Coloured pencils – reprise

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:

  • soft
  • 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.

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Review: PRYM Knitting looms

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)

+ portable

+ 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 :)


Go to Finland, they have… YARN

Lots and lots and lots.

My sister-in-law told me that they have yarn in a department store. Right there, on the shelves. I didn’t believe, or, at least, didn’t imagine the scale.

Yarn in department store Prisma

She also brought me a ball of yarn in a lovely set of colors, which gave me the name and URL of the producer. Yay. A few hours with Google Translate later I could say I love this company. Click on Kauppa to see the products and Langat to see yarns. “Puikot” means “needles”, “Lehdet” – magazines, “Kahvat” – bag handles. The contents and thickness of the yarns are easily guessible (villa – wool, everything else is pretty much international). These guys are simply lovely – they give the size of needles and the 10x10cm rows/stiches number on their website AND on the yarn label (also amount estimated for standard sweater, sometimes even for child/female/male):

Yarn label

When I finally arrived, my brother-in-law showed me the local shop (3 tiny aisles, 2 cash registers). They also were selling yarn. Like this:

Yarn in local shop

Next to cereals, yoghurts and cooking books.

And I finally could check what real wool from Novita is to touch (the slightly fuzzy one in the bottom basket). Well, I bought 6 of them, making 300g, about the amount for my son’s planned sweater. After 2 days I came back and bought another 2, as I thought they were so pretty, I can’t let anyone else have them (good I did it, because I counted the needed amout wrong). But I started on it right away:

Sweater start

Now, on the third day we visited local secondhand (kirputtori), which served:
yarn:
Yarn in secondhand

Roving:

Felt:

…and handmade socks:
Socks

Afterwards we visited the local department store, which had this nifty shelf (whole one side of an aisle), with all things knitting and felting, yarn, needles, hooks, felting needles, roving…
Yarn shelf

Yarn shelf, front

Almost everything I needed, in one place. Even a bit more, in some cases. I spent a few minutes simply staring at this…

My yarn-shopping and what we saw on our way back from Finland – in a separate post.