After 2 years of school, we’ve tried out and discarded multiple brands of pencils, crayons, felt pens and all manner of writing implements. The goal is to find the brand that will deliver pencils that are:
- easy to sharpen
- easy on the hands
- possibly EU-made
- available in nice, strong colours
For the “place of origin” I’ve disqualified immediately ASTRA (Polish brand, but everything made in PRC), Maped (simply made in PRC) and several other brands, including all cartoon-branded Disney stuff. The same reason.
What is left that we haven’t tried last year?
Lyra Osiris. These some in 6, 12 and 24 packs, short and long versions and also an aquarell option. I’ve simply bought the standard 24-pack and we’re really happy with them. The colour is vivid, the leads are soft, triangle shape makes it much easier to grip. Also, they are made in Germany. All around – yay! :)
Histar Supercolour. They were added to something else, a gift from family. No idea of country of origin and I can’t manage to google them, which is weird. 6-sided, good colours, slightly harder than comfortable. Good backup set.
Zębozaurus TOMA. Name means “Tooth-o-saurus”. Supposedly bite-resistant and slightly bendable (but definitely will break if you try hard enough). Really good colours, but lead slightly hard. Ok for drawing, not that good for filling in bigger areas. Made in Poland (hopefully). Non-wood cover made from resin. No splinters when broken.
BIC Conte Evolution. Big mistake. Also break-resistant (or so they say, they apparently haven’t tested this on 8-yr olds). The drawing is a PAIN. Colours theoretically very nice, but not much is left on the paper. Apparently in the pursue of bendable leads they lost the point of pencils actually drawing. The same goes, sadly, for their normal pencils. They all behave as if they were slipping on the surface, instead of “catching” on it and leaving a trace. A grownup will focus and find the right angle to make use of them. A kid will give up.
Staedtler Erasable. This was one of the best buys of last months. Coloured pencils you can erase? Perfect :) Wood from managed forests (a plus), really rich colours, reinforces against breaking (no idea if it works or not). Earasability is good, some ghost of a colour is left, but it depends on how hard you pressed when drawing. Good for bigger surfaces and, of course, for anyone who has some problems with stability and needs to erase this or that. Con: 6-sided.
Lyra Groove Slim. Very good choice. Grooves for easier grip, triangle shape, really good colours. These were used up to stubs before I even noticed. Will buy again. Soft, thick lead, really nice colours. Leaves thick trace of colour on paper, no need to press.
Lakeland round pencils. I found only one stub of these in our “leftovers” drawer (tiny drawer for pencil stubs – too short to use them comfortably, too long to just throw away). Means he used up a 12-pack before I even noticed it. Soft lead, but not the softest in this review. Nice coverage of the surface. If they made triangles, we’d go back to them.
So, finally? Lyra. I think the triangle shape and options offered win this time. Will buy more Lyra for the 3rd grade.
Brand: Red Heart Super Saver Worsted
Colour: dusty pink, cream, pastel olive (others, too, but I tested only these three)
Content: 100% acrylic
Country of origin: USA
Suggested needle size: 5,5mm
A coworker decided to destash ;) She presented me with her 4 skeins of never-touched yarn – 3 Red Hearts and 1 Carron Simply Soft. I started with the RHs, all of which are more or less pastel-ish, although the pink, when concentrated in one ball, is rather striking. I hope that mixed with others it will work nicely.
First thing I noticed is that, unfortunately, this is one of the yarns that squeak. Squeak squeak squeak every time you hook it or knit it or even mill it. Perfect for the knitting mill and would probably make a great knitted blanket or a hat&scarf set for someone who can’t stand wool. This being pure acrylic, no scratch. But a squeak.
I’ve milled the cream skein, but gave up on the blanket idea when I counted how small it would be, even if I used both pink and cream (only like a 1m x 70 cm rectangle, or so). So I undid it, and it cooperates with no fuss and no fuzz, at the same time giving a bit of resistance which is always nice as it means your work won’t just undo whenever you drop a stitch.
