Tag Archives: show-through

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: Essentials Notebook

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I first saw the Essentials Notebook brand on the Barnes & Noble website— an accidental find, while looking for the Piccadilly Essential Notebook. I don’t know if the similar naming was deliberate, but the products are from two different companies. This Essentials Notebook is made by Peter Pauper Press, and I bought it at the lovely Montclair Stationery shop in Montclair, New Jersey. (If you are in the area, please go and buy something from them! See this post for some examples of the time-warp gems they have stashed amongst their shelves.)

I bought this notebook purely for research purposes, because it was a brand I’d never tried, and at $8.99 it was relatively cheap. I was pretty sure I’d never use it, as the 4 x 5.5″ shape is a bit too wide for me– and though those are the measurements cited on the packaging, the actual size according to my ruler is about 4.25 x 5.75″– even further from the 3.5 x 5.5″ standard I prefer. (Though if I’m really going to be a stickler about it, I should admit that most supposedly 3.5 x 5.5″ notebooks aren’t quite that size either– Moleskines are actually about 3 5/8 x 5 5/8″.) I could also see that the cover overhang was big enough to get on my nerves, and not quite symmetrical, though it at least wasn’t crooked. The notebook was shrink-wrapped, so I couldn’t really get much of a feel for it otherwise, and figured it was just another cheapo Moleskine clone.

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My first impressions after taking off the shrinkwrap weren’t much better– the binding is a little wonky around the spine. Worse, when I opened the back cover, there must have been some stray glue between the pages, as the inside back cover stuck to the expanding pocket and ripped. Despite all that, I felt like the notebook had a nice heft and somehow felt solid and substantial.

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The branding is mostly on a removable paper band tucked around the front cover. There is nothing else on the inside front, but on the next page there is copyright info– this is standard in books, but not something you usually see in notebooks. The Essentials name is stamped on the lower back cover. Inside the back cover, there is some background info on Peter Pauper Press.

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The notebook opens nice and flat, and the paper inside is smooth and bright white. The paper weight is not specified, but it feels great to write on, and I was pleasantly surprised at its performance. A little less show-through than average, and quite good on bleed-through. Fountain pens did show very slight feathering, but drying time wasn’t too bad– the Lamy smeared at 5 seconds but both were dry by 10 seconds. I think most users would be quite happy with this paper.

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I ended up being a lot more charmed by this notebook than I expected to be. There’s something about it that just feels solid and good, and while it’s far from perfect for my particular preferences, there’s nothing about it that makes me want to throw it out the window. (See the Metro notebook review for an example of a notebook that DOES make me feel that way!) Although I’m usually so picky about the proportions of my notebooks, I felt like this is one I could happily draw in and be glad to have the extra width, especially with the pages opening flat so easily.

The Essentials Notebooks come in pocket and large sizes, with grid, lined, and plain formats. Black and red covers are available. Amazon has some value-priced two-packs available also.

 

Moleskine Monday: Voyageur Notebook Review

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The Moleskine Voyageur notebook was introduced last summer, and so far remains a unique outlier in their product line. It’s an odd size, in between the classic pocket and large notebooks. It has a brown cloth-bound cover. It has a fancy die-cut paper wrapper with a travel-themed collage element. It has colored endpapers. I guess you could say it’s a departure from the norm (pun intended).

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There are other aspects of it that seem like an offshoot of their City Notebook series, which makes sense, given the travel theme. (The City Notebook line has been scaled way back to only the biggest destinations. It’s a shame, but understandable, as they must have been very expensive to produce in the first place, let alone trying to update transit maps as needed. But I love them nonetheless.) There are 3 different-colored ribbon markers, and a section with useful travel info. This part is similar to what is found in many diaries by Moleskine and other brands– dialing codes, time zone map, places to write extensive personal details including loyalty card numbers, etc. There are pages titled “Places to Go” and “Places I’ve Been,” as well as one meant for stamps, and at the end there are perforated packing list and to-do list pages. There is also an index, and a sheet of stickers. In between are numbered pages in 3 sections– lined, dot grid, and plain.

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Some of the elements of this notebook sound very similar to the Travel Journal in the Passions series. I haven’t looked closely enough at one of those to really compare it to the Voyageur, but it does make me wonder why they decided to create this other product which would seem to target the same niche. Perhaps the Passions format was seen as being a little too structured, and the Voyageur was aiming at a better balance of pre-formatted vs. blank pages.

