A nice-looking clothbound notebook, with a bit of a twist– the elastic wraps around sideways at the top:
A nice-looking clothbound notebook, with a bit of a twist– the elastic wraps around sideways at the top:
One of the first posts I ever wrote on this blog was about Finishing a Notebook. The notebook in question was this softcover Moleskine, one of the first notebooks I’d ever used completely from front to back.
At the time, this was a notable accomplishment. That was what I loved about those early Moleskines– I wanted to use every page. I didn’t get itchy about switching to a new notebook. Until that point, I’d been quite fickle, always buying new notebooks and often switching to a new one after only using a few pages. Sometimes it was just because I wanted to try a new notebook, and sometimes it was because I had somehow become disillusioned with the one I was using. Sometimes I just had a grand idea of a single-purpose notebook but never really carried it through.
But for the last decade or more, I’ve pretty much finished every notebook I’ve started. My usage habits have fallen into a consistent pattern of having one daily notebook plus a sketchbook or two going at any given time. The daily notebooks are always used until they are finished. The sketchbooks take longer to fill, but they are also used til the end, except for some that have been used while traveling.
The travel notebooks are a tricky one– I started a HandBook sketchbook on a trip to Paris, but I hardly did any drawings in it. I felt like it should stay a travel notebook, but ended up changing my mind and using it for other sketches and collages at home.
Another HandBook travel notebook started on a trip to Turkey, but was only filled about 1/3 of the way. I then took it to Portugal, but only filled a few pages. Several more pages were filled in Corsica. It’s still only a little more than half full, but now I feel like I have to reserve it for more travel.
But in the meantime I went to the Galapagos with a brand new sketchbook, which I mostly filled on that one trip. (It’s a brand I had just discovered and will do a full review on soon: Hahnemuhle.) I also dedicated a sketchbook to a safari trip in Botswana and filled it almost to the end. (I’m better at drawing wildlife than European architecture!) The empty pages in the Galapagos sketchbook are almost 1/4 of the book, but they will stay empty, I think, unless I try to re-work some of those sketches from memory or from photos– I can’t just use it for something else.
So I’m generally pretty committed to seeing a notebook through nowadays. But I’m a little tempted to ditch the one I’m using right now! It’s an old Piccadilly with squared pages, from a stash of them bought several years ago at Borders. The corners of the spine are tearing quite a bit and the paper doesn’t seem quite as smooth as usual. It has some symmetry issues and the corners stick out a bit, particularly on one side. It’s just getting on my nerves a bit. At this point, I think I only have about 1/6 of the notebook left to use. (it looks like more than that below but I also fill in some pages from the back.) But I can’t bring myself to bail out. Instead, I find myself writing with wider margins, scribbling inconsequentially to fill space, doodling more, and just generally spacing things out a bit more to use it up faster. I think I’ll manage to hold out til it’s done.
How about you? Do you use every page of a notebook, or stop and start with lots of different ones? Do you go back to old notebooks and finish them later? Do you reserve notebooks for a specific purpose even if they’ll take forever to fill?
So many of the notebooks I’m drawn to are hardcover or softcover notebooks with stitched signatures, but here’s a really nice looking wire-o bound notebook:
To make it even better, they’re made in Baltimore, and for each one purchased, they donate a notebook to a Baltimore public school student.
Read a review of the notebook at Pen Paper Ink Letter: Write Notepads & Co Notebook Review
This looks like a rather nice notebook cover– it even comes with a custom Rite in the Rain notebook. But Filson is a high-end brand, and this is pretty high-end pricing: $110 for the 5×7″ size!
It’s fun to review things that stretch the boundaries of “notebook” a bit. The Notez notebook and Dayz planner certainly do that! They are made by an Austrian company called Less Thingz, who were kind enough to send me these samples.
At a glance, you can see that these have a unique format. The outside covers are a double layer of cardboard. There is no spine, and inside is an accordion fold-out made of a heavy-weight card stock. The size is 6 7/16 x 4″– shown below with a pocket size Moleskine for comparison. I love the look of the outsides– they are very precisely cut with a slot in one layer, perfectly sized for a rubber band to sit flat in, one on each side. At first I thought the ends of the rubber band were glued inside the cover, but it’s actually just held there by the sandwiching of the two layers, and will slide in either direction if you pull on it. The only branding is the tiny laser-cut Less Thingz name on one side. The colors I received I very understated and attractive. According to the website, lots of other colors are available for Dayz, but you can’t actually see what they look like. Notez only seems to come in one color at the moment. One thing I did notice is that the cardboard cover seems to be easily stained– in the closeup below there is a small mark, which I think came from setting it down on a dining table where there were some crumbs.
Inside, Notez comes with either blank or dotted paper. Dayz has a planner layout– the sample I received is an academic year calendar going from mid-September 2013 through the end of September 2014, but the only option on their website now is a January-December 2014 calendar. The pages are laid out with 7 equally sized days running across, and 2 weeks to a page/4 weeks to a view. At the end, there is a section of smaller blocks, 7 days across and 14 weeks per page, looking ahead through October 2015.
In the main section, each day has a dot grid pattern that would make it easy to divide the day into blocks of time, but the space for each day is pretty small, so unless you have microscopic handwriting, it can’t be used for a lot of detailed agenda items or notes. But it’s a nice, clean, 2-color design. The holidays listed are not international– only Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy.
I tested a few pens– the paper is so thick, even the Super Sharpie barely shows through. The paper is quite smooth, so my Uniball gel-ink pen worked well, but my Lamy Safari fountain pen seemed to skid and bead up a little, and took a long time to dry. It still smeared after at least 10 minutes of drying time– I wasn’t timing it, but it was long enough after that I was quite surprised not to find it dry.
The nice thing about this unique format is that you can use the two elastics to mark your place in the notebook while also holding it closed. For the planner version, they show how you can use it has a hanging wall calendar or a stand-up desk calendar or a pocket planner. The blank notebook would lend itself to all sorts of uses, including panoramic or sequential drawings.
I suppose my main concern with these notebooks is the durability of the rubber band. It’s nice and thick and unlikely to snap under normal usage, but rubber bands get brittle with age, and I think it would be impossible to replace the band without destroying the notebook. But otherwise, these seem durable, and the simplicity of the construction means there’s not too much that can go wrong.
What’s not to like? Nothing… except the price. Notez is €24, Dayz is €36. Ouch. That’s $32.71- $49.06 at current rates. These are well-crafted and well-designed, and “made in small quantities by hand,” according to their website, but I think that’s pretty steep pricing for a 32-page cardboard-covered notebook and a planner you can only use for one year. Shipping is an additional €3.00, or free if you subscribe to their newsletter. Less Thingz has also offered a coupon code to readers of Notebook Stories, but you’ll have to act fast as it’s a limited offer: the first 10 people to enter NTBKSTRSCM1 when checking out will get a 10% discount on their order.
I’m also giving away the Notez sample. One lucky winner will be chosen from entries received in these ways:
On Twitter, tweet something containing “Less Thingz” and “@NotebookStories”, and follow “@NotebookStories.”
On your blog, post something containing the words “Less Thingz” and “Notebook Stories” and link back to this post.
The deadline for entry is Friday Feb. 14, 2014 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!
And please remember to check my posts on Facebook and Twitter for an announcement of the winner.
This week’s addict wrote to me with some great stories of her childhood notebook use, which reminded me of my own in many ways. But Cindy took her creativity to a much higher level and still makes decorated journals that are works of art! Keep reading below and you’ll learn how to make your own.
I can trace my love of office supplies — notebooks, pens, pencils, colored paper, markers, and the like — back to the earliest days of my childhood. The man who lived across the street from us offered Grandma boxes and boxes of computer printer paper. This was the kind with the holes down both sides of the paper and the pages that were all connected together. The paper had wide green and white lines on it. Grandma did not care about that, though; free was free and she gladly accepted the paper. The paper was legal sized, so she cut the pages in half, tore off the side with the perforated holes, and used the other side of holes (which were not perforated and not as easy to remove) to sew together a book with yarn. She made TONS of books like this for me and for my two cousins who spent lots of time at our house during the summer. The oldest of the two cousins, Kellie, was a die hard Osmond fan like I was. We spent many hours, writing stories about the Osmonds in our books, then reading them aloud to each other and to anyone else who would listen. We laughed and laughed at our own jokes. We tried our hands at illustrating. In short, we had a blast.
Of course, our notebooks we also used for other drawings, writing notes and letters. We used markers, crayons, different colors of ball point pens, colored pencils, and anything else we had on hand, to create some beautiful work in those pages. I read the book Harriet, The Spy and was further inspired to put my every thought down on paper. I never felt like my writing was as good or as exciting as Harriet’s though. Those boxes of computer paper lasted a long time — several years, if I am not mistaken — and I remember those books with fondness.
After the computer paper notebooks were gone, I moved on to spiral-bound notebooks, like the kind I got for school. I used these as journals. Now, rather than write stories about the Osmonds, I wrote about myself. The drama of life when you are 15, 16, or 17-years old is perfect for filling many tomes. There was gossip about people at school, boys I liked, girls I didn’t like, math I didn’t understand, cats that died, dresses I wore to different activities……Sadly, all of these childhood and high school journals were destroyed when my brother took a bride, moved into my old bedroom, and deposited my belongings in a shed in the backyard that had no floor (it sat directly on the dirt) and was not at all waterproof. I still feel pain when I think of it!
As a college student and, later, an adult, I have continued to write in journals. At this point, it is more like an addiction. Sometimes, I do not even really know what to say, only that I have a need to write. I also use my journals as sort-of scrapbooks. I have TONS of real scrapbooks, but my journals hold the smaller pieces of my life: ticket stubs from movies, fortunes from Chinese dinners, clippings from magazines I liked, post cards and letters sent from loved ones, and, most importantly, a LOT of glitter, sparkle, and bling. (I never met a shiny thing I didn’t like! lol!)
About ten years ago, I started making my own journals out of composition notebooks. It was fun to decorate them any way I wanted, in any color I wanted — usually pink. I could put as many embellishments in as I wanted and glue pages together to create pockets. I still love using those journals and love making them as well. One year, I made 40 of them to give as Christmas presents to ladies at my church. But despite loving those journals, I still have purchased notebooks that I used for other purposes. I have notebooks to take notes in at church, a notebook with thick, wonderful watercolor paper pages that I use strictly as an art journal, a series of notebooks I use at my job as a school teacher, all neatly labelled: “Staff Meetings”, “Grade-Level Meetings”, “Anecdotal Notes on Students”, “Meetings with Superintendent”, “Notes on Technology”, etc.
Right now, my favorite notebooks to purchase are Rhodia books because the paper is just such a nice thickness and smoothness — my pens glide over the pages. I totally think that the ease with which I can write on Rhodia pages makes my handwriting look even prettier. I also like Leuchturm notebooks, but I get the plain pages rather than the ruled because my writing is rather large and does not fit the lines in their books. In either case, I buy the 6X81/2 in models because they are easy to write in while sitting on your lap and they fit in my bag easier than larger models.
Here are three examples of composition notebooks I’ve made into journals. As I mentioned before, I love pink and bling.
Here are a couple of my journals that I purchased, rather than made.
Below is the tutorial:
I have seen many examples of decorated composition books. I have, through a process of trial and error, come up with a method that works for me and that I like best. I have tried to come up with a step-by-step tutorial to show you how to do it too. Keep in mind that I did this alone. I did not have anyone to take the photos for me so, in some cases, they are not quite as clear as I’d like. Still, I think you can get the idea. Have fun!
Step 1: Start with a composition notebook and a glue stick.
Step 2: Glue the first three pages together. Then, glue the next three pages together. Then, glue the next three pages together. You should end up with three sets of three pages each, glued together.
Step 3: I will refer to these three sets of pages as flaps: flap one, flap two and flap three. You will now need to get your ruler and pencil. On flap one, mark a line from the edge of the page that is as wide as your ruler. Then put your ruler on the line you just marked and mark another line as wide as your ruler. The second line is the line you are going to cut on.
Step 4: On the second flap, mark a line from the edge of the page that is as wide as your ruler. This is the line you are going to cut on.
Step 5: Leave the third flap alone. Do not make any lines, do not cut, do not passs go…….
Step 6: You should now have three flaps. The first flap is the shortest, the middle flap is a bit longer and the third flap is the longest, kind of like steps. I put the scissors and the ruler between the flaps, to help you see the different lengths.
Step 7: Now, we will leave the flaps for a moment and work on the cover. Select a piece of paper that you would like to use to decorate the front cover of your book. Put glue all over the front cover, EXCEPT on the black fabric binding. Line your paper up against the binding, leaving some paper at the top and the bottom of the cover to fold over. Glue it on.
Step 8: Now, we are going to make a mitered corner. You need to cut the three edges of the paper that are not glued down, as shown in the picture below.
Step 9: Now, fold the three edges over so that you can see them on the inside of your cover, then glue them down.
Step 10: Now, we are going back to our three flaps. We are going to use the flaps to make a set of pockets in our book. We are going to start with Flap 3, the longest flap, the one at the back of the three flaps. Take a piece of paper that you want to use to decorate flap three with. Line it up so that the bottom of the paper is even with the bottom of the book and draw a line on the back where the top of the book goes across the paper.
Step 11: Cut the paper along the line, fold over a small flap and glue that to the front of flap three — the front is the side of flap 3 that is closest to the front of the book.
Step 13: Now we move to flap 2, the middle flap. For this one, you can use a smaller piece of paper, so if you have a scrap you want to use up, now’s the time. Fold a small flap and glue it to the back of flap 2. The back is the side of flap 2 that faces the back of the book. The glue the larger part of the paper to the front of flap 2, which is the part of flap 2 that faces the front of the book.
Step 14: Now, for the front flap. Take a piece of paper that you want to use to decorate flap one. Fold over a small edge and glue it onto the back of flap one.
Step 15: Now, fold the rest of the paper to the front of flap one.
Step 16: You are going to glue the rest of the paper to flap one. When you get to the binding in the middle of the book, you need to put a LOT of glue there so that the paper will stick well. I’ve used a purple colored glue stick in the picture to show you what I mean.
Step 17: Keep gluing the paper down and press it really well into the crack at the binding.
Step 18: Then, finish gluing the rest of that paper down. Now, we are going to take our three flaps and make pockets out of them. Line your ruler up at the bottom of flap one, so that the 5 inch mark is on the edge of flap one. Make a little dot at inches 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 1/2, and 6 1/2.
Step 19: Punch holes in flap one where you made the marks. Only do one flap at a time, or your punch will break. After you punch your holes, use your pen/pencil to color in the holes so that they show on flap two. The holes will be in all three flaps and they MUST line up for the pockets to work.
Step 20: Turn to flap two and punch the holes right where you made your marks. Then, mark through those holes onto flap three. Turn to flap three and punch the holes. You should now have holes in all three flaps, that line up.
(Actually, that top photo shows the dots on flap two. The bottom one shows all three flaps with the holes in them.)
Step 21: Mark the same places on the top of the flaps and punch the holes so that you have matching holes in all three flaps, top and bottom. Then, get your narrow ribbon and start threading it through the first hole, closest to the edge of the pages. Thread it from the back to the front.
Step 22: You want to pull through about 8 or so inches of ribbon and keep threading it through the holes from back to front. Remember, you are going through the holes in all three flaps.
Step 23: When you get to the hole closest to the binding of the book, turn around and go back the other way.
Step 24: When you get back to the edge, tie the ends in a small square knot.
