Category Archives: Places to Buy

Review and Giveaway: Stillman & Birn Softcover Sketchbooks

I was really excited when I heard that Stillman & Birn were expanding their product line to include softcover sketchbooks, especially when I saw that a pocket sized version was available. There are so many options out there for hardcover sketchbooks, and so many pocket notebooks, but these really fill a niche in terms of offering durability, flexibility, portability, and a wide array of quality paper options. I’m ashamed to say I received samples for review almost a year ago and am only getting caught up now, but better late than never!

I’ve reviewed Stillman and Birn’s hardcovers in the past, see here and here. The softcovers are available in the same paper types– 6 varieties, covering different paper weights, textures, and colors, but different sizes.

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I tested the 3.5 x 5.5″ pocket size portrait versions, of course! They are slightly smaller than a pocket Moleskine. The covers are a smooth material, not at all leather-like but with a leathery-looking pebbly tone, which you can see but not feel. The covers are neutral shades of grey, dark green, dark red and blue, corresponding to the paper type within– greenish for the Delta, with 270 GSM ivory cold press paper; red for Alpha, with 150 GSM bright white medium grain paper. There is nothing imprinted on or inside the sketchbooks except for the Stillman and Birn logo embossed on the back cover.

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The signatures are stitched, and there is a fair amount of glue at the spine, holding the signatures to the cover. The pages open very flat despite the spines feeling a little stiff at first, especially with the thicker papers. After being opened all the way, the covers will stay open for a while but will eventually close most of the way. There is no elastic to hold the sketchbooks closed. No inside pocket or ribbon marker either.

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The papers are up to the same high standard as S&B’s other products, performing well with all sorts of pens, pencils and watercolors. Only the bleediest markers show through much on the 150 GSM paper, and the 270 GSM paper is pretty impervious. Even the papers meant for only dry media held up fine with watercolors. From the outside, these sketchbooks don’t look like fancy sketchbooks designed to be kept forever, but with acid-free, archival quality paper, what you create on the inside should stand the test of time.

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What’s not to love? This is where I thought I’d be saying “well, they are a bit pricey…” but they’re not! The pocket size sketchbooks have a list price of $10.99 and are currently discounted to under $9.00 for some models at Amazon. With so many options in bindings, paper types, sizes and portrait/landscape formats, Stillman & Birn really offers something for everyone!

And I am offering you all the chance to win a free sample! Four winners will be randomly selected from those who enter in any of the following ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing  “@StillmanandBirn” and “@NotebookStories.

On Facebook, “like” the  Notebook Stories page and the Stillman and Birn page, and post something containing the words “Stillman & Birn” on my wall.

On your blog, post something containing the words “Stillman & Birn” and “NotebookStories” and link back to this post.

And for those who don’t have these other options available to them, you can also enter by leaving a comment on this post.

Since we can have 4 winners, I will pick at least one winner from each entry method above, and each winner will receive at least 2 sketchbooks.

The deadline for entry is Friday June 23 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!

The Cape Horn Notebook, Made with Recycled Sails

Here’s something a bit different, a notebook that incorporates recycled sails and sailing rope:

“With the look, feel, and design of a traditional black notebook, the Cape Horn notebook reimagines used sails from the world’s most epic sailing expeditions as the ultimate storytelling tool.

The notebooks, which contain fragments of a sails that have traveled all the way to the southernmost tip of South America, aim to inject the dynamism of life at sea into everyday life.

Designed and created by Chilean designer Antonia Undurraga, herself an avid sailor, the notebooks merge two diverse industries – sailing and paper goods – into one product.”

Buy the Cape Horn notebook at Amazon.

The Cape Horn Notebook website has some interesting photos of the manufacturing process, much of which seems to be done by hand.

