As I mentioned in my Stationery-Related New Year’s Resolutions post, in 2017 I will be using seasonal shades of ink in my fountain pens to encourage me to use my ink pens more, to make better use of the inks in my collection and to bring through the seasons within my journaling and notetaking. Today I am sharing my winter inks and their fountain pen pairings that will see me through until the end of February.
A bit about writing with the seasons
I started using a set of four ink shades that I felt matched the season of autumn back when I finished my extended blue ink experiment in 2016. I have really enjoyed looking back on all my notetaking and journaling in September, October and November 2016 as my ink pen usage shows up consistently across all of my paper in the same palette of colours amongst graphite and gel pens. My autumn choices were were J Herbin Ambre de Birmanie and Poussiere de Lune, Pilot Iroshizuku Fuyu-gaki and Sailor Four Seasons Jentle ink in Tokiwa-Matsu (a new brand for me at the time).
While it isn’t really a challenge to use four fountain pens and ink colours over three months, I acknowledge that this might be fewer than a fountain pen aficionado might use over this time period. I really enjoy using fountain pens, but they are expensive and I don’t have an expansive collection that allows for four completely new fountain pens coming into rotation every three months. Instead, I have interchangeable nibs for some of my pens, for example I have three nib sizes for my TWSBI 580 RB to keep the feel of this fountain pen fresh. Four fountain pens is just the right amount for me to allow for variety across my writing.
With the inks themselves, using them consistently over a three month period means I get through a fair amount of the ink, instead of my usual practice of using a small amount (possibly not even a full cartridge’s worth) and then moving on. So I’m getting better value for money out of my inks and thinking more about the experience of using them. I’ve chosen three Pilot Iroshizuku inks, a brand I’m very familiar with, and a Noodler’s ink, which is a new brand in my collection.
Pilot Iroshizuku Shin-kai + Pilot Metropolitan M nib
This was the only ink I had in my collection prior to starting my seasonal ink resolution. I used Shin-kai in my longer-term blue ink experiment and I found its muted depth lovely. This was the first ink I thought of for my winter palette and it was good to know I’d have one for the next couple of months that I know I really like and performs well. It reminds me of the sky becoming dark early.
It’s a winning pairing with my Pilot Metropolitan M nib which is a dark grey colour. I find the M nib on the finer side which suits my writing. I could easily use this pairing for all my writing and I feel like a grown up when I write with this combination!
Pilot Iroshizuku Tsukushi + Karas Kustoms Fountain K M nib
I wanted a dark brown for winter as it’s a lingering shade after the blazes of autumn have faded away. It reminds me of tree trunks that wait patiently in winter, boxes of chocolates open everywhere over Christmas, and meat gravy. I decided to try Tsukushi, which means “horsehair”. The inside of the bottle showed a slight red hue to me and it does have a warm shade to it on the paper. I’m still deciding how I feel about this ink. I love using brown gel pens and I wonder whether this ink would have been a better pairing for an F nib or one of the finer M nibs in my lineup.
I have reservations about the Karas Kustoms Fountain K that I had before using it in my seasonal rotation and still have. I find the nib incredibly broad for a medium and I don’t find it performs consistently; I have issues with it starting and occasional skipping for example. I do have an F nib that I’m considering switching to soon to see whether I like it better because I think the writing experience with the Fountain K is partly putting me off this combination.
Pilot Iroshizuku Kiri-same + Pilot Kakuno M nib
Winter is the only season I would realistically include a grey ink in my line-up, and I had never used a pure grey before. I’ve always felt ambivalent towards grey ink, mostly because I enjoy using pencils so much that I wonder why anyone would bother with a grey ink. I rarely use H grade pencils however and I particularly value darkness when using pencils, so I thought maybe there was a gap for a lighter grey ink in my writing. With this in mind I selected Kiri-same and paired it with my Pilot Kakuno M nib, which I find to be a very fine M nib. Many of the swatches I’d seen online show Kiri-same to be quite a classic, raincloud kind of grey, but it shows up much more delicately with this fountain pen pairing.
I think I like this ink. It doesn’t really look like much on the page, particularly when used with such a fine nib, but it writes nicely, dries quickly without feathering or bleedthrough and I think there is room for a subtle ink among brighter, more saturated colours. It’s just about dark enough to contrast visibly against white paper. It captures my connotations of grey in winter; overcast skies, some of my winter jumpers, even the feeling you have of really wanting spring and summer to hurry up is encapsulated in the colour grey for me.
Noodler’s Tiananmen + TWSBI 580 RB M nib
My last winter choice had to be a red. I rarely use red, preferring its orange and pink cousins, but when I think of winter I think of a pure red, mostly in association with the Christmas period. I wanted to try a Noodler’s ink for quite some time and they have three beautiful looking red inks in their standard range: Widow Maker, Mary I and Tiananmen. After looking at several online swatches I settled on Tiananmen as it looked like it had a greater depth and dried slightly darker.
I really enjoy this ink and, as a seasonal ink, it is probably my favourite. Just having a look back over December, I feel like it’s the ink I’ve used the most. It captures the wintery red I had in mind, dark enough to signify berries and red wine. In some of the sample photos I’ve taken it could be a very rich maroony-brown.
Matching it with the TWSBI 580 RB M nib has been great, too. The M nib is what I consider to be a “true” medium nib and shows off the richness of this shade wonderfully. I also find it the most reliable pen in my line-up. I do find that it takes a long time to dry however, particularly in my Hobo. This will partly be down to using it with a medium nib.
I also love Noodler’s label design (each shade has a different design). Tiananmen is described as “the most auspicious of all colors”. I’ll probably write a more detailed review just on this ink soon.
So far I’m really enjoying having this seasonal selection and it matches my personal winter connotations. Only the Noodler’s Tiananmen choice is really inspired by Christmas so I find that, as a palette, they suit the whole winter season rather than just the month of December. In terms of fountain pen performance, I’m going to switch the Karas Kustoms M nib for an F nib to see if that improves the writing experience for me. In hindsight I think the Pilot Kakuno M nib would have been a better fit for the dark brown Iroshizuku Tsukushi, and likewise for the Karas Kustoms Fountain K M nib with the grey Iroshizuku Kiri-same, so I might switch those up too.
When I asked a good friend what colours she would pick for winter, she suggested a dark green, gold and a bright blue for those bright sunshiney days we sometimes get in winter, which just goes to show that seasonal colour connotations can be very different. I’m already thinking about my spring palette. Suggestions welcome!
A note on buying the Pilot Iroshizuku inks
I just wanted to tell you about how I acquired two of the Iroshizuku inks in my line-up. I really enjoy the three-sets of mini Iroshizuku inks because it provides more than enough ink for me to keep going for a while and allows me to try a range of their colours at a much more reasonable price than the full-sized bottles. They’re tricky to get hold of in the UK however, and even in the US there are pre-made sets. However, on my recent trip to Singapore in November, I found a build-your-own mini Iroshizuku set station, which I found amazing. This is probably not amazing to those of you who are used to this but as a UK stationery lady, this was extremely exciting. I was thinking about what wintery seasonal inks I would choose in November, so I decided to build myself a three-set of Iroshizuku shades, two of which I’ve used in my winter line-up.