Koigu: some thoughts.

Koigu Premium Merino. One of the most ubiquitous sock yarns, don’t you think? Many will say it’s their absolute favorite. Looking at photos of the different colorways, I’m actually tempted to agree! I love that there’s such a wide range of possibilities, one differing from the next by just a few blue specs, or a slightly deeper red. The color preference of every knitter can be satisfied.

My body, however, does not love it. Nothing negative and nothing controversial. Just an observation. Knitting with Koigu hurts me – my hands, my wrists, my shoulders, my back. Why is that? I’m not entirely sure, but I think I have an idea. I think by sight the yarn appears to be fingering/sock weight.

Some sock yarns, for comparison. Taking this photo was a total trip down memory lane! From left to right:

  1. Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock I used for the cable twist socks.

  2. Opal Handpainted from the original Jaywalkers.
  3. Claudia Handpainted used in some simple grandma socks.
  4. Fleece Artist merino sock yarn from the uptown boot socks (loved that pattern!).
  5. Madeline Tosh superwash merino used in the recently-completed Punctuated Rib Socks.
  6. Koigu Premium Merino, the yarn in question.
  7. Fleece Artist Sea Wool from the Undulating Rib Socks.
  8. Sock Hop handspun yarn from this simple, yet gorgeous pair of socks.

Don’t you agree that the Koigu resembles the 5 yarns to its left, all fingering weight? And so I don’t think twice about matching it to a 64-72 stitch sock! But in my hands and on my needles it behaves more like a sportweight, more like the Sea Wool and Sock Hop yarns on the right side of the photo – just a hair chunkier than fingering weight. For me, Koigu doesn’t compress very much, and so when I force it to be at 8 stitches per inch, I end up having to knit deliberately tightly! For a pleasant Koigu experience, I would wise up, use size 2 needles, and knit 54-stitch socks.

Maybe the tight knitting is also the reason I ran out of yarn the last time I tried to use it and the sock was coming out so dense and small!

I don’t know if others have had this experience. I also don’t exclude the possibility that this observation is color-specific: maybe treating the yarn with this particular deep red changed the texture? Some say that the base yarn used in Koigu is fingering-weight Louet. If that’s the case, then the dyeing definitely changes the texture, because Louet feels unquestionably different to me – a true fingering weight, one which I can comfortably knit to 8-9 stitches per inch.

What do you think? Compare your Koigu to other sock yarns – does it feel thicker and firmer, or the same? Does it knit up like other fingering weight yarns in your hands, or differently?

60 thoughts on “Koigu: some thoughts.

  1. Sharon

    I’ve been knitting Koigu on US 2 needles (the 3.0 mm variety, rather than 2.75 mm) and it’s been just about right. I’m doing 7 1/2 stitches per inch, but that’s in a twisted stockinette stitch (knit one row, knit one row through the back loop). I’m sure I’d get a looser gauge if I were doing regular stockinette. I’m making gloves and it’s an appropriately dense fabric. I sure wouldn’t want to go any tighter. I hadn’t used Koigu before, but the appearance of the yarn makes me think it’s likely to wear better than many merinos. Time will tell.

  2. Mercuria

    I’ve always wondered why Koigu suggests US3 needles, when looking at it makes my brain say “no way.” I’ve never knit with it, but the unyielding nature may explain some of it.

    Is it precompressed? I’ve never heard anything about Koigu blooming, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard about socks blooming.

  3. Kyrie

    I definitely think you’re right- and it’s why so many people can knit Baby Surprise Jackets out of it on size 5 needles and have them come out beautifully. It definitely behaves more like a sportweight.

  4. jess

    you’re not the only one — but Koigu do recommend a US3 with the yarn, so I’ve always thought about it as a light sportweight. I use a US2 — I knit loose.

  5. Kim U

    I’ve never knit socks out of Koigu because it feels a bit heavier-weight to me. I think it makes a wonderful yarn for colorwork hats & mittens though. My colorwork gauge tends to be looser than my usual gauge & my KPM projects have been done on #2 & #3 needles. I knit most of my socks on #1 needles & I don’t think I’d consider doing that with Koigu.

