Tag Archives: pen loop

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.

Assorted Notebook Tips

Vadim Gordim has invented a pen loop called the Sidekick, available here.


Jeff has invented a titanium notebook cover, available here.


Dave wants you to check out his site NanamiPaper.com. They sell Japanese notebooks and the same Tomoe River paper that is used in Design-Y notebooks.

seven seas tomoe river paper notebook


Lara recommends you check out a Portuguese stationery site called Fine & Candy.

Katherine suggests you spark your creativity with The Idea Book, a combination book/notebook available at Amazon:

“The “book part” consists of 63 different chapters on how you can develop new ideas. Every chapter ends with a practical activity, or exercise, where the reader can practise the lesson of that chapter. The book is full of stories, anecdotes and quotes about how to generate ideas.

The “notebook part” is a place for your to work on, and store, your best ideas. Follow in the tradition of the long line of creatives that have used a small, black notebook to catch their ideas.”


Justin has designed the notebook of his dreams, and you can buy one too! The Object Series notebook has a flexible black leather cover and gilded edges, and is only $16.


Will is another notebook enthusiast who started his own company making notebooks. Check out Poplar Leather.


Keep the good notebook news coming!

Review and Giveaway: Castelli Notebooks

Castelli is an Italian company offering customizable journals, notebooks and diaries. They not only sent me samples, they personalized them with the name of this site! The samples I received are of a variety of sizes and colors and formats, and from the catalogs they also sent, even these are just a fraction of their options.


There’s a large 2014 planner with a removable cover and 2 pen loops, with pens included.


The medium size notebooks show some nice options– I like the dyed edges on the black/orange one, and the red one has a nice leather-textured cover with an interlocking double pen loop that keeps the notebook closed. The black/red notebook has an unusual binding style which makes the spine much more flexible. The slim red pocket size notebook is about the size of a checkbook, and the cover is removable. The pencils Castelli includes with some notebooks are a pleasantly chunky 3-sided design that is comfortable to hold.


My favorite was this little planner in my favorite size, 3.5 x 5.5″.


The week to page format with lined notes pages facing is similar to one of Moleskine’s planners, and I’ve always liked the way it gives you space to log appointments or other daily items while allowing some space for longer notes or journal entries.

Construction is solid, though the back pocket is all paper with no fabric reinforcement. One standout feature is the extensive info at the front of the planner. In addition to the typical yearly planner pages, conversion charts and international dialing codes, you get some extra fun stuff like a wine vintage chart and common phrases from Latin.


There is also a whole signature of unlined notes pages at the back, and a few alphabetized pages for addresses and phone numbers. Unfortunately, the paper in this planner is pretty thin. It is smooth and feels great to write on, but bleed-through and show-through were worse than average. (I did not test all the paper in the other notebooks, but a couple of them seemed to have a somewhat heavier paper in a bright white.)



Now for your opportunity to win your own Notebook Stories notebook from Castelli!

I’ll randomly select 5 winners from entries received in these ways:

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

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

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

The deadline for entry is Friday June 20, 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. Please allow a couple of weeks for me to check all the entries and determine the winners.
UPDATED 6/17 with the correct web addresses for Castelli UK, not Castelli North America. All entries will still be honored.

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.

Notebook Addict of the Week: VacuousMinx

This week’s addict displays an orderly and attractive collection of notebooks in a blog post that begins as follows:

“There are so many notebooks out there, good ones, that I started to become a little paralyzed at the idea of trying to say anything useful. I would leave so many out! I would fail to talk about all the variations! How could I possibly do them justice?

So let’s take as a given that this is barely a snapshot into the world of Things To Write In With Pens And Pencils. I decided to start with the notebooks I had lying around. These are not all the notebooks I own, but they are more or less the range I’ve worked with, with two exceptions, Miquelrius and Rhodia, and they were the ones nearest to hand, since they’re all on the shelf in my writing cubbyhole at home. Behold:”


Lots more description, comparison and photos at Notebooks | VacuousMinx.

Review: Conceptum Notebook

This review makes me sad! I’m going to cut to the chase and say this is a GREAT notebook, but it seems that SiS Original, the online store that sent me this sample has just gone out of business! Now I feel very bad that I wasn’t able to catch up and write the review sooner. That said, let’s take a look at this lovely Conceptum notebook they sent me.


Conceptum is a German brand of notebooks that come in a variety of styles. The one I received is the Conceptum Pure Softcover notebook. In some ways, it seems very similar to other softcover notebooks, but there are some lovely features and details that set Conceptum apart.

The packaging is a bit more elaborate than the usual paper bellyband. It’s a snug wrap-around, with full coverage of the back of the notebook so they can explain some of the features in multiple languages.


Once the wrapper’s off, you have a nice simple exterior, with the brand name on the front cover, and the Sigel logo on the back cover. You’ll immediately notice one key feature that a lot of people will be happy about: a built-in pen loop. (I personally never use pen loops, so I could live without it!) The elastic closure is a bit wider than usual, and I thought it felt a bit flabby, though not loose enough to be a problem. Shown below next to a pocket hardcover Moleskine for size comparison.


Open the front cover, and you get more nice details that most other notebooks don’t offer: a little pocket where you can tuck cards or receipts, and an index page. The notebook opens nice and flat, and you have not one but two ribbon markers, in different colors, which is a really nice touch.


The pages are numbered throughout. At the back, some of the pages are perforated. In notebooks like this with plain pages, they give you a sheet with lines and squares on it that you can use as a guide for tracing over. The back pocket has cloth-reinforced sides.


The paper feels great with all my usual pens, nice and smooth. My Lamy Safari fountain pen seemed to skid on the page a bit at first, which may have just been the pen itself getting going, or perhaps an oily spot on the page, but other than that, the paper seems pretty good for fountain pens. Show-through and bleed-through were about average for this weight of paper.


There’s just something very nice about this notebook– it seems well-made, with good attention to detail and design, and nice extra features. At 93 x 140 mm, it’s exactly my preferred size, though I was disappointed to see that the hardcover Conceptum notebooks are slightly larger: 115 x 150. I would definitely buy more of these, but unfortunately they don’t seem to be sold outside of Europe, though there are listings on eBay from sellers who will ship to the US, and also some listings on Amazon. The Amazon price for this pocket size notebook is about $15, which is not exactly cheap, but I think the quality and features justify the differential from a pocket softcover Moleskine at $12.95. And I’m grateful to the people at SiS Original who sent me the sample. They had some other interesting brands on their site that I hadn’t seen elsewhere, so I’m hoping they’ll be able to reopen someday!

If anyone has any other good leads on where to buy these, please let us know in the comments!

Makr Sketchbook

This is very ingenious– finally someone figured out a way to add a pen loop to a notebook without actually adding anything!


Perhaps having to un-do 2 elastics would get tiresome after a while, but I still think it’s clever!

For sale at Westerlind: Makr – Sketchbook.

UPDATE: Looks like it’s not available at Westerlind anymore but you can get one here.

Review and Giveaway: Schützen Notebooks

I received these sample notebooks quite a long time ago and I’ve been procrastinating about reviewing them. I try to be an objective analyzer of all notebooks, but it’s impossible not to have my own personal preferences and biases, and in this case I just have to say upfront that these notebooks are not really my thing. My favorite notebooks are pocket sized, minimalist, in neutral colors– and these Schützen notebooks are not really any of those things, so I couldn’t get all that excited about reviewing them. But now that I’ve gotten that admission out of the way, let’s judge them on their own merits, as many other notebook users will surely like them!


Each of these notebooks consists of a refillable binder and a wire-o bound notebook insert. I”ll take a detailed look at the smallest one (shown below next to a pocket Piccadilly notebook for size comparison). The binder is a solid and inflexible board covered with a stitched red leather-like material on the outside, and a patterned fabric on the inside. It is quite sturdy, and has a tab and loop to keep it closed, as well as a pen loop. Inside there is a clear plastic window for a business card, and a slanted pocket where you could tuck a few sheets– probably not too many, as I think the overall firmness of the cover wouldn’t accommodate too much overstuffing.


Inside, the wire-o notebook tucks into the back cover. The pages are unlined, with the Schutzen name in the bottom outside corner of every page. I think most users might prefer a bit more subtle branding on the actual pages, or none at all. Though the notebook is theoretically refillable, I’m not sure if the inserts are sold separately, and they’re actually a bit hard to get out– I slightly tore one of the holes in the back cover when trying to slide the notebook out.


When it came to writing on the paper, I was pleasantly surprised– it was nice and smooth and felt great with my favorite fine point gel ink pens.  It seems a bit heavier than average, though the paper weight is not specified. Fountain pens also performed well. I was interested to see that my Zebra fine point brush pen went on darker than it usually does on other papers, where it can tend to look rather grey. Showthrough is better than average. Bleedthrough about average, though I did notice that the Zebra fine brush pen bled a little, which it never has before. There must be something about this particular paper that wants to suck up that particular ink. But overall, I love the paper and would happily use it all the time in a different notebook format!


I didn’t test the other samples I was sent, but they have similar features, and presumably the lined paper they contain is similar. These are produced in the Philippines, and I’m not sure if they are for sale anywhere else outside the country. Their website and Facebook page don’t offer too many details, so please leave a comment if you’ve spotted these anywhere else! The quality and construction of these notebooks is very good, so if the bright colors and styles appeal to you, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

I’ll be giving away all 3 samples (including the one with pen tests on one page) , one each to three lucky winners randomly selected from entries received in any of the following ways:

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

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

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

The deadline for entry is Friday Jan. 17, 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.

