Coloured pencils

I can’t draw. Not really. Of course, I can draw basic shapes, or a simple picture, but people or animals (or shading, or anything more complicated than filled outline) – nope. But I love collecting all kinds of crayons, pastels, pencils and charcoal. Basically, I’m a craft-pack-rat.

At school some classmates used to sing “Kolorowe Kredki” (“Coloured pencils”) at me, as a joke on my pencilcase. Here’s the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qg_8euYa5dM

My son, now 7, likes drawing, as most kids do, and produces all kinds of train and car and house compositions, with wonky suns, huge blue clouds and whatnot.

Now, as school requires kids to carry coloured pencils, I just bought a pack of thins and a pack of thicks ;), thin regular ones and thick triangle. Turned out, this isn’t that simple. Until last September, he was mainly drawing on loose sheets or in my notepads, but now he’s filling in pictures in books and it turns out most pencils marketed for children are so hard it’s not easy to use them to properly fill in bigger areas without lot of pressing (which makes school books’ pages distort). Most brands’ leads are so hard that however sharp or used up they are, the trace they leave is very thin and has very little colour.

So, what could I do? I pulled out my collection of pencils, including my just-bought Magic Koh-i-Noor box, Faber-Castell Aquarelle and 20-year old Giotto Naturale. We’ve tested and tried and checked to find the optimum solution for little hand, issues with eye-hand control (which I know very well from 25 years ago) and wayyyyy too much pressure applied. And lack of patience.

Solution 1: Use Aqua-pencils, whichever brand. By nature they are much softer than equivalent pencils from the same brand. We checked Faber Castell Aquarelle, which I bought one by one at some sale long ago in Empik (pencil clearance, if you can believe). Very good colour  coverage also is given by Koh-i-Noor Hardtmuth Mondeluz (I have a box of 12 only). But in any case, watercoulour pencils are always a bit more expensive than standard ones from the same producer. Also, picture will get spoiled anytime the kid has somewhat wet hands, which is often in first grade.

Solution 2: Use very, very specific pencils for drawing that advertise their hardness. May come more expensive per item than aquarells, but will last longer. In this case, I tested Derwent Coloursoft. They have a great set of colours available, called a bit fancifully sometimes (“Cloud Blue”), but giving great possibilities. I bought them “for home use”, this way making sure they won’t get lost at school by accident, and providing both my son and myself with great drawing mediums, for which my wrists are very grateful every time I have to colour something when scrapbooking. Unfortunately, level of softness here isn’t equal (ie. “Indigo” has lead much softer than any other I tried, and I’ve bought 26 colours by now).

Here’s just one batch of them – you can see the colour codes (the ones shown actually have reasonable names).

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Anyway, it still leaves us with something to put into the pencilcase in that cute little backpack. This way we arrived at the point when I have ordered, quite randomly, several different drawing mediums (a pack of felt tip pens, some oil pastels and some coloured pencils) at Merlin, one of main Polish book-and-everything-else online shops. All made by Stabilo, and so guaranteed to meet EU safety/chemical content etc standards. Turned out these pencils were The Thing. Not to mention they are ecological (wood from managed plantations, eco-friendly varnish and packaged in 80% recycled-paper box; they have FSC certificate).

Solution 3: Stabilo Green Colour. Soft. Nice colours, including more-or-less-flesh (no more pig-pink people). Very easy to sharpen, no splinters or breaks. And if the price is slightly higher than for standard pencils of +- equal brands, I still like them so much I’ll order another pack, just to have them in the drawer. Just in case. This is already waiting for me to pick it up at one of Merlin’s “shops”.

As you can see, yellow is getting used up quite faster than the others.

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I wonder how much better my own eye-hand coordination might have been, had I had such lovely tools these 30 or 25 years ago. Well, at least I can make sure my son doesn’t suffer of palm cramps due to nasty, hard leads and indulge in my own addiction by buying a ton of cute coloured pencils. Below my 4 litre box of pencils. Really, 4l. Not full at the moment, as I’ve taken some Derwents out for photos and I also keep my pencil purse in it, which is now out to show the pencils.

