The Great Sock Rant of ‘09

Sharon August 19th, 2009

This was actually one of my first posts on the blog, ever.  Inspired by my desire to produce a pair of socks that are impressively elaborate enough and without any mistakes (I tend to be very lazy about mistakes I don’t notice immediately, unless they are egregiously annoying ;-) ) for the fair, I thought I’d re-run it while I focus on produce in need o’canning.  This was originally titled “The Great Sock Rant of ‘05″ so you can get a sense of how long it has been.

Ok, I’m going to violate a personal rule against over-generalizing by saying that everyone preparing for peak oil ought to know how to make socks. I mean everyone - that means gentlemen as well as ladies, the crafty and the uncrafty, rural and urban. Why? Because the one category of clothing that someone is bound to run out of sooner or later is socks - the simply wear out too fast. And they are totally essential - ask anyone who has ever walked 30 miles in boots without socks how the experience went. Or ask someone living in a cold climate who doesn’t have good socks how many toes he has left after working outside all day in -20 degrees.

Even if you live somewhere warm and your bare feet are as hard as diamonds, I’m going to suggest you know how to make socks anyhow - first of all, hard times make a lot of refugees, and none of us knows for sure where we’re going to end up. Second of all, it is a simple, useful skill that could make you some money with little outlay of cash. For the disabled, elderly, pregnant and those tied down by infants, sock knitting is an essential service that you can provide and be useful with. With practice, it can be done by the blind or in very low-light situations, making it possible to do useful work while sitting around and singing, talking, but without extra lighting. It is a lot of fun, almost everyone can do it, and it can be done almost anywhere. You need not have a farm, money, lots of free time, expensive tools or anything else to start.

Basic information - socks are made from yarn. You could sew fabric socks with cloth and elastic, but the quality is not as high as knitted or crocheted, and they wouldn’t stay up as well or wear well. Now where do you get yarn after peak oil? Well, first of all, you can store yarn for sock making. Socks can be knitted from any natural fiber, although wool, hemp and cotton make the most sense for most people - they are natural and breathable. Most sock yarn is pricey, and has some nylon in it to give it extra strength. If you have the money, you can buy that stuff, of course, but otherwise, you could easily buy any cheap wool, cotton or blend yarn and store a lot of it.  Or you could pick out yarn from old sweaters, wool socks, etc… 

Or, you can make your own yarn. Yarn can be made from a large range of animal fibers - urban dwellers without easy access to sheep, for example, might try using dog hair (although I’m told that it smells like wet dog when wet ;-P, or keeping a few angora or angora cross rabbits for meat and fiber). Neither angora nor dog will last as long as wool or cotton, but it is better than nothing, and both are tremendously warm. You also could buy roving or raw fleece from someone with sheep, or some raw cotton. You might find some to practice on at but probably would get the best deals buying direct from shepherds or small scale cotton growers. If you live in a warm climate and have a garden, you can grow cotton. If you live somewhere cold you can grow flax for linen. If you have land and inclination, you can have sheep or rabbits, alpacas or camels, yaks or llamas or some other fiber animal. You might want to stick with wool and cotton to start, though.

Yarn is made by spinning, and you do not need an expensive spinning wheel to make yarn. You can easily buy a drop spindle on ebay or at, or make one by following the instructions here  They can also be made with free AOL CDs.   Drop spindle spinning is considerably slower than wheel spinning, but much cheaper, the equipment fits easily in a pack or bug-out bag, and if all you are going to do is make socks, it probably isn’t worth buying a wheel. Instructions for using one are available here:  it takes practice, but it isn’t a terribly hard skill to learn.

Like all skills, it is best if someone shows you, but you can learn it fairly well from written instructions. If you do want to buy a spinning wheel, take a class or at least try a bunch of wheels. My personal recommendation is for a Kromski wheel - reasonably priced for a beginner, good enough for when you get better, and made entirely of wood and metal parts, so that it can easily be repaired or parts made after the peak (I have no connection to Kromski, other than owning and liking their stuff.) Lee Raven’s book Hands On Spinning is a really good place to start learning.

