I had a busy day, so it was a very quick sketch this time, of a brown toy poodle sitting on her owner’s lap on the bus. She was quite the attraction, and reminded me of my old dog in the pure joy she took from everything around her.
Drawn on an A5 Midori MD Cotton notebook with a Diplomat Aero fine nibbed pen filled with Colorverse Golden Record. This ink has a tendency to dry out in pens, and it becomes darker in the pen after a day or two.
Today’s sketch was also done with a fine nibbed Karas Kustoms Velys Ignem Vertex and Kyo No Oto Sakuranezumi ink on a Midori MD Cotton A4 notebook. It’s a very quick sketch, done in less than 10 minutes, and I later on made the mistake of applying a wash on the sand, and pretty much ruined that part of the sketch.
Here are the two sketches together on a complete page (before I destroyed the bottom one).
In my sizeable collection of notebooks and sketchbooks I have maybe one or two handmade ones. I tend to not buy handmade notebooks because the paper quality is oftentimes sacrificed in favour of cool covers or bindings. However, when I saw the Peekaboo Pride notebook on Pencil Revolution’s Etsy store, I couldn’t help but give it a try. The binding looked amazing, and I trust Johnny Gamber when he says that the paper inside is good.
The notebook is small, 10cm x 12.5cm, and beautifully made. Every little detail is well designed, starting from the band that the notebook came wrapped in. You see the care and character in every part of this little notebook, which is precisely why you’d want to buy a handmade notebook in the first place.
The cover is made of “Kraft-Tex” which is a textured, durable, flexible, card-stock like paper. It’s ripe for customisation if you enjoy customising your notebooks.
The spine is where the notebook really shines, and it’s what gives the notebook it’s “peekaboo” name. The notebook is made of six signatures the colour of the pride flag, and the cutouts in the spine allows you to see their colours. The threads used for binding are also pride coloured, and the result is stunning:
The cover of the first signature has a Pencil Evolution stamp embossed on it. That, together with a label inside the inside of the back cover is the only branding on the notebook. Very subtle and tasteful.
I just love the back label. There’s such pride of craftsmanship here:
Here’s a look at the colourful signatures from inside. Everything about this little notebook is perfect, and makes me smile:
And inside each signature you get glimpses of the multicoloured thread used to bind this notebook.
I was worried that the paper wouldn’t be fountain pen friendly, but I had nothing to worry about. The Neenah’s Astrobrights paper is very fountain pen friendly, despite not being coated paper. That means that inks dry quickly on the page, and it means that you can use this little notebook for pen and ink wash sketches.
There’s no bleed through, even with the Sailor Fude nibs that lay down a lot of ink, and there’s very little show through.
The paper was so well behaved that I decided to see how well it would take to an ink and wash sketch. Here’s the basic sketch, done with a Staedtler 0.1 pigment liner.
Then I laid down ink washes, and the paper behaved beautifully. It didn’t deteriorate, the colours popped on it, and it was fun to use.
Here’s the other side of the paper. It’s amazing that there’s no bleed through and very little show through. This paper behaves better than my Stillman and Birn Alpha with ink washes.
The Peekaboo Pride notebook is phenomenally well made, with excellent paper, and it’s just a joy to use. I’m close to finishing my pocket Stillman and Birn Alpha, and this little notebook will be the next sketchbook in line to replace it. I won’t be using it for watercolour (no paper this thin has a chance of handling watercolour washes), but it’s great for pen and ink sketches, and for ink washes.
I got this Midori MD Notebook Journal A5 Dot Grid as part of the Cult Pens Paper Box, which is no longer being offered. I’ve used and liked Midori paper before, as part of their Traveler’s Notebook offering, but I’ve never taken the opportunity to purchase one of their notebooks before. One of the main reasons I purchased the Paper Box was to give this notebook a try.