It crochets nicely and the grannysquares for my purple/pink blanket are getting done in record time, but again, that squeak. I hope in the whole blanket it will be balanced by other, quieter yarns.
The structure is very even, 4 tightly twisted threads, don’t come apart easily.
Pros: undoes nicely, colours are good, easy to pull the “inner end” out and work from both ends or with double thickness, perfect for beginners.
Cons: SQUEAKS. Not to be used alone if you want to wear the finished work.
Brand: Magic/Magic SURF
Contents: 100% wool
Suggested needle size: 5,5 (I use anything from 3,5 hook to 6mm hook/needles, depending on intended outcome)
The colours. That’s what won my heart. The COLOURS. Have a look at the producer’s website and try telling me you didn’t just drool over the colours. I love all of them, especially 600 (have a pair of socks knit with it), SURF 441 and 446 (waiting their turn to be turned into scarves) and 601 (I’d sooo want to knit a sweater with this one).
The yarn is very, very even, with slight fuzz. Undoes with effort, leaves lots of small threads/threadballs on the undone yarn. Slight scratch, but I can tolerate it even in a winter hat.
No discernible strands, but in places when one colour blends into another you will see the “tail” of one colour twisted with the next one (see producer’s photo for 592 or 602). The gradient change is quite long and single colour also lasts long. In socks it makes for ~5cm per colour + soft colour change.
The colour saturation and combinations give effects very close to DROPS Big Delight (I used a bit of Magic in my Big Delight poncho when I miscounted and run out of the main yarn half a row before end). Can be easily mixed in the same work/substituted.
Needles? Yes. Crochet? Totally. Knitting mill? Perfect, makes lovely hats and scarves, with these colours you will be visible from afar this winter :)
Would I buy more? I already did! Lots and lots, waiting for their time, lying quietly in the box.
Brand: DROPS Alasca (Mix)
Colour: grey, dark blue (also other dark-ish and smoky colours and gray pink)
Content: 100% pure new wool/100% wool
Thickness: 140m/100g (70m/50g)
Country of origin: EU
Suggested needle size: 5mm, I’m using a 4mm hook.
Structure: Three strands, visible and separable, well twisted together. Next to no scratch. I wouldn’t make a hat out of it, but I’d be willing to risk a scarf.
There was a big sale on DROPS yarns in May and I kind of went overboard with various kinds I bought, so I have yet another DROPS to check out and review. I’ve unpacked my 8 balls of Alasca (so, total of 400g) and started on a waistcoat for my son. Combination of dark blue and dark grey seems to have this “proper, school-ish” vibe, so he will have something lighter than a full pullover for the official school days.
I’ve started on the blue squares and the yarn is really, really nice. As it’s thick, the outcome is visible almost immediately, but of course also the balls disappear almost immediately. Four 11cm squares and one ball is almost gone (so 4 will make 16 or 17 squares). The feel of if when working is really soft, with almost no scratch. Also almost no sheep smell, which sometimes accompanies untreated wool yarns.
Now, I wouldn’t recommend using it for hats, if you have any kind of sensitivity towards wool, but I personally would risk a scarf or mittens. Would not knit a polo neck sweater or anything tight-fitting/direct on skin (except for abovementioned scarf or mittens). Feels very, very warm. I’m thinking about a pair of ugly but warm socks when I look at it (all my socks are slightly ugly and these colours would not cover my sock-knitting blunders).
Would buy more? Yep. The colour range seems nice and I may be in need of a sober, grownup scarf someday.
Contents: 70% acrylic 30% wool
Producer’s page – examples of finished work, too.
I’ve bought two balls of random Sarayli yarn when I was on vacation and the only source of handmade materials was a local village yarnshop. The existence of one was a bit of a surprise, in fact, but I made use of it ;)
The yarn crocheted wonderfully into this granny-square scarf (3 sq per yarn ball, some tiny amount left due to uneven crocheting).
