Winter walking, plus “I made ’em so you don’t have to”–acrylic socks

Although yesterday and today are warmer, it’s been pretty cold around here lately. On Tuesday, the high was 21 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 C). Compared to other places I’ve lived (like the Midwest and New England), this is balmy, but I’ve been here for enough years that I’ve lost some perspective. (I used to wait for the school bus in -30 degrees F / -34 degrees C, so I do have some experience with moderate cold.)

Then again, I had a fine pair of boots when I lived in places that got colder than it does here, or at least I did after I was living in Iowa. I wore them until they fell apart and still miss them. For one trip to New England before I moved there, my sister loaned me her fake-fur
coat, which my mother had made (my mother did tailoring). It was
three-quarter length, had a wonderful lining and interlining, and was
exquisitely warm, even though it was made of synthetic fiber. Once I lived in the Northeast, I also had a down jacket and other useful items that it doesn’t make sense to invest in here and my old ones have also worn out.

For walking the dogs this week, we have been depending on layered wool sweaters and as many jackety things as we can put on simultaneously. On our feet we’ve added the Yak Trax we got in December. We bought a pair for my mother, and figured we might use them ourselves. Good guess. They’re terrific: they fit over other shoes and increase traction dramatically. They don’t completely eliminate slippage, but they control almost all of it. They leave little textured diamond-mesh footprints in the snow.

On Tuesday morning, it was obvious that not many other people or critters had been walking before us. Just one line of fresh tracks marked the inch or so of new snow on the sidewalk of the block we live on, and we saw another set crossing a street about an eighth of a mile west of our house. Based on size, type, and neighborhood history, we’d bet it was a fox. Colorado has four types of foxes (red, gray, swift, kit), two of which might be here (red, gray), but this was most likely a red fox.

Fox tracks are nifty. They run in a straight line, with the back paws hitting the same spots as the front paws previously did. Apparently only foxes and cats make this kind of lined-up track. The claw marks weren’t apparent on the tracks we saw, but the texture of the snow made for clear pad prints and fuzzy periphery.

I was wearing a serviceable pair of socks that I leave at the bottom of the drawer. I like the wool ones so much better. I made these socks of acrylic.

Not all that long ago, I wanted some easy, portable knitting, a role usually filled by work on a pair of socks. I didn’t have the time or money to buy sock yarn—I’d probably been paying printing or freight bills, or getting an old car fixed, or buying groceries, or any of the reasons one might not have money for fresh sock yarn—and I looked around for what I had on hand that might do the job. I came up with scraps of worsted-weight acrylic yarn. Although acrylic doesn’t have many of wool’s beneficial qualities, it does trap enough air to provide more warmth than some other fibers.

So I made a couple of quick pairs of socks.

Here they are, after having been worn for at least a year but not more than two years:


Both pairs pill pretty significantly. The upper pair looks better than the lower one, but that’s partly because the pilling of some of the colors doesn’t produce the sort of "frosted" look that you see on the multicolored part of the upper pair’s ribbing and all over the lower pair.

Here’s a close-up of the ribbing of the lower pair. It’s not actually out of focus (or if so, it’s not much out of focus). That’s a small lace-pattern ribbing, which was more fun to knit than plain ribbing. Under the circumstances it does nothing to make the socks themselves more interesting.


I don’t regret having made these socks, which gave me carry-around knitting when I needed it and do fill the gaps between laundry days, and they are indeed instructive.

However, I’d think about ninety-seven times before making acrylic scraps into socks again. There may be better-quality acrylic yarns that would perform more satisfactorily (this was a decent brand), but faced with acrylics and a need to knit I’d choose another project where synthetics are specifically requested—like the baby caps I made for Caps to the Capital.

How much do I like wool? A whole lot!

Sometimes it’s good to be reminded.


3 thoughts on “Winter walking, plus “I made ’em so you don’t have to”–acrylic socks”

  1. We’ve had the same weather this week (without ice, but I own the Yaktrax too!) and wow, wool layers really are great. I wore two sweaters yesterday under my coat. Walking in 10 degrees is nippy, but stimulating! I got to wear my heavy Icelandic sweater today for the first time this season…sadly, the temperature is warming up and so am I! (if you ever are tempted by acrylic again, just drop me a line. I’ll send emergency yarn. I’m not ever lacking in that department,and I’m happy to share.)

  2. I have just knitted several pairs of socks for myself from pure wool in dksport and have never been warmer – even outside shovelling the mountain of snow that has fallen on us lately (Ontario Canada). Being over 60 now, with sluggish circulation, wool keeps my feet warm comfortably. Whereas acrylic tends to produce sweat which is not absorbed, wool absorbs excess moisture.

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