A skein of Opal
Opal once knitted up

Yarn Profile: Opal

First Impressions
When it comes to pattern-dyed sock yarns -- ones that create a regular color pattern simply by being knitted up -- the Germans own the market. The two main players are Opal and Regia.

Opal has been on the market at least as long as Regia's Ringel and Jacquard pattern-dyed yarns. When the first wave of excitement hit us, however, Opal's U.S. distribution channel was only beginning to be established.

Regia responded and captured significant marketshare. But today, Opal's U.S. distributor has made it much more easily available. Another German company, Fortissima Colori, now offers several nearly identical Opal colors, too.

Although specific color lines still sell out quickly, you can find Opal at many shops now. Each skein label has a sock pattern written in German. If you need an English pattern, Opal's U.S. distributor has several free ones available online.

Both Regia and Opal yarns have walked many miles in my shoes, with equally satisfying results. Having reviewed Regia's Jacquard over a year ago, this Opal review is long overdue.

Knitting Up
Opal has a somewhat dry, stringy texture similar to that of over-cooked chicken. The spin is slightly looser than Regia, and my needles snagged individual strands for a while before I became more comfortable with the texture.

Other than the stringy texture and occasional snagging, Opal knit up quickly and beautifully.

The Opal colors tend to be subtle, only partially saturating the strands. This gives the yarn a softer, almost faded look, with hints of white showing through.

One note: It makes no difference if you begin your sock from the inside or outside of the skein. If, however, you are set on having two completely identical socks, you'll want to note where in the yarn's overall color repeats you began the first sock.

Blocking / Washing
Don't be misled by Opal's delicate dye distribution. Although there was a faint trace of red in the first wash, the colors stayed intact after several more vigorous washings.

My socks dried quickly and in perfect form, with no change in gauge. Stitches relaxed to a perfect uniformity.

After just one wash, the yarn's initial dryness gave way to a soft, almost delicate feel. Opal's 25% nylon content gives socks ample reinforcement to survive the perils of rugged wear.

Opal socks undergo a slight relaxation when you first introduce them to wear. After this break-in period, however, they'll maintain a consistently good appearance for a long, long time. I've only encountered a small amount of pilling, and even then it's only been along high-wear areas.

If you tend to be particularly rough on your socks, you could consider adding even more nylon reinforcement to your Opals. Otherwise, you're all set.

With pre-patterned yarns such as Opal, you can knit to your heart's content without having to worry about managing multiple color strands or following a complex color chart. Opal's color changes are complex and subtle, making it a joy to watch the patterns unfold.

Whether you're working with Opal, Regia, or Fortissima, these types of socks are always conversation pieces. When you tell people it took only one strand, they won't believe you.

Better yet, you'll need only one skein of Opal for a full pair of socks. Where else can you get years of enjoyment for under $12?

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