A skein of Noro Kureyon Sock yarn
Noro Kureyon Sock yarn
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Yarn Profile:
Noro Kureyon Sock

First Impressions
Noro Kureyon has a devoted following, primarily because of its extraordinary colorways. By feeding different colored fibers into the carding machine in succession, Noro obtains prepared fiber that—when spun into yarn—shifts very slowly and naturally from hue to hue without any of the abrupt color changes you can get when dyeing spun fiber.

Noro Kureyon is a worsted-weight yarn, which means that (until now) Kureyon fans had to choose other yarns when they wanted to knit finer socks or lace projects. The release of this fingering-weight Kureyon incarnation changes things.

If you'd told me you wanted to knit socks out of a fine single, I'd probably ask you what you've been smoking. A single-ply yarn is notoriously not the right choice for any project that will receive high wear and tear—of which socks are probably the most common. There simply isn't enough twist to keep the fibers together with abrasion.

Two things help Noro Kureyon Sock here. First, Noro reduced the wool content to 70% and substituted nylon for the remaining 30%. Nylon not only helps make this a better-wearing yarn, but it also adds a certain degree of elasticity to your fabric. And second, although this yarn appears to be a single ply, it's actually made of two very fine and nearly un-spun plies that are gently and almost invisibly twisted together. This helps strengthen the yarn and also balances the twist so that your finished fabric doesn't bias.

But the bigger issue is touch. The worsted-weight Kureyon has never been extremely soft, and this finer wool/nylon version doesn't have a come-hither feel either. Kureyon's "wow" factor comes from color alone, and I was curious if the fiber would live up to its end of the bargain.

Knitting Up
I said that nylon adds elasticity to your fabric because it most certainly didn't add any elasticity to the knitting experience. Right away I had problems just getting the yarn to grip my fingers so I could maintain an even tension. It didn't want to hug my fingers, but seemed to bounce off and do its own thing. I'd stop, grab the yarn, wrap it around my fingers again, and knit a few more stitches but then it bounced off again.

Meanwhile, the sharp tips on my Knit Picks needles were constantly snagging half of the yarn and leaving little loops of abandoned plies behind. In several cases, the yarn even split on my right needle after I'd formed a stitch with it. Lesson learned: Blunt-tipped needles work better.

The yarn varies considerably from thick to thin as you work through the skein. Even in the same brief section I encountered dramatic variations in thickness. In the tightly knitted fabric of my mini-sock, the yarn produced a decidedly earthy and homespun look, which I know many people love about Kureyon. If you want to knit socks and have any doubts, I'd recommend you err on the tight side so that those thinner spots don't produce thin spots in your socks.

The yarn's lack of elasticity got very frustrating when it came time to pick up stitches on the instep gusset. The yarn simply would not stay on the needle. I finally used a tiny crochet hook. But in terms of working more complicated stitches that require greater flexibility and manipulation, I recommend you swatch first to make sure you can do it. Lace on larger needles should pose no problem, but lace on sock needles might prove frustrating.

One thing to remember about Kureyon, of any weight, is that the colors visible on the skein are just part of the picture. For example, my sample mini-sock hardly looks like it came from the same skein pictured next to it, but it really did—I just used the yarn from the center end of the skein instead of the outside end.

Blocking / Washing
The interesting thing about this yarn—and something I've heard several other knitters mention—is that you immediately want to wash it. Not because it's dirty or smelly, but just because you have a sense that something is keeping it from being softer and more lively.

The yarn has been seriously subdued to keep all that unbalanced twist from kinking up on itself—but it still does, to a certain extent, as you knit with it. While there was a faint softening in the wash and a hint of a bloom, my swatches never lost their firm feeling.

My mini-sock and small lace sampler both washed and blocked nicely, but a loosely knit stockinette rectangle emerged from the wash with a visible right-tilting bias that required hefty blocking to rectify. If you really want to knit a loose stockinette-based pattern, consider going down a needle size to tighten up the fabric a little, or incorporating more knit and purl stitches in each row.

Note that although this is marketed as a sock yarn, it is not machine-washable. Some knitters have gone ahead and machine-washed and -dried their Kureyon socks, with decent results, but the risk is yours to take.

Wearing
As I mentioned before, this is not a capital-s Soft yarn. Its primary attraction is in its colors. If your experience of wool has been limited to Merino and other bouncy super-soft fibers, then you may be momentarily startled by the rough, flat feel of this yarn.

If you can get over the initial hump and start swatching, you'll see why so many people love Kureyon. Knitting with it is like lying on your back watching clouds pass by overhead—only instead of clouds, you're watching colors.

The key to sock longevity with this yarn is to knit your socks at the tightest gauge you can—not so tight that the socks stand up by themselves, but definitely tight enough to provide protection from the yarn's thinner areas and less-spun loose areas. It may be secretly made up of two "faux" plies and it may have nylon, but it should still be considered a somewhat delicate yarn. One tug easily pulls a strand apart.

And if you dutifully swatch but still can't get beyond the rugged feel of this yarn, just put it on the swap table at your next guild meeting. You'll make a Noro fan very happy.

Conclusion
Ask a dozen knitters what they think of this yarn and you'll probably get a dozen different opinions. For fans of Noro Kureyon, it opens up a whole new universe of knitting possibilities at finer gauges. It also presents a welcome change for avid sock knitters who have grown tired of the pre-printed, self-patterning sock yarns on the market.

And my opinion? I grew tired of trying to manage the yarn at the fine gauge required for well-wearing socks. Having knit shawls using the original bulkier Kureyon, however, I immediately wanted to switch to larger needles and work this yarn in a bold lace pattern. (One of Evelyn Clark's knitted lace triangles, for example.)

Normally you want to avoid lace in strongly multicolored yarns because the colors tend to overpower your stitches and conceal the patterning. But in the case of Kureyon Sock, the color progressions are so extremely slow that your stitch pattern has plenty of room to show itself within each color.

The one thing to watch out for, no matter what you're doing, is the ill-timed knot in your skein. Knots are often a factor in Kureyon, and they usually bring jarring color changes with them. If you spot them ahead of time, you can pull out more yarn from the skein until you reach a reasonably similar color to what you're currently working, and then rejoin the yarn there—but you may lose some valuable yardage in the process.

 

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