Once you have yarn, you need to know how to knit or crochet. It is impossible to learn how to knit socks without learning how to knit other things. First you’ve got to learn straight needles. Knitting is definitely one of those things best learned from another person, so take a class in adult ed or at a yarn shop, get a friend or family member to show you, or try trading visits at a local nursing home for knitting lessons. But if you must learn from written instructions, the best book I’ve found is Melanie Falick’s Kids Knitting - well worth the money or the interlibrary loan. The book is pitched to 8 year olds, but is great for uncoordinated adults like me who have trouble with visual instructions. It also has a very simple sock pattern, with no heel turning in it, not a terrible place to start. You could also try to learn from but I’ve not tried it, and I can’t promise anything.

The initial investment for knitting need not be large. In a pinch, you can make needles out wooden dowels, sharpened in a pencil sharpener. Otherwise, a good way to get a reasonable range of needle sizes is to buy a bunch from an estate sale or on ebay - large batches often go quite cheap. You could easily get away with one pair of straight needles, size 10 (for learning basic skills) and a couple of sets of double pointed needles, but more is better. You really can make them too. They come up cheap at yard sales too.

Socks are tubular, so they are knitted on double pointed needles, or on two circular needles. Here’s a link to instructions and a basic sock pattern for dpns  - most patterns are written for these. If you want to get fancier, Nancy Bush’s _Folk Socks_ has wonderful patterns and a wealth of information. The most useful book on doing it with two circulars (which requires a larger initial investment but is my preferred method and IMHO is faster) is the inanely titled (but useful) Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles_ by Cat Bordhi. There’s another book out there called _The Magic Loop_ (don’t know the author) about doing them on one really long circular as well, but I know nothing about this.

Crocheting is easier than knitting, although I find it more irritating as repetetive motions go since I have carpal, and IMHO, not as versatile for socks, but you certainly can make plenty of socks by crocheting. To crochet, you need a couple of hooks, which could be easily made by anyone with a modicum of woodworking skill, or which can be bought cheaply in bunches on ebay or at walmart. A good size range of aluminum hooks costs about $5. One advantage crocheting has over knitting is that the hooks are not tied up in the piece of work - you can have six pairs of socks going at once using the same two hooks.  Here are some basic crochet instructions:

The best book I’ve seen for beginners is Pauline Turner’s How to Crochet although it does not include a sock pattern. The best book on socks is Rehfeldt and Wood’s Crocheted Socks! Again, you really only need one basic pattern, and can probably find some easily on the web. But if you can, get someone to show you the tricks - it really is easier.  Here are many patterns for crocheted socks:

Felted boots can be easily made by knitting or crocheting a large sock and then felting it - felting is what happens when you accidentally throw a wool sweater in the dryer - it shrinks, the material becomes less permeable to water, thicker, warmer - all good things in footwear. I don’t know of a pattern for felted boots, but I more or less made up my own by knitting some really big socks on size 15 needles, and then felting them, and using laces (made of felted wool or leather) to tie them tight - it doesn’t really matter if they are a little big. Felting only works with wool or other animal fibers, which is why, unless you live in the tropics, wool is probably the most practical material for boot making - but if you live in the tropics, you probably don’t need snow boots anyhow, and can simply use the tire sandals. A good book on felting is Knit One, Felt Too , although I’ve forgotten the author’s name, but while it has some sock and slipper patterns, it doesn’t have a scandinavian style felted boot - but you can figure it out. Crocheting should work fine too, but I haven’t tried it.

Re:wool - lots of people think they are allergic to wool, and some genuinely are. But many are allergic to the chemicals used to strip the lanolin from wool, not the wool itself, and can use organic wool or handspun. If by allergic, you mean you find wool scratchy or itchy, you might try merino wool, which is very fine, and commonly worn next to the skin by babies. My mother, who has severe skin issues and thought she was allergic to wool can easily wear merino handspun. If you are allergic to wool, you might still try the felted boot idea, if you can get someone else to make it for you, since there is no reason you can’t wear socks of some other material between your skin and the boot.