  6. Mandy

    Thanks for these observations! I’ve got my first two skeins of koigu, and so I will definitely be swatching a little before deciding on a needle size. Not that I wouldn’t have, but now I’ve got some more things to think about!

  7. Katie B.

    I’ve never had issues knitting with it on US 1s (and 64 stitch socks), but I don’t tend to measure gauge. I will say that if I use anything bigger than US 1s, the texture is too loose – too rough under my feet, and loosens too much while wearing. I do tend to knit pretty tightly, but I’ve had no physical issues from knitting with it.

    I made a BSJ out of Koigu, on US 5s, and it turned out ~3 mo. size.

    For comparison, when I met Lorna’s Laces for the first time, I had quite a time finding the right gauge for it; US 1s (64 sts) did ok but loose, and US 0s (72 sts) were ok, but a bit too tight.

  8. Rachel

    I totally agree; Koigu is closer to a sportweight. It’s pretty close to Jitterbug, if you’ve ever used that. I knit it on 2.5mm needles, 64-stitch sock–but I have big feet and habitually knit tightly (true fingering I use 2.0mm needles and 72 stitches).

    Koigu is lovely, but I’m no longer a fan of it for socks, mostly because it (and all my other 100% wool socks) wears out too quickly.

  9. thayer

    I think it may depend on how recently you got the yarn as well–the first time I knit with Koigu, several years ago, I did find it to be on the thicker, squishier side (which I quite like). But more recently when I bought some, it was much thinner, and I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much. I have heard that she changed her base yarn.

  10. Prunila

    I totally agree with you, I have a pair of socks knitted with Koigu (from Sockapalooza) and they are more thick compared all my other handknitted socks!

  11. Holly

    I have not used Koigu for socks but have made a number of shawls with it. Since gauge isn’t a big issue with shawls I have had no problem knitting with this yarn. As for socks I prefer one big 400+ yarn skein which means I never run out of yarn when making a women’s sock. I have run across other sock yarns that knit up bullet proof and have to go up a needle size and modify the pattern or choose another pattern. I refuse to knit with yarn that hurts my hands.

  12. Meredith

    I just finished knitting a Dobby sock to match the one pomatomus I had (the other got moth eaten :( so I had just one left). The original was size 1 needles and Anne by Schaefer. The new one is in Koigu. Despite being the same size and number of stitches (and knit on the same size needles), the Koigu one is much heavier than the Anne one. If I knit with Koigu again, it’ll be on bigger needles, 1.5 at least.

  13. K

    I’m not positive by any means, but I think I remember hearing that Koigu’s base yarn used to be Louet, but changed a couple of years ago to something else.

    I love Koigu, but also find that it doesn’t behave well with my usual sock needles. I’ve knit a couple of Purl Berets out of it, and it behaved beautifully at 7 sts per inch.

  14. Ivete

    I’m a huge Koigu junkie and have at least 200 skeins in my stash at the moment . . . and lots of FOs done it in, socks and non-socks. I knit Koigu socks on size 1 needles and 60 sts around, I knit on the loose side and have size 7.5-8 feet. It’s definitely thicker than something like Lorna’s (which I personally think is too stringy and don’t enjoy knitting with)

    I’ve found that through my Koigu collection, the feel of the yarn varies from color to color — some skeins are very stringy, some super-tightly-twisted, some chunkier . . . I’ve never had two skeins of the same color and dye lot feel different, so I think it depends on the color it’s dyed and the batch of base yarn it came from. Speaking of, Koigu’s base hasn’t been Louet for years, they order direct from an Italian mill and have been doing so for at least 3 years.

  15. Shaina

    The comment above mine is really informative! I personally love Koigu but hate Louet, so I was very confused about how I could like a yarn dyed out of a base I don’t enjoy using. Makes more sense now.

    I’ve never had a problem or noticed it being thicker…it’s definitely much more rope-like than some other sock yarns, maybe denser, but I don’t change needle size when I knit it. The KPPPM I’ve knit was all from my former LYS, which was known to have a lot of older yarns, so maybe I got the “old” Koigu.