Step 25: Do the same to the top of the flaps, so that you have bound the top and the bottom with ribbon.
Step 24: Now you have three pockets to put stuff in. I’ve put papers in between the pockets in the next photo.
Step 25: Then, get a paper that you want to use to decorate the inside of the front cover with. Put it inside of the cover and trace around the cover to make a line on the back of the paper. This is where you will cut the paper.
Step 26: Cut the paper and glue it to the inside cover.
Step 27: Now cover the back cover of your notebook and the inside back cover, just as you did the front cover. Then, all that is left is for you to decorate your book! Here are some examples of books I have done:
Notice that, on this book, I divided it into sections. I glued three pages together to make a flap to separate the sections. I put tabs on the flaps, too.
You can do anything you want to with these! Have fun!
Cindy asked for everyone to leave her feedback about whether this tutorial is useful and clear or if you have any other suggestions for her, as she wants to do more craft tutorials. But as of press time, I hadn’t heard back from Cindy as to whether she is posting these tutorials on a blog of her own so I could link to it, but I’ll update this post with that info when I get it. I’m sure people would like to see more!
Thanks for sharing your notebook addiction AND your crafting skills, Cindy!
This is just a small part of an article in which Paul Zahl talks about the movie Super 8:
Recently I came across ten little notebooks, notebooks for a person’s breast pocket, which I used for my to-do lists during the Winter and Spring of 1972-1973. I was a recent college graduate and quite confused, about absolutely everything. A lot was going on, and just barely underneath the surface. It mainly concerned girls, and sex; not to mention who did I wish to be and become. I was striking out on almost every front, though there were a few shafts of light oddly breaking through. But those notebooks, goddammit!
I read them again. They are lists and lists of “urgent” things to do: letters of recommendation to get, applications to complete, courses to take, contacts to make, professions to pursue, taxes to file. Someone named “Mrs. Watson”, the identity of whom I now have no idea but who was probably the administrative assistant to some academic dean, gets innumerable mentions. Yet the only thing I was really thinking about, I mean really, was the person who would later become my wife ; and how she fit in with some possible other person, and so on.
I love those photos of the notebook in its scribble-covered state. I had some of these Roaring Spring notebooks too:
More about mine in this post. I also liked what he said about what he’d written, as I feel the same way about some of my notebooks– so many random jottings and lists of things to do, but musings about life’s bigger questions too, especially relationships!
My jaw dropped when I opened the box of samples sent to me by the folks at Grandluxe– it was huge and heavy and full of tons of notebooks! Let’s take a look at the wide variety of products Grandluxe so generously shared, many of which I had never seen in stores. (If you don’t see these stocked at your local retailers, you can order via Grandluxe’s online store.)
First we have these Monologue notebooks, which come in a wide variety of sizes and colors. Take note, those who have asked about super-tiny notebooks!
Next we have the Platinum collection. They are the same standard format as the Monologue notebooks above, ruled paper with elastic closure, ribbon markers and inside pockets, but with the fun twist of a metallic look to the cover and page edges:
Next up, the Monologue Jotter, in two sizes. A ballpoint pen is included in its own loop within the cover. It’s nice that they do it this way, as it keeps the exterior looking nice and neat. On the small notebook, it means the pages are narrower within the cover. In the larger size, the pages have a notch cut out of them for the pen. I think this works better in the small size, as there is something weird about the page having that cut-out. The pages seem to be a mix of formats, either lined or a framed blank space.
The Deja Vu notebooks have a square-cornered design, with no elastic closure, ribbon or pocket. The cover is said to be “jersey soft fabric,” and it does have a similar look to an old weathered t-shirt, though I’d describe the feel as a bit more like velour. The pages are lined on one side, blank on the other, another feature that many people seem to look for.
The Ideology notebooks are spiral bound, but glued into a snap-close leatherette cover. Again pages are blank on one side, ruled on the other. I did a pen test on this one. The paper is nice and smooth, and bright white. Show through is a bit worse than average, as is bleed-through. The Super Sharpie even marked the following page a bit.