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Accidental additional discovery: felt-tip pens, which are in most cases also dry and hard, can be soft and easy to use. Again, Stabilo “no drying” ones, linked above. Yay!


Irony (or why I should never wait with shopping)

I put together a cute order of yarns that I really liked in E-Dziewiarka, but put off ordering just to rethink it for a moment. You know, being reasonable and wanting to review the order after a day or two. Today I checked and 4 balls’ prices have gone up. Not much, +- 75 eurocents a ball, but still. Well, I will wait a week more. Maybe something else will go down in that time :)

What I want to order:

Evita

Big Delight (colour 1, colour 2)

Yarn Art Magic (colour 1, colour 2)

(pictures below are from the shop’s page)

    EvitaBig DelightBig DelightMagicMagic


Online shopping – Polish shops – Polskie pasmanterie

I buy my yarn both in street shops and online and I have a collection of tested haberdasheries, hobby shops and yarn shops. Also, I have my collection of ones to be tested.

Kupuje włóczkę w sklepach naziemnych i sieciowych i mam zbiór pasmanterii, hobbyshopów i sklepów z włóczką. Oraz kolekcję zakolejkowanych do przetestowania.

Checked/Sprawdzone:

Motkolandia:

Yarn and accesories, some jewelry, magazines. Not an overwhelmingly big offer of yarns, but reasonable and a very comfortable interface. Easy putting together the order, easy ordering, everything straightforward.

Włóczka i akcesoria, trochę biżuterii i magazynów. Nieprzesadnie wielki wybór włóczki, ale rozsądny, i bardzo wygodny interfejs. Łatwo wyklikać koszyk i zamówić, żadnych komplikacji.

E-Dziewiarka:

Everything yarn-related. Lots and lots and lots. Cheap yarn, mid-price yarn, expensive yarn, all kinds of needles and crochet hooks, also some fancy machines like knitting mills or skein-makers. Basically, anything you want. Shop has one downside. Interface sucks big time. Loaded with JS, bleeping menu and awful zoom-in mechanism. But they do offer yarns like Noro or Zitron Atelier (not easy to find elsewhere) or silk yarn.

Wszystko związane z włóczką. Wielkie mnóstwo. Tanie włóczki, średnie włóczki, drogie włóczki, najróżniejsze rodzaje drutów i szydełek oraz bardziej skomplikowane urządzenia jak młynki dziewiarskie czy nawijacze do włóczki. Ale ma jedną wadę – interfejs obsysa. Wypakowany JavaScriptem, plipające menu i paskudne powiększanie obrazków. Ale mają takie włóczki jak Noro czy Zitron Atelier (słabo dostępne gdzie indziej) i włóczkę jedwabną.

Fastryga PL

Lots of yarns, embroidery floss, various haberdashery items, handbag handles, magazines and even machine accesories. Also, a number of knitting accessories – knitting thimble, pins, pom-pom makers and whatnot. Interface of the shop is simple and clean, so it’s easy to complete an order, but the ordering process is a bit cumbersome (I didn’t notice at first that my order has to be confirmed, as the text was way below the order contents in the e-mail). However the prices are attractive, the offer is wide – including bamboo yarns, silk yarns and everything in between, so I’m definitely coming back.

Wiele rodzajów włóczki, mulina, pasmanteria, rączki do toreb, magazyny a nawet elementy do maszyn. Również dodatki dziewiarskie, takie jak naparstek do dziergania, szpilki i podstawy do robienia pomponów. Interfejs sklepu jest prosty i przejrzysty, łatwo wyklikać wybór, ale samo zamówienie jest nieco kłopotliwe (nie od razu zauważyłam link do potwierdzenia zamówienia w mailu, był ukryty dość nisko). Ale ceny są atrakcyjne, oferta szeroka – w tym włóczki bambusowe, jedwabne i wszystko pomiędzy, więc zdecydowanie wróce.