Kompagnon Notebook with Pen Loop

For those who like pen loops, here’s a nice-looking German notebook sold by a British online retailer.

If I’m not mistaken, this is the same brand as one of the notebooks I bought in Istanbul (see yesterday’s post), which I really liked other than finding the paper a little less smooth than I usually prefer. At 12.8 x 9.5 cm, it’s a little less tall than a pocket Moleskine. It comes in lined, plain, squared and address book versions… unfortunately, at 9.20-10.20 GBP, it’s probably a little pricey to order from Europe. But keep an eye out on your travels!
See more at Kompagnon Notebook small | Paper, Pads & Notebooks | Writing | Office | Products.

Notebooks Bought in Istanbul

I previously posted some snapshots of notebook sightings during my travels around Istanbul, but now let’s get into the details of the 5 notebooks I actually purchased there.


Below is the first notebook I purchased, the Elastic Notebook/ Bloknot by Le Color. From doing a little online searching, this seems to be a Turkish brand, but I couldn’t find this exact notebook anywhere. I found it in a fairly nondescript office supply store.


It’s a pretty standard Moleskine-ish notebook with the usual elastic band, accordion pocket, ribbon marker and logo stamped on the back. But it feels a bit cheap and has that big cover overhang I don’t care for. I wasn’t hugely excited about it when I bought it, but it was the first interesting and unusual notebook I’d seen, so my standards weren’t that high!


One thing that is quite weird about this notebook is that the elastic closure is extremely tight– you can see below how short it is. I didn’t love the brown color. This notebook didn’t open 100% flat very easily, and though I found the paper nice and smooth, it was a bit thin.


The next notebook I bought was much nicer: a softcover squared notebook by Modena/ Fabio Ricci. There’s no indication of the country of origin on the packaging, and from the name, you’d think it might be Italian, but according to this website, it seems to be made in Turkey.


I quite liked this notebook– I’ve been on the verge of starting to use it daily. The cover has a nice vertical rib texture to it, and the notebook is sturdy but flexible. The paper inside is nice to write on. The only drawbacks were that it was a little harder to open completely flat than some other notebooks, and the pocket in the back was all paper (no cloth tape on the edges) and kind of flimsy. I’ve lost track of exactly how much it cost, but I think it was relatively cheap– this was also found in a run of the mill office supply store.

Then there’s the trio of notebooks I bought at Panter on Istiklal Caddesi, a high-end touristy shopping street. First, the Filou notebook by Brunnen.


They had a whole range of these in different sizes and I thought they were very cute. The red string closure is something I’ve only seen on inter-office envelopes, never notebooks. But after playing around with this a bit, I decided I didn’t like the loose strings flapping around when the notebook is open.


Below is another Brunnen notebook. This has a soft cover and a cloth-taped spine, with squared pages within. It’s an inexpensive, basic notebook, somewhat wider and slightly thicker than a Moleskine Volant. Due to the taped edge and glue binding, it really doesn’t open flat at all.


This one is my favorite of the Panter buys, the Brunnen Kompagnon reporter-style notebook. I have lost track of exactly how much it cost but I seem to remember that it was quite expensive, so much so that I had to grit my teeth and remind myself that I have a responsibility to my readers to purchase such things!

These were available in black and white, top-opening and side-opening, with various sizes and paper styles. Very similar to your basic Moleskine or Piccadilly, but with some important differences.


The pen loop on the side is a nice touch, and the notebook flips open 360 degrees. The sheets are all perforated for easy tear-out. It’s hard to see in these photos, but the cover boards of this notebook are quite thin compared to other notebooks, but they are still rigid.


The Kompagnon I bought has squared paper. It’s on the top in the photo below, with the yellow Brunnen under it, then the Fabio Ricci, then a Moleskine for comparison. Interesting variety in the paper tones and the line color and size of the squares. I don’t usually like reporter-style notebooks or care about pen loops, but I really liked the Kompagnon and contemplated adding it to my daily use candidates… until I tested the paper. I found it rather rough and not that pleasant to write on with my usual fine tip pens. I didn’t do full pen tests on all these notebooks but maybe someday I’ll do a follow-up post if I run out of other things to write about! (I did confirm that all the papers were acid-free.)


Below you can see some shots of these notebooks stacked up with a pocket Moleskine on top for size comparison:







All in all, I was pleased to find this nice a variety of notebooks in Turkey and wish I’d had time to explore even more stationery shops. But there were a few other interesting things to do there!