These are sock blockers. Antique sock blockers. See how long they are? That’s because they were used for blocking hand knit hose – like kilt hose, or women’s stockings. Sheri from the The Loopy Ewe owns this particular pair, along with singles of several others. Why would someone sell one of a thing meant to go as a pair??? Would you sell one bookend?
I need some antique sock blockers; when you spin your own yarn it becomes quite clear exactly how important sock blockers are to maintaining the fit of your socks. Superwash yarn might be great for the washer and dryer, but it’s hell on the environment — the process of removing all the microscopic scales on the outer surface of the wool is so toxic that the superwash process is illegal in the U.S. and countries like Turkey get to bear the brunt of our obsession with being able to wash and dry everything by machine.
Ironically you can buy superwash roving to spin. I do have some, I was talked into it by someone who pointed out that when making baby things, it is better for mom to be able to just throw it in the washer rather than go through the hassle of hand washing and drying flat. I still have most of this roving. It’s not very nice to spin; it gives a product that is not elastic, just as superwash yarn isn’t very elastic. That’s because the scales are part of the structure of the wool; removing the scales also damages the fiber, making it straight, and removing the natural bounce of the fiber. Nylon gets added to the mix in order to make up for the loss of strength and bounce, both of which resist abrasion in the wool’s natural form.
When I spin yarn for socks, I add mohair rather than nylon. It gives me the qualities I want for a sock yarn – high strength, resistance to abrasion. The wool can be used alone, but it’s hardier for socks if you add the mohair. It’s nature’s nylon. And when I spin for socks, I spin a much tighter single, both because it needs to be for socks in order to maximize abrasion resistance, but also because I’m going to ply it into a 3 ply and it needs some overtwist to maintain that tight structure for socks. The three plies make for a more rounded yarn, which also helps resist abrasion; a two ply lies flat and therefore is more likely to wear at one spot, it can’t move as well.
Because using mohair and NON superwash wool to spin yarn for socks makes them bouncy and elastic, the socks require blocking/stretching after being washed. The yarn retains a lot of elasticity inherent in the fiber, and wants to curl up tightly after washing. The blockers allow them to conform to a shape that prevents them from shrinking down too much while drying and maintains the spaces where you really need them – the heel, the arch, and the length in the toes. I cannot STAND socks that are too small; I prefer snug fit all around, but I want room for my toes! Plus, socks that are baggy will wear more quickly than those that are snug. More abrasion in more areas.
Anyway, the reason I started this post was to bemoan the lack of availability of sock blockers like those of old. You can buy new sock blockers, even “knee high” blockers, but they aren’t really long enough for true knee highs, and especially not long enough for kilt hose or women’s stockings. And it’s unbelievably difficult to find antique blockers that 1. are in a pair and 2. are less than $100 for ONE. I do have a pair that were advertised as being for knee high socks, and I use them all the time, but they aren’t nearly long enough. I really, really, really want blockers that are actually long enough to block hand made kilt hose and stockings.
I can’t be the only one that wants this stuff.