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Single Skein of Sock Yarn dilemma ::: doubling and tripling yarns

December 9, 2013

IMG_5827If you have been a knitter and yarn connoisseur as long as Alexa and I have, you likely have a magnificent stash… which includes a good number of single skeins. You know the ones, those pretty skeins that beckoned to you from the shelf and you couldn’t pass them up, but didn’t really know what you would do with them.

Unfortunately, often those hand-dyed masterpieces are in lightweight yarn like sock or lace, and perhaps you are daunted by the thought of knitting yards and yards, and want a simple, quick, and satisfying project instead? This happens to me often, as I contemplate the mountain of single skeins of sock yarn that I have!

My favorite elegant solution is to double up that sock yarn, so that you can use the yarn for a worsted / aran weight project.  If held double, sock weight yarn translates to a worsted or aran weight gauge. How does this work you ask?

How does the math work?

One rule of thumb is to take the regular gauge of a yarn (eg. 7 sts / inch or 28 sts / 4″ for a sock weight) and multiply it by 70% (or 0.7).
7 sts per inch x 0.7 = 4.9 sts per inch
This will give you an approximate idea of the gauge you can achieve when doubling the yarn up.  So if you hold 2 sock-weight yarns together, you will be able to achieve a gauge of 4.5 to 5 sts / inch or 18-20 sts / 4″.  You should make a gauge swatch first to be certain that you like the tension / density / effect of the work of course.

How do you hold 2 yarns together?  

When I’m working from a single skein of yarn, it typically comes in a skein, so the first step is to wind it up into a centre-pull ball or cake, either by hand (see full tutorial here) or by using a ball-winder and swift.  Then I can pull one strand from the centre of the ball, and the other from the outside of the ball.

This is called a yarn 'cake' with an end coming from the center of the ball and an end coming from the outside

This is called a yarn ‘cake’ with an end coming from the center of the ball and an end coming from the outside

I simply hold these 2 strands together as if they were a single strand of yarn, and work the project normally.  You can see how on the needles, the two strands of yarn are snug up together, so it is quite clear that you will work them as a single strand.

IMG_5823

If you were to knit holding 3 strands of yarn together, you would achieve an even thicker gauge, perhaps 3.5 to 4 stitches per inch.  I don’t know a rule-of-thumb multiplier for tripling yarns, but it would be simple to make a gauge swatch and see how it turned out!

The Antler Hat – an example.

I was fondling a skein of beautiful SweetGeorgia Merino Silk Fine that I had squirrelled away, and debating what to make!  I didn’t want to cast on a large project, so I decided to double it up, and made a baby version of the Antler hat (a free pattern).  I got started, and as you can see, the smooth, lustrous, and ultra soft fabric which is resulting is making me VERY happy indeed!  This will probably be one of the most luxurious baby hats every created!

Antler Hat in SweetGeorgia Merino Silk Fine held doubled.

Antler Hat in SweetGeorgia Merino Silk Fine held doubled.

Designs that use doubling: Tofino Surfer hat uses 2 strands of DK weight yarn held together to achieve a bulky gauge and the Sea to Sky baby blanket uses a semi-solid with a variegated skein held together for a tweedy, colour-shifting effect. So go hit up your stash for a lonely skein of sock yarn, double it up and get knitting!

More TCK patterns perfect for 2 strands of sock yarn:

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Andrea permalink
    August 14, 2017 10:52 am

    Is there a tip to prevent the yarns from twisting?

    • August 14, 2017 2:40 pm

      Hi Andrea – I think the twisting depends a bit on your knitting style, some styles will cause the yarns to twist more or less. If you are working from 2 balls you can just hold them in the air and let your knitting spin and un-twist.

  2. Jacqueline conkling permalink
    February 17, 2017 6:11 pm

    This is so helpful. Thank you very much for this information.

  3. February 7, 2017 10:21 am

    “One rule of thumb is to take the regular gauge of a yarn (eg. 7 sts / inch or 28 sts / 4″ for a sock weight) and multiply it by 70% (or 0.7).”

    “I don’t know a rule-of-thumb multiplier for tripling yarns, but it would be simple to make a gauge swatch and see how it turned out!”

    This rule of thumb can be generalized to any number of strands of yarn. You can divide the gauge by the square root of the number of strands. As it happens, multiplying by 0.7 is the same as dividing by the square root of 2 (about 1.4). Similarly, if you’re knitting with 3 strands, you can divide your gauge by 1.73 (or multiply it by 0.58. Hope that helps!

  4. Kim permalink
    January 7, 2016 10:37 am

    Thanks so much for this! Just what I needed :)

  5. December 21, 2013 11:14 am

    I mostly knit with 4ply and tend not to knit with heavier yarns very often, but that’s a really useful rule of thumb to know.

  6. December 10, 2013 9:08 am

    Soo helpful to read about The Rule of Thumb. I have so many skeins of hand dyed sock yarn but there are only so many pairs of socks one can knit (or wear!)

  7. December 10, 2013 9:05 am

    Bellissimo il tuo cappello! Paola – Italy

  8. December 10, 2013 7:33 am

    I never knew about that rule of thumb for doubled gauge, super helpful!

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