Mechanical pencil comparison – 0.2 and 0.3 mm

Mab Graves is one of my favourite artists. When she posts work in progress on Instagram often there’s a bright yellow mechanical pencil in the photo; a 0.3 mm Alvin Draft/Matic. I love pens with tiny points, so I recently got myself a “Mab” pencil, and for comparison also a 0.3 Pentel Graphgear 500.

Today another three arrived in the mail. Here they all are:

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  • Alvin Draft/Matic:
    • Reasonably heavy.
    • Nice colour.
    • Some might find the grip too textured.
  • Pentel Graphgear 500:
    • Nice pointiness; gives a good view of whatever one is writing/drawing.
  • Uni Shift:
    • Beautiful design.
    • The heaviest of the bunch.
    • Retractable: I can pop it in my bag and be sure the lead sleeve won’t be damaged.
  • Uni Kuru Toga:
    • Rotates the lead  every time you lift the pencil from the paper, to give a finer and more uniform line. I don’t think my pencil is rotating as much as it should be, judging by this video. It does feel a bit scratchy though, which is a sign it’s working somewhat, and which also makes me think I prefer the lo-tech version where I rotate the pencil in my hand at my own leisure. Note, the mechanism will have a more noticeable effect with thicker lead.
    • Very lightweight.
  • Pentel Orenz 0.2 mm:
    • The tiniest lead size available in a mechanical pencil, to my knowledge. The tip of the lead sleeve is rounded and is meant to glide across the paper and get pushed back as the lead gets shorter.
    • The line is ever so slightly thinner than 0.3 mm but it feels a bit scratchy. At first I thought it was the lead sleeve, but I think it’s the thin lead itself that does it. This is on regular Moleskine notebook paper.
    • I have big lady hands, but I like the feel of the slender grip.
    • The lead sleeve does retract but cannot be locked in place like on the Uni Shift.

Weight:

  • 10 g: Uni Kuru Toga
  • 11 g: Pentel Orenz
  • 15 g: Pentel Graphgear 500
  • 17 g: Alvin Draft/Matic
  • 19 g: Uni Shift

Weight distribution, for those who are interested:

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Conclusion: In spite of my love for tiny points, I will go for a heavy 0.3 mm pencil over these 0.2 mm and rotating lead pencils. The difference in line width is not very noticeable, and also I have a huge crush on the silver/blue Uni Shift. Shown in this photo with the point out; in the main photo it is retracted and exposes a section of lovely blue.

Here it is: http://www.jetpens.com/Uni-Shift-Pipe-Lock-Drafting-Pencil-0.3-mm-Silver-Body-with-Light-Blue-Accent/pd/3613

 

Prismacolor Premier colour pencil review

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I am an office/art supply geek. I spend far too much time browsing stores like dickblick.com and jetpens.com, looking for the perfect whatever I’m getting. This time it was colouring pencils. I like them soft, and it sounded like Prismacolor Premier are the softest available.

However, review after review says the cores break too often, and that the wood casing is terrible quality and will sometimes split down the length of the pencil. Also many of the colours are not lightfast. (Chart)

Still, I wanted to try them. I got open stock, and only ordered reasonably lightfast colours. They were not pre-sharpened, so I sharpened them all with what I had at hand – a cheapo plastic sharpener meant for makeup pencils, which gives a fairly short point – probably a good choice. Get this: None of the cores broke, and while I’ve seen higher quality wood casings, they seem like they might last. This makes me very happy!

I love the colour laydown. I expected it to be messy, but it’s not; it puts down a lot of colour in a smooth and tidy manner.

To conclude, these show more promise than expected. And because they are inexpensive, I can easily see myself getting a huge set of these for my children.

For the record, I have a bunch of Polychromos which I love though they are not very soft. I have also sampled Coloursoft, which I like – they feel similar to Prismacolors – and Luminance, which were surprisingly scratchy.

There is one fact about Prismacolor and Polychromos: The entire casing is the colour of the core. I tend to keep pencils point up in jars, and if I were to do that with Luminance or Coloursoft I would have to study the points themselves to find the right colour. Jars is perhaps not the way to go. I would love a couple of these boxes.

PS: For kids I highly recommend Lyra Groove Slim – soft, high quality casings, and generally a pleasure to use.

