Frequently Asked Questions

It doesn’t matter how long you have been knitting or needlepointing, there are always nagging questions.  We are going to address some of the most frequently asked knitching (knitting and needlepoint stitching) questions, adding a new one every few weeks.  We hope the responses will help you understand and appreciate the fibers you admire.

#3:  Frequently Asked Questions:  What kind of yarn do I need to knit socks?  What is a ‘sock yarn’, and is it only for socks?

sock cashmere    Theoretically, you can use almost any fiber to make socks, although there are many blends that work best for most of us.  A sock yarn is any yarn chosen to make socks.  Here at Yarn Explosion, we offer at least 32 different ‘sock yarns’, any of which can be knit into socks, hats, scarves/shawls, baby items, shirts, wraps, etc.  Most are fingering weight  and are also extremely popular for the exciting scarves and shawls on Ravelry.

We found these comments from   http://www.knittersreview.com/article_how_to.asp?article=/review/profile/011004_a.asp:           to be helpful when learning about sock yarn choices:   

“A favorite sock yarn can be as individual as one’s favorite perfume. Figuring out which yarn is best for you is often a trial-and-error process.  What feels one way to the hand often feels completely different against the calf and foot. Some people will experience a heightened sensitivity to scratchy wool. Others find they have a greater tolerance for rough yarns in socks that they’d never bear as scarves or sweaters.

Besides only using yarns with “Sock Yarn” on the label, how do you know if a yarn will work for socks? Here are some general guidelines to get you started.

Wear

A good pair of socks will take tremendous abuse without ever showing signs of fatigue. The essential ingredient for durability is nylon, acrylic, or some form of synthetic material. Even staunch woolaholics agree.  This doesn’t mean you can only knit socks out of acrylic yarn. Rather, you can choose a yarn that has some synthetic content, or you can add nylon reinforcement to your socks after they’re done.

Don’t take this to mean that you must always knit socks with nylon reinforcement, however. If you tend to wear loose shoes — clogs, for example — you can get away with more exotic fibers. Some of my favorite socks contain alpaca, angora, and even a touch of cashmere.

Bounce

Don’t start those pure angora socks yet! There’s another factor you need to keep in mind: elasticity.  Part of the abuse socks endure is from the simple act of being dragged over the heel every time they are put on and taken off. Wool has the best bounce and fiber memory, while cotton, angora, and alpaca have less elasticity.

If you’re fond of any less-elastic fibers, your best bet is to pick a blend. For example, Lang Jawoll Cotton has the look and feel of cotton but actually is 49% wool and 16% nylon; Lang Jawoll Color looks like wool but also has 18% nylon and 7% acrylic.

Wash

Even if you weren’t called “Stinky Feet” as a child, chances are you still need to wash your socks once in a while. Most self-proclaimed sock yarns are superwash, which means you can slip them off and toss them in the washing machine before your nose has the chance to detect any unpleasant odor.  For those who don’t mind getting their hands wet, the fiber world is your oyster. Washing non-superwash socks by hand is as painless as washing a few dishes in the sink.

Warmth

If you live in a warm climate, you’ll probably want to stick with cotton or cotton-blend yarns. If you like a little more warmth, nothing beats wool. It can absorb up to one-third of its weight in moisture before it begins to feel moist.  Pure synthetics, on the other hand, won’t provide as much long-lasting warmth. Lacking wool’s moisture-wicking ability, they hold moisture directly against your feet, making them feel cold and clammy with wear.

If you’re cursed with perpetually cold feet, nothing beats the heating power of angora. Even a small amount of angora in an otherwise wool sock boosts its heating capacity significantly.  I have a special pair of pure angora turbo-booster socks that I keep by my desk for particularly chilly moments. They’re loose and have no elasticity whatsoever. But if I’m willing to sit still, they sure do the trick.

Gauge

The most common sock yarns are fingering, sport, and DK weight, ranging in gauge from 6 to 8 stitches per inch. Normally the finer the gauge, the more fluid and form-fitting the sock.   It’s entirely possible to knit socks in worsted-weight yarn at gauges up to 4 stitches per inch. But remember, the thicker the yarn, the thicker the sock, the more space you’ll need in your shoes.”

