Tag Archives: elastic

Review and Giveaway: New Monologue Notebooks

I’ve reviewed Monologue notebooks from Grandluxe a couple of times on this site, and I’m always happy to receive samples of their new products. These arrived recently, and while they are not at first glance drastically different from other Monologue products, they offer some neat new features.
These first two journals are pretty close to others that I’ve reviewed before, but they add an elastic pen loop. The cover overhang on the side is a little bigger than usual to help keep your pen or pencil neatly tucked in. They also have 100 gsm blank pages, instead of the 80 gsm lined pages that most Monologue notebooks have.

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Then there is the Contrast Ruled Notebook. I think the “contrast” just refers to the color of the elastic closure and the ribbon marker vs. the cover– in this case you get a bright orange and a rich brown. The cover is not real leather but almost has the look of a smooth leather. Inside, it has ruled pages, and is basically just like a lot of other journals except for this one brilliant detail: the elastic closure wraps around horizontally!

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I’ve tested out a couple of other notebooks where the elastic diverged from the usual vertical approach– there’s the Piccadilly Primo journal where it is a loop that attaches to the spine, and the Art Alternatives Sketch & Draw sketchbook, where it wraps diagonally around the top corner. Then there’s the Makr notebook, which has two diagonal elastics. All of these look nice, but seem a bit awkward. But the Monologue method of wrapping it around from a mid-point on the two covers works perfectly! You can tuck a pen in under in, but more importantly to me, you can wrap it around the spine of the notebook and it stays completely out of the way.

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It’s just the right length so it doesn’t flop around. It probably even helps the notebook lie flat and stay open. And the off-center placement looks quite nice, I think. 4 sizes and 8 color combinations are available.

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It is so clever and practical, I’m amazed that all notebooks aren’t made this way, and that I’ve never seen one like it before. I love it, love it, love it.

The rest of the notebook is nicely made too– my only beef with it is that the cover overhang is quite pronounced, and I always prefer the pages to come right up to the edges of the cover. But that is my personal quirk that I know a lot of people don’t share.

This is just a quick review so I haven’t done full pen tests on these notebooks. The paper in the Contrast Ruled notebook seems similar to that used in the other Grandluxe products I’ve reviewed. So all 3 of these notebooks are in pristine condition and ripe for a giveaway!

I’ll select 3 winners, chosen randomly from entries received in these ways:

On Twitter, tweet something containing “Monologue Notebooks @ilovemonologue @NotebookStories”, and follow @NotebookStories and @ilovemonologue.

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

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

The deadline for entry is Friday July 24, 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.

Review: Miquelrius “Boarding” Notebook

I bought this notebook almost 3 years ago and only just recently got around to unwrapping it. I almost didn’t buy it– though I immediately coveted it when I saw it at A.I. Friedman in NYC, it was priced at $17.60, discounted from an even more ridiculous $22! It’s just a pretty standard pocket size notebook other than the cover art, so that price seemed nuts… but I ended up talking myself into it, since I didn’t want to deprive my dear readers of a chance to check it out. The sacrifices we notebook bloggers have to make…

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It’s a pretty nice little notebook. The art on the cover is by Divinas Palabras— I wasn’t sure exactly what or who Divinas Palabras was, but they seem to be a design firm, and Miquelrius offers other products under this brand. I thought the airline signboard design was cool, and it’s unfortunate that the elastic closure somewhat obscures it. The elastic is just like everyone else’s, but one thing I liked is that they got the length exactly right– not too long, not too short, just the perfect length to hold the notebook closed with a bit of tension, but also perfect for just wrapping around the back cover so it’s tucked out of the way. I tend to do this a lot, and I hate when it’s too long and floppy. The only thing I don’t like about the elastic is the holes in the cover where it’s attached. They seem rather large– I don’t like seeing a big gaping hole, there’s just something a bit ugly about it.

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The back cover has a printed Miquelrius logo (not stamped like most notebook brands). There was also an ugly white sticker under the shrinkwrap, but the adhesive was light enough for it to be easily removed, with just a light residual stickiness left over.
Inside, there are black endpapers, which I always think look nice despite the difficulty in writing on them! There is a black pocket inside the back cover. There is also a ribbon marker, narrower than the ones used on many other brands.