Włóczka-Sklep

Yarns, threads, needles, hooks. Reasonable prices, some, but not overly wide, offer in each popular type of yarn. They offer Elian Merino, one of yarns I really like, in different coloursets. Interface nice and simple. Lots of thin cotton threads and embroidery floss available.

Włóczki, nici, druty, szydełka. Rozsądne ceny, niespecjalnie szeroki, ale niezły wybór włóczek w każdym popularnym rodzaju. Między innymi Elian Merino (bardzo mi się ta włóczka podoba) w kilku różnych farbowaniach. Interfejs miły i prosty. Dużo kordonków i muliny.

Still to be tested/Nadal do sprawdzenia:

http://pl.dawanda.com/category/2194-Materialy-Welna-i-przedza

http://www.nisza.com.pl/

http://inter-fox.home.pl/

http://www.motek.com.pl/

http://www.wloczka.pl/

http://wloczkowo.pl/

http://www.zagroda.co/

http://www.hobbycentrum.pl/wloczka,344,12.html

http://biferno.pl/


Shopping – Motkolandia

A friend asked me if I could knit her a hat with kitty ears. Well, I searched around and found some ideas, so I ordered three balls of Drops Paris, gray, cotton, and at the same time I decided to check out linen yarn Bomull-lin. And I got something as a bonus :) Shop is called Motkolandia (Land of Skeins).

One linen yarn ball, wrapped in hot orange tissue

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Three gray cotton balls in hot pink tissue:

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And a bonus – sampler of various yarns on offer in Motkolandia. Now I’m sitting and gnawing my nails not to order more more more more.

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So now in queue to be ordered (or at least checked out colour selection):

Cheope, Lisa, Niki, Wendy, Pure Wool DK, Karisma, Muskat, Merino Extra Fine, Lima, Nepal.


Yarn Review: YarnArt Crazy Color

Today after work I came by my favourite yarn shop and, as the seller already knows me, I again left with a bag of nice things. Two balls of YarnArt Magic Fine, a thick crochet hook to crochet “milled” tubes and a big ball of YA Crazy Color. This one on the top here, brown, gold and blue:

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It’s… nice. And soft. Even though (or maybe because?) it’s 25% wool and rest acrylic. No fuzz, really cute colours – at least this colourset – and it’s lots for really little. About 4 euro paid for 100g and I’m starting to think that the afghan I’m considering is looking more and more probable.

Back to the yarn itself – works nicely as basis for granny squares, crochet hook 02. Even though it’s 260m per 100g, with this content of acrylic it’s much thicker than the same with more wool. It has thickness comparable  to 7 Veljesta Polkka, which is 200/100. Tiny bit thinner, but close enough.

Has no visible faults, no uneven spin, only some tiny spots of black dye here and there in other colours, but I’d say it’s by design.

In general: Yarn I would suggest to a beginner – quick effect, no fuzz, easy to undo, vivid dyes and cheap enough. Gonne buy at least another ball, for the afghan.

(as an aside, the other yarns in the afghan are also on that photo – the green one to the left and the brown/cream one below)


New toy :) And some rambling.

I have just ordered and paid for PRYM knitting mill Maxi (in some countries this is called Innovations knitting mill).

I really hope it comes ASAP, as I can’t wait to try it out.

I’ve already created lots and lots of meters of tube from my small knitting mill, so now it’s time for the bit one.

Plans? Well, I’ve also ordered some yarn (Himalaya Rengarenk, YarnArt Magic Surf, YarnArt Jeans rust and black). The first one will become my son’s new knit waistcoat. I’ve promised it to him so long ago I’m afraid he already forgot. The second will become a scarf, and this will be the first thing I’ll try to make on my new knitting mill. And Jeans will become a huge bunch of Granny Squares, to join the ones already waiting in my “work in progress” box.

