I’ve got the Blues… Blue inks in my collection

Blue inks used to remind me of school work; a really watery, wishy-washy, slushy, “I stand for nothing” kind of blue splashed across every exercise book of every lesson. I think I’d tarnished all blue inks with this association, so over the last year or so, I decided to give blue another chance. I’m showing you five of my blues today, and sharing a few similar inks to invest in next.

Continue reading “I’ve got the Blues… Blue inks in my collection”

HAY Bookbinder’s Notebook

I work very close to London’s South Bank and I like to go walking during my lunch hour. Southwark, although it may not appear so on first glance, is such a historic area of London with so many hidden treats around every corner. I love walking around this area using my own sense of direction rather than relying on Google Maps and more often than not I will end up on a street I haven’t walked down before. I went to see the Danish Girl recently and was doing a bit of reading about it afterwards and I came across this interview with Eddie Redmayne where he talks about how much he loves this part of London. In fact, about three years ago I actually walked past Eddie Redmayne right outside my office and I started saying the word “Eddie” over and over to my companion. Not cool.

When I head north and west on my lunchtime walks I sometimes happen upon the National Theatre Bookshop and have a nose around. I love the NT Bookshop because it’s full of stationery goodies for all price ranges: they do a great selection of pencils (including Blackwings and Midoris), inserts for Travellers’ Notebooks, Kaweco products, washi tapes, cards, etc. They very often have different stock each time I go.

I popped in earlier in January and they had a small Christmas sale section. I picked up two HAY Bookbinder’s Notebooks which were literally a pound each. I’ve often seen HAY products in department stores or placed in “luxury” stationery sections and I feel it is a fairly aspirational brand. Their products, which span several different uses for the home, look quite functional and aren’t covered in brand names or any other giveaway logo that would catch your eye from a distance.

I’ve been using the small red Portrait Bookbinder’s Notebook as part of my daily tools since the beginning of January. which measures 18cm by 12cm and is sized somewhere in between a Field Notes memo book and a Moleskine ruled cahier.

The colour

I love the red of this notebook! It’s somewhere between a red and an orange. In fact, just for fun I had a look at Mac lipsticks to try and find one that matched the specific colour of this notebook. I found the shade and it’s called Lady Danger which I find really appropriate for this colour! One thing I appreciate with “blank slate” notebook covers are that they can always be customised with a bit of washi tape or a sketch.

The bookbinder’s stitching is a dark gold colour and has a slight shine to it. I love the symmetry of the horizontal bind. Internally though I find the bind slightly restrictive because obviously you get over a centimetre’s less paper to write on and as you move through the book the crease becomes more pronounced.

The size

The notebook measures 18cm by 12cm and is sized somewhere in between a Field Notes memo book and a Moleskine cahier. It’s also ever so slightly squarer than other notebooks because of the extra space allocation for the bookbinding.

Overall it’s a good sized notebook. Having started using Field Notes notebooks during autumn last year I have come to appreciate that this is the size I would consider a “pocket notebook”. I wouldn’t place this notebook in the pocket notebook category because it’s just that fraction too large. Also it doesn’t fold over very well to use on the go like a Field Notes. But it is a very soft cover and so quite a malleable notebook in the hand, so if you were using it with something to rest on like a clipboard then it could very well be used for a pocket notebook purpose. I have gravitated towards using it for pocket notebook purposes, such as jotting things down, taking notes on site and making short-term lists, rather than it being one of my “for keeps” notebooks. I’m actually thinking about writing a future blog post about what I define as “pocket notebook purposes” and “for keeps” notebooks because increasingly I categorise notebooks that I buy and try into one of these two categories.

The paper 

Having done a bit of online research I can’t find any particular claims about the paper used. It becomes apparent why when you start using it. The paper feels quite thin and I feel a slight resistance when I run my fingers over it. The paper is a subtle cream shade similar to the Moleskine ruled cahier and for general writing I think I prefer a slightly shaded paper. I find opening a notebook to find a bright Xerox white slightly strange and offputting for some reason.

The paper is of average quality. It seems pitched towards ballpoints, pencils or fine gel pens but I find it hit and miss with my fountain pens and I don’t think this notebook has been designed with fountain pens in mind. Diamine Sargasso Sea and Claret particularly showed feathering on the page. The paper is also thin enough to demonstrate bleedthrough pretty much with all the pens I tested.

Bleed through on the reverse of my tester page.
Bleed through on the reverse of my tester page, particularly with the fountain pen inks. 

Overall

I’m glad I picked this up (especially at such a bargain price) but I probably won’t buy it again to use as an everyday notebook. It’s simple and professional-looking and adds a fun pop of colour on your desk, and performs all the functions of a notebook just fine. In between these purposes I don’t have too much of a space on my desk for the HAY Bookbinder’s Notebook as a repeat purchase. It’s been fun to use and good to try out a brand of stationery that I haven’t used before. Buy this if you’re looking for an everyday notebook for your everyday needs and expect to use mostly ballpoints, gel pens and pencils. When they’re full priced they cost around £4 and also come in a medium and large size in a range of bright or subtle colours.

Review: Frankie Diary 2015

Happy New Year! I hope 2016 brings you good health and fortune, wherever you may be.

Back to business. Every year for Christmas my boyfriend buys me a yearly diary / planner and unfortunately the ones I lust after tend to be difficult to source. 2015’s choice was the Frankie Diary, produced annually by Australia’s Frankie Magazine. He had it shipped all the way over from Australia and probably had to order it in October to make sure it arrived in time for Christmas, but arrive it did and I fell in love with it.

The Frankie Diary falls in the middle of being beautiful and functional. It’s a little larger than A5 size and bound in a dusky blue cloth linen with lovely organic texture. After using it for a whole year, I’ve compiled some thoughts on it.

The Upsides 

Good size and sturdy

Vital statistic time – as I’ve mentioned the diary is just over A5 which is a good handbag and desk size. It’s just over 2 centimetres thick and doesn’t gain much height over the course of a year through paper wear. Importantly the Frankie is solid enough to withstand a year of wear and tear without detracting too much from its look and feel, and in my case, spillages including orange juice and salad dressing!  You’re not going to have any paper tears, bending or rippling of paper. Also on a sidenote, although this was a gift, the Frankie Diary comes in at $26.95 (Australian) which is a very reasonable (and approximate) £13.50 without shipping charges.

Monthly views

I love the monthly view pages. They’re a big enough size to get quite a few words in and with a little creativity and time I customised some squares to make them stand out.

The monthly pages don’t have the rest of the diary’s paper designs meaning that there is quite a bit of blank space on the page. I love this because I can add little mementos from things I’ve done that month or use washi tapes to give the diary a scrapbook look. I went Christmas shopping with one of my best friends and found a photobooth in Selfridges where we got this sepia snap.

Beautifully designed with good quality paper

This diary really looks the part. It’s feminine and simple, and the Frankie illustrators have put thought into some of the diary’s elements, such as a full-sized envelope at the back to store all your loose scrap paper. The fonts are also beautiful and a lovely mixture of traditional typewriter style text and hand-lettered lower-case text. The paper quality is excellent; really silky and thick, and I’ve mostly used my Kaweco Sport and vintage Parker for the weekly entries, and a finer-nibbed Iconic Knock pen for the monthly calendar entries. Fountain pens work absolutely fine on this paper with minimal feathering. Here’s a close up of my writing with the Kaweco Sport using Diamine Claret.

And here’s an example of the back of a page that I’ve written on with Diamine Claret. On the third to bottom line you can see some slight bleedthrough.

I’ve even used a brush pen on the paper without any feathering. Apologies for the amateurness of the writing – this was before my brush lettering class and I was tinkering with a brush pen! This was with my Kuretake brush pen, which has a very wet ink, and as you can see there’s still no feathering.

