Custom Notebooks at Ito-Ya

Fancy a visit to the paper concierge?

“Attention paper sophisticates: Ito-Ya, the legendary 111-year old Japanese stationery mecca will make your dreams come true.
On the fourth level of their newly renovated 12-story emporium in Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district, a counter called “Note Couture” is dedicated to creating the perfect writing pad, on the spot.For about $9 per 60-page notebook, you can mix-and-match ruled, lined, and blank pages in various hues; debate the spectrum of notebook cover choices; and obsess over the right spiral binding color.”

Source: A 100-year-old Japanese stationery store lets customers design the perfect, custom notebook — Quartz


Antonio Lopez’s Journal

An absolutely gorgeous page from a journal belonging to Antonio Lopez, a Puerto Rican fashion illustrator whose work is being celebrated with an exhibition at the Museo del Barrio in New York. I love the mix of elements on this page– the old fashioned ledger with numbers and notes then covered by these elegant drawings…

Read more at: A Nuyorican Artist’s Career Survey: Loud, Proud and Timely – The New York Times


U. S. Government Printing Office Memorandum Notebook

Here’s a really cool item I snagged on eBay:

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This is an early version of the Federal Supply Service notebooks I’ve reviewed here. I don’t know when they changed the information on the back, but from googling the Government Printing Office and the Federal Supply Service, my theory is that the US government used to manufacture these themselves, but at some point, the Printing Office narrowed its responsibilities to printing and binding government documents, and blank memorandum books became something that the government would procure from an outside vendor. The Federal Supply Service falls under the GSA, and is now part of the Federal Acquisition Service. Someone there must be responsible for getting bids from printers to produce these notebooks for military and government workers. It’s nice that they have kept the same “Memorandum” cover design for many decades, even if the materials and construction of the notebooks has changed over the years.

The person who sold this notebook to me offered some background about its original owner:

“The little book was my grandfathers. He was born in Palermo in 1881. He was a wonderful professional artist. He taught art. He was a fashion designer. His work is at the national museum of art. His name was Roger (Ruggero) Pierotti. He also was a comedian early in his life and an actor. He is in a couple of early Charlie Chaplin movies. He led a very colorful life. He devised an outfit of one side being a soldier and the other side being a civilian, which he wore to sell war bonds in both WWl and WWll. The media featured him in the papers. He was immensely Proud of my father, his son, who was a well known political and sports cartoonist – John Pierotti.”

The notebook doesn’t contain any sketches, alas, but it does have what seem to be business records of items bought and sold, and notes about various songs in different musical keys. He also recorded his rent payments– $18 a month!
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I love knowing a bit more about the man who wrote these notes, and this notebook is one of my favorite items in the vintage and antique part of my collection.

Notebook Addict of the Week: MissVickyBee

This week’s addict is another YouTuber called Miss VickyBee, who has a variety of lengthy videos in which she talks about her various journals. This one is about 25 minutes and goes through all the journals she is currently using (or was using as of its 2014 date).


There are lots more to explore!
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Review: First Draft Notebook

A new American-made notebook is always exciting, so I was very happy to be offered a sample of the First Draft notebook for review.

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The one I received is a lovely red color– navy and sand are also available. The first impression is of a solid, well-made, chunky mid-size notebook. I had a flashback to the library books of my childhood– that is what the cloth cover material reminds me of, and if it’s as durable as those library books, this should be a nice, long-lasting notebook! The cover is neatly wrapped at the corners but there is quite a large cover overhang, which longtime readers will know is something I happen to dislike! The First Draft logo is embossed on the front cover, while the back is totally plain.

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The size is 5.5 x 8.25 inches, about an inch thick at 224 pages. The notebook comes with a removable horizontal elastic that has a sewn-in pen loop. It’s a nice touch, especially with the First Draft branding on the patch, though I worry it would easily get lost since it’s not attached to the notebook. There is a matching ribbon marker, but no back pocket. The inside front cover is attractively designed with space for your contact information.

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The binding is designed to open flat– the covers fold back very easily and the pages do stay open pretty easily with good access to the gutter, especially after you’ve opened it a few times to loosen up the binding.

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Inside, the 70# paper is a bright, cool white, unlined. It is smooth and works beautifully with fine gel ink pens, but I’m afraid fountain pen users will be disappointed, as those inks feathered out– I could see the lines spreading as I wrote– and bled through. Overall show-through was about average, but bleed-through was a little worse than average.

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At $22 for a notebook of this size, it’s not a bad value, especially for something that is made in the USA. For those who tend to write with gel ink pens or pencils, and want to support a home-grown small business, First Draft is a good choice for a solid, well-made everyday notebook. You can buy them at First Draft’s online store.

A Fiber Artist’s Sketchbook

“[Internationally known fiber artist] Cindy Steiler is always working, in her studio, “drawing with thread.”, during a European artist residency, teaching students how to push the boundaries of fiber. She works in an antique mall, browsing eerie photos of women she doesn’t know. She works in a grocery store aisle, scribbling an idea into her pocket sketchbook.”

Here’s a couple of pages from that sketchbook:
Read more at: Cindy Steiler Brings her Process to Toledo

London Notebooks

I was in London a few months ago, and while the trip wasn’t my best notebook-spotting adventure, I did see a few interesting items.

At Foyle’s, the huge bookstore on Charing Cross Road, there is a nice selection of stationery tucked in shelves by the registers on the 2nd floor. I thought the Puggy’s Best notebook was rather cute, and I was really tempted to buy the composition book tote bag!

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At an airport shop, I was somewhat tempted by this Ted Baker notebook, but I didn’t like the pen loop on the spine, or the included pen itself. The pages inside were a mix of lined and squared pages, but the squares were very small– I think I’d find them a little distracting. Note the notch in all the pages for where the elastic closure sits.

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So those were the things I did NOT buy… but I did purchase a couple other notebooks on my trip, which I’ll review soon!

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Moleskine

The creator of the musical Hamilton use Moleskine notebooks…. and despite the images below of Hemingway, Picasso, etc, the linked article does a good job of explaining the true history of “moleskine” vs “Moleskine®”.

“Lin-Manuel Miranda worked for six years to get his Grammy- and Pulitzer-winning musical Hamilton from his head onto a stage. He worked on the songs everywhere—on his honeymoon, on the subway—and, as the lyrics came to him, he committed them to a Moleskine notebook.”

Read more at How Moleskine Went From Parisian Scribble Pad to Global Icon | Adweek