So, come check out our different fibers, gauges, and patterns in our Sock Department!

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#2:  Frequently  Asked  Question:  Why is there a goat on our web site?

          That goat is no ‘ordinary’ goat.  She may be wearing your next lacy scarf or sweater.  She is a ‘cashmere’ goat.

          Did you know that cashmere, mohair, and angora fibers do not come from sheep?  Cashmere and mohair come from goats, and angora comes from angora rabbits.  This month we will focus on cashmere and discuss other fibers later.

          If you have ever seen photos of nomads or shepherds in Kashmir or Mongolia with goats, you were probably seeing goats wearing some of the world’s finest cashmere fleece.  Cashmere is produced world-wide, especially in China, Australia, and now the U.S.    nodmadic goats

        

       All of these luxury fibers are gathered without hurting the animal.  Just as sheep are shorn or clipped, cashmere and mohair can be shorn or combed off.  In Mongolia, the goats also rub against fences or rocks and the shepherds collect the loosened fibers.      coming cashmere

 

        

       ‘Cashmere’ goats are not truly a breed of goat; rather, these goats have been collectively bred for many years because they produce high quantities of cashmere fleece.  Goats’ fleece is made of two layers.  The guard hair is the coarser long hair that covers the goat year round.  The downy undercoat hair is the gorgeous soft, delicate, and kinky hair that grows during the colder months of the year ancashmere goat fleeced is shed or combed out in the early spring.  Only the downy hair is used to produce yarn.    

          What makes cashmere fiber and yarns so special and expensive?  It is uniquely soft, light (more than 30% lighter than wool), and has excellent insulating ability (8 times warmer than wool).  Cashmere yarn and products are expensive because one goat annually produces only enough fiber for approximately one worsted-weight scarf or almost one third of a sweater!  Therefore, most yarn producers blend cashmere with merino wool, silk, angora, or other lovely fibers.

          What can I knit with cashmere?  Almost anything you want, especially something soft to wear next to your skin.  We sell lace, baby, worsted, chunky, and sock yarns with 5-100% cashmere and plenty of patterns.  For February, all cashmere and cashmere blend yarns will be 20% off (15 different yarns to choose from).

          For more information about these fun animals and their amazing fiber, stop by the shop for a unique learning experience.  Feel real cashmere fleece with the guard hair and the downy fleece, see fun photos, and luxuriate yourself with the yarns.  If you are unable to visit this month, be sure to read more and view the photos online.  

#1  Will this yarn pill? 

            Pilling is the small ball of fiber found on the surface of knitted fabric and is the result of friction or rubbing of the fabric.  All yarns have the potential to pill.  All yarns, whether made of wool, cotton, silk, or a synthetic, are made of small fibers spun together.  In the spinning process, the fibers tend to align and stick together based on how kinky and scaly they are.

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Compare various yarns and notice the tiny fibers that may be sticking out.  The final texture of the yarn is determined by the spinning process and depends on how long the fibers are, how tight the fibers are spun, how many strands are plied together, what kind of twist is given to the yarn, and which treatments (superwash, mercerized) it receives.   As the yarn is handled and the fabric gets rubbed together,  the loose fibers may separate out and roll together into pills.

If you love the yarn, knit it!  Pet it and think of it as still alive!  If it pills, carefully pull, cut, or shave off the pills.  

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Compare various yarns and notice the tiny fibers that may be sticking out.  The final texture of the yarn is determined by the spinning process and depends on how long the fibers are, how tight the fibers are spun, how many strands are plied together, what kind of twist is given to the yarn, and which treatments (superwash, mercerized) it receives.   As the yarn is handled and the fabric gets rubbed together,  the loose fibers may separate out and roll together into pills.

If you love the yarn, knit it!  Pet it and think of it as still alive!  If it pills, carefully pull, cut, or shave off the pills.  

                                                                                                

                                                                                   

Frequently Asked Questions: