I've been keeping an exciting little behind-the-scenes secret from all of you that I'm ready to talk about today! Hold onto your hats. Are you ready?! Here goes . . .
I'm planning on adding a new sock yarn to my line! Now, before anyone gets concerned, rest assured that my current sock yarn is not going anywhere. I know some of you like to hear occasional bits of "knitty" gritty details that go on behind the curtain, so I'll let you in on a bit of my thinking about this and also ask for your two cents (see poll to the right, but be sure to read the details here first or scroll down to the middle of the post for the summary info on each yarn).
First of all, a bit about my current Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn. When I selected this yarn for my line, it was with a very specific goal in mind. I actually wanted to appeal to a segment of the knitting population rather than to the broadest group possible. This is somewhat contradictory to what most indie yarn sellers do, but it made business sense to me. My thinking was that it made more sense to fill an underserved niche than to appeal to as many people as possible. I didn't want to have just another sock yarn that was the same as all of the others.
I chose my current Superwash Merino Wool Sock Yarn specifically because it was a very lightweight, 2-ply sock yarn. The average sock yarn is a bit thicker. Although many knitters prefer a weightier sock yarn, both for the quicker-knit appeal as well as long-term durability, there are also many who prefer lightweight sock yarns. The fine gauge gives a wonderful canvas for complex stitchwork and the finished sock is also a "real" sock. Some heavier sock yarns yield a sock that doesn't fit well into tighter fitting shoes. I know this was a pet peeve of mine several years ago. Back when BMFA first started out, they had only one weight of sock yarn. I knit quite a number of pairs of socks with it and every single one ended up relegated to bedwear only because they were simply too thick to wear with any of my shoes. (This has long since been rectified with BMFA's range of sock yarns now.)
Anyhow, that's a bit of the story of the original sock yarn. It's worked out very well. I have a loyal following of fans of my sock yarn. There are also quite a number of indie dyers out there now who carry lighter weight sock yarns, so I think I was on the mark when I judged a couple of years ago that there was a need for more of these options.
Now, with my business two years old and going strong, it's about time for me to expand the options to a more universally appealing sock yarn. I've been on the hunt for a perfect yarn.
This yarn hunt is more challenging than one might imagine. There are so many things to consider that go well beyond the yarn itself. Of course, the yarn needs to fit the bill in terms of quality, weight, durability, softness, stitch definition, etc. But there are other considerations also. Price, of course, is one. (I'm OK with having a higher-priced sock yarn if needed, but there needs to be a reason. In my review these past few months, I've seen way too many sock yarns that are very nice merino, but nothing better or more "special" than what I carry now, but carrying a ridiculous price tag. This is not okay with me. A higher price is fine, but it still needs to be a good value in terms of what you actually get for the money.) Another consideration is the supplier. Can they deliver the goods on a consistent basis without frequent backorders and delays? Is the quality of the product consistent from the mill? You'd be amazed at some of the things I've learned in this process. One base yarn in particular that is widely known and loved yielded some interesting info. This particular yarn (which shall remain nameless) is a lovely quality yarn, although I always thought it was overpriced by indie dyers. I learned why. The quality of the end product is great, but the consistency from the supplier is not. Every batch, it seems, has several pounds that are full of knots or bad patches and end up in the waste pile. The time it takes for quality control with this yarn plus the cost of waste ends up driving the price up. Again, this is not acceptable to me. I'm OK charging a bit more if my customers are *getting* more for that price. I'm not OK with charging more because of supplier inconsistency.
Alright. Are you bored to death now? Let me get on with it and ask for your input. I've narrowed it down to three options, each with their own pros and cons. I do have a bit more research on the supplier issues and also some price negotation to make my final decision, but I'd love to hear from you about your preferences. I can't promise I'll go with your favorite, as there are so many factors that are important, but your voices do matter!
So here's the rundown, in no particular order:
OPTION ONE - Superwash Merino: This is a 100% superwash merino wool that is quite similar in terms of the actual fiber to the one I carry today. The distinction is that it is more tightly plied, which means the yarn is thicker. It knits comfortably on a size 2 needle (perhaps a 1 if you have a loose hand).
Pros of the superwash merino:
- In a sense, it's a known-quantity. If you like my current superwash sock yarn, this is just a nice alternative that will knit up quicker and have a bit more durability.
- The price is right. I can likely bring this yarn to you at the same price as my current sock yarns.
- The supply chain is solid. It comes from a supplier I've worked with and know that I can rely on for a steady supply of quality product.
Cons of the superwash merino:
- It's just not all that different. This isn't necessarily a con really, but I am of the mind that it would be nice to have something with a different fiber content and more differentiation.
- The tighter ply on this yarn may be just a bit too tight in my opinion. It's not a big problem, but it is really tightly spun and can occasionally have the tendency to want to coil in on itself while you're knitting.
OPTION TWO - Merino/Tencel: This is a 50/50 blend of merino and tencel. It's got a nice, firm ply but not so firm as to be overly "twisty." It will knit nicely on #2 needles.
Pros of the merino/tencel:
- It's just a flat-out nice yarn. If you've never worked with a quality merino/tencel blend before, it really is a nice yarn to work with. I went on a binge with the stuff a few years ago and made quite few projects, including two sweaters and a huge shawl.
- The yarn will yield a strong fabric when knit at a tight gauge and will have a lovely drape when knit at a slightly looser gauge. It also has a nice sheen to it. Overall, this makes it a versatile option for uses beyond socks. (Of course, all sock yarns can be quite versatile, but I think the sheen and drape make this option a little more of a standout for versatility.)
Cons of the merino/tencel:
- Price might be an issue. The base price is a bit higher, although not hugely so. My biggest concern is actually one that is behind-the-scenes and that is how the yarn is put up. If I have to buy it in cones and break it down into skeins, that will drive the labor up substantially and thus the cost. I'm accustomed to paying a bit of a premium to have my base yarns put up in the skein sizes I want, but this may not be a possibility or may be too costly with this supplier. Time will tell. If I go with this yarn, I would like to bring it to you at no more than $2 or $3 dollars more than my current sock yarn. Although this is still a solid price compared to some, it is still a higher price and that is always a con.
- Supplier uncertainty. Again, this is just a behind-the-scenes matter, but the supplier is new to me. I've done my homework and everything checks out very favorably, but there's always a degree of risk with a new supplier.
OPTION THREE - Merino/Nylon: This is a 75% wool and 25% nylon sock yarn that knits up on a #2 needle.
- I know many folks prefer the nylon content in a sock yarn, as it does improve durability and long-term wear.
- I can bring this to you at the same price as my current sock yarns.
- I'm not sure there really are any cons necessarily, but for me personally, I just don't care for the merino/nylon blends all that much. This is entirely a personal matter though and I'm open to considering this. I've looked at quite a number of different merino/nylon blends and the one I've selected as my top choice is pretty nice. It's just not so soft and luxurious as what I prefer in a yarn. It's more of a "workhorse" yarn in my view. I don't see this as a particularly versatile yarn. In my view, it's a sock yarn. Period.
And so there you have it. Care to share your two cents? Use the poll in the upper right to provide an answer. Comments are also very much appreciated!