Review and Giveaway: Notes and Dabbles

I was excited to discover this new brand, as I’m always looking for nice, basic notebooks with simple extra touches that differentiate them from the pack. I really liked the look of Notes & Dabbles’ cloth-covered notebooks as well as the leather-look hardcovers and softcovers, so I immediately wrote to the company to request samples. They very generously complied! Look at all the goodies:


My immediate favorites were the softcover notebooks. They are a really nice size that just fits nicely in the hand, and in the pocket. You can see below that they are noticeably smaller than a pocket hardcover Moleskine. Though all the notebooks I received are supposedly 90 x 140 mm, these softcovers are actually 87 x 137mm– I’m not complaining, though. The red and dark navy covers are pleasing shades, in a somewhat glossier cover material than other similar notebooks I’ve tried. The covers have an extra layer of reinforcement that stiffens them a bit and hopefully would prevent corners from curling with prolonged use. The brand is stamped on the back cover. Inside the front cover there are lines for contact info. Inside the back cover, there is an expanding pocket, with an extra little slot where you can tuck a business card. There is an elastic closure but no ribbon marker. The last few pages are perforated. The notebook opens nice and flat.


The paper is very similar to what you’ll find in a Moleskine– nice and smooth and a pleasure to write on with fine point gel ink pens. Unfortunately it is a bit worse than average in terms of show-through and bleed-through, and fountain pens seem to feather out a bit.


Given the somewhat too-light paper, this would not be something I’d want to use for heavy-duty journal writing or as a sketchbook, but it would be a great daily jotter to throw in a bag or jacket pocket. I really love the size and feel of this notebook, and couldn’t tear myself away from the sample as soon as I’d unpacked it!

The cloth-covered notebooks have true 90 x 140mm sizing on the outside, though there is a bit of cover overhang so the book block within is about the same size as the softcover notebook. I love clothbound covers on notebooks like the HandBook Artist Journals, and wish they were used more. I also love colored page edges. The black covers with yellow and orange edges are a bit bright but fun. The grey is nice, but I’d prefer it with a different contrasting color than blue. My only disappointment with these was the construction– the spines are very loose, as if the cover was sized to have a thicker book block inside it. The extra material tends to bulge out unevenly and it just looks a bit sloppy. These also have the back pocket with the business card slot, and a nice bonus feature: two ribbon markers, in colors matching the rest of the notebook.


The pen-loop notebooks were my least favorite of the batch– for one, I personally never use pen loops and I generally don’t like the way they throw off the clean edges of a notebook. But it did seem like a clever concept to put the loop on the spine instead of the edge where the notebook opens– since it’s elastic, it sits pretty flat against the spine and is a lot less obtrusive when you’re not using it. The construction of this notebook is rather unusual (though not unique, as the Fabio Ricci “Goran” notebook seems to be almost identical). The hard leather-look front and back cover each end in a line of stitching near the spine, and the spine is made of cloth in a contrasting color, with the black elastic pen loop on top. I don’t love the white with blue or pink color combos, though there are more attractive black and grey versions also available.


All these notebooks are available in plain, lined and dotted page versions, and also in larger sizes. Notes and Dabbles doesn’t seem to have US distribution yet, but keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates about retail availability. And in the meantime, I’ve got lots of samples to share with some lucky readers!

I will send two notebooks each to 5 lucky winners from entries received in the following ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Notes & Dabbles” and “@NotebookStories”, and follow @NotebookStories .

On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page and the Notes & Dabbles page, and post something containing the words “Notes & Dabbles” on the Notebook Stories wall.

On your blog, post something containing the words “Notes & Dabbles” and “Notebook Stories” and link back to this post.

The deadline for entry is Friday May 2, 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.

A 15th Century Sketchbook

Interesting– you don’t usually hear the term “sketchbook” applied to things this old. I think back then paper was a more valuable commodity and wasn’t used as much for practicing and doodling, as some of these pages seem to have been. Or else those rough pages just didn’t survive, and were perhaps erased and re-used. This manuscript, which belonged to a German monk named Stephan Schriber, is a mix of illuminated manuscript pages in progress and other pages that just seem to be notes and practice sketches.



See more at The Illuminated Sketchbook of Stephan Schriber (1494) | The Public Domain Review.

Notebook Addict of the Week: Edmo Cabral

This week’s addict was found on Flickr. The collection is impressive, and I love the way he’s taken the photograph! Asked by a commenter what he uses all the notebooks for, Edmo says “I just put notes in all of them.”

See original at 006/365 – I.

Papelaria Pastry Notebooks

Cute notebooks that look like pastries!

See more at The Terrier and Lobster: Papelaria Pastry Notebooks.

French Factory Worker’s Notebook

Isn’t this a lovely old notebook? Seems to be phone numbers and assorted jottings kept by a guard named Andre who worked at a now-defunct Renault factory, from what I was able to translate of the website where I found it.

“Prenez un bleu et suivez moi à travers le carnet de André. Lui était gardien, donc pas de problème pour rentrer. Ce petit carnet qui a du être dans la poche depuis le début de son poste ou au début pour retenir ce qui devrait être des numéros de téléphone pour joindre les quatre coins du Trapèze.”

carnet andré

Read more (in French) at A quelques pas de l’usine: valise_11.

Notebook Addict of the Week: Emmanuel

This week’s addict has a habit of filling Moleskine and Rhodia notebooks. Look at these nice stacks!

The Moleskine stack is pretty impressive given that he says he remembers first holding a Moleskine in his hands in January 2012. The Rhodias are from 2003-2006. Emmanuel says he wrote the first book in French about the “Quantified Self” philosophy, which involves keeping track of a lot of personal data– that’s what filled up all those Rhodias!

But I liked his thoughts below:

J’aime ce travail d’écriture, mi manuel mi intellectuel, quand la pensée se met peu à peu en formes, quand les idées s’inscrivent dans la matière par le contact physique entre la main, le stylo, le feuille… Et puis de temps en temps ça repose des écrans !

I translate it roughly as “I love the work of writing, half manual, half intellectual, when thought little by little takes form, when ideas are inscribed materially by the physical contact between the hand, the pen, the page… and then from time to time this rest from screens!”

Read more (in French) at Les tours de carnets, après Rhodia vint Moleskine.

Review and Giveaway: Paperblanks Mini Reporter Notebooks

The folks at Paperblanks were kind enough to send me some samples after seeing my review of their “Old Leather” notebook. I am so glad they did, as I really love the notebooks they sent. Though there are things about them that are not 100% what I tend to look for in notebooks for my daily personal use, these are gorgeous, high-quality notebooks that I would totally buy if I found them in a store. Let’s take a look at why.

Each of the notebooks has a different cover style, and a different interior page style. (Other combinations may be available.)

The Black Moroccan is based on gold-tooled Renaissance-style leather bindings, and has blank pages inside.

The Safavid is lined inside and is based on Persian Safavid Islamic design, reproducing an image from the Düsseldorf Museum Kunst Palast.

The Grolier is based on an antique book bound by Jean Grolier (1479-1565), from the collection of the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. It has squared paper inside, which I was very happy to see, as I didn’t know Paperblanks ever offered graph paper options.

These 3 styles are shown from left to right in the first photo below.


I’m always impressed by the richness and elegance of the Paperblanks cover designs, and these are no exception. They feel very faithful to the antique designs they emulate, and the delicate stamping and spots of metallic inks indicate real care taken in the printing process. I’m amazed that they can offer these for $11.95 with this level of quality. (They are made in China.) With most notebooks, I don’t like it when there is a groove between the spine and where the boards start– I like a smooth, flat transition where the spine wraps around cleanly and the edge of the boards is pretty much lined up with the spine of the book block– but in these notebooks, it seems so in character with the designs, it doesn’t bother me, and it does allow the cover to easily fold back on itself completely without breaking, which is not possible with some other reporter notebooks. A softcover Moleskine reporter will manage it, as will a hardcover Brunnen I reviewed, but I’m not sure a hardcover Moleskine will survive long with that treatment! (A pocket Moleskine watercolor sketchbook is shown above, as the closest comparison I had handy.)