One more thing about learning these skills - if you are the sort of person who wants to be instantly good at things, knitting, crocheting and spinning are somewhat frustrating.  You feel very incompetent at first, waggling these huge-seeming sticks, making mistakes, not sure how to fix them.  It is annoying.  But I promise you that if I can do it (I win international klutz awards) you can - there comes a point where it gets into your muscle memory, and all of a sudden, it all makes sense, and your body can do it without thought.  Getting to that point is annoying, but is worth the minor suffering.


40 Responses to “The Great Sock Rant of ‘09”

  1. EJon 19 Aug 2023 at 10:21 am

    Sharon- have you ever made and used your own socks? How long before they wear out?

    I have made many pairs, but now consider socks one of the the best articles to buy. The time to make/darn vs the time they hold up is poor. Perhaps I could have used finer knitting needles and better yarn. But I was already using good wool (would hate to consider cotton socks- how do you keep them from sagging).

    Sweater, hat and scarf knitting and sewing clothes at home may be a worthwhile enterprises. But I will leave socks to factories.

  2. Dianeon 19 Aug 2023 at 10:43 am

    I remember hearing that few (or no) sock factories remain in the United States so they could easily become difficult to find or expensive. In that case, knowing how to produce them could save your feet. I think a sock yarn is spun differently from regular wool, maybe more like a worsted, which would make it firmer and harder wearing. You can also carry a cotton thread with the wool when knitting the heel although I worry that might actually cut the wool. Gentle washing in tepid water also helps prolong their life.

  3. Laurie in MNon 19 Aug 2023 at 10:53 am

    Just wanted to tell you that I believe it was this post (that read when perusing your archives) that REALLY inspired me to learn how to knit. I’ve made the obligatory garter stitch scarf which I wore all last winter (rather expensive but totally gorgeous yarn — Noro Silk Garden, ’cause I fell in love with the blue/purple/green colorway) and am currently working on My Very First Sweater, which is half a sleeve and a collar away from being completed. Top down in the round construction, so no finishing seams. Fits like a sweatshirt, but will be lovely for keeping warm while I work at home this winter. (Sadly, custom sewing/alterations don’t require a lot of movement, so some days are REALLY chilly.) Anyway, your “sock rant” was the final blow to any resistance or reluctance to learn to knit I may have once had. Socks are on the list — just not there yet. I have mittens to make, since my hands get too cold for gloves to be practical for Minnesota winters.

    I am not by any means an expert (see above paragraph), but what I’ve read about handmade socks in various places sort of boils down to this:
    - nylon content is good. Period. I think many sock yarns are about 20% nylon/80% wool or other these days. The nylon content will extend the life of the wool by a LOT.
    - some sock yarns come with matching “reinforcing” thread, also high in the synthetic content.
    - some people recommend reinforcing the heel area (likeliest to wear out) right away, before even wearing the socks once.
    - darning is a good skill to have, and really not that hard. :)
    - you really do want *several* pairs of socks so that you can rotate them, and fix worn spots when they are small.

    Perhaps Sharon can elaborate on what I’ve written (sometime after the cucumbers are done) and let us *both* know the length of wear she has gotten from handmade socks. I’d be interested to hear that, too. In the meantime, I’d rather have the skill than not, just because of where I live. Cold feet are a *hazard* in Minnesota, even where I live.

  4. Sharonon 19 Aug 2023 at 11:13 am

    EJ, generally speaking, I think that timewise, socks are easier to buy - mine do wear out faster than machine made, and the darning time is time that can be spent otherwise. That said, however, in difficult enough times, I’ll still want socks. So this comes down for me, at least, to a “know how, even if you don’t make all your own now” thing. I do find that reinforcing the heel and toe upfront does help.

    The ones that hold up best for me are the truly thick, heavy duty wool socks - not the really light ones made on size 1 needles, but the chunky sort made on 4s or 5s. Since I wear boots a lot, or walk around barefoot in cold places, these are appropriate much of the year here, but wouldn’t be if you had to wear dress shoes or in a warmer climate.

