Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Moleskine large cahier review

I bought a fabulous Stamford Traveller's Journal (see here for my review) and wanted to try various other booklets that would be a close match in size, just to see what would be other potential options. I have already reviewed the Midori 013 insert (see here); today it's the turn of the Moleskine cahiers.

Size-wise, the Moleskine large cahiers, at 13cm x 21 cm are only a smidgen different from the notebooks in the Stamford TJ (12.5cm x 21cm) and so at first glance would be a natural possible alternative, especially as a three-pack can be obtained for about £6.20, making each notebook just over £2.

I bought both the squared and lined cahiers and in grey covers as the best colour to complement the red of the TJ.

As you can see, the three-pack comes with a label wrapped around the cahiers. Inside each three-pack is the usual booklet from Moleskine, outlining the 'history' of the Moleskine (nice idea; shame it's about a different notebook altogether...). I throw these into recycling because they are propaganda, but each to their own.

There are 80 pages in each book, with the last 16 sheets being (32 pages) being removable. The perforations are such that, if you didn't want to remove the pages, they wouldn't easily detach.
The covers are simple grey card, with Moleskine embossed into the card on the back.

Embossed into the back of the cover

There is a slip-pocket in the back cover. The corners are rounded. I note that the books are designed in Italy and manufactured in China.

Squared version:
The squares are 5mm x 5mm, with 41 full squares x 25 full squares per page.

Squared version
Slip-pocket in back cover

Lined version:
There are 31 lines per page with a line-spacing of 6mm. The top margin is 20mm; the bottom 10mm. 31 lines is nice if you want to have a line per day of the month and use them as some kind of diary. I have pretty small writing and so a line spacing of 6mm is no problem for me but for many, this might be a bit tight.

Lined version

Ink tests:
Oh boy.




There was feathering, bleed-through and show-through. Not pretty. Not pretty at all. The reverse is utterly unusable with any of my fountain pen and ink combinations. This is thicker paper yet behaves far worse than the Midori 013. If you wanted to use pencil or biro then you'd be okay.

Epic fail on the pen test! If you don't use a fountain pen you could use them okay but otherwise...
Nice size, nice idea and if the paper were even marginally better I might consider using these for making my own week + notes diary. If I do, I'll be doing it in pencil and biro though!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

It's here! Stamford Traveller's Journal

It's here!! Actually, it arrived yesterday, but I've only had a chance to look at it all today.

Clockwise from left:
Traveller's Journal in calico bag
A goody
Sketch paper insert

I ordered the red version, with two lined notebooks from The Stamford Notebook Co. They very kindly also added a sketch notebook for me to review and another goody which I will tell you about on another day! [None of my photos manages to capture the right colour! They all look too orange.]

It came in a calico dust bag with black leather cord. To be honest, it would be easier to use the dust bag if it were a smidgen wider as it was a bit of a wriggle to get the journal in and out - too much of a wriggle for me to use it regularly. Not a major problem for me as I wasn't intending to be keeping it in the dust bag on a regular basis.

Red leather thongs are from the TJ;
Black thongs are part of the bag

The system is similar to the more famous Midori Traveler's [sic] Notebook, with notebooks held in place in the book and a closure, keeping the cover shut. Where the Stamford version differs is that it has leather thongs holding the books in place and a leather thong and a button to wrap the thong around to close the journal. I really like the button/thong combination but I realise that although you can trap a pen with the elastic system, you can't do that with the button/thong combo and that I'll need to think about the best solution for carrying a pen. I'm not keen on the Midori clip-on pen-loop as it will crush/mark the leather and I don't want to stick the Leuchtturm pen loops on the leather and they would be an expensive (and irritating once the book is complete) solution if they were stuck to the notebooks. I think I've seen a metal pen clip that could clip to the notebooks but any suggestions in the comments will be welcome!

You could (if you wanted) change the leather thongs holding the notebooks in place to elastic as the holes cut into the leather would allow you to string elastic through instead. I'll see how much the leather thonging hanging out of the bottom of the journal annoys me when it's in more use.

