Tag Archives: pens

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!

Notebook Addict of the Week (Again): Heather

This week’s addict is the blogger at A Penchant for Paper. She’s been featured as an addict before, with a post about how she uses her various notebooks, but I’d somehow missed an earlier post with these yummy photos of her collection of notebooks and pens. These are from 2009, so I’ll bet she has a lot more now!

Read more at A Penchant for Paper: Many Notebooks and Pens

 

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Lisa Congdon’s Latest Sketchbook

Some excellent sketchbook spreads from Lisa Congdon– I love the density of the patterns:


She notes that she uses a Moleskine Sketchbook and glues the pages together with a glue stick to provide extra thickness. I’m curious to try this out– I wonder if the glue adds an extra layer of protection from bleed-through…

 

Read more at: Recent Sketchbook Spreads – Today is going to be awesome.

Moleskine Monday: Sketch Album Review

I’ve had this Moleskine Sketch Album for quite a while and haven’t gotten around to reviewing it, mainly because I knew I’d probably be disappointed! Moleskine’s quality has been waning for years, and though their regular sketchbooks have been my favorite notebooks for a very long time, I’ve refused to buy any of the currently produced ones because they just aren’t the same anymore. Luckily, I have quite a stockpile of old ones! (After this post where I inventoried my spares and worried they might not last until I was in my 90s, I snagged quite a few more on eBay so now I probably have twice as many!)

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Anyway, when the sketch album was first announced, I thought it was a good thing– I’d actually thought Moleskine should make a softcover sketchbook, thinking it could be a good alternative for on-the-go use. But the Sketch Album turns out not to be Sketchbook innards with a soft cover– it’s more like a Moleskine Cahier with upgraded paper.

When you open the shrinkwrap, you’ll notice the cardboard cover, which is just like the Cahiers, not the soft faux-leather used on the softcover notebooks. As usual there is stitching on the spine, and a pocket in the back, which is too tight for tucking much more than a few small sheets. When you remove the paper band, you’ll see that the back has been designed with some reference info and tools. I’m not sure how useful these are to most people.

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Since Moleskine started labeling various notebooks as an “Art Plus” collection, they’ve started noting paper weights on the packaging, hoping to appeal to those of us who care about these things. The Sketch Album is 120 GSM. That sounds good compared to most upscale pocket notebooks, which tend to be in the 80-100 GSM range, but it’s a lot less than the regular Moleskine Sketchbook, which is 165 GSM. The difference is obvious– the paper in the sketch album feels thinner and floppier. Each sheet is perforated.

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When I did my pen tests, I noticed that the sketch album paper actually feels softer to write on– I could hear the pen tips tapping more audibly on the regular sketchbook. The comparison below features an old “Modo e Modo” Moleskine  rather than a current production sketchbook. You can see right away how much worse the show-through and bleed-through is on the sketch album, with just a couple of exceptions. The album wins on how much the Accu-liner marker spreads when it is held on a spot for 5 seconds– the Modo sketchbook soaked it up and made a much bigger dot. And the Super Sharpie seemed to soak into the old sketchbook more too. But otherwise, the album did not do well at all, with fountain pens bleeding and feathering and lots more show-through. I tested some watercolor paints too– Moleskine does not claim that either of these notebooks is meant for watercolors, but I use them in the sketchbooks quite often. In the sketch album, the watercolors seemed to pull up the paper fibers more, creating a speckled texture that is much more noticeable than in the sketchbook.

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So would I use this “Art Plus” sketch album for actual art? For pencil sketches, or perhaps fine pen & ink drawings with Pigma Micron pens, yes, I might use it. But I’d be much more likely to use it as an upgrade to the Moleskine Cahier or softcover Reporter Notebook. The sketch album is nicely flexible and pocketable, and the paper feels great to write on with fine point gel ink pens. The paper is a nice step up from regular lightweight Moleskine paper– not enough of a step up to make fountain pen users happy, but others will enjoy it for daily jottings. But if you are an artist who likes the regular sketchbooks, stick with them.

To buy: Moleskine Art Plus Sketchbooks and Albums on Amazon. They also have interesting alternatives like the Leuchtturm Hardcover Pocket Sketchbook Black, which has 180 GSM paper, and the Pen & Ink Heavy-Weight Blank Sketch Book— make sure you get the heavy-weight one which has 145 GSM paper– read the full description.

1911 Catalogue of Stationery

This is extremely cool: a catalog from 1911, featuring all manner of notebooks and other stationery. The only thing that could be cooler would be if you could find some forgotten warehouse that still had all these products in stock!

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Flip through the whole catalog at Catalogue of stationery : section no. 1, blank …. It goes way beyond notebooks and ledgers– there are pencils, pens, writing papers, and school supplies. A real treat!

 

Found via  the Quo Vadis blog.

 

A Kids Book Illustrated Entirely in Ballpoint Pens

Not 100% notebook related, but pretty cool!

Lowriders in Space was recently named a best children’s book of 2014 by Kirkus Reviews. The illustrator, Raul Gonzalez, did all the artwork in Bic pens, and says “The reason I did this is that I wanted the book to have a very accessible book to youngsters out there that might be interested in becoming artists but not might have access to fancy art materials,” said Gonzalez.

I’d love to see his sketchbooks too!

Read more at NewsChannel 9: Former El Paso man illustrates best selling book entirely with pens.