+ my favourite thickness
+ nice to touch
+ fabulous colours – have a look at the producer’s page, there’s more! (ok, some are a bit childish/sugary, yes)
+ fuzz enough to make sure the work is stable
+ very stable thickness
+ very affordable
– fuzz enough to make undoing a pain
Summary: will ABSOLUTELY buy more. At least one more ball of this colourset, to make the scarf longer.
As I’m searching for the alternatives to simple knitting (for fun and/or future reference) I’ve bought a set of PRYM knitting circular looms. These are static tools, like a ring with little pins, on which you can knit a tube or a flat panel. More or less like on a knitting mill, but:
* much more portable
* WAY more resistant to thicker wool
* more options as to width/stitch count
* more manual operations needed
* possible to use some actual stitches, not just flat knit
* for cons, of course, MUCH slower (see “more manual operations needed”)
What does this look like? Amazon (very small foto) or Wloczka Sklep (where I bought them). For some reason, sometimes it’s also sold, with the exact same colours, as Darice easy knitting round loom set (Amazon). Mine has a pink needle, not a blue one, but even needle shape is exactly the same (and the blue needle is on the box of mine).
Now, for some details.
1. If you use yarn of more or less standard easy knitting thickness – my fav is 200m/100g – you will get a very, very loose knit, with wide gaping spaces between stitches. May be useful in some cases, but I don’t really like this effect.
2. If you use much thicker yarn (100/100 worked well), the effect is not so loose, but the final product will be awful thick. Winter hats, here we come. Also, very, terryfyingly thick socks.
3. The sizes of the looms are a bit weird. The descriptions on the net say that the smallest one is for baby hats. Yeah, sure, for newborns… or dolls. Or, maybe, for grownup socks (if you don’t expect a turned heel, because the instructions don’t cover this). I think with thick red yarn you could produce an astounding amount of Christmas stockings ;)
I wanted to loomknit a hat for my 8 yrs old son, as he got a nice, olive-green autumn jacket and lacks a hat that would go with it. The second size loom didn’t work, he complained very loudly about the hat being way to small. It may be due to my heady-handed way of casting on the loops, but looks like the second loom is more for toddlers (or grownup tights ;)).
Today I’m going to try the green loom, which is size 3, and see if I can get anything useful done.
Meanwhile, a summary:
+ very sturdy
+ will allow you to use yarn as thick as you can get between the pins (the mill has limit at around 150m/100g)
+ flexible as to how wide the flat panel can be
+ more than one size in the set
– needs to be used with thick yarn (or multiple strands)
– promises much more than is delivered (no way I could make the promised baby booties on it – no baby is big enough)
In hindsight: I wouldn’t have bought it again, I’d rather go for the sock loom (PRYM site) but as I have it, i’ll find use for it. I just don’t have that much thick yarn to use up :)
Brand: Everyday Rengarenk
Contents: 100% acrylic
An example of yarn that is just not for knitting.
In short, it’s slippery. It’s so slippery that the second I took the label off, the ball fell apart – the strands don’t stick to each other as in wool, or even most acrylic threads. It’s so soft and friction-less that knitting with it is a challenge – it keeps falling off the needles.
No much better in mill knitting – kept skipping stitches, making ugly errors, quite visible.
The only way to use it was crocheting, and it turned out to be perfect – soft, nice to touch, very well working (hook 3mm). Made a big colour improvement in my blanket.
Would I buy it again? Yep. Now that I know it’s crochetable ;) and not knittable, and I know it has some exquisite colour sets, I’d definitely buy it next time I’ll be crocheting something needing cute colour accents.
Recommended for beginners? Not really. It has no fuzz and work can be undone very quickly, but it being slippery may be an obstacle for less experienced crafters. It undoes itself with surprising speed…
As several weeks ago I bought a knitting mill, I’ve had some time to test it and check what it can be used for. Don’t get lured in by the ads – not EVERYTHING can be made with it. Not every type of yarn can be used. Sometimes it’s a pain. But in some cases it’s the best solution EVER.