Okay, more detail on my journal!!

The colour of the leather is fantastic. It's a red at the bluer end of the red spectrum (rather than orange - none of my photos show it accurately) with variations in the shading both inside and out. I had my initials blind embossed into the cover and the bluish shading in the letters looks divine (covered deliberately in the picture).


The leather has a lacquered feel to it (which I hadn't expected - I had expected it to be softer I think) and the cover is very sturdy/stiff; not at all floppy. It is about 2mm thick. The inside is less suede-like than I expected and in a good way! I'm not a great lover of furry-feeling suede so the fact that this is harder is a bonus. There's a great leather smell to it too!

Inside front. The knot is for the button
Inside back. The knot is for the closing thong

The leather thongs are dyed to match the cover, as is the button. The thongs are made of 2mm leather. They are a little bit bulky behind the button and the knot holding the leather closure thong in the back cover. As these have to be in line, it does mean that there is some bulk at that point when the journal is closed. 1mm thonging might be better than 2mm, throughout.

Close-up of the button

The leather thong holding the notebooks in is a single strip, with the knot on the outside at the bottom. The notebooks are held in securely but don't have quite the feeling of tightness that you get with elastic, naturally. There's no way they'll fall out though!

Close-up of the top of the spine
Close-up of bottom of spine

The lined notebooks:
These were described as having 60 pages on the Traveller's Journal part of the site, with refills described as having 64. This is perplexing in itself, and then in the first notebook I counted 38 pages (76 sides) and in the other book 30 pages (60 sides). Maybe there were just bonus pages in the first book? Both notebooks are stapled, but both show extra holes in the centre-line as if they have been re-bound or re-stapled.

Extra holes like it's been re-stapled

The notebooks are 12.5cm x 21cm and more 'open' than Moleskines - i.e. the middle pages don't touch each other. This might be because the leather thong is quite thick, but the sketch book insert is also like that without having been in the journal.

Front cover of the notebook
In situ

The paper is off-white and each pages has 24 lines. Line-spacing is 8mm with a wider top and bottom margin. The corners are rounded off.

Notebook open (please excuse my fingers!)

The cover is made from 50% recycled single-use coffee cups from a place in Kendal, Cumbria. I think it is the same place that makes the red paper for the Royal British Legion's poppies. Normally, disposable coffee-cups have been difficult to recycle because of the layer of plastic on the inside, but (assuming it's the place I think it is...), they have found a way of extracting the paper pulp and saving the cups from having to go to landfill.
The front cover of the notebooks has The Stamford Notebook Co. logo in gold and the cover is a lovely ground-cinnamon brown.

Pen tests:
I don't really like having pen tests in the book so I did the test in situ and then I'll remove the paper afterwards, which is why I've done the pen-test in the middle of the 38-page book.

The paper of the notebooks is Scottish and comes from a paper mill in Glenrothes. The company used to have another paper mill in the village a few miles from me, but sadly it closed a few years ago.

The paper is glorious quality. It is silky-smooth and fantastic for fountain pens. My very wet nibbed Pelikan Script laid down a LOT of ink and it took a while to dry so, as is often the case, lefties, check your favourite ink/nib combo dries quickly enough for you.
There was zero feathering, zero bleed-through and just the faintest show-through to the other side.

Pen tests - front
Pen tests - reverse

The biggest issue was not the paper quality at all - it was the leather thong being so bulky that it creased the paper and was bumpy to try and write across.

[I will review the sketch paper insert later when I have had more time to play with it]

I love it. I may contemplate replacing the leather thongs holding the notebooks in with elastic, just because the leather thong is pretty thick and makes it difficult to write in the middle of the book. I may also pimp it with a couple of Midori TN accessories (such as the zipped pocket). The size is great - almost A5 and crucially, even though it's only a couple of cm wider, it feels like a better aspect ratio than the Midori TN.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Midori 013 insert review

As you must all know by now, I ordered one of the GORGEOUS Stamford Notebook Co. Traveller's Journals last week. Naturally, my mind then considered potential refills, other than the Stamford Notebook Co. versions. Just to have options. You'll all understand.

So, I ordered the Midori 013 insert and two different kinds of Moleskine cahier - ruled and squared to do a compare and contrast with the notebooks that come with the Traveller's Journal - on paper quality, number of pages, fit within the leather cover and overall value for money.
[I write. A lot. I could get through a lot of notebooks in a very short time. These things are important to me!]

Anyway, the Traveller's Journal is still in transit so the Midori inserts have arrived before the TJ...

I went for the Midori 013 as I was curious about the paper. I've heard mixed things about it. For those not in the know, the 013 insert has 128 pages instead of the standard 64 page fill. However, I had heard that the show-through of ink to the reverse of the page was significant. To my mind, there would be no point in having twice as many pages in the booklet if you could only write on one side of them!

So here we go:

The notebooks were ordered from The Journal Shop (no affiliation, just a loyal customer) and arrived promptly. They came in a cellophane bag with the insert label on the front. The notebook inside is plain, front and back and is 11cm x 21cm. It has quite a strong smell but I genuinely cannot describe what it smells of! Glue? But the book is stapled.

Still in its wrapper
Plain cover

Inside, the very first and last sheet are of different paper. In the front it is stamped with a frame for you to label up what the notebook is about and the Midori logo at the bottom.

Front sheet

On the back page, there is a small stamp that says Traveler's notebook. For all the travelers who have a free spirit.

[a free spirit, but who are unable to spell travellers it seems]

The main paper itself is a slightly off-white colour and unlined and un-numbered.

main paper - unlined and not numbered

And now for the ink tests!!

For once, I don't have a zillion pens all inked up. Only 7 fountain pens are inked (which may well be 6-7 more than most people have but surely not people visiting a blog called Paper, Pens and Ink??).

The paper is beautiful to write on. Smooth and silky and drying times on most inks weren't excessive (though if you're left-handed you may find some issues). With a dark-background (my desk) the paper showed almost no show-through to the reverse but when I folded the paper back on itself, there was some.

Ink tests
Reverse with a dark background (my desk)
Reverse when the page is folded back
(so there is  a page behind it)

The show-through is there but it's actually not as bad as I feared. I think a fine nib rather than my italic versions and the right ink could be perfectly usable. The Platinum Plaisir is about the finest nib I have and the show-through isn't too bad. Not so bad I would feel like I couldn't use the reverse, anyway.

Once the Traveller's Journal arrives I'll post about how good a fit these are in it (they are the same height, but 1.5cm narrower than the Stamford notebooks).

Sunday, 19 April 2015

New washi

As part of my "buying stationery because I feel miserable" splurge, I bought 3 rolls of washi from Fox and Star.

Fox and Star is a site that reminds me of The Lovely Desk and they sell similar items, though I think Fox and Star sell more types of washi than The Lovely Desk.

Anyway, the three rolls that I bought are:

1. 'Noar' Animal Shinzi Katoh washi tape

This is the washi tape version of the die-cut tape I got from The Lovely Desk (which the observant amongst you will have seen decorating the memo section of my diary). There is a selection of very sweet animals on the tape, although my favourites are still the giraffe, the elephants and the donkey. I'm sad that the tape is narrower than the pattern and that the lions and elephants are cropped at the top. Compare it with the die-cut version:

Also, both chickens face the same way, as do both of the elephants (although the lions don't, which they did in the die-cut version). Overall, I prefer the die-cut tape.

2. 'Pandasan' Shinzi Katoh washi tape

The Pandas look a bit like they've just slipped on the ice and fallen over, but are very sweet.

3. 'A wash' Elephant Shinzi Katoh washi tape

Not sure they look all that much like elephants, but it's quite sweet.

I've been using them to decorate the memo part of my WO2P diary and they do cheer the otherwise somewhat severe-looking pages!

Delivery was both very reasonable (£1.65 for all of the tapes together) and prompt - they arrived by first class post - and the tapes came in a little, stripy paper bag inside the Jiffy-bag.

All in all I'm pleased with them and with the company. Go check them out - they have some really nice stuff!

[I am in no way affiliated with Fox and Star - I'm just a happy customer]

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Ooh... I've seen THIS

Image from The Stamford Notebook Co.
reproduced with permission

Isn't this fabulous! It's by The Stamford Notebook Company and is their Traveller's Journal. I saw the picture on Twitter and fell in love!

It's made of thick leather and the journals are hand-dyed by the company using vegetable dyes. The dimensions of the journal are 14cm x 23cm and the internal notebooks are 12.5cm x 21cm.
[For comparison, a Midori Traveler's Notebook (Midori - please could you spell Traveller properly??) is 12cm x 22cm with the Midori notebook refills 11cm x 21cm.]

Look at the range of colours they come in! They are so beautiful and that red one has my name on it!

Image from The Stamford Notebook Co.
reproduced with permission

They come supplied with two internal notebooks and you can choose whether these are lined, plain, squared or sketch paper. Apparently, the cover board is made from recycled coffee cups! Very environmentally friendly. According to the website (I haven't got one to test personally) the smooth paper is fountain-pen friendly and an off-white colour. The sketch paper is a white paper designed for drawing. The booklets have 60 pages and are 12.5cm x 21cm and are held in with leather cords. From the picture showing all the colours, it looks like the leather cords match the cover - a lovely touch. Refills are available from the company, but I note that a large Moleskine cahier (if you can stand their paper) is 13cm x 21cm and so would probably fit and Midori notebooks are a shade narrower but would fit too.

Image from The Stamford Notebook Co.
reproduced with permission

As you can see from the picture, the journals are fastened closed with a leather thong that winds around a leather button with the company logo on. I really love that - it seems classier than the elastic closures seen on other well known brands!

Image from The Stamford Notebook Co.
reproduced with permission

The rear of the journal has 'Stamford' blind embossed on it.

Image from The Stamford Notebook Co.
reproduced with permission

You can also get up to 4 initials embossed into the leather, in gold, silver, bronze or 'blind' (i.e. no colour - as shown in the picture above). The journal is supplied in a calico bag which has a drawstring fastening of a leather thong (you can see it behind the journal in the top picture).

I absolutely love the look of these and I'm also very impressed that the company and their products are British made. I may well be ordering one of these in red in the very near future, especially as I am still in a stationery-buying mode!

[Update: I did order one! Review to follow when it arrives]

Some days, you just have to throw the list away

I had great plans for this week but a series of sleepless nights have thrown them into total disarray. Exhaustion and creativity are not natural bed-fellows it would seem and stress over the fact that I still have not got either a diagnosis nor any treatment for my dysrhythmia (coupled with some new health issues...) has sapped any remnants of desire to do pretty much anything.

I've thrown away my list for the week and have decided that above all else, this week my focus should be me. Not the house, the garden, my book or any of the other things I thought I might have done this week. Just me.

I'm reading blogs, I'm napping, I'm browsing stationery, I'm buying (more) stationery, I'm writing to friends, I'm reading books, I'm watching TV or listening to the radio... whatever I want to, basically! Much as all the things on my list of next actions were progressing personal goals, this week I just need to chill and accept that none of these things are going to happen. I can label it as 'sharpening the saw' if I want, but really, it's just putting me top of the list.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Compact Cavendish versus compact Belgravia

[I realise this might be a less than useful comparison as neither of these binders are freely available, even on eBay but maybe if people see them somewhere and want to know a bit more about them, it will be helpful]

Last week, I said that I had bought another binder from eBay - it was a black compact Belgravia.

I knew nothing about the binder beyond the pictures that were on the advert but I could see that there were eight card slots on the LHS and a zipped pocket on the RHS. It had a strap closure and as it was a compact, I assumed it had 15mm rings.

