I have a great friend who knits socks. Today I washed my favorite special socks she made for me. She dyed the fleece, spun the yarn, and knitted them to fit me perfectly.
If you think you can buy socks that are that special at any five-and-dime store for pennies, you don’t have a clue about socks from scratch. Socks from scratch are better than your favorite pie and they take a serious investment of time. It’s easy to imagine making a pie or a meal from scratch, but few of us know all the time, expertise, and love (yes love) involved in making socks from scratch. It’s a GIANT gift and it’s the way all socks were made for generations.
And it’s not been just women’s work. Who fed the sheep and sheered them? Good socks are life and foot savers. Just ask any hiker.
You start with raising sheep, sheering, cleaning the wool, and preparing the wool for spinning.
Will you use the natural wool color or dye the fibers? If you decide to dye for the color you want, plan three days for processing that.
Spinning…. How thick will you make the yarn? Two-ply yarn wears well and some breeds of sheep have fleece that is better for socks than others.
How many days will it take to spin the 400 to 450 yards of yarn for socks? An experienced spinner can produce enough single ply for a yard of two-ply in about 4 minutes. I figure it takes 30+ hours to spin the singles. How many hours can you spin a day? Then plan on combining the two single plys. Then you soak and set the twist of your yarn and hang it to dry.
If you’d like to skip all that first part you can go buy prepared sock yarn at a store, but you still need to begin knitting. What size needles will work best for different-sized yarns? Will they fit the person?
You can knit one sock at a time? But they do need to end up being the same size!
Figure three weeks of pretty steady knitting … then a few days for blocking the finished socks..
So three days for fiber preparation, two days carding and pre-drafting the fleece, three days of dying, a week or two spinning, two to four weeks knitting and blocking. As much as 6 to 8 weeks of work is put into socks from scratch. Once you understand the time involved in making socks… you come to understand why folks used to darn them when they wore thin in places.
I wash my favorite socks by hand. A washing machine can render a man’s size 12 into baby-sized socks. Wool is hair, you can use shampoo and creme rinse on them. Dry them flat on a towel or use sock stretchers. I made sock stretchers from the plastic sides of an empty laundry soap tub. You can trace a sock that fits you perfectly and make your own.
Socks from scratch represent months of loving doing. When someone gives you a pair, please remember to send a thank you card. And don’t unwrap them saying, “oh, another pair of socks”.