Sock Color Study

OK! So, this is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. My friends Rachel and Katrina have published a book together called Unbraided. (You can get it here from Katrina’s shop.) It’s a massive study in spinning colors from hand painted braids. A while after that, Rachel self-published another book, How I Spin: A Sock Study, specifically studying some different ways you can spin for socks. (You can get that from Rachel by becoming a Patreon patron; the link is in all of her housekeeping newsletters.) I almost got to take their class based on the first book, but COVID happened. Ever since then, for almost two years now, I’ve been wanting to do a big study that mashes up both of these books – study the spinning of sock yarns from braids, while managing color.

Rachel gave me permission to ask if anyone wants to do this with me. There are no rules: just spin sock yarn from braids. People have vastly different experience levels with both spinning for and knitting socks, and will have different things they want to learn. I just know that I have more fun learning when I’m doing something with a group, and we can bounce ideas off each other.

The socks that were my test case for this study. More on them tomorrow.

I expect that for me it’ll take a couple of years, so there’s no rush if you don’t want to start with me. To be honest, I kind of already started, so there’s not a big timeline thing; set your own goals and all. I’ll try to spin for one pair of socks a month, and write about it here, and connect that to wherever others like to post, whether it’s Slack or Ravelry. I tend to take the summers off spinning; we’ll see what is possible based on our family’s plans.

Analogous braids and batts from the next WnS Breed & Color Study. Photo by Katrina. More on these tomorrow.

The first 3-5 months are going to be all about analogous colors. This partly is to line up with the breed and color study which is also about analogous colors, which pumps me up so much! But also it’s the first section of the Unbraided book, which is convenient.

The multi-colored/complementary braids I’m thinking to use. The four on the left are by Katrina of CraftyJAKs; the two on the right are from Sweet Georgia Yarns.

The rest of the year will be about multi-coloured braids, when we’re ready, the space dyed ones.

You might be thinking, “a pair of socks worth of spinning a month?! That’s a ton!” Well, it really isn’t.

First off, I cheat: first thing I do is peel a strip off the braid that’s about 1/4 of its width, and set it aside. That’s for combo spinning, which is a later part of the study.

Second off, sock spins chunk really well. For example, if you’re spinning for two socks, three plies each, you’re breaking 3 oz of fiber into six 1/2-oz chunks. I can spin one of those chunks in, like, an hour, and I don’t think I’m a super-fast spinner, though I’m faster than I used to be. Right now I’m doing 15-30 minutes a day, and at my current rate that will get me a 3 oz sock spin in about 2 weeks.

The space-dyed braids I am thinking to use. Various dyers.

Ok, so, what am I actually spinning? I want to double my learnings, so every time I spin a pair of socks, I’m going to spin for each sock differently. I love fraternal socks; they’re kinda my jam, and that way I can see two variations of color handling with the same braid. But I’ll use the same basic yarn construction for both members of one pair.

SO, who’s in?!

I want to hear from you: What do you already know? Personally, I do not have much experience spinning for socks. I’ve spun and knit two pairs in my life. So, what have your sock spinning wins been so far? What have been your fails?

In addition to Rachel and Katrina’s books, I also plan to draw on the excellent resource that is Ply Magazine. They did a whole issue focusing on sock yarns (Winter 2018), and Rachel did an article on 2-ply sock yarns (Spring 2017). What I’ve learned from that reading: mohair content is good, tight ply and tight knitting are important. There’s much more to say about fiber and yarn construction, but we’ll also be exploring that as we go. What resources do you recommend?

I’ve got tons of experience knitting socks, and seeing what kinds of commercial yarns and knitting patterns hold up. I’ve also done a LOT of darning, and I don’t enjoy it much, so I want to spin and knit sturdy stocks. Short version: to improve wear, dense knitting is best, and nylon content helps a lot. I’m messing about with a slip-stitch sole pattern; will report back when there’s something to report. I don’t have any favorite constructions or patterns really, but I’m jamming on toe-up right now. How do you like to knit socks?

Tomorrow I’ll post again about the analogous colorway portion of the study. For now, dig through your stash and pick some braids!

OK better stop now. Look through your stash for some analogous braids, and we’ll have a chat tomorrow about what choices to make to study spinning for socks!

What are my options? Well, in her sock study book, Rachel covers some of the more unusual options: Opposing ply yarn, crepe yarn, cabled yarn, and hauser yarn. To that I’ll add traditional 3-ply yarn, and tightly-plied 2-ply.

The harder part for me is the color handling. There are just SO many choices. In the Unbraided book, Rachel and Katrina focused on some popular choices that offered great contrast: traditional 2-ply, Center-pull 2-ply, 2-ply fractal, 3-ply fractal, traditional 3-ply, and chain plying.

But. BUT. Those are not the only options. What about pulling the braid apart into its component colors? What about gradients? What about the mass of variation that can depends on how much you strip your braid down, or whether or not you intentionally line up your strips? I sat down to think off all the variations I could, and came up with a list of sixteen. Here I’ve ordered them from “most blendy” to “least blendy.”

  1. Separate colors and combo ply
  2. Center pull ball: fiber stripped 7+ times
  3. CPB: fiber stripped 2-6 times
  4. CPB: spun across the top
  5. Traditional: stripped 7+ times and mixed
  6. Traditional: stripped 2-6 times and mixed
  7. Traditional: split across the top and spun across the top
  8. Fractal
  9. Separated fractal (meaning one single is a gradient, and other singles are longer color repeats than a normal fractal)
  10. Chain ply: stripped 7+ times
  11. Chain ply: stripped 2-6 times
  12. Chain ply: spun across top
  13. Traditional, lined up in plying: stripped 6+ times
  14. Traditional, lined up in plying: stripped 2-4 times
  15. Traditional: separated into gradient
  16. Chain ply: separated into gradient

Now, not all of these methods of color handling will work for all constructions. Chain plying will only make a standard 3-ply. Center pull balls make the most sense with 2-ply, and while you could make an an argument for using them in hauser or cable yarns, or even crepe, you’re probably past the point of diminishing returns there.

Still, that leaves a lot of options.

Basically, all I’m going to do is take each braid and pick one construction and two color handling methods. I’ll probably focus on the 3-ply constructions, and make a lot of fractals, but I’ll aim to try everything once. I’m going to make a plan, because I’m addicted to planning, but I’m not even going to publish it here. Choices will change based on how the studies go.

With those leftover 1 oz quantities, I’ll play with combo spinning and combo plying. Right now I’m thinking I’ll just make one sock combo spun and the other combo plied, but maybe I’ll discover more options along the way.

4 thoughts on “Sock Color Study

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