Monday, April 18, 2011

{The Great Sock Wash Experiment}

These are almost every pair of socks that I have knit (and kept) to date.  Yesterday I decided to wash them all at once, more for convenience than any master plan.  Afterward,  I noticed how differently each pair of socks handled the process and a light went on in my head!  I should document this for SCIENCE!  

The Great Sock Wash Experiment

Method:  All socks went in to one load of laundry in my washing machine along with a little bit of detergent.  The wash was set to the gentle cycle in cold water along with some other cottons.  After, they were all laid flat until dry.

Observations:  I am going to base my observations on the feel (content) of the yarn and try to rate each pair on a scale of 1-10 for how much they felted, pilled, bled, fuzzed or otherwise lost stitch definition, with 10 being absolutely no damage from washing.  All socks were originally knit on a US size 1 needle.

Socks #1: Vanilla Sock Pattern  out of Sock It To Me, 75% Wool, 25% Nylon (discontinued)


Construction:  Toe-up stockinette sock with short row heel and toe and a small amount of ribbed at the ankle.
Hand before washing: a sturdy yarn that, while not scratchy, isn't very soft either.  The yarn has little give.
Hand After Washing: slightly softer.  Almost no pilling, only a slight amount of fuzz.
Grade: 9 out of 10

Sock #2:  Sprucy Lucy knit from Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock Multi , 80% Wool, 20% Nylon

Construction: Toe-up with a heel with a heel flap, extensive lace and some ribbing at the top.
Hand Before Washing:  wonderfully soft hand.  This yarn is a joy to knit with.
Hand After Washing: still very soft, but with quite a lot of felting on the heel flap and toe.  Lace pattern seems to have survived very well.
Grade: 5 out of 10 - you can definitely tell they were washed improperly.

Sock #3: Stockinette Toe-up sock, knit in Gaia's Colours Umaj Sock, 70& Merino, 20% Bamboo, 10% Nylon (discontinued)

Construction:  Knit with two strands held together with this wonderfully soft yarn, Short row heel and toe, twisted rib at the top.
Hand Before Washing:  very soft and the fabric has a very sturdy feel.
Hand After Washing: exactly the same!  perhaps a tad softer, no stitch definition lost.
Grade: 10 out of 10

Sock #4: Mock Cable Sock knit from Pagewood Farms  Yukon, 70% merino, 20% bamboo, 10% nylon

Construction: Toe-up construction with short row toe and slipped-stitch heel flap.  All over rib with a cable every 4th row only on the knit stitches.
Hand Before Washing: Super Duper soft, maybe the softest of all the yarns I've used.  Maybe a little bit of a halo.
Hand After Washing:  some extra fuzziness and some stitch definition lost, especially on the heel.
Grade:7 out of 10.

Sock #5:  Hermoine's Everyday Socks knit in Knit Picks Stroll Tonal75% Superwash Merino Wool, 25% Nylon

 Construction:  Toe-up with a slipped-stitch heel, an all over offset knit-purl pattern and some ribbing at the top and on the sole of the feet for a better fit.
Hand Before Washing:  Stroll has a very hearty hand when you're knitting with it, but it's not uncomfortable.  Not as hard as the Sock-It-to-Me, but not super soft. It's very comfortable to wear.
Hand After Washing:  softened up a tad, a little bit of felting on the heel but fuzzing otherwise.
Grade: 8 out of 10

Sock #6:  Glynis in DROPS Fabel,  75% Wool, 25% Nylon

Construction: Top down, all over lace pattern, with ribbing at the top and a slipped stitch heel. Double decreases at the toes.
Hand Before Washing:  fabel is a very stiff almost scratchy yarn but I found it comfortable to wear.  The lace pattern was consequently easily seen because of this.
Hand After Washing: excellent performance in the washing machine, almost no fuzz or felting, slight loss of stitch definition in the heel.
 Grade: 9 out of 10.

Sock #7:  Cable Socks out of Zen Yarn Garden ART WALK Sock, Bamboo, Plant fiber, Nylon, Merino (no percentages given on the website or Ravelry).

Construction:  Toe up, 3x2 cable based on the Mock Cabled Sock pattern from Wendy Johnson, just without a cable. 
Hand Before Washing: not the softest ever, but pretty soft! Great to work with.
Hand After Washing:  these have been washed many times and still look great!  have gotten softer over time.
Grade:10 out of 10.

Over all Conclusions: It seems like the fibers that aren't as soft wash up better, no matter if they're super wash, with or without nylon.  Also, the socks knit at a much tighter gauge (the pink ones) survived the best of all.  I wonder why the slip stitch heel flap has, over all, worn worse than a short row heel?  Could it be a coincidence because of the yarns I used in each case?

 As far as bleeding, I didn't notice any colour in the water and didn't notice any loss of colour in any of the socks.  I don't think I had any problem with bleeding in any of the yarns.

Do you have anything to add to this experiment?  I'd love to hear about your experiences with washing socks and how your yarns have held up!  I want to be able to find my absolute favorite sock yarns.  The ones that are a joy to knit with, wear well, feel fantastic and don't cost very much!


  1. I've found that Cherry Tree Hill knits and washes well. Colors don't fade and there's minimal felting. Then again, I tend to wash my hand knit socks by hand.

  2. Great experiment! Maybe you should apply for a grant for research... :)
    Lovely socks!

  3. You should really think about some kind of Ravelry group or blog 'event' around this. I found it so interesting and would say Zauberball? Not good for socks....

  4. This is a very interesting post! I am definitely going to look at some of the yarns in your post the next time I have to buy sock yarn! I'm encouraged by what Vanessa says about Cherry Tree Hill yarn. I love their yarn and just made my first project with it about two days ago. DBNY always has sales on their sock yarn. One day I will have to take advantage and get some!

  5. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  6. I LOVE this kind of stuff. Experiments are everywhere! Good to hear that a lot of the yarns held up when you tested their mettle.