Then we have the Monologue Sketchpad. This is an unusual format, with a block of sketch paper on one side of the cover, rather than bound into the spine. The outside cover is a sort of nubuck texture with an attractive embossed design. The first page has the cloth tape wrapping around onto it, but the other pages are just glued in, so they can be easily removed. Perhaps a little too easily, as the one I tested my pens on came loose while I was taking photos. The pages can be opened quite flat until you get further towards the back of the sketchbook, when the binding makes it difficult to open all the way. The paper is said to be 140 GSM and suitable for charcoal, chalk, graphite, pencil, pastel, oil pastel, wax crayon, red chalk, acrylic, collage, oil, marker, spray, tempera. They didn’t mention ink pens or watercolors, so that’s what I tested! The paper has a bit of tooth so is not ideal for fine gel ink pens but worked well with everything else. Very good on show-through and bleed-through. Watercolors seemed fine too, and the page where I laid down a wet wash didn’t buckle too much.
Grandluxe is also getting into the game of city notebooks, similar to Moleskine’s. They are smaller and thinner than the Moleskine ones, and have a textured cover with the city name in metallic ink. It’s on the spine in metallic ink too, which is nice– the Moleskine City Notebooks have such a subtle stamped city name on the spine, you have to look really closely to see which city they’re for. Inside you get some maps and city info– less extensive maps than Moleskine, but they do add some narrative about top attractions and how to get around, which Moleskine doesn’t have. For the write-in section, there are useful pages such as a pre-departure checklist, which reminds you to have your mail diverted and leave extra keys with friends, etc, as well as a separate packing checklist. There are other pages for things like a listing of your traveller’s checks, which I don’t know how many people would actually use, expenses, recommended things to see, calendar pages, notes pages, address pages, and blank pages. There is a ribbon marker, back pocket and elastic closure. I personally prefer the format of the Moleskine books as they offer more ability to customize sections of pages, better maps, 3 ribbon markers and extras such as stickers and translucent overlays so you can write on maps without ruining them. But the Grandluxe offers some cities Moleskine doesn’t. (Moleskine seems to have discontinued producing most cities other than London, Paris, New York and Berlin, but I don’t think they ever offered Bangkok, Sydney, Shanghai or Singapore.)
The rest of the samples are other assorted notebook and sketchbook styles that I won’t go into detail on, except for one, which was my absolute favorite of this whole bunch. Knowing my tastes, you’d think my favorite would be a pocket-sized perfect-bound notebook or sketchbook with a black cover and blank or squared pages and no cover overhang, blah blah blah… but actually, it is none of those things!
Here’s my favorite: the A4 size Earth Care Recycled Note Folder. It has a partially covered wire-o binding. The outside cover is a green cardboard, not too heavy. The front cover has an extra fold, with a pocket on the inside. The paper is lined, with a box at the top for the date or subject. The paper is nice and smooth and feels great with gel ink pens. And though it feels quite thin and fine, it’s actually great on show-through and bleed-through, with barely a trace of anything but the dreaded Super Sharpie. For me, this will be the perfect notebook to use at work– I like having a big page for lists and notes from meetings, and it will be great to be able to tuck some extra pages in the front pocket. I’ll use the front flap to tuck around the pages I’ve already used and mark my current page. This will live on my desk and get a ton of everyday use as soon as I finish the large Doane Paper Idea Journal I’m currently using.
Now it’s time to give away some of these lovely samples, and with so many of them, it’s going to be a massive giveaway! A prize pack of at least 3 assorted notebooks each will go to 6 lucky winners randomly selected from entries received in any of the following ways:
On Twitter, tweet something containing “Grandluxe,” and “@NotebookStories”, and follow “@NotebookStories.”
On your blog, post something containing the words “Grandluxe” and “Notebook Stories” and link back to this post.
The deadline for entry is Friday Feb. 7, 2014 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!
And please remember to check my posts on Facebook and Twitter for an announcement of the winner.