Hang, on. Don't I have a black compact binder with eight card slots on the LHS and a zipped pocket on the back? In a compact Cavendish? Um... yes.

So, here we go - compare and contrast between the two:

Card slots:
Both binders have 8 card slots on the LHS but the Belgravia has slanted slots whereas the Cavendish has the more conventional straight slots. In both models, there is a vertical pocket behind the card slots.

Belgravia with curved card slots
Cavendish with straight slots

Right hand side:
In the Cavendish, there are two pocket on the RHS - a vertical one that is about half the width of the binder and a second 7/8 slip pocket.

Cavendish showing it unfilled

In the Belgravia, there is a zipped pocket with an elastic gusset. I've not seen that before. I have a couple of binders that have a leather gusset -allowing more to go into the pocket and easier access in general, but I have never seen one with an elastic gusset. It may just be that it is unused, but the elastic was very stiff!

Belgravia showing it unfilled
Paperweight jamming the pocket open so you can see the elastic

Back cover:
In the Cavendish, there is a zipped pocket on the back cover. The Belgravia just has Filofax embossed into the leather.

Cavendish with zipped pocket
Belgravia with embossed logo

Pen loop:
Both binders have a single all-leather pen loop that is about right for holding a very slim pen (like my Zebra diary pen/pencil (8mm diameter)) but would struggle with much more. Again, perhaps because it was newer/less used, the loop in the Belgravia was very tight. Both pen loops measured 5.5cm from the edge of the back cover to the centre of the press-stud fastener.
The Cavendish has a leather-covered stud; the Belgravia has a metal stud-cover with Filofax on it.

The Cavendish is a little less happy about opening flat and I would rate it as about 6/10. The Belgravia lies pretty flat and I would give it 9/10.

In the Belgravia there is a definite feeling of a piece of stiff card or similar in the front and back covers (with either nothing behind the ring mechanism, or three separate pieces. It feels more flexible between the cover and the spine).
The Cavendish also feels as if there is card behind the front and back covers but it is a lot less flexible at the cover-spine junction (which is presumably why it is less resistant to lying flat).

Both binders have oval rings that are 15mm wide and 11mm deep. There are no gaps and they snap closed very smartly.

Having looked at the specs, I then decided to put the same 'fill' into each of them to see how they worked.

I have actually used the Cavendish as my carry-around so I knew that it could work in this way. I put cards in the slots, my weekly plans for April in the front, 6-months of Da Vinci Tomoe River WO2P dairy behind, about a dozen information pages and then my address section. Right at the back I put the zipped pencil case that I keep coins in. In the back cover, I put paper money in the full-height vertical pocket and in the zipped pocket in the back cover, I put the cards I carry but don't need to access easily.

Cavendish, filled

As I say, I have used the Cavendish like this as my wallet-binder carry-around. The only thing that really bugged me was the fact it didn't really lie flat.

I put the same fill in to the Belgravia. The commonly used cards went in the front, the other cards went in the zipped pocket, I put the same pages in the rings and paper money behind the cards.

Belgravia, filled
The first thing I noticed was that although the card slots would appear to have easier access with the slant to them, it was hard to get cards in and out. That said, I don't think they had ever really been used so it could just be that they are stiff.
The second thing I noticed was that although there IS a pocket behind the cards, it was hard to get the paper money in/out of it.
The third thing I noticed was that although I measured the straps to be exactly the same length, the strap of the Belgravia was hard to close (as if it was shorter) than the one on the Cavendish (which closed very happily).

In general:
If you didn't want the binder to function as both a wallet and an organiser, then the Belgravia would be better, because it lies flatter and the lack of a pocket that works well for paper money wouldn't matter.
If you want to combine wallet and organiser, I would say that the Cavendish has it by a tiny margin. It doesn't lie quite so flat, but the zipped pocket on the outside is useful and the internal layout of the back cover is better than the zipped pocket of the Belgravia (to my mind).