Swaledale sea socks – a maritime yarn

This is the first sock I have made in which sound was an influence, and I think it may well be my very favourite sock.

Last year when I was staying in Sussex, Kate and I took a walk on the beach and I found myself comparing the gorgeously light crunch of the seashells and sand underfoot with the delicious crispness of some Swaledale yarn I had acquired from Prick Your Finger. Excitedly listening to the amplified sound of shells and sand through my Edirol and thrusting my headphones upon poor Kate insisting that she too participate in the sonic rapture, I began wondering how this white, sandy yarn could be used – both visually and with its touch – to evoke my whole sense of that place.

Now I know that crispiness is not ordinarily a quality one desires in a yarn, but the distinctive, delicate, sheeply scrunch of my DK Swaledale from Prick Your Finger struck me as being special, and as soon as I heard/touched it, I set about trying to find a way of bringing out its excellent, tactile qualities. The texture of this yarn is very similar, I feel, to that of a sandy beach. The initial touch is soft and pleasurable, but on further handling you realise you are touching something elemental, strong and enduring. I believe this yarn is worsted spun as it is heavier and smoother than one would expect from the wool of one of the country’s hardiest sheep breeds, and the exacting way it has been spun by at Diamond Fibres has lent the yarn a strength and density that make it ideal for walking wear. The more I walk in my woollen socks, the more I desire the sense of sturdy fibres underfoot and the more I want a firm fabric that – while cushioning my feet against the inside of my boots – will not be worn through after a few wearings.

At first I experimented with recreating the textures of the beach at Dymchurch using stitch-patterns.

…but I was unsatisfied with the resulting fabric, and how it somehow made this fine, straight yarn appear thin and curly, and how it failed to showcase the delicious variations of creams and whites within the fibres. After buying some blue Organic Cornish Wool to make the lettering inside Mark’s sweater, I realised that perhaps the best way to emphasise these creams and whites, was through contrast.

This photo doesn’t quite do justice to the incredibly rich blue of the Organic Cornish Wool placed beside the Swaledale, but hopefully you can see the wonderful hairiness of the Swaledale beside this much darker shade, and how the semi-solid blues echo the mix of whites that comprise the Swaledale. I adore these yarns together, and with the floats on the back, the resultant fabric is incredibly warm and strong.

To inform my design, I read Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts’ book, Simple Socks; Plain and Fancy, which offers several ideas and forumlas for designing socks using short-rows at both heels and toes. This method allows for heels and toes to be replaced with greater ease than in other methods of construction, and this – along with the sturdy fabric created by two-handed colourwork – seems an infinitely practical choice for the development of a hard-wearing sock, for walking.

Because this sock reminds me of a crunchy beach walk with Kate and because I now associate the i-cord bind-off entirely with her, I decided to finish my sock off like this.

I love it and can’t wait to finish the second sock, so that I may thrust my feet inside my boots and go off in search of further sonic inspiration…

Sock #1 ravelled here.

12 Responses to Swaledale sea socks – a maritime yarn

  1. Pingback: The Domestic Soundscape » Blog Archive » Audible Fields

  2. Pingback: The Domestic Soundscape » Blog Archive » Site specific socks

  3. Pingback: The Domestic Soundscape » Blog Archive » FO: Swaledale Socks #2

  4. Pingback: The Domestic Soundscape » Archive » Knitted seas.

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