Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New YYH Christmas fic! In Which We Pause For A Trifle

Disclaimer: Kenshin does not own the Yuu Yuu Hakusho characters (they are the property of Togashi Yoshihiro et al), and does not make any money from said characters.

What Kenshin does own, however, are all the original characters in this work. Any attempt to "borrow" these characters will be met with the katana, or worse.

Rating: K/PG-13 for anime-style fight scenes

Summary: On a commercial shoot during the Christmas season, Hiei finds not only mistletoe festooning the ceiling, but his allies acting like Sailor Senshi.

A/N: When did I start the habit of writing a YYH Christmas tale annually? And why?

It started with what seemed the obvious choice: A Yuu Yuu Carol, my take on the Dickens classic, and continued with X-Mas With an Angel (my first, and probably only, crossover story), right through to The Thirteenth Attempt (Yuusuke versus ramen). (All still on ff-net for holiday reading)

This particular Christmas story owes quite a bit to Sailor Moon, and takes place within the time-frame of The Book of Cat With Moon, right after the Cowboy Trilogy in fact. Here we see Hiei in his role as an actor in commercials, established in Firebird Sweet, likewise in Operation Rosary (which also introduces his work for the mysterious 'Agency.') Thanks for reading this, and please review!

Because some days you just have to chew through the leather straps….

In the name of the rose, I'll punish you!

Lights, Camera, Mayhem! (A Christmas Trifle)


Urameshi threw up his hands. "Wha'd I do this time?"

Hiei's mouth twitched in amusement. Wearing knickers, argyle vest, and a cap that covered her marigold hair, Shay-san was play-acting 'director' to the hilt. Older than the others by a handful of years, she used this scrap of authority to add weight to her role as director, addressing the unruly boy. "Yuusuke. Do the words, 'kicking everyone's ass' appear anywhere within the script?"

"They should," said Urameshi.

Shayla Kidd spoke to him through her megaphone. "Thank you for your input, Yuusuke. However, those words are indeed nowhere to be found in the script, which, by the way, I did not write."

"Oh, sure!" Juri cradled the script like it was a baby. "Blame the writer!"

Shayla Kidd put down her megaphone and swiveled her head until her gaze met Juri's. The room stilled.

"Can you answer these questions, Juri-san?" she inquired sweetly. "Whose uncle is a famed entertainment attorney? Oh, that's' right-me. Who's been on an actual movie set? Oh, that's right-me. Who had a part in an actual movie starring Mr. Clint Eastwood? Oh, that's right-moi. And who starred as the fairy queen in Naked Japanese-"

Hiei opened one eye. "No one was actually naked-"

Shayla Kidd didn't miss a beat. "-Shakespeare? Oh, that's right. ME."

"Fine," Juri fumed.

Shay-san turned to Urameshi. "Now, Yuusuke. Once more, with feeling-AND THE RIGHT LINES."

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Color: In Which Dr. Inkenstein And Count Sockula Agree

Have we mentioned color?

Have we mentioned that color is what bridges the gap between the admittedly-unrelated worlds of sock-knitting and fountain pens?

(Other than the fact that we indeed once knitted a swatch using two Hero 616 fountain pens... and will no doubt some day ink a drawing using a knitting needle.)

Here is some color.

This above example of color occurs in socks, which Count Sockula knits in dishcloth cotton and other worsted-weight yarn due to the huge character flaw of impatience.

Here is more color, also occurring in the form of socks:

Who knew bloggage was such a big commitment?  

Count Sockula wrote this particular 'colorful' blog post  (which you are currently reading) some time ago and never committed it to paper, or even electrons.  It existed entirely in the imagination.   We had to start from scratch, here and now.

Dr.  Inkenstein immediately wrote a prescription for the forgetfulness malady, but it consisted of purchasing large amounts of fountain pen ink in as many colors as possible.  

Count Sockula reminded the good Doctor that there is already an ocean of ink in the house, in more colors than we can name.   Here is ink color, which has previously appeared, though as a scan and not as a photo:

And did we blog about the elusive mystery sock?   Has our memory fled to the wilds of Borneo, never to return?  What will anyone get out of all this?

The moral of this story is that we (of the split personality) like color.  We are united in color.  All those Prismacolor pencils we own are telling us something.   And that something is:

Write it down before you forget it!

You may now return to your regular reading.  x__x

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Autumn Rain and Gunmetal: In Which Dr. Inkenstein Shows Off New Pens

Dr. Inkenstein has not been able to transform into Count Sockula for a while now, as some nagging pain in the hands prevents me from knitting with any but the squishiest (Comfort Choice, Bryspun) knitting needles.  And Comfort Choice seems to have disappeared from the market!   T_T

But the pain is not enough to prevent me from playing with new fountain pens.  

The following is my usual flashpoint presentation.  I can't 'rate' fountain pens on a 1-to-whatever scale; my mind simply doesn't work that way.

What I can do is show you the goods, dash off a page or so of notes, and hope you will be able to see for yourself if the pen interesting enough to warrant further investigation.

Behold!  A dark, moody picture of the blue-gray Hero 592 and the Wing Sung Charcoal Stars, both in the Hero presentation box:

The Hero 592 has a sturdy feel that belies its price, and its color (soft, beautiful, like an autumn sky just before rain, or a grayed-down robin's egg) was just made for Noodler's Blue-Nose Bear ink.

The Wing Sung Charcoal Stars, while lacking the nib quality of my Waterman Maestro, has the same general look and flat-top shaping, and gunmetal contrasted with gold trim, and black section.

Here are my scribbled impressions of the two.  The paper is an Office Depot composition notebook; the first ink, J Herbin Bleu Myosotis, and the second, Levenger's Gemstone Green.

The Hero was under $20; the Wing Sung under THREE.  Both from isellpens. 

