Saturday, 29 April 2017

Review of New Darkstar Collection Notebooks

Stuart from PocketNotebooks kindly sent me two of the new notebooks in the Darkstar collection. These would make brilliant Bullet Journal notebooks!

So, what's new? I reviewed their original notebook here which was a lined notebook (that came in packs of three). The new notebooks have both a black and a kraft coloured cover and the paper is grid.

Darkstar is a UK based company and the notebooks are made in the UK. They come as a set of three notebooks in a pack, currently priced £8. I got one prototype of the Black Space version and one prototype of the Nomad to try.
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Darkstar cover - Black Space

As before with deliveries from PocketNotebooks, the attention to detail was great. I was addressed this time as "The Awesome Dr Fleet" and there was the PocketNotebooks slogan stamped on the back of the parcel: Forget the app, there's a pocket notebook for that. Inside, the notebooks were wrapped in purple tissue paper with a branded sticker, plus there were two small packets of sweeties (that took me back to childhood).

Nicely wrapped!

So, where do these notebooks sit on the "Pretty-Functional" grid? I don't find them especially 'pretty' but they do have an understated class to them. The black cover is a matte black and the only branding on the cover is a small, satin-finish black star on the front. It's easier to see the branding on the kraft/Nomad cover. Whereas before, the first page of the book also had the Darkstar branding, these open straight into the grid pages on the notebook.

The Nomad notebook, as well as being a lot easier to photograph to show the logo, has a slightly toothier feel to the card. Both the Black Space and the Nomad versions are lovely. In my original review, I commented on the finish being a bit untidy. In these versions, the trim is much better, and the small staples are holding the pages better.

Darkstar Nomad

There are 28 pages (56 sides) in each book in a pretty heavyweight paper (100gsm, same as in the originals). The corners are rounded. Page size is 10cm x 14cm.

The Grid
The grid is actually made up of tiny crosses, though at a distance, to my 40+ year old eyesight, they look like dots:

From a distance
Close-up
Centre-cross to centre-cross is 4.9mm vertical and 5.6mm horizontal (not sure why it's not 5mm in each direction...):


As you all know, the deal-breaker for me is how they perform with fountain pens. I used the central fold of paper to do the pen tests (mostly because almost all of my notebooks have the first page taken up with pen tests and it's harder to remove the first page than the central pages).

General writing feel:
The paper was pretty much the same feel as the original notebooks. The paper was reasonably toothy though more so for some nibs than others. I actually have a killer/probably unfair collection of fountain pens inked up at the moment - either massively broad/calligraphy/wet nibs or ones that always seem to bleed through on the majority of papers. As a consequence, I also tested some hybrid gel-ink pens and some others. The Jetstream uniball zipped across the paper and felt almost frictionless. (For someone so used to writing with a fountain pen, this came as a surprise!)
4.5* out of 5

Feathering:
Well, the pens I used were an evil test!  The Pelikan Script is inked up because I've been writing certificates for Rotary and I fully expected this to be a no-no! However, I was more surprised to see other pens also having issues, especially as they hadn't (with same ink/nib combos) in the original notebooks. The Pelikan did pretty well, really! None of the uniball pens had any issue. Whereas the Jetstream black zipped over the paper, the light blue (finer ballpoint) didn't.
3*/5

Zoom-ins on all of the inks

Given that these are grid, rather than lined, I suspect there are many out there who will eye them up for a small bullet journal and they would be excellent for this. To that end, I also tested them with my collection of Staedtler Triplus Fineliners, as these appear to be a staple for many bullet-journallers as well as the gel pens I have on my desk.

Reverse

Show-through:
Fountain pen test (reverse)
Close-up (fountain pen reverse)

Actually, not as bad as I feared! The very wet/broad nibs have shown through but the others aren't too bad. There is more ghosting than with the original paper however.
3.5*/5 for FP

The Fineliners only showed through to the other side a little.
4.5*/5

Bleed-through:
There is some bleed-through, of the wet nibs: Pelikan, Tombow and Conklin all bled at least a smidgen. Not too horrendous.
4*/5 for FP
There was no bleed-through at all from the Fineliners.
5*/5

Flattability:
The books are pretty much as good as any stapled notebook for flattability. They don't open flat and stay flat without persuasion, but it's easy to make them lie flat!

Overall:
I liked the notebooks. Granted, they're not as pretty as the Papio books, but not everyone will want that. There's a classic, understated feel to the cover that makes it suitable both for business as well as casual use. The paper stood up better to Fineliners than to fountain pens tests which will make them even more suitable for bullet journals.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Rhodia Rhodiarama - review

Stuart from PocketNotebooks kindly sent me a Rhodia Rhodiarama A6 Webbie to review. The notebooks have 192 pages of 90g ivory brushed vellum paper. The hard cover is leatherette in a series of bright colours. There is an expanding pocket inside the back cover, an orange ribbon bookmark, and an orange elastic closure. They are available on the Pocketnotebooks site for £7.50.

The one I was sent was turquoise and the contrast between the turquoise and the orange was very appealing. Where is it on the pretty/functional grid? The bright colours are attractive and the contrast with the ribbon/elastic is also good with the turquoise. That said, the orange doesn't go well with a lot of the other colours (the pink/orange combo is especially horrible!).

Front cover
Back cover
There is the Rhodia logo blind embossed in the middle of the cover (picture from Pocketnotebooks.co.uk as I forgot to take one and it's now rubbish lighting in Scotland!)


When you open the cover, there's a zebra!

Inside
The notebooks is 9.5 x 14.5cm, the paper is cream and paper size is 8.8 x 13.9cm with rounded corners. Line spacing is 6mm with a top margin of 6.5mm and 22 lines per page. Ruling stops about 4mm from the outer edge of the paper and 8mm from the inner edge.

The ruling is a bit narrow for me (as you'll see in the pen tests where my letters almost overlap) but then, I'm using stub nibs! One thing that did annoy me though was the shortness of the ribbon. It's only just longer than the page.

Woefully short ribbon!
In the back of the book is a pocket for slipping small items in, with more zebra patterning.

Back pocket

So, what's the paper like? Well, it's Rhodia so it's going to be better than many, but as Stuart has kindly pointed out in the past, I can be really picky!

General writing feel:
The paper is very smooth and fountain pens glide easily over it. Drying time is a little longer than many papers so if you're a left-hander who tends to smudge their writing, be aware of this. It's not too bad but if you write very quickly there's a possibility of smudges.


Feathering:
None. And there's some fabulous shading going on there too!


Show-through:
There is some ghosting to be honest. I wasn't expecting any but there's some.
4*/5

Bleed-through:
Again, I wasn't expecting any but there is some. Not so bad it would stop me using the page, but not none either. It's more noticeable with a light backing to the page than my desk (which is brown).
4*/5 

White background to the page
Dark background to the page
Flattability:
It's a hard back book so naturally won't lie as flat as soft-backed books with many fewer pages. The pages are sewn (I pulled one out to do the pen tests and have managed to pull the stitch undone, though the pages are still holding well). It can be persuaded to lie flat but won't lie flat on its own. It doesn't however need as much effort to hold it flat as the Write Notepad & Co. books I reviewed in the last post
3*/5

Overall:
This is a nice, robust little notebook. It isn't one for the back pocket (at least, don't sit on it and end up giving yourself sciatica!). The writing experience is good and there are lots of pages to the book. The ribbon marker could have done with being a bit longer - it feels stingy - and I'm personally not a fan of leatherette but otherwise, it's great.

My thanks to Stuart at Pocketnotebooks for sending it to me to review.

Disclaimer:
I was given this notebook free to review. However, this is an honest review and not influenced by it being a gift.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Write pocket notebooks - Review

Stuart from PocketNotebooks kindly sent me a pack of Write Notepads & Co. Pocket Notebooks (set of three) to review. The company is American and "every pack sold triggers a donation of a notebook to a school back in Write's hometown of Baltimore" according to the website. They come as a set of three notebooks in a pack, currently priced £10. The set comprises one plain, one lined and one graph paper notebook.

The three notebooks come in a blue and silver box which is delightful. The actual notebooks themselves have fairly plain covers.
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Outer box:
Still in wrapper
Back of box (still in wrapper)
Unwrapped (foil is silver, not gold as depicted here!)
Top flap of box opened

Friday, 17 February 2017

Darkstar Collection - Review

Stuart from PocketNotebooks kindly sent me a sample from a pack of Darkstar Collection Handcrafted Traveler's Notebooks to review. The company is UK based and the notebooks are made in the UK. They come as a set of three notebooks in a pack, currently priced £10. I got one from a pack to try.
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Saturday, 11 February 2017

Papio Press Postcards - Review

I know - it's been a bit of a buying and reviewing splurge. As I said, I've finished editing the book!

Anyway, today I want to review some more stuff from Papio Press - no affiliation, just a happy customer.

A few days ago, I reviewed their A6 notebooks. Today, it's the turn of their motivational postcards. They do lots of gorgeous postcards (see the full range here) but I especially liked these. I write to a number of people (and by 'write' I mean snail-mail!) as well as participate in Postcrossing, so am always on the look-out for lovely postcards. Well, they arrived yesterday!