I’ve just finished my gloves recently, and I’m knitting another pair for my husband, I have started to consider an afgan. I know perfectly well that if I set out to make one in one run, I’ll never finish. I’ve tried. But now, I had these pieces of pretty tourqouise and green yarn left over from the gloves, and I have a ton of other tiny pieces. So I thought I don’t have to have that afghan now. It can wait. And I will be making the squares one by one, any time a bit of yarn comes my way. This way after a few months I will hopefully have enough just to cover a pillow…

As to the knitting mill, I really hope I will be able to knit scarves on it. Unfortunately my left hand does act up from time to time, especially if I abuse it, and last Friday I was knitting 6,5h straight. Done almost all glove, except for 8 cm of the cuff, which was done before. Thus, I want to cut down on all activities that may be substituted somehow – so probably my next scarf, or two, or three, will be done with the help of this fabulous contraption.

Currently knitting: A cap. In Yarn Art Magic Fine – mix of red. In reality, it’s much more saturated that on this photo. I hope to charm winter away with it, as it’s going to be White Easter if nothing changes.


Yarn Review – Novita Puro

Brand: Puro

Producer: Novita

Country: Finland

Contents: 100% wool

Colours: LOTS

I’ve described my shopping sprees in Finland (and Estonia and Lithuania) last year here and here. And I must say I still didn’t manage to use up the stash I bought at the time, it really was a lot. However I’m still sorry I didn’t buy more. That yarn – each kind – is so nice and absolutely and completely not buyable in Poland. Sniff.

How much did I buy? Two bags full. I’m not kidding, two big “vacuum” ziplocks, see:IMAG0571 IMAG0570

And I have bought wool. In fact, several different balls. Name is “Puro” and it looks like this:

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This is, as far as I remember, 10 x 50g of one colour, which I have already partly knitted, making the start of my son’s sweater. You see the way the colours change? Loved it on sight. And there were other hues, like the bottom row here:

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The “flame” four have since became a scarf and the two on the right – my new gloves, just last week.

So, the yarn. It’s really nice to work with, really nice to touch. Pure wool, so none of that ugly “squeak” you hear when working with acrylics, and very, very light. And comparing to what I could get back home – real cheap. 3,40 euro per 50g, and the brown-gray one was actually on sale, 50%. Couldn’t leave it in that shop, could I? It wanted me to buy it.

Pros:

  • Really great colours (see the gloves!). Unfortunately the producer now shows only one kind on their webpage. Looks cute, but really, only one? Not fair. If you can find it in some shop, check the colours yourself. Google images search for Novita Puro.
  • Light. Very light.
  • Warm. It’s wool after all.
  • Soft, no lumpy hard pieces, no parts spun too tightly, very nice to knit.
  • Ok, I’m weird, but… it smells nice. Some wools have unpleasant smell, but this one reminds me of something soft that you could just wrap around yourself and go to sleep. Really.

Cons:

  • Well, colour range seems to be limited now.
  • It is slightly uneven in thickness – some parts are more stringy (but the spin is even).
  • It isn’t that nice to crochet – as the yarn isn’t spun very tightly, it is easy to put the crochet hook into it and pull it apart. Knitting needles, especially the wooden ones, are much safer.
  • Has fuzz. Lotsa fuzz. Hard to undo, even knitting, not to mention crochet. Not for beginners.

Would I buy more? I wish! I wish I had enough to make a full total blanket of it. But, for the time being, I have my mitts, and now I’m knitting a pair for my husband. I really hope that by the time I have a chance to go to Finland again, they will have more colours available again.


To Finland and back again – and buying yarn

So I went to Finland, I saw and bought all the yarn a girl could want, didn’t I? WRONG. Ok, I thought I did.

Actually, when we were getting back to Poland, by ferry and then through Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, I managed to go, apart from sight-seeing, also shop-seeing.

First stop (after getting off the ferry): Tallin. The biggest haberdashery-yarnshop-textileshop I’ve ever seen:

It’s about 1/8 of their yarn shelves:

All things felt (tools & materials), about 1/2 of the offer:

Some yarn in looser balls:

Unfortunately I couldn’t buy a thing – the yarn i liked was in such small amounts as in the 3rd photo, directly above (1-2 50g balls) and the one that was in large quantities was badly labeled, sometimes even not mentioning the contents. And I’m not happy with “generally acrylic-y feeling yarn of unknown weight”. Most of the yarn was from Turkey.

They also has quite nice selection of ribbons and Velcro straps (sorted by color, just looking at them was nice):

Next stop was the local Prisma, a big scale supermarket. Where I found a nice, friendly shelf that looked very familiar to what I saw in Finland:

Including real-life socks as examples:

And this one I bought 4 balls of:

Next stop: Vilnius.


Topic #57: Random act of kindness (craft-wise)

Last time was actually craft-related. I saved some random girls in a large shop from buying crappy wood boxes (ones that will get their lids stuck on if you paint them, because the paint glues it together) and convinced to get ones with hinged lids.

Which led me to some thinking on the quality of materials available in the shops. Even ones that specialise in crafts. Actually, I buy most of my supplies in one chain of shops in Poland, which is Empik (deals with books, newspapers, school supplies, office supplies, CDs, DVDs, games and what not, also “arts&paper”). In Warsaw most of their outlets (pretty large shops, each one of them) have a craft section, offering large choice of paints, papers, glues, polymer clay, wires, beads, tools, jewelry findings, brushes and, what I checked recently, wood objects for decoupage.

Now, these wood objects may be trays, boxes, bowls, frames – whatever you wish. The problem is, unfortunately, the quality of the offer. In case of all wooden objects for further decoration, the cut and seasoning of the wood is most important for its’ future processing. As all items I saw are “made in China” (I’m wondering if ones made locally would be so much more expensive), I can’t even begin to guess how and of what wood they are made.

I have tried several models and there are some of them which are absolutely terrible (and one that is quite ok):
* boxes (mostly rounded) made of wood ribbon, with lids that fit over them “like a hat”, so that part of the side of the box has direct contact with the internal surface of the lid; awfully tight fit and very poorly made, very bad for decoration; actually only useful if the upper surface of the lid is the only part decorated
* square boxes with hinged lids and a lock – at first glance very nice, but after first one or two coats of paint the lid warps UP so the lock doesn’t fit anymore; quite awful in effect
* square boxes with bow lids – trunk shaped – non-stackable (unlike the above two models), but the only ones which don’t get damaged when painted

Also, shops keep bad and already damaged (warped, locks broken) boxes on display, even when staff is notified about the damage. Of course, these get bought by people who are in a hurry or don’t notice such details and then discover the problem at home (usually after discarding the receipt).

Now, the question is, what is really the situation:
* customers buy bad boxes but don’t complain because they don’t really care that much to complain about a box that cost $2
* customers buy, but don’t care about the quality
* customers complain, but too quietly to be really noticed
* customers complain, but nobody cares anyway, because even if these customers go away, new ones will come
* nobody cares at all, all boxes are categorised in one place so noone is able to draw conclusions ie. which boxes should not be ordered anymore

This, in a way, reflects the state of affairs in various craft shops. One will sell us warped boxes, another will send broken bugle beads, and yet another – items which their carrier agency can’t properly process in Europe, as they don’t have the permission (and, after three years, shop still doesn’t have a warning that you shouldn’t import pearls or nickel-plated items to EU, yes, Fire Mountain Gems, I’m writing about YOU).

Do we, as crafters, not create a market big enough? Is our demand for fine-quality (or at least tolerably good and usable) items not high enough? I would gladly pay a buck more for my wooden boxes if I had a guarantee they are well-sanded and well-seasoned and not going to warp after first painting. But I can’t – there are NO OTHER boxes to be obtained around here.

Why don’t the suppliers get something more appropriate? Offer more than one (crappy) level of quality? Maybe it’s specific to Poland, but I’m afraid that crafts and handmade items are still treated in very unserious matter, so I have this feeling that if I went and complained about the boxes quality, the staff would laugh their heads off…


Advice to young magicians

I mean, to young crafters. Of any kind.