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On first opening the notebook, I found the spine rather stiff, but it started to loosen a bit with use. The overall feel of the exterior is nice– squared off spine, slightly chunky feel, a bit thicker than a Moleskine. But unfortunately the cover overhang is pretty big, especially at the corners. It reminds me a lot of the Rhodia Webnotebook and a few other brands I’ve tried, where the black cover material is gathered in big folds at the corner. This is one bit of workmanship that I think Moleskine still does better than anyone else, though their corners are starting to get worse and worse too.

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The paper is blank, though I remember the store also selling lined ones. The paper has a smooth feel to it, similar to Moleskine’s, but maybe just a tad heavier. All my usual pens felt fine on it, and bleed-through performance was a little bit better than average. Show-through was about average. The paper is not particularly “thirsty”– I sometimes try just leaving the pen in the same spot for 5 seconds to see how much the dot spreads out, and on this paper it stayed nice and tight.

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All in all, I’m glad I finally unwrapped this notebook. It’s not perfect but I will use it at some point, and the cover design will be a nice change of pace from my usual plain black. I’m not sure these are still available in stores, but if they were, I probably wouldn’t buy another one, as the extra high price ultimately doesn’t seem worth it. But I am happy to have it in my collection.

NYC Bookbinding Class: Make a Notebook

A bookbinding studio in New York is offering a class where you can make a pocket notebook, with elastic closure and back pocket. Could be a fun way to spend a few hours!
It’s on April 20, 2013.

Find out more at Full Tilt Bookbinding Classes.

Review: Pelle Journal

I was contacted by the maker of the Pelle Journal a few months back and was very excited to have the opportunity to review one. It was compared to the Midori Passport Size Travelers Journal, but it’s handmade in California. Let’s take a look at what this journal has to offer.


First of all, you’ll notice the packaging. The journal arrived in a plastic wrapper, with a label noting the size and the type of paper contained within. After removing the plastic, there’s a nice paper envelope with a contrasting elastic tie. Inside that, there’s a cloth bag. This is a very well-protected notebook, and if you give one as a gift, you almost don’t need to wrap it!


Also inside the paper envelope is a note from the manufacturer with some info about the product, and a spare elastic.

Finally, the journal itself! It’s a lovely small size– described as 3×5, but actually the cover measures 5 1/4″ high by about 3 7/8″ wide and the inner notebooks are 3 7/16 x 4 15/16″.



I love the look of the red elastic against the black, but it’s nice that the spare black elastic is included as an option. The leather is really nice– very soft and supple and thick. It’s just a single layer of leather, cut precisely to size. There is no stitching on the edges. On the inside it has a suede-y feel but seems almost like cloth. If you look closely you can see there are layers in the leather so I assume this is “bonded leather” which can have varying degrees of real leather content. Whatever it is, it smells and feels quite nice, though the little fibers from the sueded inside might start to look a little ragged after a lot of use.


The cover has a very subtle Pelle logo on the front lower right corner, and the company web address and “Made in the USA” on the back lower left corner.

Inside the cover, you have 3 elastic bands to hold interchangeable journals, similar to the Midori notebooks and the Kolo Essex Travel Book I reviewed. The two outer elastics are actually one that loops around, thereby securing the inner elastic, which slots into a notch at the top and bottom of the spine. There is a little bead that attaches it to a thin bookmark– I’d rather the bead wasn’t there but it is at least pretty small and not too disruptive. One thing I really like is that the elastics are mostly kept inside the notebook, rather than looping all the way around the outside of the spine as on the Kolo Essex book.PelleJournal9PelleJournal12


The journal I was sent has one notebook inside, though it is designed to hold 3. I didn’t have a chance to test how it would bulk up with 3 inside– one disadvantage of the Pelle Journal is that the inner notebooks aren’t a standard size. There are other notebook holders out there that are designed to hold Moleskine Cahiers but also accommodate the identically sized Field Notes, Doane Paper, Writer’s Blok and other similar brands (which are all 3 1/2 x 5 1/2″). I’m sure there are other brands out there that come in a small enough size to fit in the Pelle cover, but I can’t think of any offhand. (Please comment if you know of any!)