The design of the diary is lovely too. I love all the different paper illustrations used from month to month. Here are some of my favourites:

The Downsides

It gets dirty! 

I appreciate that a diary showing its use is a big sign of love and in many other diaries it could even be an upside that it shows its wear. Sadly though the gold lettering on the front has faded over the year and the dusky blue has become a more grey, dark grey at the edges. It’s hard to keep it looking its finest for a year!

Weekly view to two pages makes the balance between a planner and a journal difficult 

Here’s an example of a week when I tried to journal instead of plan – this was during my holiday to Greece.

As you can see it’s a little cramped (although I could have used the notes section). Fine for the purpose of noting the bare bones of the day which I enjoy looking back on at a glance but the Frankie Diary definitely rests on the side of a planner rather than a journal or traditional diary. I haven’t rued this with the Frankie because it means I’ve had an opportunity to fill a plethora of notebooks and pocket notebooks this year with more elaborate thoughts and tested a few new brands in the process. Generally I spent the year carrying my Frankie and a notebook of some description around at all times. I can understand however why some users might want just one singular book that fulfils both purposes.

I also think that the Frankie designers have got around the diary’s potential lack of flexibility by its additions which include a budget planner, address page, tear-out “forget-me-not” lists, tear-out gift tags and tear-out list pages such as films to watch, places to visit, etc. I didn’t use any of these elements to any great extent which tells me that I’m not looking for an “organiser” type diary which acts as a tool to assist aspects of life such as personal finances or as an address book. To make these additions useful they’re probably needed in greater quantities (e.g. enough budget planner pages for once a month or similar) or the diary needs to be usable for a longer amount of time than a year – I didn’t see much point in noting addresses in this diary knowing I won’t be carrying it around with me next year and that I won’t be storing it next to the phone. Why are address books always stored next to the phone?! 

I made the Frankie diary more flexible for me by using good old post-it notes to add value. Something I do every month following a new year’s resolution a few years ago was to look up seasonal fruit and vegetables at the beginning of each month and try to use them in my cooking.

Final Thoughts

I can imagine that the Frankie format isn’t ideal for a person with a considerably more hectic lifestyle than myself, the week-to-two-pages view makes it difficult to draw out a daily schedule if there are several activities that make up a day. For me it works fine because my days consist of work + evening activity (usually singular!) or weekend plans involving daytime activity + night-time activity; noting this type of schedule doesn’t require much writing space.

It’s also not ideal for those among us who want to journal rather than plan or schedule. It will still meet the planning function for the year but you’ll need to either try out a more concise style of journaling (such as a “one-line journal” or gratitude journal) or consider what accompaniments will join your Frankie for the year.

I came very close to asking for another Frankie Diary for 2016 because I don’t mind having Frankie and a notebook and, well, it’s so pretty and user-friendly. It’s a beautifully designed companion to the year and its build quality is impeccable. You need a sturdy hardback to take a whole year’s of handling and rubbing along other things in a normal day’s handbag and apart from some discolouration and softening of the book’s edges, the Frankie has stood up to the challenge. I really appreciate the look and feel of the diary and I like the week-to-two-pages format so that I can see what my week looks like at a glance and look back on what my week consisted of. It’s also been great using a wide variety of writing tools as the paper generally stands up well to a variety of inks and fountain pen nib sizes.

The 2016 Frankie Diary looks like this:

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It looks like the words on the front cover are going to be more resilient than the gold lettering of 2015 which has faded considerably on my diary.

For me personally, although one of the Frankie Diary’s key selling points is that it is very pretty with unique paper designs and fonts inside, I think the key reason I didn’t ask for another Frankie Diary this year is because I’m looking for something to which I can add more of a personal touch with my own designs and fonts.

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So what diary did my boyfriend order for me for 2016? It could only be…

A Hobonichi Techo. I had been following fellow stationery bloggers’ Hobo journeys throughout 2015 and the clean look and flexibility of it appealed to me. Although you can buy the planners in the UK now from various sources, you can’t easily buy the range of Hobonichi produced accessories designed to work with the Techo. For this reason he ordered it from Japan with a lovely range of accessories including a cover, a cover-for-a-cover (which makes me chuckle), a frame stamp for the monthly calendar view and some thin 6mm washi tapes. I’m already showing my Hobo lots of love and will endeavour to post updates on my usage as I really enjoy reading other users’ experiences and examples. I’ll go into more reasons behind this choice and my initial impressions of the Hobo in another post soon.

Happy new year again all!

Diamine Claret Review

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So that’s that. I intend on trying this ink out with my vintage Parker 45, the nib of which is closer to medium than fine with quite a wet flow, which might bring out the richness of Claret more than the Kaweco Sport has. Next I’m moving onto the Pilot Iroshizuku shin-ryoku shade of green and really looking forward to it.

FindTheGirlsOnTheNegatives / East London Snapshots / Diamine Bilberry Review

 

Has anybody seen Meagan Abell’s Facebook campaign to find the original photographer of some fantastic quality negatives she found in a charity shop? They are ridiculously beautiful, evocative, dreamy, wistful, summery. Here is one of the photos:

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The internet is full of stories about viral reunions. I really hope this one finds its way back to the photographer and subjects. Who knows what other great shots they’ve taken in their life.

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On my wanders this week I’ve found some great pieces of public art. Some obvious…

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Some not so obvious!

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Back to business. I’m a big fan of Diamine inks because they are so affordable and there is such a great range of colours and shades available in relatively small 30ml bottles. This means I get to try out lots of the Diamine range compared to other more expensive ranges, as I go through ink like water.

 

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There’s a slickness and professionalism about the colour, almost a masculinity. I don’t find this ink a novelty shade in any way, it’s attractive for long stretches of writing and I love the contrast against the light shades of paper that I generally use.

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I’m going to get a picture and update this post with a daytime shot of this ink to demonstrate what it looks like against a blander coloured paper. There’s something really natural about its shade that evokes autumn; the colour of blackberries and sloes. Bilberry is so deeply saturated that the colour is very consistent, although as I’ve mentioned above I sway between thinking this is a blue and purple ink depending on any kind of external circumstance! Something I love about using Bilberry is that it’s exciting for me because I appreciate the different tones and saturation, but this isn’t immediately obvious to others, it isn’t for showing off or attracting attention.

If you’re a fan of using deep, inconspicuous and almost surreptitious shades in your writing, give Bilberry a go.

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Kaweco Sport

I’ve been coveting the Kaweco Sport fountain pen for some time. It seems to be a bit of a cult classic and given that this is a sub-£20 pen, I thought I would finally give it a try.

I chose a fine nib as I have italicised handwriting which is best suited to fine lines, and chose a mint green finish. There are a number of other, darker colours, but something about this pen made me choose something less solemn. The Kaweco Sport arrived in an unremarkable, simply branded black box. My first impression was: small! Altogether the pen comes in at just over 10cm long when capped and about 13cm with the cap on the end.

 

There’s no doubt about it that this pen is fun to use. It is eye-catching and unusual, the octagonal chubby lid is nostalgic and has an almost 70s era quality about it which is further emphasised by the plastic finish on the pen. This whole air of playfulness is topped off by its short stature. I couldn’t wait to get writing. I’ve given it a couple of days of break-in time, as the first times I used it I had quite a few gaps in the ink flow, which does seem to be improving with use.

 

 

The pen has two cute silver accents. Firstly, the logo which is very clean and elegant and secondly at the top of the cap.

Here’s a sample of writing for you to check out for yourself. I’d like to keep this pen in my arsenal for using informally, in my notebooks. Although the nib is fine (they also do an extra-fine), the pen would need to write slightly more smoothly to bring it into more formal territory for me. If you’re looking for a lifetime companion kind of fountain pen, I’m not sure this is it, but I would certainly recommend it as an investment if you’re looking for a fountain pen which is adaptable, reliable and something different from the norm.