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ACRYLIC FIBER: A synthetic fiber, it is soft, warm and lightweight and can feel like wool. Because the textures are similar, many wool blends include acrylic fiber. Color is added when the fiber is made, and cannot be dyed at home easily. Acrylic can pill easily, and is not as warm and cozy as cashmere or wool.
ANKLET: Also called a “sneaker sock”, anklets end right around the ankle bone.
ARM WARMER: Used to describe many kinds of arm coverings, in essence it means an open-ended tube that has at least a hole or section for the thumb. More often than not, an arm warmer extends from just below the knuckles of the hand to mid-forearm.
BACKSEAM: With today’s circular knitting machines we can have seamless stockings, but up until the 1950’s, all stockings and nylons were made with a backseam. If you’re looking for retro appeal, backseams are the way to go.
BAMBOO FIBER: A synthetic viscose made from the pulp of bamboo plants. It requires less processing than rayon, and is considered the more environmentally friendly option of fibers produced from cellulose.
BLEEDING: When the color of an item washes or rubs off onto other items. Though this doesn’t happen much with modern dyes, a good way to avoid it is to make sure to wash new items with similar colors the first few times they’re laundered and to always follow washing instructions.
BLEND: A yarn or fabric that consists of multiple fiber types. Rarely is an item 100% one fiber, as it is blends that make modern yarns and fabrics more durable, dyeable and beautiful. Some fibers, like silk and angora, are rarely more than 50% of a blend, and are more commonly less than 12%, as it does not take much of these fibers to impart their luxury.
BOBBY SOCK: Traditionally, a cuffed ankle sock that has been around since the late 1920s (when ladies showing their ankles became acceptable) and was most popular in the 1940s and 1950s.
CAPRI: Leggings that end anywhere from just below the knee to about mid-calf.
CABLE KNIT: A classic decorative pattern in knitting, the appearance is of braided or crisscrossing ribs.
COLORFASTNESS: How well dye resists fading or bleeding. Always test colorfastness on a hidden or hideable part of the fabric before using bleach or harsher cleaning techniques.
COMFORT TOP: Less binding than a regular sock cuff, the comfort top is wide and ribbed.
CONTROL TOP: Tights or pantyhose that have lycra in the panty to smooth and shape the tummy and hips. The level of “control” varies between styles and brands.
COOLMAX FIBER: Made of specially designed polyester fibers. It is used mostly in sports and technical products, to wick away sweat and moisture and to improve breathability.
COTTON FIBER: Produced from the fluffy ‘boll’ that surrounds the cotton seed, this is one of the widest used fibers in clothing around the world. It is comfortable and durable, but not very elastic and is prone to shrinking when washed or dried at high temperatures.
- EGYPTIAN COTTON: Made from the longer and finer fibers of the cotton plants grown along the Nile, it is a luxury fiber prized for its softness and fine texture.
- PIMA COTTON: Grown in Peru, Australia and the southwestern United States, it is a longer, finer, and more durable cotton fiber, though not as fine as Egyptian cotton.
- QUARTER CREW: A popular sport sock height, the quarter crew is just that, one-quarter of a crew sock. Which means it is basically an ankle sock.
CUBAN HEEL: An opaque or reinforced sole that extends up the leg, past the heel, ending in a point. Mostly seen with backseamed stockings, this kind of detail means no pesky seam under your foot!
DENIER: A textile measurement that is used to indicate opacity and thickness. The higher the denier, the thicker and more opaque the item. 120 denier tights are very opaque and thick, where 15 denier are ultra-sheer.
DYEING: Using natural or synthetic dyes to color fabric, yarn or fiber.
- OMBRE DYED: Dyed from light to dark, you’ll also see it called “dip dyed” or “gradient dyed”.
- SPACE DYED: The yarn is dyed in many sections of repeating color, causing the finished item to have beautifully unpredictable and unique patches, patterns and stripes. This means that every pair of socks (and sometimes each sock in a pair) is different from another. It’s like the lottery, except you always win!
- TIE DYED: A contemporary interpretation of dyeing techniques used over the ages around the world, tie dye is created by folding and binding the material before selectively adding dye. The end result is a beautiful, organic pattern that varies slightly from item to item when hand done.
ECO FRIENDLY: A general term used to indicate awareness of environmental responsibility. This can include things like organic and recycled fibers. Sock Dreams has a thorough approach to eco friendly options, in both our products, our stock room and our shop.
FASHIONED: Made on special machines that can increase and decrease stitches, a fashioned (or fully-fashioned) item is shaped to fit the wearer, meaning stockings that are shaped like legs.
FELTING: A result of shrinkage in wool-heavy blends, it is when the fibers mat and draw together, becoming denser (and the item smaller).
FENCENET: A wide-gauge open knit that is reminiscent of chain link fence.
FISHNET: A fine-gauge open knit. This is the most classic net stocking gauge and ranges from thick strands to a gossamer weave that is nearly invisible.
FLAT KNIT: Used in the context of socks and stockings, flat knit indicates a texture with a smoother surface, similar to jersey, though not always as fine.
FOOTIE: They cover the foot but don’t go very high up the heel. Also called “no show socks”, they’re often paired with low-top sneakers or flats because they don’t show above the shoe.
FORMED HEEL: The most common foot type seen in everyday socks, when the area for the heel is shaped to fit snugly. An empty pair of socks with formed heels retains a foot shape, because it is built in.
GARTERS: Devices ranging from elastic and clips to simple ribbons that are used to hold up socks. They range from severely simple to lushly decorative.
- GARTER BELT: Also called a “suspender belt”, the clips for holding up stockings are attached to leg straps which descend from a belt worn at the waist or hips.
- SOCK GARTERS: Traditionally, a tight ribbon or band of elastic worn over a sock or stocking to keep it up. A variant is the classic “men’s sock garter”, where the elastic band is paired with clips like that of a garter belt. This allows the garter to be worn more securely above the calf and still reach the shorter mid-calf dress sock.
GLOVE: Covers the fingers and thumbs, allowing for their individual movement while keeping them enclosed.
FINGERLESS GLOVE: Though they retain the individual spaces for the fingers and thumbs, they are not closed off, leaving at least the top half of the fingers free.
GUSSET: A small piece of fabric that is inserted into an item to increase strength, allow for more movement (as in tights), or better fit (as with the thumb in gloves).
HALF SOCK: Just like it sounds. Half socks cover only from your toes to mid-arch, perfect for clogs and sling-back shoes.
HARLEQUIN PATTERN: Alternating diamonds of color, patterned after the traditional motley of stage clowns.
HEMP FIBER: Environmentally friendly, this fiber is very durable, absorbent and resistant to mold.
INDUSTRIAL: A general style indicating starkness and bold simplicity
- INDUSTRIAL NET: An open knit gauge between fishnet and fencenet that tends to have heavier strands and a more solid appearance.
JERSEY: A flat knit fabric made with small, close stitches. It’s stretchy and drapes well, which is why it is what t-shirts are made out of.
KILT HOSE: Traditionally made with wool, this style is worn cuffed just under the knee. Though they’re worn in many solid colors to complement various tartan patterns, the most common color is off-white or cream.
KNEE HIGH: One of the most popular sock heights, they end just below the knee and generally have a secure enough cuff to stay up without garters.
LATEX: The milky sap from some families of plants, it is what rubber is made from. Folks with latex allergies should be aware of elastic content in their socks.
LEG WARMER: Open-ended tubes that are like socks without feet, they range in lengths that go from crew to over the knee. Not just for dancers and 80’s parties any more, legwarmers are a great layering item.
LEGGING: A general term used for fitted and stretchy pants that have no foot, they are also called “footless tights”.
LUREX: The brand name for sparkly, metallic yarn.
LYCRA FIBER: The trademarked name for spandex, or elastane.
MERCERIZATION: A treatment for cotton that increases its luster and strength. It is also known as “pearl cotton”, which is a great description of the soft shine of the finish.
METAMERIC COLOR MATCH: Colors that appear identical under some lighting but not under others. This can happen when different types of dye are used to color the materials, or when the fiber content is different between the two items.
MISS-STITCH: A defect caused when a knitting machine’s needle does not catch the loop of a row below.
NATURAL FIBER: Fibers of animal or vegetable origin, the most common types are silk, wool, hemp and cotton.
NYLON FIBER: A synthetic fiber that is most similar to silk and wool, it is used heavily leg wear, so much so that it became synonymous with stockings in the 1940s. Nylon has a tough elasticity that makes it perfect for socks and stockings. It can be used for anything from thick, opaque socks to the sheerest stockings.
OVER THE KNEE (OTK): Rising higher than the knee, but lower than mid-thigh, OTK socks exist in a nebulous range.
ONE SIZE: Used by manufacturers to indicate the base size of an item. Ideally meant to fit the median size of the population, it rarely achieves this goal and is more regularly used to contrast a product from any eventual larger or smaller variations. As with any general size category, it is best to refer to any specific sizing information for an accurate fit estimate.
PANTYHOSE: Covering from the waist to the toes and traditionally beiges, tans and darks to match skin colors. However, the specific term “pantyhose” refers to tights that are less than 40 denier, meaning that they are at least semi-opaque. Regularly made with nylon or rayon fibers.
PILL: Accumulating from wear, they can develop from the fabric rubbing against a shoe, or against itself in too harsh a washer or dryer.
PLUS SIZE: A blanket term used by manufacturers for products made larger than their standard size. This varies from supplier to supplier, though it is generally meant to indicate sizing of 1x (or US dress size 16) and above. As with any general size category, it is best to refer to any specific sizing information for an accurate fit estimate.
POLYESTER FIBER: A synthetic fiber, it is wrinkle and abrasion resistant and now much more wwweloped than the pantsuits and loud shirts of the 1970s.
RAYON FIBER: The first manufactured fiber, processed from wood pulp. It is soft, absorbent and resistant to pilling, making it a favourite addition to fiber blends.
REINFORCED TOE: Thicker or more durable knit at the toe end of the sock or stocking, to prevent runs and holes caused by wear. In fencenet and industrial net, this can also mean a tighter weave to prevent against toes slipping out of the net.
RIBBED: A pattern of vertical ridges that may be created by differences in opacity, stitch or weight. This texture is often used in cuffs on socks or stockings that are otherwise flat knit.
- RIBBED KNIT: Fabric that is fully ribbed, it has more elasticity than plain knit and often is more form-fitting.
SATIN: A fabric with a glossy finish and a dull back, known for its smooth and silky texture and luxurious appearance.
SEAMLESS: Knit on circular knitting machines, there is no seam up the back joining the sock or stocking sides into a tube.
- SEAMLESS TOE: More commonly called a “woven toe”, the toe seam is woven closed, not sewn.
SHRINKAGE: Contraction of yarn and fibers, usually after they get wet and/or after being exposed to higher temperatures. Fibers like cotton and wool are particularly susceptible to shrinkage and care should be taken when laundering. However, it can be used to an advantage in reducing the foot size of a sock or stocking, by dipping the foot in hot water and drying.
SILK FIBER: A natural fiber most obtained from the cocoons of the mulberry silkworm. It prized for its breathability, strength, and smooth, soft texture.
SLEEVE: The term used for a simple tube, often with at least one cuffed end, that can be worn on either the legs or the arms. Most legwarmers are sleeves, though they are not often called so, due to a larger circumference that can prevent them from being worn comfortably on the arms.
SLUB: Also called “nubs”, it is a thick spot in a strand of yarn. When a slubby yarn is used in a knit, the highly textured result can vary in patches of more and less opacity. Sometimes the slubs have another color in them, this can create a confetti look of variegated color.
SPANDEX FIBER: An anagram of “expands”; spandex is a stretchy, popular, and versatile fiber. Frequently known by the brand name, Lycra.
SPATS: Traditionally called “spatterdashes”. Covering at least the instep and ankle, with an elastic band beneath the arch to keep them in place, they were worn at first for protection against spills or mud. Now spats are more regularly used for fashion and to dress up a pant or shoe.
STATIC: Accumulated negative or positive electricity on the surface of fabric or fibers that results in attracting or repelling them from nearby objects. It is most noticeable when the humidity is low. In clothing this static cling is most often the result of friction from the clothes dryer and can be prevented with fabric softeners or dryer sheets.
STIRRUP: A band of fabric that is worn under the arch of the foot.
- STIRRUP LEG WARMER: Again using the stirrup to keep itself in place, it ensures warmer ankles. Also worn over heeled shoes, reminiscent of spats.
