John, who is coordinating #hhsockalong on Instagram, is sharing his sock-spinning tips and tricks with us! Do you have other tips? Comment below!
Welcome to the wonderful world of sock spinning! The most important thing to keep in mind when spinning for socks is this: Any yarn can be turned into socks. You do not need to spin a tiny, 3-ply, fingering-weight yarn to make socks. Think boot socks, house slippers, or maybe you want something felted and cozy? Do it. Chase your dreams. Below you will find three tips I have found to be helpful in spinning for socks.
You are in charge of the yarn you are creating.
A good sock spin starts with well-prepared fiber. I am partial to wool blends for my sock spinning, especially something with silk or bamboo. You can spin sock yarn out of something that is 100% or something luxurious, like a wool, silk, and yak blend. You are in charge of the yarn you are creating.
Your fiber should not be compacted by dyes or felted by being in the stash for too long. If you do have a compacted braid, try steaming it or hand carding sections and spinning a semi-worsted yarn from rolags.
It also important to decide how you want your color runs to go before spinning. The more you separate the braid, the more barber-poling you are likely to see in your final yarn. For nice, long color runs, spin the fiber as it comes without splitting it up.
Cross-lacing reduces uptake onto the bobbin, giving you more time to draft fiber and add sufficient twist to your single.
The second tip is a mechanical tip. This technique is called cross-lacing.
In the photo, the single being spun is threaded around the left flyer arm before going through the flyer hooks on the right and out the orifice to me. Threading the single around the extra "pulley" (the flyer arm) reduces uptake onto the bobbin, giving you more time to draft fiber and add sufficient twist to your single before it gets loaded onto the bobbin.
This tip is especially helpful as you begin loading your bobbin and your wheel is being a little too grabby to spin comfortably. I also find it useful when spinning a bobbin-led wheel.
Experiment with your ply twist, spin multiple samples, and take lots of notes as you get started.
This tip is all about ply twist. Turns out, it is probably the most important of the tips in this series. These four pictures, from top left are: a traditional 3 ply, a chain ply, a tightly twisted 2 ply, and a barely plied 2 ply.
Sock yarns should be durable in order to take the beating of being walked around on, taken in and out of shoes, repeated washing, and so much more. For this reason, a 3 ply is typically what we want. Chain-plied yarns are wonderful for color gradients, though their structure is not as sound as a traditional 3 ply. If you do not yet think you can spin your singles fine enough for a 3 ply you want to turn into socks, try going for a really tightly twisted 2 ply in order to mimic most of the things we want in a 3 ply.
Experiment with your ply twist, spin multiple samples, and take lots of notes as you get started. Once you find a yarn you are happy with, you can settle in to your new, favorite way to use those amazingly hand-painted braids in your stash!