Aside from the decorative elements, the notebook construction is solid. Neat corners, edges that don’t stick out too much, supple spines that open flat. I would prefer the page edges to be cut straight rather than follow the roundness of the spine, but it doesn’t bother me that much. The last few pages are perforated. The lines in the ruled notebook don’t go all the way to the page edge, which might bother some people. The graph paper is perfect– the thin grey lines are nicely sharp and thin and light.


Inside there is some info about the brand and the design, as well as a back pocket, and an elastic closure that tucks neatly behind it so  it doesn’t show on the back cover when you’re not using it.


The paper is such a pleasure to write on, especially with my favorite gel ink fine point pens. It’s smooth and creamy and the pen just glides over it. Fountain pens work nicely, though when I looked closely a little while later, I noticed some very slight feathering with the Pilot Varsity. I don’t usually test drying times, but the Lamy Safari stayed wet a lot longer than the Pilot did. Alas, the paper is a bit on the lightweight side and show-through and bleed-through are a bit worse than average, though if you use mainly gel ink fine point pens like the Uniballs I use at the top of the page, I think most people would find the level of show-through tolerable.


So I’ll say it again, I love these notebooks and if I hadn’t gotten them for free, I’d buy one! Paperblanks are available in quite a few retailers, including online at Amazon. But you can also try to win one in the giveaway! The Safavid and the Black Moroccan will each go to one of the two lucky winners I’ll select from entries received in these ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “@Paperblanks,” and “@NotebookStories”, and follow @NotebookStories and @paperblanks.

On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page and the Paperblanks page, and post something containing the words “Paperblanks” on the Notebook Stories wall.

On your blog, post something containing the words “Paperblanks” and “Notebook Stories” and link back to this post.

The deadline for entry is Friday April 18, 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.

Notebook Addict of the Week (again): Joe

This week’s addict is another one whose collection has grown since we first saw it. He sent me this message and the photos below of his excellent collection, which now includes his own home-made notebooks:

“I was a notebook addict about a year ago and just recently returned from Afghanistan after 7 months. So I thought I would let you in on what I have been doing notebook wise and vie for the coveted notebook addict of the week (again). The first photo is of what I used in 2013. Date books, journals and work. The second photo is my home made notebooks. As prices go up and the sizes available are pretty standard across the board I wanted something different so I have been making them at four by six inches. The third pic is what is in current use, there is a moleskine for work, sketch book, a journal each for my 2 children, and a book journal. Lastly is what is on slate for the year to come. It is ever expanding as I reside in Germany presently and there are many great stationary stores with everything you need to keep an obsession going.”


joe addict 1

joe addict 2

joe addict 3

Thanks for sharing your addiction, Joe, and glad you are back safely from Afghanistan!

A French Artist’s 1948 Diary

The 1948 diary below belonged to Martin Vivés, an artist who lived in southwestern France. He also seems to have been a museum curator there in the 1940s-1960s, and he met some famous artists including Raoul Dufy, as shown in the notes made in the diary. March 2 shows the phrase “visite Dufy.

It’s an interesting-looking diary. I can’t figure out why it would have that cut-out in the middle…

Read more (in French) at Raoul Dufy (1877-1953) « Martin Vivès.

More on London Notebooks

When I was complaining about the bleak landscape for London notebook shopping, I didn’t mention the most frustrating part of the trip! I was there on business, and during my last meeting of the trip, when I already knew it was pretty likely that I’d go home without buying anything, I spotted a really gorgeous notebook. Unfortunately it belonged to one of the people I was meeting with! It was about 4 x 6″ with a nice soft-looking black leather cover, with stitching around the edge. It looked a little beat up and worn in. It was very distracting to have that sitting across the table from me while trying to talk business! The owner of the notebook never opened it during the meeting, though he did jot a few notes in a larger Black & Red notebook. He wasn’t someone I knew well enough to be able to say, “gee, that’s a really nice notebook! Where’d you get it?” So it was just a tantalizing glimpse of possible London notebook splendor…

The other missing piece of the story is that another friend of mine, who does know me well enough to be aware of my notebook fetish, snapped these photos of notebooks and sketchbooks in London museums– probably the V&A and the British Museum, but she forgot which! The only identifying detail is a card identifying the first ones as belonging to artist Sigmar Polke.

london notebooklondon notebook 2london notebook 3