Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tutorial: Soap Socks


I was at home waiting for news from my sister, Eithne Gingerbread, who was supposed to deliver unto the world a new baby today. The child has Eithne's sense of punctuality and thus took a good fortnight to appear on the scene, but finally did so in a whirl of drama this afternoon. Mother and child are doing well, hurray.

While baby Hannah was adjusting to the world, I was trying to get some odds and ends finished. So I'm going to do a series of little blog postettes about my craft fair endeavours. Most of what I'll show you in these posts will end up being donated to a Christmas bazaar in aid of the local children's clinic - as a result, they're quick and economical to make and rely heavily on a certain cuteness factor as a sales technique. Brace yourselves, crafters. Here we go!

Soap Socks
The idea behind these is that, as the soap shrinks with use, the wool felts through rubbing and the use of hot and cold water. I had loads of these finished, but everyone who has seen them so far has bought one or two off me - which is a good sign, but honestly I have to stockpile a little before Advent starts. They look cute. They smell nice. They're cheap to make (I buy the soap at Aldi - no one sees it because it's sewn into the soap). And even a novice knitter like me can make them.

You need:
felting wool (I can make 4 or 5 socks from one 50g skein)
and a set of DPNs/straight knitting needles.
(I used a size 5 mm.)

Cast on 20 stitches. Divide over four needles, or knit flat.
Row 1: plain
Row 2: purl (If you're knitting flat)
Repeat in stockinette stitch till you have a little tube the length of a bar of soap. Sew up the bottom opening. (If knitted flat, sew up the bottom and side.)

Cast on 10/11 stitches on your trusty DPNs.
Row 1: Plain
Row 2:  Kfb (knit front and back so you have double the amount of stitches that you started the row with)
Knit until the sock is *nearly* long enough to fit the soap, then
K2tog (knit two together) for one round, so you have 10 or 11 stitches again.
Cast off. Sew up the bottom opening.

 Squeeze the soap into its little sock. Weave the tail of the yarn around the top opening and pull to close the hole. Weave in your tail. Thread a piece of cotton yarn in and out around the top hole and pull tight (as a drawstring), tie it in a bow.
(Wowzers. Knitting patterns are so simple to write, eh?)

Add a label.
Be fancy.
Voilà - or as we say in cyberspace: Waalah!

Here's a copy of a sample label as a Microsoft Word document here.

But does it work, Gingerbread Lady?
 Well, here's the tricky part. Whether the soap sock actually works depends on a number of things. I've found that some soaps are too soft, they turn to mush straight away. Others are too hard to get up a good lather. In order to felt, the yarn needs friction, so the user has to be prepared to scrub hard to felt it! When I give these as gifts, I always say that they're best kept in a drawer among your underthings or linen: they make excellent scent sachets. The wool holds the scent for a long time and the soap normally has a very delicate scent.


Debi Y. said...

That's the neatest idea - will be great for exfoliating. :)

GirlAnachronismE said...

That's a really clever idea, great stocking fillers!

The Gingerbread Lady said...

Thank you, girls! I've been too frugal and mean to try one myself - haha! - but I spotted the idea ages ago while on the Interwebz and mentally filed it away under "I can do that" :-)

rscowtown said...

Awesome! I bet i can do it on my bond knit machine will give it a go one of these days thanks!

Annie said...

Welcome Hannah, and congratulations to your sister and her family.
Neat idea :D The soap socks that is, not the baby. Although babies clearly are a good idea. I had four!

Liz said...

I am liking this....looks faster than my scrubbies that are multiplying to stick in pressies for the festive season... The label makes it though. Really nice.


The Gingerbread Lady said...

@ Liz - yes, they're fast. And I'm not a great knitter. Because it's felting yarn, you can work it up quickly on big needles.

@Annie - four babies! You've probably had hundreds of bars of soap go through your fingers over the years!

Underground Crafter said...

Thanks for sharing! These look very cute. I might make up some for holiday gifts.

Audrey said...

How much do you charge for these?

The Gingerbread Lady said...

Hi Audrey,
I donated a basket of these to a charity and they sold them for €3 each. They cost 80c to make - yarn 40c, soap 30-40c. I would adjust your price according to how expensive your soap and yarn are. I could buy yarn on special offer for €2 a skein and got 4 - mostly 5 - socks per skein. You can use expensive soap and then you'd obviously have to charge more. How that compares with US prices I'm afraid I don't know.

Elaine Hamilton said...

I love this pattern. Made 4 yesterday. Am making a bunch in red, pink and white to give for Valentine's Day. Its better for you than candy...

The Dutch Girl said...

A little late to the party, but better late than never. It seems Baby Hannah and I share a name as well as a birthday, how wonderful.

And I love your soap socks!

Sewfine Quilts said...

They are gorgeous. Can you use a different yarn other than felting yarn? When the soap is finished, do you throw the bag out?


The Gingerbread Lady said...