The inner notebook itself is very nice. It’s a simple staple-bound notebook with a brown cover and plain paper. The first and last page inside are like endpapers, with a red box and the Pelle logo on the front page. The paper within is smooth and creamy and a pleasure to write on. All my pens performed well, with only very slight feathering with the Pilot Varsity fountain pen. My Lamy Safari fountain pen went on just fine, though, which is good, as one of Pelle’s selling points is that the notebooks are fountain pen friendly. The paper had about average show-through, but performed better than average in terms of bleed-through.


Pelle Journals are available at a limited number of retailers, listed here. Among them is JetPens.com, where the small journal I received retails for $29.99. Replacement notebooks are $6.99-8.00 for this size, depending on the type of paper. This seems like a fair price for a product handmade in the US, and is much cheaper than the comparable Midori notebook. If you want a good quality, pocketable notebook that you can refill, the Pelle Journal is well worth a try.

Review: Handmade Journal by Deafmessanger

“Deafmessanger” is Kucin, an artist living in Prague. He sells his notebooks, diaries, sketchbooks and postcards in lots of locations around Europe, as well as at Bluestockings and Spoonbill and Sugartown here in NYC. He contacted me a few months ago and offered me a sample journal to review– when I took a look at his work, I very excitedly said YES! I love his graffiti-inspired style and use of found materials.

The notebook I was sent has a thick cardboard cover, scored to allow it to bend around the inner combbound pages. There are elastic closures at each corner.




Inside and out, there’s a wonderful mix of spray-painted splatter, stenciled images, rubber-stamped phrases and quotes, and surprise bits of recycled materials, including an old postcard, a transit ticket, book and magazine pages, and a small black and white photo.



It even comes with a pencil!




If there’s one criticism I’d have of this notebook, it’s that the binding is a little over-stuffed with too many pages, which makes it hard to open the pages fully without them getting caught in the plastic binding.

All the unique extra bits are interspersed among sections of blank pages, made of a grey-ish recycled paper with a slight speckled tone to it. The paper reminds me of the Leonardo journal I reviewed a few months ago. It feels a bit thin, but holds up to most pens relatively well, and the surface is fairly smooth.


The book seems like such a work of art, you’d almost not want to write in it yourself, but there are plenty of blank pages on which to do so. And indeed, at the end of the book is the handwritten note “to be continued,” which to me means not just that Kucin’s Deafmessanger work continues, but that the book is a work in progress, containing Kucin’s creativity, the user’s creativity, and even the contributions of unknown random people in the found images and writings that are included. Each notebook is unique from start to finish.
Kucin also makes some very cool 2011 diaries that would make great gifts:

Just beautiful.

Check out the Deafmessanger online store, and list of retailers. And hopefully distribution will be expanded to a store near you!

Review: Ecosystem Notebook

A while back, I wrote a post mentioning Ecosystem notebooks. Someone at Ecosystem actually noticed, and even though I more or less trashed their whole brand identity, they were kind enough to send me a sample so I could actually review the quality of the product. (Now that’s good marketing.)

So, let’s take a look…

The basic package is very similar to other notebooks on the market– size is supposedly 3.5 x 5.5″, though it’s actually slightly larger. I measured it as 3 11/16 x 5 5/8″. The paper band runs vertically, similar to the Rhodia Webnotebook, rather than horizontally like Moleskine and Piccadilly.



The back cover features the usual stamped logo. In the photo below, you’ll also notice that the elastic is quite thick and substantial, as is the ribbon marker. It feels as though it would be more durable than the thinner ones on most other notebooks. You can also see a bit of the cover texture below. The notebook is softcover, but a bit stiffer than a Moleskine, and the cover material has less texture to it. Again, it feels a bit more substantial than the softcover Moleskine, which tends to get beat up on the corners pretty quickly.


The inside front cover is a bit more decorated than other brands. You get a bit of information about about the notebook, and space for your name and contact info. It also notes that there is a unique ID number inside the back cover, which can be used to trace the owner if the notebook is lost.

I rather like the leaf pattern in the background– I love books with fancy endpapers, and I wish more notebooks were made that way. It’s like having a jacket with a really cool lining: style that is for your own enjoyment, not just to flash around to others. I’ve actually customized notebooks with pasted-in endpapers when giving them as gifts, but as far as I’ve seen, TeNeues Coolnotes is the only brand that really has fun with that space.


