I've knit over 20 pairs of socks with several different brands of yarn over the past few years, so I thought it would be fun to do a mini-review of some of my favorite/least favorite yarns.
Of those pairs, here are the ones that have stayed with me:
Sock family in chronological order: Sheepjes (2), Opal, Meilenweit cotton (2), Trekking XXL, Casbah Sock
Over time the length of my sock legs has shortened; when I first started knitting I would follow the pattern to a T, which called for an 8-inch leg, and a toe grafted over 11 stitches. I now do a much shorter leg for myself, and always graft the toe over 34-36 stitches to give it a more rounded look.
Of the socks that I've kept, they've all worn pretty well, with the exception of the two pairs that aren't in the picture. Those two pairs were 100% merino with no nylon content, and the only two I've had that have bit the dust. One pair was done in Artyarns Ultramerino: not only did the yarn pool like crazy, but the socks only lasted a few months before getting gigantic holes in the heels. The other pair was done in Koigu KPPPM, and met their untimely (and accidental) demise in the dryer.
The only other pair of socks that I've knit and heard of wearing out were done in Trekking Pro Natura... and that happened after only a few months of wear.
Some other yarns I've used:
Paton's Kroy Sock: I used this for the first ever pair of socks I knit, and for one subsequent pair, but will never use it again. It splits like crazy and doesn't have as nice a feel as other yarns.
Scheepjes Invicta Coloris: Again, I used this yarn in my early sock knitting days. It pills somewhat, but 4-5 years later my pairs show no signs of serious wear.
Opal Rainforest: I've knit two pairs from this. It's a rougher-feeling yarn, and the colors aren't that saturated. The yarn softened somewhat with washing and has pilled considerably, but has otherwise worn well. These are my itchiest socks.
Lana Grossa Meilenweit cotton blends: this yarn (and the socks) definitely have a different feel than the wools, but win the award for zero pilling. I've thrown these in the washer and dryer multiple times, and they look brand new. I find they don't stretch as much as wool socks, but are nice for warmer weather.
Trekking XXL: This is, hands down, my favorite yarn (in the non-handpaint category). I've knit 3 pairs with this, and all turned out beautifully. I love the subtle color variation! The pair I've kept have become my favorites, and after much wear they haven't pilled, but developed a cozy halo of fuzz. It's also low-itch compared to the others. Love.
Handmaiden Casbah Sock: I loved knitting with this and the socks feel like a dream. As for wear, we'll have to wait and see - it's a merino/cashmere blend with 10% nylon, so I'm hopeful!
Dream in Color Smooshy: I've knit two pairs with this, and both were given away so I can't comment on wear. Considering that both pairs went to people I know will wear them a lot, I'm a bit nervous about the 100% wool content (I'm 0 for 2 in past experience!). I thought maybe this yarn felt a bit coarse compared to some others, but it grew on me over time. I do love the short color repeat that virtually eliminates pooling while still looking handpainted.
Lorna's Laces Sock: this yarn had a noticeable sheen to it, and felt finer than some other sock yarns. The color pooling was a big turnoff however, so if I did use it again I'd go for a solid.
Regia Sock: I gave this pair away, but found the yarn soft and nice to work with. It also had a bit of a finer gauge.
Apple Laine yarns: this yarn comes from a Canadian company, and is a combination of merino, mohair, silk, and nylon. I was excited to try it out but really didn't enjoy knitting with it, as it split and felt quite thick. The finished product was fine, however.
Austermann Step: My dad chose this out of my sock yarn stash a few years ago. He's really hard on the socks I make him, and these have worn quite well. The other day I caught him proudly wearing them (inside out) inside his sports sandals... The yarn has built-in jojoba oil and aloe... which you can definitely feel while knitting.
That's all I can think of for now... next on my list to try is Cherry Tree Hill Supersock. So, in sum, the 100% merino yarns I've used haven't fared as well in terms of wear, although to be fair I've only started knitting frequently with the handpainted yarns in the past year or so. The Pro Natura (which is a bamboo-wool blend with no nylon) wore out, and rather quickly at that. All of the nylon blends have worn very well, although they pill for the most part with the exception of the cotton blends and Trekking XXL. I'm curious to see how the Dream in Color will wear in the long run!
Looking at the upcoming semester, I have the feeling that there will be much sock knitting to come.