Thursday, February 05, 2009

Sock Yarn & Nylon: Things We Take for Granted

I had a brief conversation with another knitter a few days ago. She's an experienced and skilled knitter in her 60s. She remarked to me -- in the nicest possible way -- that although she found my sock designs nice, she thinks it's absurd to go to so much work for something that will wear out so quickly.

A few hours later I was thinking about what she had said, and a light bulb went on...

In my sock classes, I talk about the merits of using a sock yarn that's got some nylon in it, for better wear. I've always treated the 100% wool sock yarns as more of a luxury item - to be treated with more care, to preserve them.

So when did they start adding nylon to sock yarn?? Certainly, all those socks knitted as part of the war efforts during World Wars I and II would have been 100% wool. And I'm quite certain that very few people had as well-stocked a sock drawer as most people do now. And soldiers would have had only a very few pairs. Any hand-knitted socks must worn out in a matter of weeks. No wonder the oldest sock patterns often insist on a reinforced heel...

2 comments:

ella kelly said...

This is so timely. You're a very experienced sock knitter wondering about nylon. I'm a yarn snob and sock rookie, who was just told by a LYS to add nylon re-enforcing to my all-wool selections. (I hadn't chosen "sock yarn" for my planned warm-winter socks -- I wanted certain bright solid colours and worsted weight.) Do you add the nylon re-enforcing thread to your wool socks?

TracyKM said...

I collect old knitting books, and unfortunately, most don't have dates, but I know nylon was added in the early 50s, I think.
I've got to say...I don't add nylon reinforcement. Here's my thinking---the wool wears down, leaving the nylon thread...that doesn't sound very comfy. Also, I think using a separate nylon thread could actually rub against the wool threads and wear them down quicker. No research, LOL, just some late night thinking.
My first pair of socks are over 9 years old, and no thin spots (wool-nylon sock yarn), but some of my newer socks have worn out in a year. I think it helps to have a LOT of socks so that none get worn too much, LOL.