Hello Linda,
You can use cotton, for example, which won't become smaller as the soap is used, but it can be washed and refilled.

The idea is that the bag felts into a smaller felted bag that can be re-used by putting soap scraps into it. I simply use these as scented sachets for my clothes drawers, as the wool retains the smell of the soap really well, so I've never actually felted a bag myself :-) :-)

SocksAndMittens said...

This is a lovely patter, thank you so much for share!

Michele said...

You could actually start these out as a toe-up sock and then just put your soap in and then weave in the tail to close it up. Great idea, will have to get some started with the few hundred left-over pieces of sock yarn.

Chanel said...

Anyone have a way to tie these off so you can reuse them?

The Gingerbread Lady said...

Hi Chanel,
I'm so sorry for the long delay in replying, life just overtook me and tripped me up.

I simply thread a darning needle with embroidery floss or a thin ribbon and thread it in and out through the cast off stitches, pulling it tight to create a drawstring. The floss/ribbon won't felt and you can reuse the little bag then without a problem.

Hope this helps :-)

Stephanie Haberman said...

This is a great idea. I purchase hand made soap from a friend who makes it ( and regular soap bags are terrible once the soaps becomes small pieces. This will solve that problem and since I usually use an acrylic cloth for washing because it exfoliates better than cotton and doesn't get that sour smell, switching to wool will be no problem at all, in fact I prefer it. Glad your little soap bag was posted on Facebook and that I saw it.

Green Carlson said...

These are great. Just the sort of thing that I love - knitted and smelly. Now I know what I will be gifting to my work pals. Thanks for this!

Joan Hauck said...

I am allergic to wool ... could I use Cotton?

Ebonistarr1962 said...

I hope I can make these before Christmas, I make soap and this would be great to sell with them.

The Gingerbread Lady said...

Hi Joan,yes you can use cotton ... Of course it won't felt, but it would create something like a little washbag and would probably look very pretty as well!

Tracie FK said...

I'm new to knitting. I searched felting wool on eBay but it just comes up with 'tops' not yarn you can knit with ( I think! ) any advice on where to get felting wool in uk?

LyniHop said...

Lady, you ROCK! I don't knit but i AM going to work up a crochet version, for all my very pretty (and very many) scraps of wool. I've done the cotton soap-bag thing, but all comments are correct -- they get smelly, small pieces fall out, and also, the cotton stretches when wet. I love it when i find something so ingeniously simple, it tickles me pink! Thanks -- you made my day!

The Gingerbread Lady said...

LyniHop - you're welcome! I just added a bit of extra info to the post and a link to my labels, so I hope this is useful for you, too :-)

The Gingerbread Lady said...

Tracie FK: I live in Germany, so the only company in Britain that I've personally used is Deramores. They do have felting wool but - and I think this is probably why you can't find it when you look for it - it's filed under 'FILZWOLLE', which is the German word for 'felting wool', but they seem to have it recorded as the name of the wool. Here it is:

I've just looked at a German site that sells the wool and it's MUCH cheaper there, €1.95 a ball for a unicolour yarn, as opposed to 5.39 GBP!!But the delivery costs €13 from Germany to the UK.

If you need help with the German translation, just let me know!

Marny said...

Seems someone will use labels that say something about 'Tickled Pink'.

I'm glad to have found you even if never making the soap sock.

Now it's in MY memory bank.

TY! and congrats on niece.

GrumpyOldTrout said...

Thanks very much for sharing, especially the labels <3

Kathy Weber said...

I love these! Thank you so much for posting this!!

Chana said...

Hi, what about knitting the sock like 5 times bigger and then felting it/them in hot water until you get the desired size ? When dry put the soap in and sew shut? Just an idea...

The Gingerbread Lady said...

That's one way to do and I'm sure the effect would be nice as well. It's also an extra step in their production and one I don't think is really necessary because I personally prefer the look of the knitted fabric to felted fabric. Plus, I have a front-loader washing machine and have never yet managed to felt anything without creating a giant mess so I'd rather not! :-D :-D

~inspired~ said...


Can I make the soap socks with regular superwash wool? I live in the high arctic and I cannot order without paying through the nose on delivery fees. I have a few skeins of superwash wool and a box of homemade soap from a gf.

The Gingerbread Lady said...

Hi Deirdre,
To be absolutely honest with you, I use these primarily as scent sachets. I have found that the felting results vary from soap type to soap type and it became too hard to find out a consistent method to felt them ... you could of course, use superwash wool but be aware that the original idea - that the bag would gradually felt and become smaller as the soap is used up - won't happen because, obviously, the wool won't felt. However, on the other hand, you could present them as small scent-holders for clothes or linen cupboards. The wool preserves the smell really well for a really long time and I've found that most people are reluctant to use them as soap anyway because they look too nice :-) Especially if it's handmade soap, someone might feel more comfortable keeping it somewhere safe, rather than letting it get wet and squishy in the bathroom.