    I am just addicted to it because it’s the only handpaint I’ve found that mostly doesn’t pool. *knocks on wood* Hope I didn’t just jinx myself by saying that. It’s pretty much the only vibrant handpaint I buy because the rest make me want to gouge my eyes out.

  16. Rebekkah

    While it may like to be knit up slightly looser, I don’t think that will make for a good sock.

    I have three pairs of Koigu socks — one pair that I knit myself, and two pairs that I received in swaps. I have exactly two pairs of socks that have ever gotten holes in them (at the back of the heel, exactly where I’ve gotten holes in almost every pair of cotton socks I’ve ever owned). Those two pairs of socks are the Koigu socks that I’ve received in swaps. The ones I knit are at 9 stitches per inch, and look almost as fresh and new as the day I kitchenered the second toe. The swap Koigu socks are knit much more loosely — I’m guessing that one is closer to 7 stitches per inch, and the other might be 8.

    You might have a different experience than I did, but for myself I’d never go looser than 9 spi with Koigu. Maybe 8.5 if I’m feeling daring…

    Even my Dale Baby Ull socks knit at 8 stitches per inch (I know now, a terrible idea for that yarn for socks) don’t have holes. And they’re 4 years old! They’re fuzzy, but not holey. So strange.

  17. Christy / Not Hip

    I agree with your observation, but for me that is why I like it. I love the heavier, tight twist sock yarn b/c I love the dense fabric I get from it. However, LL sock is one of my least favorites b/c I find it to be thin. So to me, it makes sense that if you like LL you would not like Koigu very much and vice versa.

  18. Mary Beth

    I have never understood knitting socks with Koigu. To go to all that trouble when they won’t last (unless you use reinforcing thread). It is sportweight, perfect for shawls and lace and baby clothes.

  19. Laura

    I also wondered about this a couple years ago and did some experiments (detailed on my blog). Although they look the same, the spin is definitely different as is the wpi.

    I really enjoy my Koigu socks… but I also always knit them on larger needles than Lorna’s. (Also, as June noted in the comments, Koigu wears really differently.)

  20. leo

    I completely agree, but just like Christy/NotHip said, this is why I prefer the koigu over the LL! In my experience the socks I’ve made with LL end up being so flimsy, but my FOs with koigu are so lovely and hearty. I think this just has to do with how different people knit, what sorts of textures we prefer, and how we use our FOs. I tend to be pretty hard on socks!

  21. luneray

    I’ve had mixed experience with Koigu. The first time I bought some, the yarn was overspun and kinked up terribly. Plus the color that looked so pretty in the skein knitted up into a rather ugly (to me) fabric. I tried again with some of the solid colors and this time the results were much better. The yarn was tightly spun but didn’t kink, the color was gorgeous, the yarn showed texture beautifully, but despite the tight gauge, I still wore a hole in them after only a few wearings (none of my other 100% wool socks have worn out, even those I’ve worn more frequently).

    If I ever use Koigu again, I’ll stick to mittens or a hat.

  22. Martha Marques

    I haven’t knit with enough Koigu to make a real comparison. I have, however, hand dyed a lot of yarn and it is true that dyeing, particularly in dark saturated colors, can change the texture of the yarn. It can make it a bit stiffer….that is slightly less flexible and that would affect your gauge.

  23. Tana

    I’m knitting my first Koigu as we speak…I’m about halfway through sock #2. I don’t think I’ll be buying it again. It’s too rope-like for me. I’m getting gauge and the sock fits, but it seems stiff and I’m just not charmed by the feel of it.

  24. Heather

    Your observation is right on the money–I have always instinctively done Koigu socks on a size 2 needle and specifically avoided anything with a cable or a twist because of the yardage issues. My go-to sock yarn is Jitterbug: the colors and hand are so pleasing to me and I have yet to ever run out!

  25. Carolyn Mele

    You are totally correct…at least in my opinion;) For me it is not quite sport…but not fingering…somewhere in between. It used to be my favourite…but for the price and the fact that it doesn’t wear well (it washes nicely, but does loose it’s colour). Koigu are my only socks with holes (not because I wear them more either….)