    I find it isn’t that hard to make cotton socks stay up if you simply make the ribbing smaller than you would normally - I switch needle sizes. But I don’t dislike knitting cotton, although some people do. And I hate having my feet be hot - so cotton socks are necessary for summer hiking.


  5. Adrienneon 19 Aug 2023 at 11:59 am

    Another tip for durable hand knit socks- knit the yarn at a smaller gauge than it was meant to be knit. The tighter stitches are longer wearing.

    Sorry I can’t give a realistic wear-out time ’cause I usually wear my handknit socks with clogs/slip on Birkenstocks that don’t have a back to them so they’re not rubbing the heel. I’ve also made very many pairs (I love to knit socks), hoarded some yarn (not nearly as much as many) and learned to spin on a spindle- *finally* one area of post-oil prep that I don’t feel woefully underprepared for! ;)

  6. ctdaffodilon 19 Aug 2023 at 12:03 pm

    I make it a point to buy socks on clearance when ever I see them. My kids tend to get them sooo grimey that no amount of washing will get them white again. When that happens or the soles wear real thin - they are repurposed into house cleaning things.

    socks and underpants were something my mother always bought tons of when they were on sale - her mother before her was a sheets person.

    I’ve made socks from fleece - not that tough but they are really HOT

  7. deweyon 19 Aug 2023 at 12:07 pm

    Yikes, unless you are a super tight knitter (and then, how do you manage to produce so much?), size 4 or 5 needles sounds extreme!

    I kvetched about this post last time you put it up too. :) At the moment, it costs as much to buy sock yarn as to buy a decent pair of socks; to make anything knitting socks, you have to have people willing to spend more to get handmade, which is less likely in bad times. Given that I take over 100 hours to knit a bad pair of socks, imported socks could quadruple in price and still be a good deal for me. (Parts of the British Isles supported themselves in large part by exporting knitwear in the pre-industrial era; it was compact and high-value enough to be worth shipping even by sail.)

    Since then I finished another pair of 100-hour socks, which looked rather nice but were not shaped to fit any human foot. But I have discovered that in maybe 20 hours I can complete a pair of fingerless mitts that do mostly fit the intended wearer (if he’s around to measure repeatedly). For me, it makes sense to concentrate on things that take less time and turn out better than socks, which, aside from fancy pattern knits, are probably the most difficult thing you can choose to make.

  8. Hengruhon 19 Aug 2023 at 12:23 pm

    For cold winters, I make my own mukluks from whole sheephides (fleece side in) with the hair on and stitch-on latigo leather for the soles, rubbed with oil for water repelling, and the sole bottoms I put glue on and stamp it in gritty sand for traction. Inside, I wrap my feet bandage style like the Indians did with buckskin in whatever warm cloth is handy: flannel, fleece, old sweats, whatever works. Tied right, it works fine.

    Thing is, you gotta take care of your gear as a regular, daily thing. That’s what people did when they couldn’t afford much.

    Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without

  9. MEAon 19 Aug 2023 at 12:40 pm

    It’s often easier to reknit the heal that to darn it. You can do it on straight needls, usually.

    If you really can’t turn a heel, you can make tube socks or knit a flap and sew it into place.

    And you don’t have to buy specail wool, though it is nice to thread something stronger in with the wool for the heels and toes.

    I was going to express my disgust at people who take 100 hours to knit a sock and urge them to stop being to stupid and get with the progam, but then realized they will be very useful to trade my socks with (or the arcane secrets to sock knitting can be traded by my children for other arcane secrets), since I expect that among them will be people who can grow brussel sprouts, find studs, hammer nails quickly, ascend ladders to clean gutters without wanting to become air sick, etc.


  10. Mousmeon 19 Aug 2023 at 1:09 pm

    Hi Sharon!

    (This is Daphne from your AIP class, de-lurking for the first time in years).

    I have recently taken up knitting again, and so thank you for the kick in the pants to finally try my hand at socks. I have lots of friends who knit beautiful socks (and spin their own wool, and generally do lots of crafty things for which I have neither the time nor the skill), and have been meaning to get to it for a while. Learning how to knit socks is a Good Thing, and I am intrigued by all the techniques that let you knit two socks at once, thus avoiding Second Sock Syndrome. ;)

    I have never heard of a sock taking 100 hours to knit. It seems… kind of excessive. Mind you, I’ve never tried it before, so maybe it really does take that long.

