I've had several requests to write something on spinning sock yarn. This will be the first in a series of three lectures (ramblings?) about how I construct my sock yarn--YMMV.
Once you've chosen your fiber for socks (you can't go wrong with Posy Toes Sock Fiber), the key to spinning fine yarns like sock yarn is to use a thin fiber source. Meaning, if you're using top or roving (wool that comes in long ropes) it's best to split these lengthwise into strips about the size of your little finger or finer. I typically split top into 8 strips and roving into 4-6 strips. If you've got batts like my Posy Toes batts, you can make strips or roll them into really big rolags (see below for handling rolags).
Next, you'll need to pre-draft or attenuate the strips. Hold the end of a strip in two hands, making sure that your hands are further apart than the staple length of the fiber. In other words, if your individual wool fibers average 3" long, your hands should be 4" or more apart. Gently pull the strip in one direction so the fibers begin to slide past each other. You'll notice that the strip is slightly fluffier and less compressed--that's exactly what we want! Continue working your way from one end of the strip to the other. You can leave your attenuated strip in a heap on the floor and spin from that or, especially if you have feline pets, you can roll it in a ball and keep it in a basket or your lap while you spin.
If you're using rolags made from batts or from handcarding, simple take one between your hands and start stretching it out. Work from one end to the other, and if it's still not thin enough for your likeing work back to the other end. Carded batts take several passes until they're thin enough for sock yarn.
Once your fiber is prepared, there's nothing left to do but spin it up. More about deciding the yarn grist (thickness), twist and plying in future posts.......