploaded each year. You have to wonder why when there are already so many on there, right? It can only be because people like to knit them!

Ever wondered who indie dyers sell all that hand dyed 4ply yarn to? The answer is probably sock knitters. While socks aren't the only thing you can make with hand dyed sock yarn (there are 87,553 shawl patterns on Ravelry, for example), they're clearly a popular choice. 

Socks knit using Oakworth 4ply. Knitting socks with 100% wool.
Pictured (above): The Flock socks are knit with 100% Polwarth wool from Eden Cottage Yarns. 

Why knit socks then? What's so special about knitting your own socks?

Socks are surprisingly straightforward once you have read through the pattern and have researched any new-to-you techniques such as heel type or special stitches.

  • They're small.
  • They take up less space making them excellent on the go projects.
  • 10 minutes of sock knitting can make a huge amount of progress compared to 10 minutes of sweater knitting. 
  • You can do two socks at a time. 
  • You can make them to suit your foot size and shape. 
  • They're unbelievably warm and cosy. 
  • They wear well, especially under boots. 
  • They can be mended easily as they're not so heavily elasticated like store bought socks.
Handmade socks are often more comfortable than shop bought socks.
Pictured (above) the Andalusian socks. 

Handmade socks vs Store bought socks. 

Mass produced socks (even hiking socks) are made to fit everybody. That sounds good but it's not as good as it seems. They fit everybody because they're made to stretch over any foot. Stretch has been prioritised over comfort, warmth and durability. They're not made for you and only you. Most shop bought socks are a mixture of elastene and cotton. This doesn't make for warm, durable socks, especially when it comes to women's socks. By the time you've thrown away several pairs of badly made socks and paid for some really high quality, well made socks, you probably could have made your own. 

Hand knit socks have excellent benefits no matter what material you decide to make them with.

Does nylon make hand knit socks uncomfortable?

Yes and no. Nylon was brought into the spinning process of wool because it has been proven that a small addition of nylon does give the wool more durability vs no nylon at all. 

Nylon is strong, silk-like and can be spun with other materials to make yarn. It is the most common component of sock yarn. Only 25% of sock yarn is nylon, so I wouldn't say it has enough of a presence to cause discomfort. If nylon made socks uncomfortable, would it be the number one sidekick for good sock yarn?

The reason we use nylon to make sock yarn is quite simple: it's durable. It's not environmentally friendly, soft or breathable but it's tough and that's why it is in a lot of sock yarn. When a sock starts to wear out, nylon is all that's left. The stuff is solid. 

I personally find the nylon in sock yarns absolutely fine but it can be a bit tough under my walking boots if I'm walking far. It's not the wool doing that, it's the nylon. If you make socks with a higher proportion of nylon or other plastic fibres, they will get hot and sweaty.

The simple solution would be for me to try and make socks with less nylon, or no nylon at all. It's easy enough to do. Some dyers such as eden cottage yarns have a range of sock yarn that contains no nylon at all. If you don't mind nylon but don't like the environmental aspect, you could also try their range of sock yarns that come with biodegradable nylon. 

Most sock knitting yarn contains nylon.
Pictured (above) Flat knit socks knitting pattern. 

Can I make socks without nylon?

Yes, you can make socks without nylon. There are many other fibres out there that are comfortable, strong and durable. A good example is Bluefaced Leicester wool. I have made socks with 100% wool before and I would go as far as to say that they are even more comfortable (and don't slide as much on non-wool carpet). 

The bottom line is that nylon makes the sock last longer as the natural fibres can't compete but that does not mean they're not worth having. There are many advantages that come with knitting socks with natural fibres, such as: 

  • Breathability. Feet can move around a lot. Nobody wants sweaty, hot socks.  
  • Moisture wicking benefits. Wool for example does absorb a small amount of moisture but it remains dry to the touch. Natural fibres can repel moisture. 
  • Softness. While shop bought socks can be soft, too, they often become quite tough after a few washes. This doesn't happen with hand knit socks. 
  • Warmth without the sweat. 
  • Comfort. There's nothing cosier than hand knit socks. 
  • Thickness. I find that women's socks in particular are horribly thin, so knitting my own socks creates a dramatic difference. 
  • Cosy for bed. They're fine to wear in bed too and don't dig in like elastic socks do. 
  • Easy to wash. They don't require much to be clean. They need a little swish in a sink of warm water or a wash in the machine on a delicate cycle with ideally, no spin. You don't even need to use detergent. 
  • Anti microbial: wool, linen and hemp are great at repelling bacteria, mold and mildew. This is why they don't particularly need strong detergent when washed. I don't use any detergent but I may occasionally use a wool wash such as Soak or Eucalan. 
  • Unique to you. With the sheer volume of yarns and sock patterns out there, you can create really cute socks that look great on you. 

 If you'd like to have a look at some of my sock knitting patterns, they are available here. 

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