  11. Jessicaon 19 Aug 2023 at 1:18 pm

    I’m a fairly competent knitter, and I was very excited to see this post. Finally a TEOTWAWKI skill that I’m good at! I really enjoy knitting socks, and they are a perfect multi-tasking item. I’ve read that in the eighteenth century an Icelandic servant girl was expected to be able to knit a long stocking (on tiny needles at a very fine gauge) per day, while completing any other necessary chores. In the British Isles, in areas that supported themselves by hand knitting socks, women turned out upto 6 pairs of stockings a week.

    I may certainly never reach that sort of speed, but I’m sure I could knit faster if I actually utilized all my idle moments.

    And for the slow knitters, it really does get easier and faster the more you do it!

  12. Jessicaon 19 Aug 2023 at 1:20 pm

    Shoot, I forgot to include a link on the “Afterthought heel” for socks. Good way to allow for the easy replacement of a heel once it gets too worn to repair well.

  13. deweyon 19 Aug 2023 at 4:13 pm

    I meant 100 hours for two socks. (It may be a little faster than that on a single long circular needle, which to me is much easier than four double-points.) I have knit three or four pairs of socks, and not one of them ended up fitting well enough to be worn in a shoe or boot, though one set does well enough in roomy slippers. Obviously, I do not have a lot of manual dexterity.

    If that makes me stupid and worthy of disgust, so be it. By coincidence, MEA, I was up on a ladder doing my gutters this morning before work, and if I should wind up as your neighbor after all commerce and money magically disappeared, I would be delighted to swap a year of gutter-cleaning for a good pair of socks. I wouldn’t even suggest that your inability to climb ladders is a character flaw and you should “get with the program.” One of the reasons that some degree of specialization is necessary to elevate our lifestyles above the most squalid subsistence level is that not everyone is OR COULD EVER BE good at everything. The attitude that your greater knack for a particular manual craft makes you morally superior is one I expect to see from the more rednecked doomers over at The Oil Drum.

  14. MEAon 19 Aug 2023 at 4:24 pm

    Wow — dewy

    You miss the whole tone, and I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings.

    What I was trying to say was that for some people, like me, knitting comes easily. There are lots of other thing I can’t do, and yet other people tell me that they are easy.

    And that rather than say (in any way,morally superior or other way) that not being able knit made someone stupid or dumb or whatever, it would give me a chance, later, to swap what I was good at for something I wasn’t good at. I’d be delighted to have someone who’d clean out my gutters in exchange for a pair of socks-at this point it would an amazing deal — for me, not the gutter cleaner. Even when all the sock factories vanish, it woudl still be a good deal for me.

    Frankly, I’m impressed that you made three or four tries at socks — that’s more than tries I’ve made a gutter cleaning — though not as many as I’ve made at growing bussel sprout (in my case, a truimph of hope over experience, nothing more).

    Again, I’m sorry that my attempt humor went to astray.


  15. MEAon 19 Aug 2023 at 4:25 pm

    Oh, and to top it off, I mispelled Dewey. Sorry about that, too.

  16. Debon 19 Aug 2023 at 4:47 pm

    Socks are only as difficult as you perceive them to be. I’ve been knitting socks for 40 years and by now, I dont use a pattern and barely have to think about it. That first pair of socks tho, which I still have, were really really really hard. I think I ripped the heel out 3 or 4 times before I got it right and the grafting utterly baffleed me/

    When I teach sock knitting, I start my students on worsted weight yarn and size 6 needles. The idea is to learn the process of how a sock is made. Then I advise them to go to a sport or DK weight before trying socks made on fingering weight yarn. Once you get the whole process down, it’s just variations on the same theme…..

    I’ve traded socks for all sorts of things from child care to riding lessons to wood carving for gifts. People think you perform magic making socks and you get something you need or want out of the deal.