Review and Giveaway: Penroll

I tend not to review very many notebook-related accessories on this site. There are various pen-holders and notebook covers on the market but I am not usually interested in them, as I like to keep my notebooks pretty simple and unencumbered. But when I first spotted the Penroll, I was immediately attracted to it and contacted the maker for a sample. What made this item change my mind about accessorizing a notebook? Let’s take a look.

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The Penroll is part notebook cover, but mainly a holder for pens, pencils or brushes, and an eraser. It is made of sturdy stitched canvas, with small metal clips at the sides that clasp onto your notebook. The design is very simple and un-fussy, with just a subtle tag with the Penroll name on it, and it doesn’t interfere with or damage the notebook– you can still use the elastic closure and back pocket.

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The Penroll is made in sizes to fit typical Moleskine formats– small and large, and the large even comes in a landscape format too. Because the portrait format Penrolls don’t cover the full height of the notebook, they’ll also adapt to the slightly taller Leuchtturm, or any other brand with a similar width and thickness. The colors and texture of the canvas also look nice with HandBook Artist Journals, though their slightly thicker size makes for a snugger fit.

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The Penroll adds significant bulk to your notebook, especially when it’s full of pens, but I actually like the thick and chunky feel of the whole bundle. That said, for me, this won’t be a cover that I’ll keep on a notebook I’m carrying in my bag 100% of the time. I see it more as a ready-to-go art kit that you can keep stocked with a few favorite pens and brushes, and then snap onto your sketchbook when you’re heading out for a drawing session. I think the Penroll really shines as an urban sketching tool– you can hold your notebook and spare drawing instruments in one hand, so you can easily switch between pens without having to rummage in a separate pen case. It won’t prevent your notebook from opening flat while held in your hand, though it might be a little awkward if you’re setting it on a flat surface.

This red one is a keeper for me– I know it will come in handy for sketching on some of my travels. The Penroll is definitely worth checking out if like to keep a variety of pens with your notebook, and makes a great gift for anyone who likes sketching out in the field, urban or otherwise. You can buy Penroll at their online store here as well as at a few retailers in Europe.

I will be giving away the large landscape Penroll in black and the large portrait Penroll in blue. I’ll randomly select the two winners from entries received in any of these ways:

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

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

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

The deadline for entry is Friday December 12, 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.

An Interview in Drawings: Paper vs. Digital

A fun approach to the question of paper vs. digital notetaking:

Read more at A Hand-Drawn Interview With the Man Behind Adobe’s Pen of the Future | Motherboard.

Notebook Addict of the Week: Julia

This week’s addict likes notebooks so much, she started her own blog to celebrate them! It’s called For the Love of Notebooks. She writes:

What is really the appeal with a notebook?
For me, I think it’s about a deep desire to fill those pages with words and (preferably) grand thoughts and ideas.
And of course… The sound. That sound thin paper makes when you have written on them, especially with a ballpoint pen, and flip through them. It is the sound of accomplishment I guess, that you have managed to fill those pages with something. I prefer thin paper because of that beautiful sound. I don’t mind show-through at all.

There’s just so many possibilities when you pick up a new notebook. What will happen in this journal? What will I write about here? Currently I have a journal and seven other notebooks that I use for different purposes. It’s also satisfying to see a stack of filled notebooks, not just because of the accomplishment you have done, but also the memories and feelings attached to each of the books.

 

Here’s a few from her collection:

You can see lots more in her posts My Journals and Currently Using, among others.
Thanks for sharing your addiction, Julia!

Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper

I’ve gotten way behind on carnival administration and we missed doing July… but here it is, at last! Thanks for everyone who has submitted posts. Future months are open for carnival hosts, so if you have a blog about pens, pencils, paper or anything related, please contact me to learn more about hosting.

art supplies

Sandra Strait presents Review of the Clairefontaine Crok’ Book Sketchbook posted at Life Imitates Doodles.

notebooks

**EDITOR’S PICK**  A very detailed review with lots of un-boxing shots: Jeffrey Higa presents Introducing the Hobonichi Techo! posted at The Write Obsessions.

ComfortableShoes presents Review: New Staples Sustainable Earth Composition Notebook posted at Comfortable Shoes Studio, saying, “The Staples Sustainable Earth Composition Notebook was always a safe bet for the budget minded fountain pen user. Recent changes in the Sustainable Earth line make the choice less safe.”

Sandra Strait presents Review of the Rhodiarama Pocket Web Notebook posted at Life Imitates Doodles.

pens

Clement Dionglay presents Fountain Pen Review: 2013 Limited Edition Lamy Safari Neon posted at Rants of the Archer.

Bruno Taut presents a review of the Pilot Justus saying, “Excellent research work.”

Clement Dionglay presents Fountain Pen Review: Sheaffer Taranis posted at Rants of the Archer.

ComfortableShoes presents Review: Scribal Work Shop Siren Blue Ink posted at Comfortable Shoes Studio, saying, “Scribal Workshop is a new ink maker. Their Siren ink is a wonderful shade of blue.”

Sandra Strait presents Review of the J Herbin Rollerball Pen and Ink Cartridges posted at Life Imitates Doodles, saying, “Review of the J. Herbin Rollerball pen and five of their fountain pen cartridges-Vert Empire, Bleu Myosotis, Larmes de Cassis, Rouge Opera and Orange Indien.”

Sandra Strait presents Review of the Exacompta Basics Forum Journal and Swan Nostalgie Cover posted at Life Imitates Doodles.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of pen, pencil and paper using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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