The MD Notebook Journal is a soft cover notebook with a minimalist design. It’s an A5 dot grid notebook that opens flat, has 192 fountain pen friendly pages, and comes with the bare minimum needed to turn it into a more structured journal: two enlarged dots for the dates and an index insert that you can use to mark the months. Everything you need to know about the notebook is thoughtfully written on its paper wrapper. Everything but the paper weight. I’d start a rant here, but I don’t think it will do something to solve the various standardization issues in the notebook/journal world, so I’m just going to note that I find it annoying. Write the gsm please. It’s not that hard.
The MD Notebook Journal comes wrapped in a crinkly parchment paper that is meant to protect the cardboard covers, and I kind of liked the way that it felt. On a whim I grabbed some washi tape and taped it to the cover as a cover protector. I don’t know how long it will last (I’ll probably need to add more tape later on), but for now I’m enjoying it.
Inside the front cover is a place to write your details. As usual, I highly recommend writing your name and email, in case of loss.
The backend paper contains information about the notebook, and no pocket. It really isn’t missed on such a minimalist design, although you could easily tape an envelope here to serve as a pocket if you are so inclined.
The MD Notebook Journal paper is fountain pen friendly and shows off the various properties of fountain pen ink very well. The drying time isn’t great, but that’s to be expected considering the coating on the paper. Now for a little side note: I purchased the 2021 Diamine Inkvent calendar and I plan on reviewing all of the inks in it, opening each one on the relevant day, just like I did in 2019. I’ll be using old Tomoe River Paper and this MD Notebook Journal for the purposes of the review. So if you want to see this notebook get a little more use before giving it a go, stay tuned.
The paper in MD Notebook Journal isn’t very thick, so there is some show-through, but no bleed-through, with all the inks that I used. It wouldn’t bother me, but if you find show-through distracting, you might want to use lighter inks, fine and extra fine nibs, or just one side of the paper.
There’s a thin ribbon bookmark attached to the notebook, which is both charming and adds the only touch of colour (a lovely teal) to this minimalist journal.
I look forward to giving the Midori MD Notebook Journal A5 dot grid a thorough try out next month. From what I’ve seen of it so far it’s going to be a fun notebook to use (and I don’t even like dot grid notebooks normally). There’s something about the starkness of it that makes it appealing, in that it really is a sandbox that you can play in. I can imagine people placing it in various notebook covers, or covering the covers with stickers and drawings, or just trashing it with use.
A journal with endless potential and excellent paper – what more do you need?
Cult Pens offered a paper box about a month ago. For £25 you got 3 notebooks, 2 sketchbooks, 1 fineliner, 1 marker, 4 pencils, 4 pens and a handful of Smile Clips. I don’t usually buy boxes of stationery (I especially avoid mystery boxes), but as I was interested in trying out the Moleskine Studio that was already part of the box, and as I was interested in most of the rest of the box’s contents, I decided to give it a try.
The box is no longer being offered, but if it was I’d suggest that Cult Pens would do better to pack the notebooks in an actual well-fitted box and not in a zip-lock bag that bumps around in a large box. The result is that the corner of the Moleskine Studio box was crushed, and one of the pads that came in the box was also damaged.
Now for the Moleskine Studio: this is a new offering from Moleskine, made in collaboration with six artists. Each artist’s artwork is featured on the front cover, on the end papers, on a sheet of themed stickers, and on the box the notebook comes in. The box serves as a frame for the artwork, allowing you to hang it if you wish. The notebooks are available in Plain or Ruled layouts, and, here’s the really interesting bit, contain 100 gsm ivory coloured paper.
Here’s the box as I received it:
So the notebook’s box/frame came with a crushed top right corner, which is unfortunate. The notebook itself was covered with cling film, a form of packaging I’ve never seen come from Moleskine before, and a plastic cover that was attached to the box/frame. While the frame is designed to be reusable, I’ve purchased another Moleskine Studio that came completely without it, and I have a feeling that there’s very little chance for the frame to survive shipping without being mangled. As it is, I feel that there’s way too much packaging here.
The frame with the artwork inside:
The flip side of the frame. You can see that there are holes for hanging the frame, as well as information about the paper in the notebook (gasp!). I wish Moleskine would print this info on every notebook they sell.
Here’s the notebook, and here’s where I start having more serious reservations about Moleskine’s manufacturing choices regarding this lineup. The artwork isn’t printed on the notebook cover, it’s glued onto it. I have a feeling that the glue isn’t going to last long, and in general it just cheapens an otherwise premium notebook experience.
The back cover is a bit weird in that the paper wrap doesn’t reach all the way around and is just stuck to the cover with two stickers. The stickers are easy to remove and don’t leave any residue, but it’s the only Moleskine I’ve seen with this setup and I can’t help but wonder why.
Here’s a closeup to the glued artwork on the cover. I’m also a little disappointed that the artwork hasn’t been signed by the artist, Yukai Du.
Inside the front covers is more of Yukai Du’s work, and it’s wonderful. This is where Moleskine shines, and I wish these artists could have had their work properly printed or even embossed on the covers of a Moleskine. They deserve it.
The paper is very good (not your standard Moleskine affair, which has its particularities). Ivory coloured, 100 gsm, not glass smooth but not textured, and it lays flat. There’s some writing samples ahead, but spoiler alert, yes it’s fountain pen friendly. There’s also the famous ribbon bookmark, which I wish was pink but in this case is black.
The back cover end papers feature more of Yukai Du’s artwork, perfectly aligned on the back pocket.
On the last page in the notebook, usually left blank, Moleskine has featured more information about the Moleskine Studio edition. In their marketing they’re calling this a new platform for collaboration with artists, and this page makes me think that this is going to be an ongoing project for them. I hope that they do continue with these, as the overall result is very good.
Here’s the sticker page that comes with this edition. Again, very well made:
Finally, the paper. I was hoping that this is going to be a fountain pen friendly Moleskine and it is. There’s no feathering, no spreading, no bleed through and very little show through with this paper (there’s more show through with the rollerballs than with the fountain pens). Your milage may vary, but I am very happy with this paper, and a Moleskine Studio is going to be my next journalling notebook.
The reverse side of the page:
Overall, the Moleskine Studio is a strong new offering from Moleskine, one that really plays to their design strengths. It’s not perfect, but I hope to see them iterate and improve on it with time, and I hope that many artists get to have their artwork featured on an iconic notebook.
A few days ago I found Moleskine’s Winter 2021 Catalog, and was dismayed to discover that many of my favourite notebooks are discontinued (“while supplies last”). So this is going to be mostly a “stock up on these if you like them” review of the catalog, not so much a “look at these cool new things from Moleskine,” mainly because most of the cool new things were published earlier in the year.
So here are the main discontinued notebooks, in order of their (dis)appearance in the catalog:
The Classic Reporter notebook, already available only in Pocket is now going to be available only in the Ruled option, both in hard cover and soft cover options. The Squared ruling is long gone and now the Plain option is disappearing from most dealers. This is your last chance to get it if you use it. As I used to use a Plain Pocket Reporter as a PigPog PDA and every few years I return to it, I’ve stocked up on a few for future use. I really wish that they wouldn’t have discontinued these, as they were some of my favourite notebooks from their lineup.
Dotted and Squared rulings are being discontinued in the Scarlet Red and Sapphire Blue Pocket and X-Large notebooks in both hard cover and soft cover. For some reason they’ll still be available in Myrtle Green in these sizes. Earth Brown and Reef Blue look like they are also being gradually phased out, likely to make room for next year’s spring colours. If you like these colours, especially in Plain ruling and in Pocket or X-Large sizes, now is the time to get them. I’ll wager that these colours are going to be completely phased out by the Spring 2022 catalog.
Moleskine Two-Go notebooks, which were my favourite new addition to their lineup are being completely phased out by the look of things. I’ve stocked up on as many as I can justify, as I use them as my reading journals. The size, the paper and the blank/lined ruling were perfect for this use, and I am going to sorely miss them. Moleskine seem to be replacing them with the Classic Notebooks Double Layout (more on that below), but the paper is 70gsm and not the 100gsm of the Two-Go notebooks.
Most of the Moleskine Blend notebook collection is being gutted, which is also a sore loss. Nobody makes fabric covers as well as Moleskine does (sorry Baron Fig), and some of my favourites were in this collection. The Denim collection, especially those with the writing on the covers (Hand Wash, This is Yours, etc) were fabulous, and in general this collection was well designed and executed. Only the new black and white checked and patterned 2021 notebooks that are new to the catalog remain. I guess that at leas we have hope that not all the Blend line is being discontinued.
Cahier notebooks are also seeing less options in the Squared and Dotted rulings. I have no idea why they seem to be less popular than other ruling options. Tender Yellow seems to be making its way out of the lineup, so if that’s a colour that you like you probably need to stock up.
Pearl Grey is being discontinued from the Pro Notebook lineup, and if you like the XXL notebooks not in Black now is the time to stock up on the Forest Green.
The Address Book is no longer going to be offered in X-Large. I can understand why – my guess is that the Pocket and the Large ones sell much better.
The Sketchbook in A3 is going to be offered only in Black from now on. Scarlet Red and Sapphire Blue are being discontinued in that size.
The Sketch Album in XXL is being discontinued.
As usual, I’m not going to delve into the wild and woolly world of Moleskine Smart and Moleskine accessories. It’s just too much, even for me.
Here are the new additions to the lineup, in order of their appearance in the catalog:
Moleskine Studio notebooks, which feature both 100gsm paper and an interesting design concept are my favourite new additions to the lineup. I already purchased one, which for some reason arrived sans box and and artwork, but oh well.
Classic Notebook Double Layout seem to there to in part replace the Two-Go, although they are offered in 70gsm paper and with regular and not fabric lined covers. Time will tell how popular they will be.
Moleskine Blend gets two additions to the lineup (everything else is being discontinued). They are both black and white patterns, which is classic but also a little boring. I wish they’d kept more innovation going in this part of their lineup.
Planners – everything is new here so I won’t go over them. There’s probably a planner option for everyone in this lineup, if planners are your thing.
Limited Editions – everything here is marked new, but apart from the Sakura everything has appeared in a previous catalog (if memory serves). The Sakura is gorgeous as usual, the rest of the lineup (Le Petit Prince and Hello Kitty in particular) are going to be very popular (the Pinnochio ones being the exception).
Logbooks are getting two new colour options – Coral Pink and Lavender Violet. You’ll often find them sold as “Bullet Journals” and the new colours appear to be flying off the shelves.
Moleskine National Geographic Taveller’s Notebook isn’t marked as new but I don’t recall seeing it before. It’s intriguing enough for me to purchase one, even though I wish they would have put thicker paper and less pages in this notebook. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to travelling after my treatment and put this notebook into good use.
I am a big fan of Field Notes, so when I saw that they came out with a sketchbook in collaboration with musician Maggie Rogers, I had to give it spin. The Maggie Rogers Field Notes are in the “Dime Novel” size, and are bound with and contain Strathmore paper. That is a promising start: an uncommon sketchbook size, with artist quality paper inside.
The Maggie x Field Notes edition comes with two sketchbooks in each pack, one with a red tinted spine and one with a blue tinted spine. On the cover of each is a Joshua Meier photo that was featured on Maggie Rogers’s first two albums: Blood Ballet is on the red tinted one on the left, and The Echo is on the blue tinted one on the right.
Beyond the normal “Pertinent Coordinates” design on the front cover, there is a vellum fly-sheet in each sketchbook featuring Maggie Rogers’s original hand-written lyrics. It’s a nice touch that really adds to this edition’s design.
I also like the decision to print these on vellum and not on Strathmore paper that is in the rest of the sketchbook. It gives the words an airy feeling that doesn’t weigh too heavily on the user. You don’t feel the need to compete with them, so to speak.
The inside of the back cover features Field Notes’ usual spiel and some information about Maggie Rogers and this collaboration. As usual, it also lists all of the technical details of this sketchbook, which I love. It would have been nice to get the Strathmore paper weight in a more standard gsm notation.
The red, Blood Ballet edition of the notebook is the same as the blue one, just with a red brown tint to it.
So, to business. How does the Maggie Rogers Field Notes perform as a sketchbook? For that I tested it with some Uni Pin fineliners and brush pen, a Fixpencil with 2B lead, and finally with light watercolour use. Unsurprisingly, considering the paper inside is light weighted Strathmore, it’s a good sketchbook to have in your bag or coat pocket. It’s versatile and not too precious to make you feel bad about “ruining” pages.
The first sketch that I made was done with a grey Uni-Pin 0.5 fineliner. The paper isn’t entirely smooth, but I no problem using the fineliner on it. The ink doesn’t spread or feather, but it does show through and even bleed through to the other side. I won’t be using both sides of the paper here.
You can see the show through and even a spot or two of bleed through here. I really don’t recommend drawing on both sides of the page here.
The next drawing was done with a Uni Pin brush pen. The paper isn’t glass smooth, and that actually makes it more fun to draw on. There was no spread and less bleed-through than with the fineliner somehow. I still wouldn’t use the other side of the page, because it will show through.
The paper shines with pencil, and I had a lot of fun sketching this palm using a Fixpencil with a 2B lead. If pencil is your medium of choice, you are going to love this little sketchbook.
As for watercolour, you can use the Maggie Rogers Field Notes sketchbook for light washes in a pinch, but it’s clearly not made for this. Washes come out patchy and grainy, and while the paper holds and doesn’t buckle too much if you are vey careful and only use a small amount of water on it, I really wouldn’t use it for watercolour.
The reverse side of the paper shows just how much it buckled under the strain of even a small amount of water (pun intended).
I think that the Maggie Rogers Field Notes is a nice sketchbook to try out quick ideas and vignettes in. It’s a nice sketchbook that’s not too nice, the vellum fly-sheet actually reduces the pressure of the first blank page, and so long as you don’t insist on using watercolour with it, it’s versatile and will do as your main pocket sketchbook in a pinch. Its main weaknesses (the thinness of its paper and the binding that doesn’t allow the pages to open flat so you can’t use a whole spread) actually work together to make this a sketchbook that encourages you to burn through it. It’s not precious. It’s not too nice. It’s a workman-like sketchbook, which works perfectly with the Field Notes brand.
I’ve been going through a rough timelately, and as many people have been so kind to say, staying optimistic despite all the bad things that I’ve had to deal with lately is key to getting through this terrible time. That is, of course, easier said than done. My mind tends to latch on to the painful and scary parts of the day, to the bad feelings, anxiety and doubt. It doesn’t help that we are all living through difficult times, and it’s hard to see and end in sight.
So I’ve started a new habit during the past month, and it’s helping me end the day on a positive note, with an added bonus of helping me use up some of my many notebooks.
I end each day by writing at least three good things that happened that day. I dedicate a page for each day, in my Dingbats notebook, with “Three Good Things” as the title, the date and day, and then the list of good things. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to find that day’s three good things, and for most days so far I’ve managed to find more than three good things to reflect on. They are usually conversations that I had with friends, or moments where I felt like my old self, or things that I enjoyed reading or watching.
Writing these down has been so helpful in getting me to see the good in each day, and in trying to stay positive when life is pretty tough.
During my trip to London this year I managed to buy a few Dingbats Wildlife notebooks (the elephant, tiger, hippo and deer). They appealed to me because they present a vegan friendly, fountain pen friendly journaling option, with a unique take on the classic “Moleskinesque” notebook.
So while the Dingbats A5+ Wildlife notebook has rounded corners, an elastic closure, a back pocket and a ribbon bookmark, the textured vegan faux leather cover is here to make a statement. There’s a different animal debossing and different cover colour for each animal. Currently there’s a Cream Wolf (new), Grey Elephant, Green Deer, Orange Tiger, Purple Hippo, Blue Whale, Brown Bear, Black Duck and Red Kangaroo. Once again, I got a little carried away and bought the Elephant, Deer, Tiger and Hippo – all the Dingbat notebooks that I saw in WH Smith in Heathrow Terminal 5. If I had to choose just one I would go for the hippo or the tiger, depending on how much attention I felt like drawing to myself carrying the notebook around.
The faux leather cover has a nice texture to it, and the debossing makes it stand out from more generic faux leather notebooks that you might find in stationary shops. It’s clearly there to call attention to itself.
The front endpaper has hippo footprints on it (they differ by animal), a “This Dingbats notebook belongs to” box to write your details in (always to that. Here’s why), the Dingbats logo and two notices: one that 2% of its UK revenue is donated to the WWF, and another that the notebook is made with FSC certified paper and vegan materials only.
The back endpaper also comes with the hippo footprint, and it has a back pocket. The Dingbats Wildlife notebook also comes with a pen holder which can hold standard pens just fine but is too small to hold most fountain pens.For a notebook that caters specifically to fountain pen users that’s a strange oversight.
The notebook has 100 gsm very smooth acid free fountain pen friendly paper. There are 96 sheets (192 pages) in the notebook and all of them are micro-perforated. The pages can have either 7mm lines, a 5mm grid, a 5mm dot grid, or be blank, but in the WH Smith that I was in the only option was lined. The lines are printed in a neutral grey that isn’t too obtrusive but is also clearly visible.
This is an expensive notebook (around £16 per notebook), and so I wouldn’t bother using gel ink pens, rollerballs, ballpoints or pencils in it (if you want to see a test page of that, you can find it here). There are cheaper alternatives for that. The Dingbats Wildlife notebook is built for fountain pens, and it handles them very well. The paper isn’t as glossy as Rhodia paper, but it’s still silky smooth and ink takes several seconds to dry on the page. I don’t have a lot of pens inked up at the moment, and I spread the ink tests on multiple notebooks, but I can assure you that there is no feathering or bleed through with this paper, and there’ very little show through. It’s a fountain pen friendly notebook, as advertised. Here’s a small sample written with a TWSBI Eco fine nib and Diamine Inkvent Solstice, which is a very saturated ink.
If you are looking for a fountain pen friendly, eco friendly, fun notebook, or if you want a notebook full of perforated pages, then I highly recommend the Dingbats Wildlife notebook. It’s not a cheap notebook, so if pencils are your thing, maybe look into a cheaper alternative with toothier paper.
I haven’t posted a Moleskine limited edition review in a while, mostly because I stopped journaling when my mother was diagnosed with a new kind of cancer in the beginning of the year. Once I realized that I had cancer I chose the nicest Moleskine limited edition that I could see, grabbed a Kara’s Kustoms Render K and started writing.
This is the notebook I chose:
The Moleskine “I am New York” is the second of the “I am” series that I’ve tried out (the first being “I am London” which I bought in the Moleskine Covent Garden store). There’s another notebook which I haven’t been able to purchase, the “I am Milan” one. In any case the cover design on these notebooks is stunning, with a vibrant illustration of an iconic architectural aspect of the city they represent. In the case of New York, it’s Brooklyn Bridge.
The covers are made of fabric, which Moleskine has excelled at in recent years. This one is no different – the cover is very well made.
Here’s a look at the cloth covers without the yellow paper band. You can see how well the elastic band’s colour and the ribbon bookmark fit with the design even though lavender may not have been the most obvious choice.
Here’s the back cover and ribbon:
Here’s the front endpaper. It features the New York Times, a take away coffee and a bagel on a brown paper bag. Remember the bagel, we’ll be returning to that later on.
The back endpaper features a very imaginative summer scene in a city park, with various denizens of the city enjoying a lounge on the park lawn.
The Moleskine “I am New York” comes with a lovely postcard in the notebook’s back pocket, with a drawing by Carlo Stanga(who also illustrated the front cover) titled: “Where Fifth Ave Starts”.
It’s a functional postcard, but I’d just hang it as a small work of art in my cubicle or on my fridge.
The B-side of the paper band has a bagels recipe (remember the bagel from the front endpaper?). I haven’t tried it but it’s well drawn and a cute addition to this already great notebook.
I’m going to be using the Moleskine “I am New York” as my daily journal through these next few tough months, and I can’t think of a better notebook for the job. It’s a beautiful notebook that makes me smile whenever I pick it up.