    Deb in Wisconsin

  17. Debon 19 Aug 2023 at 4:50 pm

    Sometimes spelling and punctuation utterly bafflees me too/ ;o)

  18. Orchidon 19 Aug 2023 at 6:20 pm

    There is a pattern for felted boots in the book, “It Girl Knits” by Phoenix Bess, Random House. It makes something like the UGG boot & uses the Fiber Trend (I think) slipper sole. Fiber Trend also has a nice felted clog-style slipper that the yarn harlot had on her blog ( a while ago.
    BTW, some of my knitting friends just got back from the “Sock Summit,” and had a great time doing nothing but sock knitting. I was at coffeehouse stitch and bitch with them one night, and a woman walked in and said, “Wicca Meetup?” I replied, “Reclaiming public space for the traditionally female domestic arts.”
    I have knit socks with DK yarn & they do knit up a lot faster than sock yarn. I always do 2 at a time on 2 circulars, as I know I would have 2nd Sock Syndrome, and dpns are not my friend.

  19. suze_ozon 20 Aug 2023 at 4:21 am

    I have learned to knit socks. As I am in a warm area of Australia we don’t need as many warm clothes. The cost of knitting a pair of socks is outrageous here. So I am a sock hoarder too.

    I guess I am outrageously slow too. I could never knit a sock in a day. But I do generally knit my socks on 2 mm needles.

  20. knutty knitteron 20 Aug 2023 at 6:07 am

    I have knitted for 45 years and have finally been able to make a little income teaching children’s classes at the local Steiner School. The aim of the senior group is to knit their own socks but due to their lack of experience (most are ex state school because our school is rather new), I am aiming at bedsocks/slippers which they can wear in class. I think a few will get good enough to go further and certainly the younger classes will.

    It’s all good and pays for most of my son’s fees (he is in the senior class). It is also nice to be wanted after a lifetime of being generally useless employment wise.

    viv in nz

  21. Sharonon 20 Aug 2023 at 8:01 am

    I know MEA well enough, Dewey, to know that she was just trying to be funny and fell flat. I’m pretty sure my first pair took me 100 hours too. I’m impressed that you actually keep at it.

    When I say 4 or 5s, I should say that I’m talking heavy worsted yarn on size 4 needles - big yarn on small needles lasts longer than really fine yarn on really small needles - sorry, should have been clearer.

    Sock yarn is expensive, but all socks do not need to be made from pricey sock yarn ;-) .

    I’m really just impressed, Dewey, that you haven’t washed your hands of me entirely ;-) . Thanks.


  22. deweyon 20 Aug 2023 at 8:58 am

    MEA - Obviously, I overreacted, and I apologize. I wish you had put in a smiley face; to me, your message read that you were seriously looking down your nose at me because I can’t learn to knit properly. That is the attitude almost all of the survivalist types have, and I jumped to the conclusion that you were one of them. Sorry about that.

  23. Sarahon 20 Aug 2023 at 9:18 am

    Sigh. I really should learn to make socks. Maybe that’ll be my next project after the afghans for Afghans blanket. I can at least make some slippers for the winter, which I’ll actually wear. I really only crochet; knitting just never sticks. Actually I really only spin, which does at least give me the useful barter proposition of things like “I will give you eight ounces of handspun if you return four of them to me as socks”.

  24. Chris Newtonon 20 Aug 2023 at 11:04 am

    This is a very inspiring post …

    My kids are in 4H and we now have 7 sheep (3 that will be sold this fall and 4 that we will breed over the next two years).

    Last year I found out that after the sheep are sheared at the 4H shearing day (this is a club event and about twenty animals get sheared) the wool was going to the dump. There are no local processors left for sheep’s wool and the cost to ship it across the country to get it turned into yarn apparently defeats the cost savings of processing your own wool.

    Last year I took all of the wool from the club shearing day and composted it (I briefly described the experience at Sheep’s wool is high in nitrogen and I am reaping the benefits this fall (my garden is thriving). Wool is difficult but not impossible to compost … I layered it in hot compost piles with sheep’s manure and straw. We find occasional clumps of partially composted wool in the garden, but I figure that just gives me a slower release of good things!

