Sock Yarns: Tarte vs. Putnam

Sock Yarns: Tarte vs. Putnam

If you're looking for the best hand-dyed yarn for socks, we have two choices that we really love: Tarte and Putnam. Sometimes a choice complicates things, though, so in this blog we'll compare the two, and you can decide for yourself which you prefer.

I've knit many, many pairs of socks over the years - at this point, my sock drawer is full to overflowing and now I make them for others! Helen is also a nonstop sock knitter who literally cannot be found without her sock in progress (including emergency backup knitting in the car).

First - what makes a good sock yarn? I want my socks to be durable, comfortable, and look good, too. There are a few factors to consider: fiber content, construction, and yardage.

I like my socks to be durable, of course - I've spent all this time knitting, and I wouldn't want them to wear out in the first few wears! So while soft superwash Merino wool is great for a lot of applications, I prefer my sock yarns blended with nylon for durability. The construction of the yarn itself also affects its durability. A fingering weight yarn might have one ply (singles), two, three, four, or even more plies (this can get a little confusing if you're in a Commonwealth country, where a fingering weight yarn is often called a "4-Ply" yarn, regardless of its actual construction). The more plies, the more strength the yarn has, generally speaking.

Comfort in a sock comes from a few places - here, the softness of the wool, which is also breathable and warm, contributes the most. Of course, how you actually knit the sock itself makes a difference, too, but that one's up to you.

Finally, of course, we choose hand-dyed yarns to please the eye. Superwash wool takes colors brilliantly, which is why we use so much of it. Bonus, it's machine-washable, which saves time. (Yes, I machine wash ALL my hand-knit socks, with my regular laundry! They go in a garment bag and, critically, I hang them to dry.)

So what sets Tarte and Putnam apart?

Tarte with a sock

Tarte is a blend of superwash Merino wool, Tencel, and nylon. It has 4 plies and there are 500 yards in a 120 g skein. It has a sheen from the Tencel (which you may or may not like) and is a bit softer and drapier in the hand than Putnam. The extra yardage can help you be confident that you won't run out of yarn while knitting socks for someone with bigger feet. Overall, my Tarte socks have worn well and I think they stay looking new after many wears. The pattern shown in the photo above is Pedestrian.

Putnam with a sock

Putnam is a blend of superwash Merino wool and nylon. It has 4 plies and there are 400 yards in a 110 g skein. It is matte and bouncy, and more substantial than Tarte. When I knit socks in Putnam they just feel like they're going to last forever--and so far that has been the case! The tight-knit gauge and dense yarn make for great socks to wear when you need a little extra cushioning on your feet, like when you go on a long walk or a hike. The pattern shown in the photo above is Ribbon Dance Socks.

We offer several other fingering weight yarns, which we don't necessarily recommend for socks because they might fail on durability (Yummy 2-Ply has only 2 plies and no nylon; the short, fine cashmere fibers in Caroline and Sojourn won't hold up to friction), elasticity (the silk content in Holston and Damask wouldn't make shapely socks) or ease of care (many of our other fingering weight yarns like Avon and Holston are not superwash treated). Of course, as in everything, your results may vary.

Do you have a favorite sock yarn? If you'd like to try one or both of these yarns, you can request a 10-yard sample to swatch in your next order.

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Not much to add except that I LOVE Tarte. I tend to knit very densely so I use more yardage for my women’s medium socks and I always have enough Tarte in the skein to avoid playing yarn chicken.


It can be really hard to find a heavier sock weight with nylon. A good sport weight – with nylon and giving only 375 yds/110g hank, would be wonderful.

Rue Meeks-Johnson

My one pair of Miss Bab’s socks was knit on Cosmic sock that I bought ages ago. My absolute favorite fiber blend for socks always includes a bit of mohair. I have socks kit with mohair-merino-nylon blends that are wearing strong after more than 15 years (though I don’t wear them in summer here in CA). If you’re ever on the hunt for a new sock yarn base, one with mohair would get my vote!

Nancy in CA

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