I know it’s summer and not everybody’s thinking about Fall and Winter yet.  Here in Seattle, it’s been unseasonably cold (even for the NW and our notoriously short summers).  My toes have been freezing, which reminds me of my friend Laura, who has Raynaud’s and gets horrible pain in her toes when she gets cold.  She’s been living in sunny CA for the last few years, but now is moving back to rainy WA this summer and I want to make her a pair of socks.  Not just any old socks, but warm socks.  The warmest socks I can make.

So I did a little research on which fibers make for the warmest knits, and this is what I found:

  1. Musk Ox –  the Musk Ox’s undercoat, also known as Qiviut, is made up of hollow fibers that hold in air and provide extra warmth.  Yarn made from the Musk Ox is supposed to be 8 times warmer than wool, super soft, and stays warm even when wet.  It’s also about $100 a skein, so not exactly a practical buy.
  2. Great Pyrenees – yep, this is yarn made of dog fur.  The Great Pyrenees have a double coat–an outer layer of more coarse fur and a soft undercoat–and is said to be 10 times warmer than wool.  Not nearly as expensive as Musk Ox, but a bit difficult to find, unless you know someone with a Great Pyrenees and a spinning wheel.  I also read somewhere that it can be itchy.
  3. Possum – New Zealand has a possum problem, and one of the ways they’re dealing with it is to create a market for possum fibers.  Possums have long, hollow fibers, and yarn made from their fur is up to 40% warmer than wool.  It’s also supposed to be super soft and fluffier than Angora.
  4. Alpaca – Alpaca is the only fiber in this list I’ve actually gotten to try, and it is very soft.  I’ve read that it’s also 7 times warmer than sheep’s wool, but has some of the same sturdiness and will keep its shape.  Alpaca is readily available both from commercial suppliers and independent sellers.
  5. Cashmere – can be expensive, since it’s a luxury fiber, but is also extremely soft and warm.  It comes from the underbelly of the Mongolian goat and is shed naturally, though it can take years for one goat to produce enough fibers for a sweater.  The quality and price can vary, but pure Cashmere, while wonderful to touch, may be out of the average knitter’s price range (me included).

There are of course a lot of other warm fibers out there to knit with as well.  I was a bit surprised to find out sheep is pretty much the lowest on the list for warmth, though some sheep–like the Icelandic sheep–are warmer than others.

If anyone’s curious, I decided to try out possum and alpaca for the socks I want to make.