    This year (after the club shearing day) I find that I am in possession of almost twice as much wool as last year. I just started my first compost pile yesterday and will probably make another one over the coming week. This will probably use up all of this year’s wool.

    Over the next couple of years I would love to take a stab at turning all of this wool into something beyond compost. The task seems daunting, but apparently it is possible!

    Maybe I’ll start with a pair of socks …


  25. Emilyon 20 Aug 2023 at 11:07 am

    This whole conversation has made me take a hard look at what I think “everyone should do.” What I realized is that I think everyone should do what *I* think is pretty easy…because I’ve forgotten how hard it was at the beginning!

    For me, growing food is pretty easy. So of course everyone should do it! What’s so hard about growing potatoes? Knitting socks, though…ye gods. I have tried and tried to knit, and after about two rows I want to jump up and run around the room screaming. I just can’t stand the fiddly, repetitive fine-motion work it requires. And spinning yarn? I’d rather stick the spindle through my foot. So of course knitting should NOT be on everyone’s “must-do” list! It’s sadistic!

    Both attitudes are silly. A moderate level of specialization and community-sufficiency are going to serve us much better than three hundred million attempts at self-sufficiency, anyway. Yes, with practice and more tension than you can believe, I could probably knit myself a pair of socks. But if someone in my household or neighborhood would rather stay inside and knit socks, I would be happy to trade them some of my potatoes or home-grown ginger for foot warmers!

  26. Apple Jack Creekon 20 Aug 2023 at 11:58 am

    Ah, sock knitting!

    I can, and have, knit socks. However, the ROI is just not quite there for me, as some others have mentioned, not to do it on a regular basis. I’m glad I can, and I certainly will do it again if the need arises, but in the meantime, we get absolutely fabulous wool socks from Custom Woolen Mills - it’s here in Alberta, so local(ish) for us, and I think it is amazingly awesome that the socks are done one pair at a time on a very old sock machine (now, if you own a sock machine in working order and can use it, come the end of the world, you will be the local hero, believe me!). I went on a tour of the mill, and the lady made a pair of socks while we watched, man, is it ever cool to see!

    Anyway, these are really, really great socks - last a long time: my husband, who goes through socks at a stunning rate, has yet to go through any of his CWM socks, which puts them at easily three or four times the durability of regular sport socks. So, if you’re looking to stock up while you learn to knit/find a knitting friend …

    Now, they also carry wool … so you could get a few skeins of real wool yarn added to the box, dig up a pair of DPNs, and try knitting some of your very own, too!

    And if all this talk of fibre has you dreaming of spinning, knittnig, weaving and so on … there is a huge community of fibre arts people out there just waiting to share their addiction … umm … I mean … useful skill … with other interested people! And if you have no desire at all to do it yourself, well, I figure it’s like pickup trucks: you don’t need to have a truck yourself, you just need a friend who has one! Just make friends with a knitter and keep them stocked up with tea/zucchini/eggs/clean gutters/whatever you are good at, and they will quite happily knit for you, I’m sure! We fibre nutcases are always looking for excuses … uhhhh … reasons … to knit. :)

  27. Sharonon 20 Aug 2023 at 11:59 am

    Emily, I was being sort of tongue in cheek about what everyone should do. On the other hand, just because you don’t like doing something doesn’t mean it isn’t useful to know how - maybe you won’t need to do it, but maybe you will - maybe someone around you will make socks, or maybe they won’t - or maybe they would, if someone (you?) could show them how. My claim is that everyone should *know how* to make socks, just like they should know how to fix broken things, grow food, bandage a wound, etc… You don’t have to be terrifically good at it, or like it - life is full of things you don’t enjoy that still need doing.


  28. jasonon 20 Aug 2023 at 12:13 pm

    In the list of fibers you can knit: bamboo. My wife is currently knitting with a bamboo/cotton blend. It is smooth and silky. It seems that bamboo is a magical plant-usable for almost anything and renewable. I understand it can be a heck of an invasive weed, though.