- STIRRUP TIGHTS OR LEGGINGS: Somewhere between regular tights and regular leggings, the absence of heel or toe keeps the legging from riding up without adding more bulk to the foot, so socks can be worn more comfortably over. This style is also popular worn with heeled shoes and no socks, the absence of fabric on most of the foot allows for snugger-fitting dress shoes.
SWEATER KNIT: Though there is no specific definition, “sweater knit” tends to indicate a thicker, chunkier knit than flat knit, and can often refer to styles with cables.
SYNTHETIC FIBER: Also called “man-made fibers” they are generally made by extruding fiber-forming materials like synthesized polymers (like nylon, acrylic and polyester), or modified natural polymers (like rayon or viscose). Blended with natural fibers they add strength and durability.
TABI SOCKS: Also called “split-toe socks”, they have been worn in Japan since the sixteenth century, reaching their peak during the Edo period (1600-1868). Developed to wear with sandals & wooden clogs called geta, they have a separate section for the big toe, allowing sandals to be worn more easily. According to Shiatsu theory, wearing Tabi socks benefits the back, the spine, and the digestion due to the acupuncture meridians located between the toes.
THIGH HIGH: Socks and stockings that reach at least to the middle of the thigh, some as high as the top of the leg. True thigh highs are difficult to find, as they require a combination of stretch and length not always achievable by manufacturers.
TIGHTS: Fitting from the waist to the tips of the toes, tights are more opaque than pantyhose and are often made of fibers other than nylon or rayon.
TOELESS: Every part of a regular sock, minus the toes! This allows for more freedom of movement, which is a boon for improving balance and grip (and for showing off a pedicure). Some toe sock styles designed for dance and yoga are toeless, with the intent to strengthen the toes by separating them.
TOE SOCK: Like gloves for the feet, they have individual spaces for each toe. Popular in the 1970s and a fad in the 1990s, they are now becoming widely accepted as a sock option for the additional comfort and cushioning the design provides to each toe.
TUBE SOCKS: Unlike a sock with a formed heel, an empty tube sock looks like a tube that is closed on one end. Seen commonly in sport and trouser socks, an advantage to the tube style is that there is no defined foot size.
VISCOSE FIBER: A type of rayon, viscose is also called “artificial silk” for its similar luster and drape.
WAISTBAND: Elastic that is sewn or knit at the top of tights and pantyhose, to keep them up and snug to the waist.
- COVERED WAISTBAND: No exposed elastic, the top of the tights are folded over to encase the waistband. Though often more comfortable, some people find them a little too bulky.
- ELASTIC WAISTBAND: Like the style of waistband commonly seen on underwear, the elastic is sewn into the top of the tights or pantyhose, allowing the waistband to lie flat against the skin.
- WOVEN WAISTBAND: With no defined elastic section, the woven waistband looks slightly thicker than the rest of the tights or pantyhose, rather as though the top edge was folded over. This may be the most unobtrusive waistband style, as there is often no seam, as the edges are woven back in.
WOOL FIBER: A natural fiber spun from the fleece of sheep and other fur-bearing animals. Water-resistant and breathable, it also has some anti-bacterial properties from lanolin.
- ALPACA FIBER: Durable and silky, this lightweight is fiber harvested from alpacas. It is elastic, hypoallergenic, keeps the wearer warm even when wet and is water resistant, making it a favorite for sport socks.
- ANGORA WOOL: Made from the thin and silky hollow fibers from the coat of angora rabbits, it is not as elastic as wool and is often blended to make a stronger and more durable item. It is very warm and a favourite of those who have stiff or painful joints.
- CASHMERE WOOL: Strong, light and soft, it is produced from cashmere and other goats.
- MERINO WOOL: Specifically from merino sheep, it is very popular in sports socks and athletic wear, for its softness, wicking ability and temperature regulation.
- MOHAIR: The silk-like hair of the angora goat, it is one of the oldest textile fibers still in use. The unique properties of the hair means it does not felt like wool does.
WOVEN TOE SEAM: When the toe-end of the sock are woven together, creating a seamless join. This is especially beneficial for folks with sensitive skin, who find the standard seam that runs along the toes irritating.
WRIST WARMER: Though also used when referring to arm warmers that are only wrist-length, it is more precisely a short, stretchy band worn on the wrist. Though commonly worn just for decoration, covering the pulse points in the wrist can do a great deal towards raising body temperature, without covering the hand or arm.