(some random purple yarn combination that was waiting its turn)
2. Winter hats
(YarnArt Magic Fine; my son made most of it; perfect yarn for mill knitting)
3. Anything you can put together from flat square/rectangular panels and tubes. Ie. simple sweaters, kimono-like gowns.
Here’s a proto-sweater. It definitely has to have shorter sleeves and the bottom redone, but hey, it was the first attempt. 50g for each part (front, back, each sleeve), total is 2 x 100g ball of wool (Big Delight “Marina”). I will undo maybe 5cm of sleeves and make proper cuffs and use the leftovers to finish the neck park. Maybe even make it on the mill, too, and sew at the top. Fits a wiry 7-year-old.
What it is a definite help with is re-used yarn. I have taken apart a scarf I crocheted for my husband several years ago. As I’m a bit heavy-handed (literally!) with crocheting sometimes, it was, basically, stiff as a plank and more or less as useful as a scarf. Also, short. So I undid it, producing heap of wooly dust motes and several balls of very curly green and brown yarn. I tried knitting it, stupidly without washing and straightening it first. Pain. However the mill deals with it wonderfully. The fact that its construction helps to tauten the incoming yarn nullifies the curly effect. I knit this scarf as a looong tube, simply changing brown and green balls as needed.
The outcome is more fluffy than items knitted from straight, fresh yarn, and it’s just lovely to wear. Actually, out of the old scarf plus one mistaken ball from a different leftover wool, I managed to knit two very long, warm and soft scarves now. The shorter one is here:
Here is another scarf, this one made as a flat panel. Due to the fact that the outcome is all stitched to one side (as if a normal knitting was done in knit/purl/knit/purl rows), it rolls “inside” by itself. Making it actually less flat than the tube scarf.
After this one, I think, all next ones will be tube scarfs. Turning the handle in the other direction is not comfortable, and having to stop at each row end and manipulate the yarn is too distracting. And the outcome isnt’ THAT pretty.
Even though the mill won’t do ribbing, cuffs etc, I’m just going to buy myself a set of 8-10 DPNs to cover these parts. The milled items can be done almost without looking (just with checking sometimes if I haven’t knit something too long), so I can watch a TV show and just turn the handle. I can spend some attentive time on finishing the work properly :)
First, something completely unrelated, but anytime I think “afghan”,
I get this song in my ears, hard to get rid of. See 1:04. I get this song – see 1:40. (sorry for the atrocious quality, but the nicer one was removed ;<)
Now, watched the song? So here’s my afghan:
Nasty mobile photo taken with a shaky hand, but it gives the general idea. It’s 150 x 125cm currently, 1,4kg of wool, acrylic, mixed wool/acrylic and some other, unlabeled yarns. No cotton, silk or alpaca, though.
I kind of started with various leftovers from other projects – I separated them into “earth” colours (green, brown, beige, mustard, white), pinkish (all kinds of pink, purple and violet) and others, of which i don’t have enough to make them a class of themselves.
But when the amount of squares or part-squares grew, I saw I have too much of some hues and way too little of others. Meanwhile I ordered a package of yarn in which I got (among others) 4 balls of extremly slick yarn, very hard to work on needles or mill. Hook deals with it easily.
Over time I bought some yarn for that purpose – Crazy Colour in 3 coloursets, some brown Alize yarns, then found some squares from an afghan once planned but never finished, so I added these, with some framing in brown or green, to blend it in. Some flat plain squares, too.
I crochet on my way to work or back, I crochet on conference calls, on workshops and on presentations. It’s really good I can crochet without watching more than a few seconds, so I’m able to work quite quickly, especially in case of granny squares.
Now, looking at the leftover green/brown/gray yarn I have 350g, which would mean at least another 4-big-squares row added, if I manage to get these properly calculated.
I really hope to get it to some reasonable, useful size.