The further I go into the world of fountain pens, the more I like Hero and Wing Sung, with the occasional sprinkling of Bookworm, Duke, Kaigelu, and Jinhao.   These two will fit right in.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ahoy Mateys! In Which Dr. Inkenstein Swabs the Deck With Autumn Color

Are you one of those fountain pen aficionados who changes ink color according to the season?

When fall is in the air, away go the bright pinks, turquoises, spring greens, and out come the October/November colors.

Far from being in-depth reviews, these samples are just quick impressions, in the hopes that one or more of these inks might catch your eye. Most of the testing was done with a glass dip pen and the swatches were applied with cotton swabs.
Many of these inks are available from dealers like isellpens and Goulet pens.

We've got some autumnal browns up first:

Ahoy, maties!  Behold J Herbin Rouille D'Ancre. This not-really-brown, not-really-pink color does not have a huge following, but it's the kind of ink oddity I really like. The name means Rusty Anchor, and yes, that is a great name for a dockside bar. Like most JH inks, this is watercolory and shades well, showing its qualities best when used in any pen with a wet B nib. There is just enough pink in the formula so the color will work in a fountain pen with a pink barrel. (Dr. Inkenstein is a little particular that way.)
On to Terre de Feu, which looks ruby in the bottle but brown on paper. But as browns go, it has great shading, and there's always just the slightest, corner-of-your-eye hint of burgundy. This ink and my red-swirl Parker Frontier pen are an inseparable combo.
Lie de The has more olive undertones, and in an actual nib (not a swab) comes across as a medium-dark brown that leans yellow.

More browns:

Sheaffer Brown shows a bit of red, and like just about all Sheaffer inks, it's well-behaved. As the sample notes, it has an almost caramel shade to it.
Speaking of food, when I want a dark neutral brown that reminds me of cocoa, Noodler's 41 Brown usually gets the nod. I dilute it up to 50% with water for an ink that starts right away even in my dry writers (Stypen Creeks).
Waterman Havana brown is new to me. It looks deep mahogany-red in the swab, and seems to shade well. If it's anything like other Waterman inks, it should be a good mixer with those of its own kind.

A few burgundy-esque inks:

New to me here: Noodler's Black Swan In English Roses. This seems like a nice brick-burgundy, and though I'm disappointed not to see any halo effect, it worked well in a Waterman Carene (M), where its red components harmonized with the tomato color of the pen's barrel.
Black Swan In Australian Roses, also new, on the other hand, looks purple in the sampler tube, but swabs out a pleasantly antique-ish dusty burgundy. But ditto on the halo effect. Wasn't there. TT__TT
J Herbin Rouge Caroubier---the name means 'Locust.' I'm thinking they were referring to the tree, not the bug, since the label shows a leaf, but it's not the locust leaf I'm familiar with. It's ruby-orange in the bottle, swabbing out coral-pink. Another ink that would probably show best in a broad-nibbed pen.

Finally, on to some cooler colors.

Pilot Iroshizuku (color-drop) Fuyu Syogan is new to my collection. 'Old Man Winter' swabs out a blue-steel color, and appears to shade beautifully. It will add to my small collection of grays, and maybe one of these days I can afford a full bottle. -_-
Noodler's Blue Nose Bear, also new to me, is supposed to be another 'halo' color, and in this case, it's true! (some might see the halo as bleeding/feathering), but I love this evergreen-blue color so much I can't wait to put it in an actual pen. The scan really doesn't do this elusive and strange color justice. It would probably fare well in a fine- nibbed pen to let the feathering magic do its work, such as any Hero 329 or 616.
JHerbin Gris Nuage was my first gray, and it's a true gray, delicate and neutral, like a cloud as its name suggests. Maybe it's a bit too delicate and watercolor-ish for some, but it suits Dr. Inkenstein just fine.

Up next:  maybe some socks, maybe some more fountain pen tests, maybe another fanfic. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

We Interrupt This Bloggage (To Post a FanFic)

(And after this Yuu Yuu Hakusho entry, we will return to our regular posting.)

Disclaimer: Kenshin does not own the Yuu Yuu Hakusho characters (they are the property of Togashi Yoshihiro et al), and does not make any money from said characters. Don't sue.

What Kenshin does own, however, are all the original characters in this work. Any attempt to "borrow" these characters will be met with the katana, or worse.

As canon, I use a combination of the Japanese anime and the American manga. The events in Idiot Beloved take place right after the Dark Tournament; Firebird Sweet continues. Most of my shorter fics continue with that timeline.

Sidekick, in which I have fun with titles from classic cowboy movies, marks the conclusion of the Cowboy Trilogy. Hiei is now back in Japan, after Once Upon A Time In The West(to which he refers here). AND we re-introduce Kurama's viewpoint, which I've sorely missed.

Title: Sidekick (1: Call Me Gizmo)
Author: JaganshiKenshin
Genre: Action/Adventure, Humor
Rating: K+/PG-13
Summary: Hiei's claiming to be a cowboy, Kurama's frazzled, and to top it off there's a haunted hotel. Could this assignment get any worse?


Upon his return from America, Hiei had been insufferable. I don't particularly care for this role-reversal. I prefer Hiei grumpy and easily provoked, not the other way round. It leaves me feeling childish, off-balance, all too ready with a defensive reply.

"I rode a race horse," Hiei added smugly.

"You did not."

"I did. Jockey Stomper. That should summarize it for you."

"When did you do this?"

"Last month."

"Where?" I challenged.


I said, intending sarcasm, "Did you win?"

"In spades."

"You never mentioned."

"You're not my nursemaid."

"Cowboys are not the same as jockeys," I said feebly.

"Excellent observation. I'm the cowboy, you're the sidekick. And as my sidekick, you need a sidekick name."

I shut my eyes. "This should be fun."

"Think I'll call you Gizmo."


"For all the junk you keep in your hair."

"Not this again," I said. "Do I bug you about your sword?"

"Seriously, do you ever wash it?"

"I wasn't aware your sword needed me to wash it."

Hiei was bulldog-persistent. "Or do you just re-load every time you take a shower?"