1. Don’t buy too much.

In what we call in Poland “straw zeal” (słomiany zapał) – which is when you like something keenly and suddenly lose the interest – you can spend way too much at the beginning and be left with way too large quantity of odds and ends. Sometimes you will have more leftovers than materials you had actually used for any project.
Buy no more than you can predict to use in the first project or practice sessions.
This will save you:
* money
* storage space
* grief, if the craft you’re trying isn’t as much fun as you expected and you don’t have any other use for the materials or tools

2. Don’t invest in high-level tools at first.

Of course, trying to use dad’s huge nail pliers for your delicate 0,3mm wire or large-scale drill for detailed woodwork isn’t the way. But you don’t have to buy your first set of pliers for 160 bucks. Go to your friendly local Lidl on “hobby day” (or any kind of home improvement store anytime at all) and ask for basic set of cutting, round and chain-nose pliers for hobby/jewlery purposes. Craft stores may also have something to offer to beginner crafters, but remember – the salesperson may try to convince you to spend much more than it’s worth for beginners set. My first set, a few years back, was 4 pliers (the three above + bent ones) and I spent equivalent of $6 on it. It worked pretty well and I even could give them to another – much more talented – jewelry maker, when I got a new set.
So, if you are keen on beginning something new, a new craft or hobby, think VERY carefully about supplies you want to buy. In case of polymer clay – don’t freeze your cash in special-for-fimo blades, or brandname surface covers. Buy snap-off blades (replacements for this type of knife) or use razor blades and get a large, smooth, ceramic tile (left after kitchen or bathroom do-over).

3. Start small.

You don’t have to have all kinds of tools at once. No, polymer clay working doesn’t really REQUIRE a bead roller, wavy blade and pasta machine. Beads may be rolled manually, wavy blade is needed for specific techniques and pasta machine can really wait until you make sure you want to put your money in this area. You don’t need the largest available standing loom. Get one which is 30x50cm and I assure you, it will be big enough for you just to try your hand at making rugs or other weaving.

4. Choose your first project wisely.

If you pick a project that uses lots of resources and time, you may easily become disappointed with the whole idea. Also, if you choose a project way above your level of experience,
Polymer clay? Simple figures, no mixing media, maybe a small millefiori cane (flower ones are the easiest comparing to effect).
Beading? Leave that tiara pattern, make a bracelet. Come on, this is just for start.
Weaving? No, not a whole *carpet*, start with a rag rug or coarse wool mat.
Crocheting or knitting? Scarf. A long one, a short one, but a scarf can be used and be useful even if it’s not as long as planned. A hat or a jumper has to be properly finished, and that takes time. Scarf you can give up on finishing any time you want.
The same goes for every craft – quilting, cross-stitching or mosaic. Pick wisely the first project to make sure you feel comfortable with your tools and materials and with the whole technique as itself.

Now, why am I writing this? Because I have vast experience in how “storage problems” may look. They look like 8 or 10 cubic metres of STUFF gathered in my living-room. Includes paints, crayons, pastels, beads (and really lots of them), wires, 3 boxfulls of knitting wool/cotton/acrylic, thread, needles, pins, jewelry findings, DREMEL drill and its bits, polymer clay (around 2 litres of various types), pasta machine, boxes of boxes of organizers and 2 boxfulls (see above) of craft books.

Now, if you don’t want to became swamped by your own collection of interesting and disturbing craft leftovers, you should either buy reasonably (which is usually a problem, as most of crafters are related to magpies and hamsters – “Ooooh! Shiny! And I’m going to take it and stuff it in my nest!”)) OR, having hardened against the pain of parting with your storage contents, try to sell some doubles on eBay.

Give me your own ideas and experiences on effects of craft shopping sprees – what was the most useless and outrageous thing you brought home just because it looked pretty and SOMEWHAT useful? Huge, shiny, pink bead? A tool you can’t use? Useless organizer box nothing fits in? A ball of wool you’re allergic to? :)