Update: Got my 4 year old a 72 Prismacolor set for christmas. Over the top, I know. When he works on his colouring pages, he likes to refer to a picture and refuses to go ahead if he cannot find the correct shade, like Ninja Turtle green or Minecraft Diamond Sword turquoise. Seeing as Prismacolors aren’t all that expensive I thought I might as well go for it. Btw 72 is enough. There are so many shades of each colour, I cannot imagine what could possibly be missing. And yet this is only half the shades that Prismas come in! Our experience so far with the set is the same as with open stock: The wooden casings are OK; no signs of splitting. The cores are off-center in some of the pencils, but again it’s not a crisis.

Inspirational knitter

Every now and then, I come across extraordinary inspiration. The last time it happened was a few weeks ago on Ravelry. There’s this knitter from New Zealand who makes the most beautiful knitwear. I particularly like the way she picks and combines colors. Check out her projects on Ravelry. (You need to be logged in to see them.) I particularly like the colors in her Stripe study shawl and the stunning grey in her “Rikke” hat.

 

Magic Loop needle recommendations

For magic loop, you need a pair of circular needles that is at least 32 inches / 80 cm long, and that has a flexible cable.

I have a lot of needles that my Mom bought in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Those suckers will last forever, but the cables are also very stiff and can not be used.

Here are the types I’ve tried:

These all work very well for Magic Loop. I had the cable/needle join slide a little apart on a pair of Addis, but if you’re a little careful that shouldn’t happen. (The folks at Addi also replaced them for me completely hassle-free.)

The Signature needles are beautiful, and so are the Karbonz.

With Signature needles, you get to choose the length – 4, 5, or 6 inches. 6-inch needles are nice if you have big hands. They are also colour-coded. I think all needles should be :-) The cable on these is the most flexible I’ve come across.

Nice to know: Knitter’s Pride and Knitpicks are the same brand, as marketed in the US and in Europe, respectively.

Fun fact: HiyaHiya needles come in ridiculously small sizes – here’s an order of 0.7 and 1.2 mm 32-inch needles, as well as a 9-inch circular needle which are allegedly becoming popular for knitting e.g. mittens and socks in the round. It is also supposed to be a good helper needle for making cables, which is why I got it.

HiyaHiya needles
0.7 mm and 1.2 mm needles

Knitting technique: Magic Loop

My favourite knitting technique is Magic Loop! If you have anything at all against DPNs (double pointed needles), I recommend trying it. Ladders between the needles? Needles sliding out? History. Yet the best part is that with one circular needle each size, I can knit almost anything. I’m no supplies minimalist I’m afraid, but at least I don’t have to haul 2 kg of needles with me on travels to make sure I’m covered.

—> Magic Loop videos

I demonstrated Magic Loop to my mother-in-law last fall, and she was intrigued. Her circular needles are all rather short and with stiff cables so I got her a 40-inch Signature Needle Arts circular for christmas.

She had the technique down in no time at all, and next time I saw her she had finished a pair of mittens and told me she was a bit sad that she didn’t have suitable needles in more sizes. I’m very impressed, actually. I’m not sure , if I were her age, that I’d take so easily to a new technique, or even want to try..! It will be my goal to be as open-minded as her.

Next post: Needle recommendations for Magic Loop.

Discovering new knitting techniques

I learned how to knit as a child, and rediscovered knitting a few years ago. My favourite thing is learning new techniques. There are so many ways to do things! Below, I’ve listed some techniques that I’ve tried. Most of them I would not have discovered if it hadn’t been for the Internet. I shudder to think about never knowing Magic Loop.

  •  Magic Loop
  • Judy’s magic cast-on
  • Cable cast-on
  • Tubular cast-on and bind-off
  • Jeny’s surprisingly stretchy bind-off
  • Kitchener stitch
  • Norwegian purl

Finding a new, useful technique makes me happy the same way that mastering an instrument or drawing a nice sketch does. Which is pretty major. Next post, I’ll explain why I like Magic Loop.

Dutch Baby

I hadn’t heard of a Dutch Baby until I read this blog post. It’s a sort of pancake. I tend to use a lot of eggs when I make pancakes, but a dutch baby is even more “omeletty”. I made one for the first time today, and it was so yummy!
Here’s my (european) version of the recipe:

3 eggs
1.1 dl milk
Seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean
1/8 tsp cinnamon
3 pinches of salt
1.1 dl flour
40 g butter, melted
A few raspberries (frozen is fine)
Powdered sugar

Beat the eggs with milk, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Sift in the flour, whisk until smooth. Whisk in the melted butter. Pour into some kind of reasonably large dish – I used a large spring form lined with buttered baking paper. Sprinkle the berries on top, bake at 220 °C for 15 minutes. Turn down heat to 160 °C and bake another 10 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar.