The down wools fascinate me. No one talks about them much. And yet, here are wools that are
1. relatively soft
3. extremely elastic
4. resistant to felting
Am I wrong, or isn't this just perfect for sock yarn? Sure, merino is softer, but that's about its only advantage over the down wools. And feet truly don't have enough nerve endings to appreciate the softness of merino, anyway. Hands have more. (Lips have more yet. That is why I always touch a yarn with a soft hand to my lips....sometimes it still feels soft, sometimes it doesn't.)
Well, I haven't actually made socks with any down wools yet. But I am on a mission to hunt out as many of these traditional sock fibers as I can, try them out, and let you know what I like best.
I am starting with some "British Suffolk" wool from Homestead Wool and Gift Farm.
Eight ounces of raw wool for $2.5o. Not bad! Easy to process. I am carding it and spinning from the rolags. It drafts easily, so spinning an even single is no problem, and I find myself tending toward a long draw. The singles are around 40 wpi. I chain-plied a sample, to give an idea of what the finished 3 ply would be like. Very elastic (downright sproingy!) , around 15 wpi. And soft to the hand (though not to the lips.)
I draw information from this post from the excellent book, In Sheep's Clothing, by the Fourniers. They state that down wools are not called downs because they are downy (not at all!) but because they originate in the down counties of England.