Wool vs. cotton socks

Okay, it’s not really a fiber war, but events transpired to create an opportunity for comparison. I planned to knit a pair of socks for a friend, using the Harald pattern from Elsebeth Lavold’s Viking Patterns for Knitting. I had purchased yarn that I thought would look great – then got to thinking about the recipient. She’s always hot, I’m always cold (which made it interesting when we worked together in the same small office…) so I decided that maybe she’d prefer cotton to wool. I checked. She would. So I made the wool socks for myself while I was waiting for her cotton blend yarn to arrive. The pattern needed testing anyway, right? Then (some time later) I started on her pair, with minor modifications. I was very interested to see how the same pattern looked in two very different yarns.

Viking Socks 1

The sock on the left is KnitPicks Risata, 42% cotton, 39% Superwash merino, 13% polyamide, 6% elastic. I am currently finishing the second sock, but this one has been through the washer and dryer. (I usually machine wash the socks that can take it, and pop them in the dryer if I’m in a hurry. So far, I haven’t found machine drying to be a problem. I still give this treatment to a pair I knitted in 1999 and have been wearing ever since!) I wasn’t sure how the elastic in the yarn would feel or behave, but it was easy to work with. There were a couple of times, when I ripped out to correct a mistake, that I had to be a little careful to catch the whole strand in the reknitting process, but it was certainly not splitty. The elastic didn’t play tricks with the tension, either, which is what I was a little apprehensive about. When my friend tried on the finished sock the other day, she was absolutely delighted. She said, “It stays UP!!” I’d better hurry with #2!

The sock on the right is Patons Kroy 4-ply, 75% wool, 25% nylon. I have been wearing this pair a LOT in the past few months. I actually followed the pattern for the cuff; the modifications for the cotton blend socks were:

1) 2×2 ribbing at the top
2) an extra purl stitch between each of the vertical panels
3) three rows of seed stitch at the top and bottom of the cabled sections to blur the line of demarcation just a bit.

Also, I noticed when I was taking the pictures that the mirror-image panels are arranged differently on the second pair – that’s why you are seeing the side of the wool sock and the back of the cotton sock.  😉  But the pairs match!

Viking Socks 2

I really like this S-hitch cable pattern; it’s not difficult, but is very effective. It produces a deeply-sculptured look on in both fibers, but of course, the texture is different. The stitch definition in cotton is great, and is enhanced by the bit of shine. The stitch definition in wool isn’t bad, either, but the slightly fuzzy texture softens the look. I’ve decided that I like the wool ones best – but that may just be because they are warmer on my feet! I have to admit that I prefer the feel of the wool yarn as I’m knitting, but I bought the cotton blend yarn in a denim-y blue, too, and will definitely enjoy those socks. I will probably enjoy them more in May than in February, though.

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3 Responses to Wool vs. cotton socks

  1. Amy says:

    Wow – you are my hero and I don’t even knit ~

    • prairiespinner says:

      Well, thank you! So I have to wonder how you got here… perhaps there’s an inner knitter trying to break through?? 😉

  2. Pingback: Viking knitting | The Prairie Spinner

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