Today I’m working on sock blends, in large part to work my way through the pile of bombyx silk seconds that I wound up with from recent silk dyeing sessions. Basically, any time that a silk fails my quality control for being saleable as top, I put it on the blending pile — it’s still beautiful fiber, but not quite up to my standards for sale. Usually, this will be because I break a top while moving it; sometimes it gets too tangly in a dyebath; sometimes it weighs up a little short. Every now and then, there’s one where the dye doesn’t penetrate to the depth I expect it to, or the colour is just not quite right. So anyway, blending fodder.
As luck would have it, here as days grow shorter and bleaker, I seem to have already worked my way through the lion’s share of bright colours, and I’m left with the muted tones, and a whole lot of gray superwash merino, which is absolutely wonderful in its softness, but… you know, gray! So here I am with muted-colour silks and gray superwash that I’ve postponed far longer than I meant to. There won’t be a new round of really bright silks until I do another dye day, and that’s not going to be until my next shipment of bombyx silk arrives, sometime this week I expect. Of course, with Thanksgiving approaching, and family coming in to town, next week isn’t going to be a big work week for me.
Sock blends, though, are big fun. I find them very satisfying. To be a really good sock blend, the fiber needs to be very easy to spin fine, and absolutely next-to-skin soft. It needs to have some memory, so there’s some stretch and bounce, and it needs to be a long-wearing blend. Combining superwash wool, various silks, and a little bit of nylon absolutely does produce such a blend, and then it’s up to the spinner to spin the sock yarn he or she wants.
Perhaps the trickiest element with sock blends is coming up with something that it’s not just as easy for someone to buy in a millspun sock yarn. Especially in the past few years, the range of options for commercial sock yarns have really increased, and this is a constant challenge for me as a fiber producer. I tend to solve it by adding really luxurious fibers into my core recipe — a little angora, or some cashmere, maybe baby camel down — and sometimes man-made high-tech fibers that do really interesting things (like firestar nylon, which if done right can be both really startling and not too overpowering).