The fun leaf pattern continues on the inside back cover, where the standard expanding pocket also appears.


Here’s a closeup of that identification number. I wonder how much this feature will really be used– if someone found a notebook would they really bother to go to a website to reconnect it with its owner? And wouldn’t it be simpler for all concerned for the owner just to put some form of contact info inside the front cover? Maybe some people don’t want their contact info to appear there, but if you’re concerned about privacy, why would you be registering the notebook with Ecosystem in the first place?


This is about as flat as the notebook will easily open– not as flat as Moleskine or Piccadilly. You can sort of see below that every page is perforated, which is a nice touch many other brands don’t have. The perforations are quite fine, and I don’t think pages are likely to come loose unintentionally unless you really, severely abuse the notebook and bend it right on the perforations a lot.


As for the paper, it’s pretty smooth– not as smooth as Clairefontaine or Moleskine, but smoother than at least some of the Piccadillies I’ve used. And it performed much better than average in terms of holding up to bleed-through.



But the paper ended up being the main reason I will probably not actually use this notebook. When I first saw the paper, I noticed that the squares were a lot smaller than most graph paper notebooks– only 1/8″, rather than the more typical 3/16″. The lines also seem a bit dark, and the overall effect ended up being really distracting when I wrote in the notebook. Maybe I’d get used to it, or maybe it would be better if I used thick pens all the time, or had larger handwriting, I don’t know. But if the unlined paper has the same texture, I think I’d be quite happy with it. The notebook has 192 pages, and though the paper weight is not specified, I’d guess it’s probably 80 gsm, as it bulks up about the same as a Piccadilly.

Ecosystem notebooks are available in quite a few options: small and large sizes, hard cover, flexi cover or cahier-style, various colors, and lined, plain or graph paper, as well as planners. They also offer some insert booklets like calendars and to-do lists that can be tucked into the back pocket, adding a bit of Filofax-like customizability to the notebooks– this is a great touch, though the notebook I received doesn’t seem built to accommodate extra pages like that without starting to appear really overstuffed. (Moleskine’s planners that come with the little index page booklets are made with a bit of extra room in the spine so the covers will still lie flat.)

The small notebooks retail for $9.95. So far, I believe they’re only available at the Ecosystem website or in Barnes & Noble, though I believe I heard somewhere that they were going to be expanding their retail distribution. Given that this is a US-made, 100% post-consumer recycled paper product, with specs comparable to or arguably better than a Moleskine, this seems like a very good price.

So, bottom line, it’s actually a very nice notebook and a good value, and their eco-friendly, local manufacturing is very admirable. But I can’t help saying it: their marketing still drives me nuts!

Clairefontaine Life.Unplugged. Notebook Elastic Band Hack

I hadn’t seen or heard of these Clairefontaine Life.Unplugged notebooks before reading this post: Ink Nouveau: Clairefontaine Life.Unplugged. Notebook Elastic Band Hack. They seem to be nice little cahier-style notebooks– they don’t come with an elastic, but you can add one if you’re handy with a glue gun!

See the original post for further steps.

The post also mentions a new style called “Roadbook.” These may be a bit more like Moleskine’s Volants, with a glued spine, though these offer the elastic closure the Volants lack.

You can see these in the latest Clairefontaine catalog here. Has anyone spotted these in stores yet? (They are available through Goulet Pens, the retailer associated with the Ink Nouveau blog.) I haven’t seen them in my usual NYC haunts, but I’ll be keeping an eye out!

Hybrid Home Notebooks at Super7

These look kind of funky:

I think I want the one with phrases to use in meetings, to remind me there’s more to life than leveraging my core competencies.

They’re only $4 each, here.
Via Hybrid Home Notebooks – Super7 Blog.

GAMA-GO Pocket Journals

Here’s some funky, colorful notebooks:

These 4×3 1/8-inch journals are filled with 48 gridded / perforated sheets, making them perfect for notes on-the-go. And with their five slip pockets and elastic band for security, they’re also a good hiding placce for those secret love notes.

They’re only $5 at the GAMA-GO website.

Via GAMA-GO’s ‘Pocket Journals’ | Collect3d.