  29. ceceliaon 20 Aug 2023 at 12:33 pm

    I love any kind of needlework - embroidery, crewel, crochet and knitting. I annually crochet/knit sweaters, blankets, even jackets and longer length sweater coats. But socks do not seem worth the effort - I feel pretty sure that if I can stockpile yarn then I can stockpile socks too. But I now feel challenged to knit a pair of socks in less than 100 hours.

    I find the unbleached wool socks last longest - and if you do knit your own - avoid a harsh detergent which shortens the life of any wool. people will use those stain removers on dirty socks - this too shortens their useful life.

    As for spinning sheep’s wool - I visited a fabulous place in Northumberland UK where they raised a special breed of sheep to produce wool because you need a longer “hair” for spinning and strong wool. We watched the spinners and weavers - it was just wonderful. Since then I have wanted to try my hand at weaving and have on my list of things to get a small loom.

  30. MEAon 20 Aug 2023 at 12:54 pm

    Dewey, I’m glad we are back on the same page. I can’t do smilies, but I should remember my s.

    MEA, flat on her face, among the stunted brussel sprout, after falling off a ladder while trying to locate a stud, but still knitting like mad

  31. MEAon 20 Aug 2023 at 1:02 pm

    Chris, have you tried offering the fleece on freecycle?


  32. deweyon 20 Aug 2023 at 2:26 pm

    If you just type in the plain old emoticon, the website automatically replaces it with a smiley. :-) :-P

  33. Chris Newtonon 20 Aug 2023 at 2:48 pm

    > Chris, have you tried offering the fleece on freecycle?
    > MEA

    I have not. My wife does use freecycle regularly so it would be simple enough to offer it up.

    I am not sure what kind of interest there would be in this material … it is not a trivial exercise to turn it into usable yarn. Also, our club raises meat breeds that do not produce a ‘desirable’ wool.

    Besides … it is making a wonderful compost!


  34. MEAon 20 Aug 2023 at 3:18 pm

    dewey :)

    giviing it a try. Thanks

    Chris, I agree, good compost is black gold.


  35. Apple Jack Creekon 20 Aug 2023 at 3:21 pm

    Chris, if your 4-H club has anyone who does craft projects (sewing in particular), you could do an awesome fundraiser making doggie beds out of the wool. Wool is warm, handles the moisture well without going fusty, and the beds are easy to make. Just wash & dry the wool (instructions on my website, if you need some), then stuff into cases stitched from durable fabric (or feed sacks, for outside dogs like aging guardians), and voila! Doggie beds.

    Makes decent pillows for humans too, once it’s been well washed. :)

    The fleece from the meat breeds tends to be very springy and thus although not ideal for spinning is great for stuffing!

  36. Chris Newtonon 20 Aug 2023 at 6:51 pm

    Thanks for the information on stuffing options!

    This seems much easier than learning to make yarn.

    It is definitely something to look into.


  37. Apple Jack Creekon 21 Aug 2023 at 12:41 am

    Hey, come the end of the world as we know it, people will need pillows, too!

    (insert mental image of people sleeping happily under wool filled quilts, wearing wool socks to keep their feet toasty, with their heads resting on wool pillows)


  38. Apple Jack Creekon 21 Aug 2023 at 12:42 am

    … with their faithful canine companion sleeping on a wool-filled pallet on the floor beside the bed, of course!

  39. Debon 21 Aug 2023 at 4:51 am

    what kind of cotton do you knit into socks?

    I’m curious cuz the only cotton I can find is either so expensive that knitting socks from it is cost prohibitive or so rough I get blisters wearing it in shoes….

    Deb in Wisconsin

  40. limesarahon 24 Aug 2023 at 8:55 am

    Jason — bamboo is, unfortunately, not all that useful as a fiber plant in a more local future…bamboo fiber isn’t produced like flax or hemp; it’s actually a form of rayon. The bamboo is pulped with an assortment of fascinating chemicals that have dubious environmental impact, then drawn into fibers.

    But as a source of wood and tasty stir-fry ingredients, bamboo is indeed wonderful.

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