"Of what possible interest is the state of my hair?"

Hiei waved an eloquent hand. "Getting stuffy in here."

It was not stuffy. It was icy on this warm October day, another anomaly which set my teeth on edge. "Save that hostility for the opposition."

"Just passing the time," said Hiei.

The elevator dinged. The doors slid open. With growing apprehension, I stepped into the unknown, Hiei at my heels.

(To be continued: An unpleasant surprise awaits.)


They're not wearing cowboy hats, and these illos are on the old side.  Still...

The tale is completed, and the rest is found here.

Thank you for your patience.  Now, back to fountain pens.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Color! In Which Dr. Inkenstein Swatches

Dr. Inkenstein already suffers from Too Many Loaded Pens Syndrome, so when in the mood to play around comparing and contrasting inks, I don't want to load another fountain pen.

Most of these ink swatches were done with cotton swabs, then a glass dip pen, and therein lies the problem.

Can you say 'frustration?'  I'm sure you can.  None of my glass dip pens wanted to write (The swab below is Herbin Poussiere de Lune).

Enter The Goulet Pen Company.  Dr. Inkenstein eagerly watched a video demonstrating glass dip pens and knew something was wrong.  Mine were not writing like the pens in the demo.

The glass pens in question did not come from Goulet, but a now-defunct art supply store.  I'm pretty sure they were not J Herbon.  I don't even recall the brand.

After some intensive Customer Service courtesy of Brian Goulet, I conducted a science experiment and found out one of my culprit pens actually had a broken tip.

Out came the manicure tools.  In a matter of minutes, Dr. Inkenstein had inhaled a lungful of glass dust, and the pen was writing.

Then my new J Herbin glass pen arrived.  BIG difference.  Smooth as, well, glass.  Right out of the box.  Ink is happy.  Dr. Inkenstein is happy.

Colors prettyyyy.

Monday, September 12, 2011

COUSINS! In Which Count Sockula Gets Modern

Ever hear of this company?  Little MisMatched, or something to that effect.

No, the above are mine, not theirs.  But.   Evidently, mis-matched socks are 'teh thing' these days, and they sell some, and COUNT SOCKULA WANT. 

So I'm right up there with the times, until they pass me by again.  (These socks are a BIG mis-match.  Not even cousins.  Maybe an uncle and a niece.)

With Count Sockula's flea-like attention span, I get bored knitting a pair of socks that exactly match.  And it's a big relief not to have to think too hard about starting a sock at EXACTLY the right spot in the yarn so the second one will be an exact copy of the first.   It is just not in Count Sockula's nature.

I am also still playing around with heel types.  Therefore , the instant I heard this existed, I wanted to try a Sweet Tomato Heel with at least one of my latest pair, but these are 'Throatlatch' socks and it won't work. 

All right, since you insist on knowing: I got the pattern for that sock from a sock book whose name I forgot and made up the sock name because I knit my first such pair while watching the Preakness. 

These socks have got a huge opening, a yawning, gaping throat really, because you knit the instep short, then extend the sole and heel, after which you pick up a LOT of stitches around the opening and make the cuff.

 My first pair was so loose around the cuff I had to weave in a yarn 'ribbon' and tie them so they won't fall off.  Which worked so well I decided to leave them that way.   And of course the ribbons do not match.

More mismatch.  Though of a more subtle nature.  See?  Confined to heel.   

As for the latest Throatlatch pair , Count Sockula promises they do not match either.   Once they're finished, the picture will go up here.

One day, Count Sockula shall knit a sock with a Sweet Tomato Heel.   And you shall see the mis-matched results!  Muahahaaaa!

Monday, August 22, 2011

We Coulda Had a V-8! In Which Dr. Inkenstein Plays With Zebras

Behold!  Yet another cheap little pen that Dr. Inkenstein just HAD to have. 

We have played happily with many Zebra pens before.  The Zebra Sarasa retractible gel pen is one of our go-to models when we're not using fountain pens or drafting pencils.  Zebra's (now-discontinued) Super Marble gel pens, which my kind friend Susan managed to attain for me, are amazing writers, with a rainbow of color swirls in each pen.

Thus we were excited to note that Zebra was producing a fountain pen, at the cost of a whole three dollars! 

In an attempt to write a more, er, ORGANIZED review of a pen, Dr. Inkenstein followed some suggestions on FPN.

The doctor has discovered that this is not at all our style.  No, our style is far more slapdash and impressionistic.  And full of lolz.

But anyway, we present this handwritten review:

Dr. Inkenstein should amend that last written sentence.  

We liked the Preppy's SECTION better.  But only initially!   The more we write with this cute little stainless-steel Zebra cylinder, the more we like it.   The ink flow improves, we are better adapted to manipulating the admittedly-odd section, and it's just plain fun to work with such a cheap pen that also has a cool mecha name.

The proprietary carts can probably be refilled with bottled ink.  It should prove interesting to see how it likes its first refill, but it's nowhere near that stage yet.

Having written with this Zebra V-301 for a couple of weeks, we liked it so much that we took it out and played with it at a recent BBQ, where it was much admired. 

We had also passed a couple of extra Zebra V-301s along to other fountain pen aficionados.  We got ours at  Jetpens , but we hear your local office supply store might carry them. 

A fountain pen!  For three dollars!   In this day and age!  Don't miss out! 

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Burning Passion! In Which Count Sockula Solves a Mystery

About a year ago, Count Sockula bought a hank of yarn from a local yarn shop. The yarn was on sale for something like two bucks, had no ball band, and the store owner didn't have a clue what it was: no brand, no fiber content, nothin'.
But I liked the colors (every twilight/sunset shade imaginable). Count Sockula is made that way: 'Oooo, colors pretttyyyyyy!' I bought the colorful pig in a poke and let it sit in my drawer while I went, 'Hmmm.......'

The yarn sat patiently, waiting for me to make up my mind about what to knit with it. Then it hit me: Short-row heel.
So, trying to master short-row heels, I started a toe-up sock with it. I used a knitted-square cast-on and discovered I LIKE these: you simply cast on with a reasonable number of stitches, and work either a garter stitch or stockinette square (measure both ways to make sure it's a true square.). Then you pick up stitches evenly all around the square, increase as needed on each needle, and you have your toe practically done!

Quick as a wink, Sock One's toe was finished, using one lonnng #5 Bryspun needle on 40 stitches.  Worked sl 1, k 1, for the sole on and off.   Decided on a k 1, p 1 rib for the cuff.

All those decisions, and I didn't even know what fiber I was dealing with! All I knew was, to my surprise, I loved knitting with it. It has very short color repeats, so that practically every stitch is a new color against the mainly-mulberry ground: orange, suede, cerulean, cobalt, pink.

Oooooo. Prettttyyyyy. Photo does NOT do it justice:

But was there, I wondered, any way to tell what composition this mystery yarn might have?   Was it acrylic?  Wool?  Cotton?  A mix of all three, or some mysterious Bigfoot of fibers?

At a guess, it is DK weight, the springiest yarn I've ever used, with many plys, and tightly twisted.

No smell, no sheen and is in fact very matte and soft. Yet it doesn't feel like cotton. For that matter, it doesn't feel or smell like wool.

Then---several knitters on the Yahoo Socknitter's list suggested----dun dun dunnnnnn!----THE BURN TEST. Apparently, acrylic will flat-out melt. Cotton will ash. Wool will smoulder.

Count Sockula waited until a windless day presented itself, then went outdoors with a lighter to ingnite the yarn. After several unsuccessful attempts, the yarn----didn't burn.

Didn't melt, either. Produced something like a flat black char.


At a guess, it's wool. If I knew the make, I'd buy more of it, in different colors.

MUAHAHAAA. Mystery solved, socks nearing completion.

Oh, and Count Sockula decided on an Afterthought Heel for both socks, because this was after all only one hank of yarn, and it magically rolled itself into two BIG balls and two littler ones, as if it WANTED to have an Afterthought Heel.

We went with it. Nice sock.  Colors preeetttyyyyy!

Stay tuned for, quite possibly, some fan fiction.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Mismatch! In which Count Sockula knits more dishcloth socks

Just a lightning entry here from the Count, because I wanted to experiment with two different kinds of double-wrap, no pick-up short-row heels.

One is the garter stitch heel, ably demonstrated by  KnitPurlHunter   -- this type of heel, double-wrapping but NOT picking up the wraps--- works so well that the Count might use it to exclusion in all socks.  Instead of KPH's clicker, though, Count Sockula employs stitch markers to mark the unworked center stitches.

The other heel is the Count's own harebrained scheme: why not do the same thing of not picking up wraps,  but only use stockinette stitch!  Muahahaaaa!

And it worked.  Sort of.

Count Sockula was presented with a nice stockinette stitch heel that looked perfect on the left side of the heel (when the heel is facing the Count), but some not-insurmountable gaps on the right side.  This may have to do with stitch tension.  We shall see.

And because I wanted two different color socks, but a single yarn ball for each, I picked some Sugar 'n' Cream self-striping cotton.  Top-down, 36 stitches, worked on #4 needles for the K1 P1 cuff, switched to #6 for the heel and foot.  It's likely that for future dishcloth sockies, I will switch back to the smaller needle to work the heel.

Behold!  Cousins, all the way.  The coral-toned sock with the stockinette heel shows some green from an added strand:

Count Sockula is also beginning not to like a very pointy toe.   I pointed the toe because that meant fewer stitches to Kitchener, but meh.   I should have bit the Kitchener bullet and worked the usual 8 stitches per needle, not five.  And decreased every row after a bit, for an even blunter-toe effect.

Yes.  Mystery Sock.  On the way.  Unllikely to be finished until colder weather hits.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Go Speed Racer Go! In Which Dr. Inkenstein 're-views' an old pen/ink

Checkered Flag or Crash!
Hero fountain pens,  a well-known brand made in China and  imported by dedicated pen dealers, produce some very spiffy pens at a next-to-nothing price point.

Dr.  Inkenstein aquired this particular model, the 569, quite some time ago, attracted by its general look.   It probably cost between $10 and $15.

The Hero 569 has such a pronounced racing-theme look with its silver 'rims' and black and white checkerboard barrel, that I almost expect it to sprout wheels and take off.

Unhappily, it doesn’t fly quite yet.

I had high expectations for the 569, perhaps because of its semi-hooded nib look and heavy feel. Eager to make it to the starting line, I first tested this pen (it’s a converter-fill) with a small amount of J Herbin Diabolo Menthe ink, and found that it was a ‘hard starter.’ I had to really coax the ink to come forth, but when it did I immediately tried it on a page of story notes on a ruled Levenger Letter pad. I was enjoying the color of the ink and the look of the nib, and had written a sentence or two of chapter notes when---SPURT!  STUTTER!  BLOB!
What the---?  Oh, the pain.

Dr. Inkenstein wiped the pen off and started in again. One word--BLOB.  I ended up with three fat inkblots on the page, and decided to write out the ink on a cheap steno pad.  I only got three paragraphs or so out of this quarter-fill before the pen ran dry, which seemed odd to me.

So I ran to the fabled Fountain Pen Forum for help, and taking the advice I got, tried a different ink, Noodlers Navajo Turquoise---another quarter-tankfull.  I started writing with this ink on the cheap steno pad, and it started with less difficulty than the previous fill. Using the cheap pad, I wrote a draft of this review with no further problems.

I don’t dislike this pen’s writeability at all---but in addition to seeming fussy about the ink, the line it produces isn’t quite as fine as the Hero 329 and the grip doesn’t suit me as well due to the ridges just north of the racy black ‘hood.’

The Hero 569 has a stiffer  feel to its nib as well. 

But with the Hero logo big and bold on the nib end, and a repeat of the logo surrounded by laurel leaves on the snap-on/off cap, the Hero 569 carries its racing theme all the way up and down the pen.

Dr.  Inkenstein tried one final test on the Levenger pad with the new tank of Noodlers---and instant blobbage!

Maybe the pen just hates that paper.

Sorry that there's no photo of the pen itself.   Just this scan of hasty scribblings.   Got the pen from isellpens, where it might still be viewable on one of their Hero pages.

Since I like the Speed-racer look of the pen, it will stay in my collection, as long as I keep it away from Levenger paper.

On Edit:

This ancient review illustrates the many and mysterious interactions of pen, ink, and paper.   I write with some inks that bleed on every conceivable form of paper, even Clairefontaine (Everflow True Blue, but I LOVE that color!).  I write with some inks that behave themselves in anything, on anything (just about any Sheaffer ink).

Levenger's pads are decent; I use them with a variety of fountain pens and inks.  J Herbin inks, ditto.   Speed Racer just really, really needed to throw up on that Levenger pad. 

Nothing Dr. Inkenstein can't cope with.

Oh, and here's Speed Racer himself:

Not the best pic, but ehh...

Stay tuned for TEH MYSTERY SOK.    It lurks in the wings, waiting.....

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Wing and a Sung: In Which Dr. Inkenstein Compares New Toys

Recently, Dr. Inkenstein broke the Unofficial No New Pens rule, with the purchase of a few inexpensive pens from isellpens---mostly Chinese, one Japanese, none costing over fifteen bucks, a couple as cheap as two bucks. Here's a picture-heavy overview.

All four pens, plus notebook plus ink.  Dramatic lighting (ie: iz DARK!) courtesy of early morning.

Burgundy Wing Sung, notebook, bubble wrap, dramatic (DARK!!!!) lighting:

The handwritten comparisons were accomplished by dipping each nib in Levenger Gemstone Green (thank you, Contrasuggest, for the gift of this ink!), which Dr. Inkenstein liked so much  that I will soon purchase a blue and a red from the same manufacturer.

We have two 'aero' fillers and one cart-filler.  The burgundy Wing has a removable squeezy filler, but this does not mean it can accept standard international cartridges. Believe me. I tried.

The black Wing Sung would do well with any ink, provided you remember what color is in there; the cute little amber clutch ring probably distorts hue. The gold check WS would also be happy with any color, but of course the burgundy will have to be content with reds and, well, burgundies, like J Herbin Rouge Bourgogne.

It is baffling why they call this Plaisir 'yellow.' It doesn't read yellow but soft molten gold, very appealing, perfect for inks in the red-brown-gold family, like Sheaffer King's Gold, or J Herbin Terre de Feu.

All told, Dr. Inkenstein stands in amazement. No, these are not high-end Sailors nor Pelikans. They are decent writers, nice inexpensive pens, representing good value. The Plaisir may be the cream of the crop, with its gold-pearl finish, but for their two dolla' tag, the Wing Sung 235 and 840 are pleasant surprises.

(Insert obligatory MUAHAHAAA. Because you still await the unfolding of the Mystery Sock!)

Friday, June 3, 2011

That Old Blue Baoer Pen! In Which Dr. Inkenstein Admires A Gift

Pen pal 'KP' recently sent Dr. Inkenstein a beautiful blue Baoer pen.  Here it is, pictured above, on a nest of pocket notebooks (reviewed previously).

Dr. Inkenstein likes it very much.  It is a pretty little number, silver-trimmed and with a blue-wave motif to the rather shiny, heavy body.  In contrast, it writes in a light, delicate line. 

The clip is interesting, to say the least, with a lot of detail where it attaches to the cap.  The clip also follows a wave-ish design motif.   Since I don't know the name or model number of the pen, I will probably call it Mizuno Ami, AKA Sailor Mercury.

Because I can.

Behold!   Here below, some notes on the pen and its performance, scrawled with PR 'Avacado' Green.   Dr. Inkenstein almost said, Levenger Gemstone Green, for thus it looks on the monitor.

In all, a nice addition to the Pen Farm, with many thanks to KP!  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mole versus Field: In Which Dr. Inkenstein Compares and Contrasts

As some of you might already know, Dr. Inkenstein loves notebooks of all bindings and sizes.

Lately I have been fond of those little brown Field Notebooks, having first discovered them bundled in a pack of three with three different types of pages: blank, ruled, and grid. They come in handy for all sorts of things.

When a set of similar-in-size Moleskine notebooks appeared in a stationery catalog I had to try them.

Both notebooks are pocket-sized (abt. 3 1/2" W x 5 1/2" H), and in a side-by-side comparison, they crossed the finish line in a dead heat. (A little horse-racing lingo, there, folks).


The paper quality in each is similar, being softer and less slick than the noted Clairefontaine, yet harder and more fountain-pen-reliable than the average composition notebook, maybe on par with Miquelrius.

The verdict? Six of one, half-dozen of the other. The Moles are sewn, the Fields stapled in three places.
I like the pocket on the Moles, like the notations on the Fields (which is really handy for us sock-knitters! A ruler, right in the notebook!).

Both are more or less a similar price, so take your pick and have fun. Or be on the safe side and buy both!

Coming soon: Four new fountain pens, quick impressions thereof.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Knitting With Fountain Pens: In Which Count Sockula and Dr. Inkenstein Find Their Common Cause

So what does knitting have to do with fountain pens on earth? (Sorry, there---a little Hong Kong anime dub lingo inside joke).

Haven't you wondered?

Both Count Sockula and Dr. Inkenstein have pondered that question over and over. Well, for short, flea-flicker attention span moments anyway.
The inescapable conclusion is: you can knit with fountain pens. And I have the swatch to prove it.

Actually the fact that you can indeed knit with a fountain pen is not the only inescapable conclusion, but it's one Count Sockula has been toying with ever since a knitting thread appeared on the Fountain Pen Network. Yesterday, the time arrived for the Great Science Experiment.   Behold!!!  The moment of truth. The yarn hit the pen. The buck stopped here.