Source: Recycled Sails Get New Life With The New The Cape Horn Notebook – Crossroads Today

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Dreamday Pattern Journals: Review and Giveaway

Dreamday Pattern Journals, from Laurence King Publishing, are another coloring book/journal hybrid, similar to the Coloring Notebook I reviewed a few months ago. Six designs are available, incorporating pages of beautiful patterns backed by blank pages inside a flexibound journal. The range of themes will please any designer or art history buff– from Mid-Century Modern/Scandinavian, to Renaissance Florence. The samples I received are Japanese and Moroccan designs, and Heraldic and Art Deco are also available.

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The 6 1/2 x 9″ journals come shrinkwrapped, with a belly-band that shows some of the designs within. When you remove the belly-band, the cover is free of any branding. Even the barcode sticker is easily removable. The cover is a wrapped flexible material, with a contrasting color printed on the spine.

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The texture of the cover slightly detracts from the intricacy of the pattern if you’re looking at it up close, but that is a minor quibble– overall the cover design is beautiful. The patterned endpapers inside are a nice touch too.

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The first page provides a space to write your contact details, and the rest of the interior 108 pages is the patterned pages and blank pages. The signatures are stitched but the glue on the spine makes it difficult to open totally flat.

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I wondered if the pattern pages would be usable for note-writing– some notebooks that have faint patterns on the pages can be written over without too much visual confusion, but in this case, I think it would be really distracting. The pattern pages are really for coloring and doodling. The paper is of good quality, though, and I found that most of my test pens and markers did not bleed or show through. This means you should be able to truly use the blank pages for writing and drawing and free-form doodling.

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You can buy these on Amazon or in bookshops and art/stationery/gift stores, and at $14.95 they are a decent value and a nice gift. And I have three extra samples that I’ll give away, one each to three lucky winners selected from entries received in these ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Dreamday Pattern Journal @LaurenceKingPub @NotebookStories”, and follow @LaurenceKingPub and @NotebookStories

On Facebook, “like” the Laurence King page and the Notebook Stories page and post something containing the words “Dreamday Pattern Journal” on the Notebook Stories page.

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

The deadline for entry is Friday February 10, 2017 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!
And please remember to check my posts on Facebook and Twitter for an announcement of the winner. Please allow a couple of weeks for me to check all the entries and determine the winners.

Joburg Journals

This is a very cool notebook story. In Johannesburg, South Africa, a photographer started a community project at a shelter for former street kids. He gave them disposable cameras, taught them about photography and exhibited their work. In order to make the project sustainable and help the kids earn some income, they set up an online shop selling logowear and products featuring the kids’ photography, including these notebooks:
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Check it out at: iwasshot in joburg 🙂 – Journals

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Waverley Scottish Plaid Notebooks

Something new and different! Spotted at Kinokuniya bookstore in NYC:

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I haven’t seen these for sale anywhere else, but they’re made by a UK company: Waverley Books. Two sizes are available. Here’s the full product description from their site:

The Waverley Scotland Tartan Cloth Commonplace Notebooks Anderson has 176 pages (left side blank, right side ruled), acid-free, threadsewn, 80 gsm cream shade pages, are bound in genuine Scottish tartan cloth over board, with round cornered cover and bookblock corners, stained edges and a matching elastic enclosure.

Each volume has a ribbon-marker and an expandable inner note holder made of cardboard and cloth, and removable booklet with background notes, with a Clan Map of Scotland, and with an individual bookmark, giving detail on the specific tartan used for the binding.

The tartan cloth is supplied by and produced with the authority of Kinloch Anderson Scotland, holders of Royal Warrants of Appointment as Tailors and Kiltmakers to HM The Queen, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh and HRH The Prince of Wales.

Trimmed page size: 90 × 140 mm

Hardback, 176 pp.

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The pocket size notebooks are available on Amazon for $14.95.

The Composition Book Reimagined: “comp”

You may remember Michael Bierut’s stack of composition books that he’s used for many years– one of my favorite notebook stories ever.

Now, Aron Fay, a colleague of Bierut’s at Pentagram, has a Kickstarter project going for an upscale, redesigned version of the composition book, using higher end materials and construction. While part of me thinks the original composition book is a classic that shouldn’t be messed with, I have to say “comp” sounds really nice! Lined and unlined versions will be available, with 120 gsm paper.