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Happy Jackson 3 mini notebooks - review

I know - I don't post anything for ages and then there's a massive splurge. It's called "I finally finished editing the bl**dy book!" - check out my author blog at http://www.amandafleet.co.uk/ for what I've been working on.

Anyway, I saw some very sweet looking notebooks on Inkoo in their stationery department - Happy Jackson set of 3 mini-notebooks. They were only £4.99 for the set and so I thought I would give them a whirl.
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As I said in my Papio Press notebook review, notebooks fall into four camps:
  • functional but not pretty
  • not functional and not pretty either (I consider Field Notes to be in this camp!)
  • pretty but not functional
  • pretty and functional

Basically, as long as a notebook gets a tick in the functional box, I'll buy them again. If they also get a tick in the pretty box, that's an added bonus. There's no repeat purchase if they're merely pretty.

Where do these mini-notebooks fit?

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Papio Press... Quick Update

Yesterday, I posted a review of the Papio Press A6 notebooks (see here for details) and noted that although the packaging indicated that there was one lined and one plain in the pack, actually, I had two plain notebooks. I had no problem at all with that, but mentioned it to Stuart, from Pocketnotebooks (who had sent me the books) and he mentioned it to Harry, from Papio Press.

I was out all day today, helping my Mum get to hospital etc. and jokingly said to my hubby on the way home, "I hope I have good post today!"

Well, I did!

When I got in, I had a parcel I wasn't expecting, with some lovely labels on the front (there's a sticker hiding my name and address...). Apologies for the quality of the pictures - it was late when I took them and the light was almost gone.

Unexpected parcel...


Anyway, when I opened it, I found a fabulous surprise from Harry at Papio Press...

Inside...
A replacement set of notebooks, a handwritten card apologising for the original pack not being quite right and a freebie 2017 calendar as an apology (none of which had been needed at all!).

Front of the card
Note to me on the card
Front of the calendar
(sorry for the flash flare)
Label in the calendar showing the contents
(again, sorry for the flash flare)

It was a really lovely surprise and a super touch. Thank you!!

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Papio Press A6 notebooks - Review

Tigers by Papio Press
I'm delighted that Pocketnotebooks.co.uk has given me a couple of notebooks by Papio Press to review. These are a new stock for Pocketnotebooks.co.uk and Papio Press are a UK producer.

Small notebooks tend to fall into four main camps, as far as I can tell - functional but not terribly pretty; not all that functional nor all that pretty; pretty but not all that functional; and pretty and functional. Which camp would these A6 notebooks land in?

Well, you can tell from their covers that they have to be in one of the pretty camps! The team behind them - Harry and Zanna Goldhawk - are illustrators and the covers are just delightful. But, would they be functional as well as so easy on the eye?

Monday, 6 February 2017

New Traveller's Notebook Cover

I know. I possibly don't really need another one, but... I finished my next book and wanted to reward myself. Good enough reason, right? And because the next book is about to go off to publishers, I 'needed' a cover to hold the books I'll use to track how the submissions go. You all understand.

I'd been hankering after another one from Meadowgate Leather - see this post to see which one. Unfortunately, the owner is unwell at the moment and his Etsy shop is closed. I will no doubt order the one I want once he's back to full health and the shop is taking orders again.

In the interim, I saw one in the Etsy shop Inspired Journal. I can't see the exact same one there now, but this one is very close.
These are the pictures from the Etsy listing of the one I bought:


Anyway, it arrived recently and it's beautiful! It has no pockets or anything - just a leather cover with a leather lining (i.e. two pieces of leather stitched together). It's a sand colour - more yellow/orange than the picture above (gorgeous) and has a red and white elastic closure and the same for holding the booklets (the same as is shown above). There are four elastics inside. The elastic for holding the booklets is too thick for the job and I will swap it out for some narrower red or black elastic. The size is almost A5 - it's designed to hold Moleskine cahiers, but they're horrible, so I'll either make my own booklets for it from some paper and card cut down to size, or I'll trim up some A5 booklets. I tried two A5 slim notebooks in it and they weren't too bad, so I may stick with them.

Anyway, here are pictures of mine (click to enlarge):

Exterior:

Gorgeous colour!

Interior:

The 3mm thick elastics are too thick

With booklets in (probably not the final booklets - these are my diary and notebook from my everyday TN):


It really is a beautiful cover. It's on the floppier side, so if you prefer a firm cover it possibly isn't for you, but the workmanship is wonderful. The seller was very helpful and shipping was reasonable and didn't take too long (just under two weeks from Indonesia to Scotland).