  26. Tonia

    I have to agree here as well. I am a very tight knitter and for some reason my hands hurt while knitting with the Koigu. Nothing against them or their yarns – I love them actually. I just know that I can’t have a marathon knitting session with it or I will be hurting bad.

  27. Janelle

    I agree – Koigu is thicker than some other sock yarns. I find it behaves a lot like Shibui Sock – similar twist and heft. Both are 100% merino, which I am no longer purchasing for sock stash. Without some nylon or polyamid, the socks just wear out too quickly. For several years I was lured by the soft hand of much hand-dyed sock yarn, but no more! My feet can’t feel the difference that my hands feel. The rougher yarns, like Regia and Opal and Trekking, result in much better socks for me.

  28. Diane

    I’ve never knit with Koigu… I refuse to, as it only comes in 175 yard skeins and I need at least 200 yards to make a sock the height that I like. Three expensive skeins to make a pair of socks? I don’t think so.

    However, I have the same problem with Socks That Rock as you do with the Koigu. I had to go up a needle size to get the sock to feel right, and even then the yarn felt way too thick. The two yarns look similar, to my eye, so it does not surprise me that they behave the same way.

  29. Melissa

    I tend to knit loosely and the last pair of Koigu socks I made I knit on 00 needles. Which was torture to my hands, but the only way I could get a tight enough gauge. And that experience convinced me I do not like knitting socks with Koigu. I’ve switched to Jitterbug, which is wonderfully similar, and I don’t have the painful experiences as I did with the Koigu. Like others have said, though, I’m shying away from 100% merino yarns because they wear out too quickly.

  30. Pam

    I’ve been knitting for 48 years and own an online yarn shop, so I am (and have been) exposed to a lot of yarn over the years. I also weave and spin, as well as having done extensive studies of dye and color, so here are my observations.

    First of all, the yarn itself. I’ve found that many tightly twisted (hard twist) yarns need to be knit with a larger needle because they knit up stiffly. It’s a consequence of the twist – even though knitting takes a little of the twist out, the yarn is so tightly twisted that it won’t soften up on smaller needles. You wind up with socks which feel like cardboard on your feet. If you knit it with needles that make it feel soft, you run the risk of having the fabric be too loose, so you have to knit it tighter, thereby making the fabric harder. It’s not a yarn for beginners, even though the smoothness of it allows a beginner to see their stitch formation if the colorway isn’t too busy.

    Second, the colorway. I love color – especially yarns with several different colors in one skein – but some dyes are heavier than others. This translates to making that particular yarn feel heavier than others of the same brand. Black is the worst – it’s a heavy dye and makes yarn feel heavy. It does the same thing to fabric. A good rule of thumb is this: the darker the base or main color of the yarn, the heavier it will feel. A lighter (especially white or pastel) color will feel much lighter. Will it make Koigu knit up without having wooden woolies on your feet if done on small needles? Nope. There’s still that issue of twist.

    I prefer a soft-twist yarn (but not singles – I like a plied yarn) which feel soft and puffy in the skein. They knit up beautifully on small needles and retain a soft hand. Unfortunately, they also lack the iron wear that a tightly twisted yarn gives you. It’s six of one and half a dozen of the other – if you want socks which last a long time, you either have to get a tightly twisted yarn or one with nylon (or some other blended fiber) added. On a personal note, I’d rather have soft socks which wear faster than a harder sock which is uncomfortable on my feet. I knit with a lot of exotics and luxury fibers just for that reason.

    This is all a long-winded way of saying that as pretty as Koigu is, I wouldn’t buy it if it were the last yarn on the shelf. It has nothing to do with price – I won’t tell you how much my quiviut or guanaco socks cost – it has to do with the twist.

  31. Susan

    I’m not a fan of Koigu and agree that it feels rope-like. I knit and re-knit a pair of socks in the prettiest blue-pink-green Koigu and finally got so disgusted that I threw the whole mess in the trash!