Check out the Kickstarter page here. It’s worth it just for the gallery of composition books throughout history!

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Review and Giveaway: Coloring Notebook

I’m sure no one has failed to notice the adult coloring book trend that’s exploded over the last few years. Bookstores are jam-packed with them. Many have gorgeous , elaborate designs, but that’s all there is to them: pages to color. For those of us who are always carrying a notebook or journal anyway, the Coloring Notebook provides a way to combine coloring pages with notes and journal entries, all in one package. Let’s take a look at the free sample the makers sent me:

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From the outside, it’s very much in line with other Moleskine-type notebooks on the market, with a few variations: a black cover with elastic closure, back pocket, and a ribbon marker in yellow, which matches the head and tail bands. The back pocket is all paper– no cloth gussets– and feels a little flimsy. The cover has a smoother texture than a Moleskine, and overhangs the page edges by quite a bit. It comes only in the 5.8 x 8.2″ size.

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Inside, coloring pages alternate with free-form space for writing or drawing. Lined, blank and dot-grid versions are available. I tested the lined version.

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There are single page and double page coloring designs, but the coloring pages are always back to back with the lined pages. The lines are not noticeable when you’re coloring due to the dense patterns of the coloring designs. When you’re writing on the lined pages, the coloring designs to show through a bit.

The overall issue of show-through and bleed-through will vary depending on the materials you use. I colored a page with markers and watercolor paints. There was some show- and bleed-through with the markers. The paper buckled a bit with watercolors but was better once dry. At 100 gsm, the paper is not especially heavy-weight, so I wouldn’t really recommend it for watercolors, but markers or colored pencils should work fairly well as long as you have reasonable expectations about the show-through. The images below show the front and back of a colored-in page before I tested writing on the back:

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I didn’t test all of my usual pens, but you can see some bleed-through from the Super Sharpie below. Any showthrough from the other pens is camouflaged by the coloring.

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Technically, this notebook doesn’t offer any more writing space than most actual coloring books– they all tend to have pages that are blank on the back, or maybe have abstract designs on the back, as they want you to be able to cut out and frame your colored pages. If I were creating a coloring notebook, I might add additional writing pages, as I think most notebook users might be likely to use up the blank space before they finished all the coloring pages, but others might disagree. Either way, it would make a nice gift for anyone who likes to color, and prefers the look of a traditional journal.

You can buy the Coloring Notebook for $19.95 at Amazon.

I will be giving away an unused Coloring Notebook to one lucky winner, who will be randomly selected from entries received in any or all of these ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Coloring Notebook @coloring_ntbk @NotebookStories”, and follow @coloring_ntbk and @NotebookStories

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

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

The deadline for entry is Friday October 28, 2016 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!
And please remember to check my posts on Facebook and Twitter for an announcement of the winner. Please allow a couple of weeks for me to check all the entries and determine the winners.

Review: Papier Tigre Notebook

Papier Tigre is a super-cool French brand of office supplies, including recycled notebooks that I’d seen online but never encountered in person, so I was very excited when NoteMaker in Australia gave me the opportunity to review a free sample.

The notebook I received has a lovely composition book look to it, but with a twist. The spine is taped, but the cover has a large mottled color pattern, as if a traditional composition book had been magnified and colorized. The notebook is smaller and in slightly different proportions than a composition book, measuring 15x21cm.

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The front cover has a box where you could write your name or the subject of the notebook. The back cover has a gold-stamped Papier Tigre logo.

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Inside, you get 3 signatures of paper, each in a different shade– light yellow lined pages, grey lined pages, and lighter grey plain pages. The cover and inside pages are made of 100% recycled paper, and you can see the colored fibers in the paper.

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The sewn signatures are glued into the spine so the notebook doesn’t quite open flat.

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The paper is pleasant to write on– not as smooth as some, but it has a nice softness to it. Based on the feel, I expected there to be a lot of bleed-through but there wasn’t– very slight bleed with a couple of pens, but the Super Sharpie bled much less than usual. Show-through was better than average. The paper reminded me of the Leonardo notebook I reviewed several years ago.

