Famille Summerbelle Map Notebooks

These look cute… I love the intricate designs, which seem to be based on cut paper!

Find out more at Discover our new notebooks! – Famille Summerbelle.

Review: Design.Y Notebooks

I can’t believe it’s taken me over 2 years to review these notebooks. I first heard of Design-Y in early 2012, when they were receiving quite a bit of buzz on fountain pen blogs. If you’re not familiar with this brand, here’s the background: they are handmade in Japan by a Mr. Yoshino. He uses luxurious materials and crafts each notebook to order, with several options for customization. They are not cheap! But are they worth the money? Let’s take a look!


I seriously splurged and bought 3 notebooks. The small, slim brown one is the “Record 216,” the black one with stained edges is the “Record 288,” and the thick black one is the “LP Record.” (Design Y also offers two other larger sizes.) The first thing I have to tell you about these is something that no review can truly capture: they smell wonderful! The covers are made of real leather, either goatskin or cowhide, and it has a texture and scent that on manmade imitation can match. No icky chemical odors, as some other notebooks can have, but vegans beware, these are not for you!


The materials in general just have a feeling of quality– the leather looks and feels great, the paper is silky, and they come nicely wrapped and packaged. When you order, you can select the color of leather you want, and for some notebooks, which type of leather, goat or cow. You can also choose whether you want the edges of the paper to be dyed, whether or not you want a ribbon marker or elastic closure, and lined or plain paper. You can select various colors for the bookmark ribbon. The color options are all chosen to look great together, in subtle shades of black, brown, grey and cream. The aesthetics of these notebooks are pretty near perfect as far as I am concerned– I don’t need flashy colors or patterns. The only major thing I think they’re missing is an option for squared paper. When you receive your Design.Y order, it’s a pleasure to open. Here’s some un-boxing shots!

design.y packaging01design.y packaging02design.y packaging03design.y packaging05design.y packaging04design.y packaging09design.y packaging11design.y packaging10design.y packaging12design.y packaging06design.y packaging07design.y packaging08

The construction of the notebooks is classic– sewn signatures inside a hard cover, with rounded corners. A logo is stamped on the back cover, but there is no other branding. The notebooks open fully flat. The ribbon marker is attached in a unique way– rather than being glued inside the spine, it is looped through holes in the spine, leaving a little decorative element on the outside and turning one bookmark into two. The endpapers are plain grey paper. There is no back pocket– instead, on the inside back cover you see the knots of the elastic closure. They are tiny knots that don’t get in the way, and theoretically I guess you could replace the elastic. This is a good thing, as the elastic is very thin and flimsy and seemed like it could easily break if it snagged on something in your bag.


The covers do overhang the pages a bit more than I’d like, but not terribly, and the corners are beautifully tucked in to a nice, tight roundness. Other than that, the notebooks I received seemed very well made, with careful attention to detail and craftsmanship. One of them was just a teensy bit off being totally square– it’s barely noticeable, and somehow it bothered me less than it might on a mass-produced notebook. When something is handmade, I can understand there being a little human error, vs. the supposed precision of machines. The sizes are not quite standard compared to most other notebooks– shown with a pocket Moleskine for comparison. I like the slim Record 216, which is a great size to slip in a pocket. And the chunky LP Record is very appealing. The Record 288 is pretty close to the size of a Moleskine– I have to confess I wish they had just made it the same standard 3.5 x 5.5″ size Moleskine and many other brands use.


The paper inside is a creamy white. It is quite thin and feels wonderfully smooth and refined. It’s a pleasure to write on with any pen, and fountain pens do perform nicely on it. However, there is a lot of show-through, though bleed-through is a little better than average compared to other papers this thin. Fountain pens may take a little longer to dry.


The bottom line here is that you get a nicely customizable, beautifully made notebook that will be a pleasure to behold, and a pleasure to write in, until you turn the page and realize you won’t want to write on both sides! But the sensory delights of Design Y notebooks will cost you quite a bit. The current prices are as follows:

Record 216: 3780 Yen, or approximately $37.03

Record 288: 4935 Yen or approximately $48.35 (including elastic closure, bookmark and dyed edge. Subtract 105 Yen for no bookmark, 105 Yen for no elastic, and 210 Yen for no dyed edge.)

LP Record: 8925 Yen or approximately $87.44 (including bookmark. Subtract 105 Yen for no bookmark, add 105 Yen if you want an elastic closure.)

Shipping from Japan is additional, based on weight. For these three notebooks shipping to the US, it would be about $18.22.

So you’re probably thinking, holy $&%^@, she spent almost $200 for 3 little notebooks. Well, these are the sacrifices I make to review things for you, dear readers! It is a little hard to justify, especially as the notebooks are almost too nice to use. I keep telling myself I should try to use one as a daily notebook, but they seem like they should be used for something special instead. I do love having them– there is something just so wonderful about the craftsmanship and that real leather smell, I have to take them out and fondle them every so often, just to appreciate how beautiful they are compared to cheap, mass-produced notebooks. If you want to have a special notebook in your collection, or give a notebook lover a drool-worthy gift, Design Y will fit the bill!

Italian Notebooks from the 1940s-1950s

These are described as “Sweet Bella vintage Italian notebooks from the ’40s and ’50s.” If they are really that old and not reproductions made more recently, that is pretty cool! They look brand new…


Sweet Bella’s website features some products from Antica Cartotecnica which are said to be vintage items “culled from decades of storage,” but they don’t currently have anything that looks like these.

Found via a 2011 post at Mohawk Connects.

Notebooks by Sparrow + Wolf

Cute notebooks with metallic stamped designs:

See more at Gold & Silver Foil Stamped Notebooks by Sparrow + Wolf | Paper Crave.

Notebook Addict of the Week: A Four Year Old!

Jes from Australia writes to say that her 4 year old son is a budding notebook addict!

“About 18 months ago he asked for a notebook from my own (extensive collection, who said addiction doesn’t run in families? ). Since then he has filled a few. I love watching him create and record himself in his notebook’s.  He often says he is writing his diary. He now has the same number of journals as the number of years he has been alive.”




He’s off to a good start– let’s hope he keeps up his notebooking habit in the years to come!

Thanks for sharing this story, Jes!

Paperscreen Four/Five Pocket Notebook

Ed Jelley reviews a cute little notebook, sized to exactly match your iPhone 4 or 5:


Read more at Paperscreen Four/Five Pocket Notebook – Review | edjelley.com.

Ilott Photographers’ Notebooks

Notebooks specially designed for photographers:

“They have dedicated spaces to make note of which camera you’re using, the date, subject, film speed, lighting conditions, f-stop, shutter speed, all for either 12, 24 or 36 frames of film.”


See more at Object of Desire: Ilott Photographers’ Notebooks – Telegraph.

What I’m Using Now (and Recently)

A reader asked for more details about the notebooks in my “What I’m Using Now” photo. I haven’t been updating that photo as often as I should, though for the most part, it’s still accurate most of the time.

The red and blue notebooks are HandBook Artist Journals that I have been slowly filling with drawings and watercolors and collages over the last few years. Both were started as travel journals but have evolved into not having any particular purpose other than messing around with art supplies. These sketchbooks have been a favorite of mine for years– I love the construction and the cloth covers, which come in nice colors. The paper is good for drawing and watercolors, but a bit too toothy for writing on with fine point pens. I bought quite a few extras and am glad I did, as their prices have crept up lately, at least at some stores. They are still pretty cheap at Blick: $8.80 for the pocket size:
Hand Book Artist Journals, Cadmium Green

The black notebooks in the photo are 3 pocket-size Moleskines, one squared and two sketchbooks. I am currently using one squared and one sketchbook. I tend to have a squared notebook as my main daily notebook for keeping lists, jotting notes, journal entries, etc.– it’s usually a Moleskine, from my stash of older ones, but I’ve also occasionally used a Piccadilly. I also tend to have a sketchbook going for assorted drawings, usually made during my lunch hour when I’m sitting on a park bench observing people. Sometimes I’ll also use a sketchbook, or an unlined notebook, as my main daily notebook too– it doesn’t change things much, other than that I might be a bit more likely to use a bit of watercolor in it here and there. I sometimes do that in the squared notebooks too but the lighter paper doesn’t take to it as well.

One recent exception to my Moleskine/Piccadilly habit was using a Pen & Ink sketchbook as my daily notebook for 3 months. If you like the heavier, creamy paper of Moleskine sketchbooks, these Pen & Ink books might be your best alternative right now. The paper is not quite as heavy as Moleskine’s, but it’s very close, and sturdy enough to handle watercolors and most pens without showthrough or bleedthrough. The main difference between the two brands is the slightly softer cover material and more rounded spine. I thought the cover might get scuffed easily, but this one is still in great shape after bouncing around in my bag for 3 months and being used daily. Also note that there is not the slightest sign of wear around the spine– Moleskines often start to tear a bit at the corners.


I’ve had Pen & Ink sketchbooks in my collection for years but never used one til this, and it made me wonder why I’d waited so long! It’s really a great notebook and very reasonably priced– you can find them on Amazon, though the listings there are a bit confusing in terms of page count/paper weight/ format, so buy with caution. You want to be sure you get the 96 page, 98 lb/145 GSM version, as there is also a plain sketchbook with lighter 80 GSM paper. At Blick, they are only $7.49 each:
Art Alternatives Sketchbooks and Journals

They also make a version with watercolor paper, currently $9.23 at Blick:
Art Alternatives Watercolor Books

I also bought a couple of their squared notebooks, hoping they’d be a good Moleskine alternative, but unfortunately the lines of the graph paper are really thick and dark, to the point where it’s very distracting to write on. I hope they do something about that! I will probably buy a bunch more Pen & Ink sketchbooks– their quality seems to have remained pretty consistent over the last few years, unlike Moleskine’s, but you never know. I’d like to add a few spares to my stash in case things change!

See these posts for more comparisons between Moleskine, HandBook and Pen & Ink sketchbooks:

Four Notebooks Reviewed, Part 1

Four Notebooks Reviewed, Part 2

Four Notebooks Reviewed, Part 3


How about you, readers? What are you using now?

An Interview in Drawings: Paper vs. Digital

A fun approach to the question of paper vs. digital notetaking:

Read more at A Hand-Drawn Interview With the Man Behind Adobe’s Pen of the Future | Motherboard.

Notebook Addict of the Week: Kevin

This week’s addict is a writer who does much of his work in notebooks. He recently finished a novel consisting of “116,386 words, 472 pages (almost a ream of paper), and numerous books of hand written script.”


“I always write the first draft by hand, I find it more intimate than typing directly onto my laptop, my ideas seem to flow better, besides I love notebooks and pens. I can’t stop myself from going into every stationary shop I see and buying notebooks. The little book on top of the file is crammed with thoughts and ideas, also hand written research notes. Each one of my novels has one of these little books dedicated to it.”

Read more at My novels and other things: Manuscript, research notes and hand written notebooks..

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