Knitting with a pair of Hero 616s was awkward and silly but it proves it can be done. Now to move on.
The profound and genuine link between fountain pens and sock knitting is just this: color.
I'm color-crazy. The more colors I can jam into a sock, the better. The more different inks I have loaded in my fountain pens, the better. I love color. Right now I am looking at an apple-green pair of three-pound dumbbells. They are much, much more effective than black bells of the same weight. An unfinished pair of socks in Easter-egg colors is sitting in a fuschia basket. This will make for better socks. I have a favorite omelette pan in blazing yellow and orange. Omelettes taste better in it. Color makes the world go round.
Some people are all about black or blue ink only. I can respect that. One of my pen buddies is a Sheaffer Blue-Black man.
Some people also knit socks of a single color. Yes! I've heard it's true!
That would not be me.
So now that one mystery is solved, carry on, one and all, and stay tuned for the---dun dun dunnnnn!---EXCITING MYSTERY SOCK!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Be Heeled! In Which Count Sockula Gets A Revelation

Good evening, my children.  Turn down the lights, sit back, and listen to another tale from the kingdom of Sockopolis.

So you know how, in spite of short-row yearnings, Count Sockula was unable to fashion a short-row heel that actually looked like a real, flap 'n gusset heel? One that had depth? One that fit?
Coming up instead with pathetic little half-heel nubbins?
Well, my children, the answer was so seeeeeemmmmppppllllle!  MUAHAHAAAAA!
In a casual little aside from one of my sock books, just a footnote really, there lay a picture of a short-row heel and some text that read: 'If you have problems creating a heel with depth, you can use up to 60% of your total stitches.'
Yes! Thievery was the answer.
Imagine that! Use MORE stitches. Steal from your instep stitches to add to your heel stitches! And here I was, using the 'normal' half of the total sock stitches for my heels. Silly Count Sockula.
Out came the needles and workbasket. Out came some Red Heart scraps. On went the Count's usual 32-stitch I-need-to-perform-an-experiment socklet. (From the toe up this time, just for laughs).
Count Sockula may have been absent the day they taught math, but I do know that sixty percent of 32 is not an even number. And 32 isn't all that big a number to start with. So (also just for laughs), I stole four stitches from the instep: two for each side of the heel.
It worked. A real heel, with enough depth not to be laughed at by all the other heels in the sock drawer.
And now, behold the triumph of the short-row heel!

Yes, I know they are not identical twins. They are not even fraternals, but cousins.  But they are real heels.

 Now, once upon a time, in the ancient days of double-pointed needles and flap/gusset heels, Count Sockula was obeying the sock books and CUTTING the yarn (just as the books demanded) before knitting heel flap and turn.  Because, as you know, the yarn ends up sticking out of the middle of where your heel flap would be.

And then one day, another book said, 'Forget cutting yarn!  You can re-arrange the heel flap stitches so the yarn comes out at the beginning of the flap.  You can even knit half a row and purl back.  No one will notice, and we won't tell."  

So it was then that the Count discovered the joy of not cutting heel yarn.  And then came two circulars, with no stitch re-arranging whatever.

Imagine the sense of freedom the Count achieved at the prospect of not having to pick up gusset stitches at all!

This Cousins Sock-speriment has been an exercise in freedom.   I haz a happy.

And here they are compared to a dishcloth sock with a flap/gusset heel.

Once the heel is completed, placing the extra stitches back on the instep is optional, and only slightly hazardous.

Count Sockula imagines one could also make extra heel stitches, not steal them, and then work the extra stitches away once the heel is completed. But this has not yet been tried.

So---unless Count Sockula is the only knitter in the entire kingdom of Sockopolis with this heel problem---if your short-row heels are also lacking depth, you might want to try the simple expediency of  stitch-stealing for yourself.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Dishcloth Socks! In Which Count Sockula Defies All Logic

Behold! And tremble in fear, my children!
*Lightning-flash, thunder-crack*
Yes. It's true.
Count Sockula makes socks out of DISHCLOTH YARN.

Because, you know: colors prettyyyyy.
And Count Sockula, as yet, is quite impatient. Quite. Sitting there squinting at size zero needles and almost a hundred stitches? Alas. Not the Count.
Now, cotton yarn has problems. Such cannot be denied. People have tried to warn Count Sockula off cotton yarn, and with good reason. It is in no way stretchy. It is hard on the hands as one knits. And socks made with dishcloth yarn will exxxpaaaaannnnnddddd into fishnet as you wear them. Whee. Feel the nice cool breeze caress your feet through the gaps in the stitches!
This is exactly what happened with my first pair of dishcloth sock yarn: each time I wear them, they turn into fishnets, especially the soles, which were knitted with a different cotton yarn so soft and pliable it was probably made for clothing, not dishcloths.
And they were knitted on two needles, as well. Section by section. Cuff and instep. Sole and heel. Toe. Then stitched together. What I noticed is that the thicker section, the instep, was indeed made of dishcloth yarn, and it was holding up better.
The stubborn part of me insisted on trying again. I switched to a smaller needle (a size 6, if you must know0, more stitches, and this time, knitted the sock in the round, without seams.
Not bad! Better, in fact. Like a hug for my feet.

I was on a roll! Now you will note this next pair has two different-looking heels. Count Sockula is still trying to conquer the no-wrap heel, but this heel appears to be nothing more than a pathetic little bump. The other heel was done with a flap and gusset, and looks much more heelish and fits better. But flaps and gussets can be---trying.   Count Sockula still finds the idea of a no-wrap heel intriguing. Perhaps some day, I will master it to the extent that it actually looks like a heel.

On to the latest, again done with conventional flap/gusset heel. They are fraternal twins, as are almost all my socks these days. Since I am still watching Prince of Tennis, I call them Mixed Doubles.