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The notebook I received is available at NoteMaker for a little over $15 USD. Other designs and sizes are also available.

If you are thinking you can’t afford the shipping to order from an Australia-based online retailer, think again: right now NoteMaker is offering Free shipping for International orders (delivery outside Australia) for any purchase over AUD$199. And if you think that sounds like a high minimum order, think again– it’s only about $150 USD at current exchange rates as of this writing, and they have so much drool-worthy merchandise– notebooks, pens, pencils, office accessories, bags– you will have a hard time spending any less!

Japanese Stationery

If, like me, you are dying to go to Japan to explore its stationery stores, you will enjoy the vicarious journey provided by this article and its luscious photographs. Enjoy!

Source: Japan: Paradise for Stationery Lovers

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Review and Giveaway: Writersblok 2017 Planner

Writersblok is heading in some exciting new directions lately. I reviewed their most recent notebooks here. Now they’ve expanded the product line to include a planner for 2017. Let’s take a look!

From Kikkerland’s website:

“Keep all of your master plans safe and on schedule with this beautiful recycled leather Writersblok Planner. Back pages feature exclusive subway maps of New York, London, Paris and Tokyo, redesigned solely for Writersblok planner. Also includes gorgeous and useful reference sheets. Part of the proceeds from Writersblok goes to literacy programs such as 826NYC in New York City. 826NYC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.”

 

The exterior design is very similar to the notebooks– plain black cover, with an attractive removable wrapper with branding info.

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Inside, you get a nice assortment of planner layouts– annual, monthly and weekly, etc., so it should be adaptable to bullet journaling. The layouts are nice and clean, with attractive touches of color.

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In the back, you get some cool bonus material, including a nicely designed weights and measures conversion page.

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There are also a couple pages for key contacts– nowadays most of us keep contact info only in our phones. I’m guilty of that too but keep hearing horror stories of people who lose their phones and can’t remember any numbers when they are trying to meet up with someone, so writing these down is a good habit to get into.

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The transit maps are very cool, although the one for New York is overly optimistic about 2nd Avenue subway– only a small section of it is planned to open by the end of 2016 and the rest of the T line isn’t even funded. But it’s fun to fantasize about how great it will be someday! The other cities included are London, Tokyo, and Paris.

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There is also a world time zone map, but I spotted an error in its color coding– it seems like the key to the GMT offsets is off by an hour, at least based on the places whose timezones I am familiar with. NYC should be -5, not -4. London and the rest of England should be in the 0 zone, not the purple +1 zone. And France, Spain, Germany, etc should be +1. The lines and the numbers on the key are correct, it’s just the colors that are misleading, so the map is not unusable, just a bit misleading. (Kikkerland has said they’ll fix it in next year’s version.)

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A ribbon marker and back pocket complete the package. At 6×8.25″ to match the size of an iPad Mini, and with a lay-flat binding, this will work well both on the desktop or in your bag.

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You can buy the Writersblok planner at a 30% discount off of the regular $20.00 price with promo code NS16 via the ad link in the upper right corner of this site. Or you can try your luck in my giveaway for a free sample! I’ll select two winners from entries received in any of these ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Writersblok 2017 Planner @kikkerland @NotebookStories”, and follow @NotebookStories and @kikkerland

On Facebook, “like” the Notebook Stories page and the Kikkerland page and post something containing the words “Writersblok 2017 Planner” on the Notebook Stories page.

On your blog, post something containing the words “Kikkerland Writersblok 2017 Planner” and “Notebook Stories” and link back to this post.

The deadline for entry is Friday August 26, 2015 at 11:59PM, EST. Good luck everyone!
And please remember to check my posts on Facebook and Twitter for an announcement of the winner. Please allow a couple of weeks for me to check all the entries and determine the winners.

Note: Kikkerland provided me with these samples free of charge, and are an advertiser on this site, but all opinions expressed in this post are my own.