  32. Julia in KW

    My first pair of socks that I knit (after my practise socks) was koigu and I loved them to death…literally. I almost cried when the heels finally went on them – and I wore them mercilessly. I have knit koigu for my husband’s socks (but I use a blended yarn for heel/toe) and they are wearing like iron. And my mother loves how soft hers have become now. I knit with 2mm over 60 sts and like a tight knit. Koigu socks seem softer over time than all the others I have knit with (and being a member of a sock club, I’ve had the pleasure of a real mix of yarns).

    While I love them, some of the colourways can be pretty wild and sometimes it’s hard to guess how they will knit up.

  33. bellamoden

    It’s funny, I *love* koigu for the reason you don’t – it’s thick for its weight, and that means it’ll make a good sturdy sock. None of mine have holes of the self-inflicted sort. Koigu I have more of in my stash than any other sock yarn. LOVE.

  34. Annette

    I use zero’s to knit Koigu socks. Since I’m a loose knitter, this works out OK for me. Koigu has a nice, comfortable twist to it. The yarn that absolutely kills me is BMFA Socks That Rock, and that includes any gauge at all, light, medium or heavyweight. Their lace weight is great, but the sock yarn has too tight of a twist…. anyone else agree?

  35. Sheryl

    I am not a big fan of Koigu for socks. I knit the Monkey sock pattern with Koigu on size US 1 and had to force myself to knit the second one. I also admit I don’t like the feel of it when I wear the socks. They have been regulated to the “house sock” pile – not to be worn with shoes.

  36. EastofWeston

    Never really been tempted to use Koigu for socks. Guess I know I’m hard on socks – very thick toenails! – and know that I must have nylon in a sock yarn.

    But Koigu is THE perfect yarn for fall/spring hats, and the colorways are perfect offsets for denim jackets.

  37. Danielle

    I agree that Koigu is a shade heavier than fingering weight. I do like it, but I have to remember that it will behave differently, and pick a pattern to suit.

  38. margaux

    this is such an interesting conversation – i LOVE koigu, the dyes just enchant me! BUT I do remember trying to knit socks with it and not really having a pleasant experience. I can’t though remember if it was just me or the yarn! haha! I tend to lean towards lace/baby projects when I think of Koigu, my socks are mostly knit out of Socks that Rock. It’s softer and has more of a elastic spring to it.

  39. Rosi G.

    1 – Lorna’s Laces is way thinner than koigu. LL has 4.3 yds per gram and koigu has 3.5. LL is more a light fingering.

    2 – Koigu NEVER has enough yardage for my size 11 feet. I either make anklets or I use Louet Gems Fingering in a solid color to knit the heels and toes. The last pair I made, New England Socks, I used size 1 and 1.5 ebony dpns comfortably. The yarn just gliiides on these needles, btw.

    3 – Claudia is a thick yarn also.

    these are my observations and all IMHO.

    :D

  40. Rosi G.

    one more thing: when i use needles that catch the yarn or that make me uncomfortable with a certain yarn, i switch the needles (that’s how i ended up using ebony) and then my knitting goes more smoothly and enjoyably.

  41. britt

    my koigu that i am using right now seems to thin for my size 1 needles. but i have used it before with size 1 in a different colorway and they seemed to small. so it just seems to depend on the colorway, i think.

    i have had the same thing happen with knit picks sock yarn too. the green color i used felt think for size 2 needles but the grey i bought was too thin for size 1 needles. weird.

  42. Audrey

    I’m with you on the dyeing difference. I’ve knit with some Koigu that feels huge, but then squishes down so much I thing my stockinette socks look like lace, and then I’ve knit with some that behaves more like a sturdy fingering weight. I’ve never had quite the experience you describe, though. I usually knit 60-stitch socks on 2.25 mm, and it seems like a match made in heaven.

    But as I also have some of the 1160 sitting in stash, I’ll make sure I swatch first. My back doesn’t need any more stress. ;)

  43. marie

    I agree. Koigu is a tad heavier than most “fingering” weights. I haven’t used it for socks because I need to throw my socks into the washer and dryer.

    I made a Judy Pascale shapely shawlette with it a few years back. The yarn seemed kind of squishy and I enjoyed knitting with it. It was a bigger needle though – probably a 5. The resulting fabric is very stretchy….

    I made a pair of modular mittens with it two winters past. I noticed a bit of a bloom on those. Eventhough they were knit with size 1 needles, it didn’t mash down as much as I thought it would. I’ve worn the mittens quite a bit and they’ve blossomed a bit – not as much as shetland – but more than I expected.

  44. elizabeth

    I think Koigu is definitely thicker than Lorna’s Laces, it’s more like Shi Bui. I’ve knit socks on US1s with it without issue, but that’s because I think it’s softness needs the extra density.

  45. MelissaG

    I don’t even try to knit Koigu on less than 3mm needles. In fact I usually use it for children’s sweaters on US4s and get 7 st/”. The colors are amazing and so much fun to combine.

  46. pat

    OK, I am almost, totally lost. So, are you saying that you’ve been using too small needles? or too large needles?

  47. Doris

    Thanks for making me think about this. I usually knit Koigu on a #2 or #2 needle. I often use the 2’s because I knit loose, and that works beautifully for me (and my Koigu socks are probably my favorites overall).

  48. Sylvia

    I spin especially fine yarn (“froghair”) so am keenly aware of grist and yarn structure.

    The key differences between Opal, for instance, and Koigu, are grist, preparation, and twists per inch. Koigu has a heavier grist (fewer yards per pound) than Opal. This should be apparent from the numbers on the ball band. Opal tends to be (not all lots are the same grist) more fine than most of the similar sock yarns. Mellenweit and most Regia (not all) are usually very similar grists. Kroy is generally a bit heavier.

    Koigu has a more combed, worsted style fiber preparation while Opal is a bit more to the woolen side. Thus, Opal is a bit more elastic in yarn form and Koigu’s elasticity is more evident once it has been made into a knit fabric. The former is gentler on the hands because there is “give” in the yarn as you knit. The latter’s “elasticity” relates more to the fact that the fabric returns to its original shape exactly because the yarn itself is static in length.

    Relative to the grists, Opal has more twist in the singles and less in the ply, while Koigu has fewer twists per inch in the singles and more in the ply. If you do the math, Koigu has markedly less aggregate twist, while Opal has more but it is balanced and allows the yarn to bloom. Overtwisting the ply increases the density of the yarn and the surface sheen, and it eliminates splitting. That density? Hard on the hands.

    I’ve been enjoying your red and white mitten adventure.

  49. earthchick

    What an interesting conversation! It has always been amazing to me how much variety exists relative to yarn weight, and it seems like this is especially true among fingering weight yarns.

    I have never knit with Koigu and now I’ll know to steer clear of it for socks – I prefer LL so probably wouldn’t like this as well.

  50. Agnes

    I just knitted with Koigu once and it didn’t knit up dense at all! It is too bad that you and Koigu don’t really get along great because this yarn stands up to sock-wearing abuse and the colours stay great! But it doesn’t really matter, right? There are so many other great yarns out there.

  51. Laura Neal

    It has to be knit on size 3 needles otherwise, it is very uncomfortable to knit with. It won’t accept a smaller needle. I stopped using it since I started dyeing my own yarns and selling them. I find myself not so impressed anymore since I can get a much better yarn through my wholesaler.

    It was once my favorite sock yarn but, not anymore.

  52. Renee

    I found the same thing as you ~ my hands, arms and neck hurt so I never bought it again after the first time I used it. I never gave it another chance.

  53. Suzanne V. (Yarnhog)

    I may be the only knitter in the world who doesn’t like Koigu. It’s beautiful, but I don’t like the texture–too stiff, and the one and only skein I ever bought broke repeatedly while I was knitting, which I’ve never had happen before. It seems very tightly twisted, so perhaps that’s why it’s so dense and brittle.

  54. moirae

    That could explain the trouble I’ve had with my Koigu actually. I wanted Falling Leaves Socks, but it was way too big on size 0 needles. Then I did Jaywalkers but had to do them on super small needles also – a 0 or 1 and so they are super dense. So….I’m right there with you.

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