Of course, since these are mostly bed/house socks, they don't need to fit as well as conventional socks, but you would be surprised how well they do fit.   Go ahead.  Try a pair.   Good for padding around the house or tucking up in bed.
 Coming soon:  Be Heeled!  In Which Count Sockula Gets a Revelation.

Until then--
Muahahaaa. Behold!! Socks made from dishcloth yarn.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sad day in Sockopolis: In which Count Sockula feels like a total heel

For some time now, Count Sockula has been wondering about different sock heel styles.

The conventional heel-flap-turn-then-gusset type produces the best results.  Nice and crisp, 90-degree turn, with plenty of room for your actual heel to fit.

But sometimes it is just so dreary picking up and then decreasing those gusset stitches.

What to do?

Enter the various other heel types: Lifestyle Toe-up.  Fleegle.  Afterthought.  

Now, a foray into Count Sockula's favorite Red Heart yarn to try out two different kinds of heels on one pair of socks, both done from the toe up. 

The results?  Two sad, much-frogged socks that are finally, finally finished. 

First, we started with far too many stitches.  It was going to be a clown sock.  Frog one.

Second, we underestimated the number of cast-on stitches for the toe-up beginning.  Frog two.   

Finally, on to the socks.  At last (using #8 needles, both metal circulars and wooden double-points) they reached completion.  Usually that event makes Count Sockula happy.   Not this time.

Behold!  The top-sock heel doesn't.  Even.  Look.  Like.  A.  Heel.

It's just a pathetic little nubbin of a heel, a mere bump lying there flat and exhausted, piteously muttering, "Look at me...  I stand as a disgrace to your knitting skills!"

Don't know why.  The numbers work out.  The heel just never looks like a heel.

See?  From a different angle---this time the offending heel on the right:

The first heel, an Afterthought heel, at least LOOKS like a heel.  And the Afterthought heel has that circus come-on of seeming easy.  You just knit over a piece of placeholder yarn, then come back in when the sock's done to reactivate the 'held' stitches and finish that heel!  Wheee!  Nothing to it!   Done it successfully with baby socks! 

The problem is, for an adult, the Afterthought Heel foot always ends up too long.  Even when you take into account the fact that an Afterthought heel produces a longer foot and adjust your measurements accordingly. 

This particular Afterthought heel sock had to have its toe picked apart and shortened by two inches.  Frog three, and out.

I like the bull's-eye look of an Afterthought heel, especially with self-stripery yarn.   Hate the tedious picking up of stitches and the invariable gusset holes.

But at least the Afterthought is simple and needs no pattern.  You basically pick up the held stitches and make a toe where your heel should be.  That's right, a toe.  Doesn't make sense to put a toe where the heel should be, but that's how it is.

These socks took waaaay tooooo long to finish, because by the time Count Sockula was on the leg part, it was like rolling a boulder uphill.  A giant boulder made of boring, much-frogged sock particles.

At least I liked the colorway (Latte).

After all that sturm and drang, Count Sockula gratefully returned to conventional heelage.   This scrappy little pair is the result:

Nice, right-angle heels.   The way they should be.  Maybe picking up gusset stitches isn't such a bad thing.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In Which Dr. Inkenstein Reviews the Pelikan Future Pen

Mostly hand-written, but Dr. Inkenstein wants to add that, at a mere $25, the Pelikan Future seems to be a typical good value and sturdy writer. 

The pen came from isellpens, along with its new little friend, a blue Peli Junior, which Dr. Inkenstein has reserved exclusively for Noodler's Baystate Blue.

Besides, I was eager to try the B nib.  Because every now and then, you just HAVE to write with a garden hose. 

And, as one would have to squint really, really hard, or use a magnifying glass, I will also tell you that although the Future has a kind of cheapy, plasticky feel to it, and the rubberized section isn't as cozy as the much-cheaper Pelikano Junior, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the B nib.  It lays down a thick,  smooth, wet line on just about any sort of paper (this example is a Staples Quad-ruled composition notebook), and though the pen's barrel is more of a lime green, and this Pelikan green ink cart more blue-ish, Dr. Inkenstein will let that slight discord slide for the moment.

It's a fun pen.  We like it very much.

Friday, February 4, 2011

In Which Dr. Inkenstein Redefines Cheap 'n' Cheerful Fountain Pens

You all know by now that Dr. Inkenstein is the Chief Engineer on the Cheap 'n' Cheerful Fountain Pen Express.

And that I always jump to recommend this pen or that pen (usually a pen that costs under $10).
But I've been thinking about this. At times, when I follow my instincts, I don't always know what I'm doing, until later in the process. Now I do: I've been experimenting with nib, fit, and finish, trying to see what suits me and why.
I thought that I wanted needle-fine nibs exclusively but that turns out not to be true, though they're still good for certain applications, like practicing Vertical Manuscript/Business hand, and for editing.
I find myself leaning more toward the inclusion of 'garden hoses' and italic nibs. I have some peculiar needs with the girth and weight of a pen that outweighs almost every other consideration but the nib and 'writeability.' And I'm beginning to get the picture.  Some pens feel too cheap and plastic-y even for me.
That said, there are still certain cheapies I like.
Fountain pens that always make that go-to list include:
Pelikano Jr. : Running from about $9-15, depending where you buy them, they are remarkably smooth writers for the money. I have an older, opaque two-tone flat top model with an ink window, but also many  more current models with the bullet-y translucent plastic bodies and caps. All clipless, and the newer models have rubber-grippy stuff on the section. The long Pelikan carts have a huge ink capacity.
Platinum Preppy: About $3 for a clear-view flat-top, comes in many colors, and two nib widths, .03 and .05. These pens will usually write even after being left on the shelf for months. Eminently refillable, with Plat's big ink capacity cart.
Pilot Petit 1: Abt. $5. Again, a clear barrel, but smaller, and a fat little cigar shape. Cute and a half. Wild colors; the carts are refillable if you have a pipette. Fine-ish nib. Certain colors seem to write a bit dry.
Pilot Plumix: About $7 at Target. A stiff italic nib in a clear-or-tinted plastic body that looks sort of like a squid. No clip, huge ink capacity in the cart, cart can be refilled.
Hero 616: If you get the genuine article, running from $3-$10 each depending on whether you buy in bulk.  Good writers, and so inexpensive you won't bemoan the loss of one or two should you misplace them. Bulb/aero-type filler, and you will get more ink per fill if you remove the metal tube before filling. The nib is fine-ish and dryish, and lately I have been wanting broader, wetter nibs, but I ALWAYS have one inked.
(Now for some older pens, still available somewhere as NOS):
Hero 366: Ran about $4 each in bulk. This is a mini-pen, cigar-shaped, slightly smoother and wetter nib than the 616, a cute little bulb-filler.
Stypen Creeks: Abt. $3/each in bulk, if you can still find them. Take standard international carts and come in a small bullet-shaped version and a longer flat-top version. Colorful, plastic-y and way up there on the cute list. The nib is a medium-fine and seems to write dry. I have successfully stubbed two of them and they seem ideal candidates for such experimentation.
Sheaffer No Nonsense, OLD STOCK ONLY: About $5-$25 each, depending where you can find them. The new ones are horrible, the old ones have easily interchangeable nib sections running from EF to VERY broad italic. Flat-top, many colors, have clips, standard Sheaffer cart-fillers. If you see one of the old-style NN Calligraphy kits at a yard sale, grab it! 
 A glass of cheap 'n' cute, grabbed at random, which all HAPPENED to be red:

Now I am NOT proposing that any of these pens are the equal of, say, a Sheaffer Legacy or Waterman Carene.
What I am saying is that more often than not, what gets inked is not the Legacy or Carene. Especially if I'm trying out a new, possibly DANGEROUS ink.
(Though the more expensive a Pilot is, the less I like writing with it. I prefer the Petit and Plumix to the 78G, and I was REALLY disappointed in the Falcon. Felt cheap and the nib wrote chalky.)

Yes. There are big differences in finish and quality. The Hero 616 and some others do have a cheap finish and the 616 caps don't always mate well with the barrels. But---FOR THE MONEY---they are all good, reliable writers and no one should be ashamed of using them.
As for Lamy, I just don't care for their fountain pens. It's personal. Don't like the triangle grip, don't like the proprietary cart, and though I am content with the nib on my charcoal italic Safari, I've heard enough complaints about wildly varying QC to say nope, not for me. Other pens at the same price point seem better all-around:  Chinese pens (Hero, Jinhao, Kaigelu) costing more than, say, $15, can be splendid bargains, with fit and finish the equal of pens costing, well, way more.

Lamy fans, don't sue.  ;-p

Monday, January 31, 2011

In Which Dr. Inkenstein reviews... The Doctor Pen

How appropriate a name for Dr. Inkenstein's newest fountain pen acquisition! And it's
perfect, or almost, but for one slim quibble.
More on that quibble later.
Dr. Inkenstein was given this pen to test-drive by a kindly invisible friend. The Doctor Pen is NOS, and sells for about $14 when you can find it, and it writes ---AND looks---like a much, much more expensive model.

It is quite elegant-looking, in flat-top form with a deep marbled-amber finish that makes Dr. Inkenstein go, "Oooo, shiny! Pretty!"

These phone-pics don't do the pen justice at all.  The metal cap closes with a nice 'click' and posts well enough, but makes the pen somewhat heavier to use.
With its silvertone trim and an unusual, multi-angled nib that is as smooth as anything Dr. Inkenstein has test-driven so far, the Doctor Pen (made, reportedly by Hero) has worked its way into my heart, and no doubt my rotation.

The one slim quibble is indeed its girth. While it's comfortable enough to hold, with Dr. Inkenstein's particular pen-gripping needs, I can not see myself writing page after page with this. Which is a shame, really, because the nib is SO nice. And the finish. Have I mentioned that the finish is pretty? Shiny?
If slim pens are up your alley, or even if they aren't, you will be pleasantly surprised by this little-known, unassuming pen.
Dr. Inkenstein has a happy.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I Can Has Stitch Markers?

(In which Count Sockula describes a process and shows work)

This is totally sock-related. I promise. ;-p

So Count Sockula is sitting there learning how to knit a new kind of heel and mini-gusset, and I need extra stitch markers.

Once upon a time Count Sockula didn't have any. This was when I first began to knit and did not realize all the toys that were available to knitters, especially sock knitters.

In such a pinch I used rubber bands and plastic-coated paper clips, which at least had the virtue of color---but you KNOW that I knitted at least one rubber band right into my sock.

Then came the safety pin. Such devices have sharp points. I shall not elaborate.

Obviously, these days, I HAVE markers. Nice plastic ones that have no capacity for causing bleedage.

But because (on a break from the new heel) I grabbed a knitting stuff catalogue and looked at what they had, I yearned for markers with pretty things dangling off them.

Besides, I had seen those dangly markers on someone's blog about knitting an afterthought heel.

Pretty. Shiny. I can has?

So I got out my long-unused jewelry findings and a couple of teeny flat and round-nosed pliers. One jump ring and a charm later, I had that very same kind of marker, and behold! It was indeed shiny and pretty.

It was fun. So I made another. And another. I ran out of charms, ransacked my parts drawer for an ancient Archie McPhee cache of little plasticky dangly thingys, found one or two I didn't hate, and there was no stopping Count Sockula!

If you buy the charm-type stitch markers, they get pretty 'spensive. If you have any jewelry stuff lying around, they are fast, cheap, and easy.

(There's a joke in there somewhere but Count Sockula will let it drift with the tide).

Ahh, but the story doesn't end there, my little sockulites. Went to a craft store over the weekend looking for totally something else, found a lot of pretty dangly things. On Sale! Including new shiny jump rings in different colors. Brought them home. Made more stitch markers from them.

I has a happy.