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And yet… there are a LOT of instructions to this notebook. Before you even open it, you’re being instructed to use the paper wrapper in your travel photos to say “I Am Here,” and hashtag them to connect to “the Moleskine community.” (What does that even mean anymore? It’s like trying to connect to “the Diet Coke community” or “the Nike community.”) Then there’s a whole how-to page telling you to download things and paste them in your notebook, share your travel details in a Flickr group, and turn your snapshots into a Moleskine photo book. It’s a shame so much of this is printed on pages in the notebook itself rather than in a removable booklet.

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The overall impression is that there’s a lot of elaborate fuss over how to use this “traveler’s notebook for the digital age,” and it’s rather a shame, because A) utter simplicity and blank-slate-ness is what made Moleskine’s notebooks iconic in the first place, and B) when you get past all the fussy stuff, I think it’s actually the best notebook Moleskine has made in years, at least in terms of its construction. The brown cloth cover is lovely. The notebook is beautifully made, with a tolerable degree of cover overhang, everything even and square, and very neatly tucked corners. It’s as if they brought their quality control team out of hibernation for this product. Some of the features, such as numbered pages and an index, have been on Moleskine fans’ wishlists for years, and have driven them to switch to Leuchtturm to get them. I love the extra ribbon markers and the colors they chose for them. I even like the size– it’s not one that I tend to use a lot, but at 4.5 x 7″, it is the same proportion as the pocket notebooks in 3.5 x 5.5″, and that ratio always seems to appeal to me. I like having the sections with different paper types, and how they used different color inks for the page numbers, dots, and lines. The colored tabs along the edges might encroach a bit too much on the page space for some people, but as a design element they are attractive and I like the idea of putting a subject header or date in them, though some inks may bead up on the tabs.

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Moleskine paper is the major thing that has driven many fans away, and the Voyageur is no different in that respect– lots of show-through, and bleed-through with quite a few pens. Fine point gel ink pens are ok, though, and fortunately those are what I use day to day. I did a side-by-side paper comparison with one of my old Modo Moleskines– bleed-through performance wasn’t great in that one either, but you can see how much better it was on show-through. The only test where the Voyageur out-performed the older paper was the 5-second stay-in-one-spot test with the Accu-Liner, which spread out more in the Modo notebook.

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I bought my Voyageur online— I was intrigued by the description of the features when I first heard about it, but I had my misgivings. It had already been a while since I bought any current-production Moleskines due to the quality issues, though I still snag old Modo & Modo ones from time to time if I come across them. Fortunately, the quality of the Voyageur was a pleasant surprise when it arrived. It has that hard to define “wantability” that would have drawn me to it on a store shelf, and “wantability” is exactly what the rest of Moleskine’s products have been lacking for me the past few years. I don’t know how or when I’ll use this notebook, but I do want to find a way to use it. But just out of orneriness and dislike of redundant instructions, I probably won’t use the Voyageur for anything related to travel!  #m_iamnotthere

Review: Design.Y Notebooks

I can’t believe it’s taken me over 2 years to review these notebooks. I first heard of Design-Y in early 2012, when they were receiving quite a bit of buzz on fountain pen blogs. If you’re not familiar with this brand, here’s the background: they are handmade in Japan by a Mr. Yoshino. He uses luxurious materials and crafts each notebook to order, with several options for customization. They are not cheap! But are they worth the money? Let’s take a look!

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I seriously splurged and bought 3 notebooks. The small, slim brown one is the “Record 216,” the black one with stained edges is the “Record 288,” and the thick black one is the “LP Record.” (Design Y also offers two other larger sizes.) The first thing I have to tell you about these is something that no review can truly capture: they smell wonderful! The covers are made of real leather, either goatskin or cowhide, and it has a texture and scent that on manmade imitation can match. No icky chemical odors, as some other notebooks can have, but vegans beware, these are not for you!

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The materials in general just have a feeling of quality– the leather looks and feels great, the paper is silky, and they come nicely wrapped and packaged. When you order, you can select the color of leather you want, and for some notebooks, which type of leather, goat or cow. You can also choose whether you want the edges of the paper to be dyed, whether or not you want a ribbon marker or elastic closure, and lined or plain paper. You can select various colors for the bookmark ribbon. The color options are all chosen to look great together, in subtle shades of black, brown, grey and cream. The aesthetics of these notebooks are pretty near perfect as far as I am concerned– I don’t need flashy colors or patterns. The only major thing I think they’re missing is an option for squared paper. When you receive your Design.Y order, it’s a pleasure to open. Here’s some un-boxing shots!

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The construction of the notebooks is classic– sewn signatures inside a hard cover, with rounded corners. A logo is stamped on the back cover, but there is no other branding. The notebooks open fully flat. The ribbon marker is attached in a unique way– rather than being glued inside the spine, it is looped through holes in the spine, leaving a little decorative element on the outside and turning one bookmark into two. The endpapers are plain grey paper. There is no back pocket– instead, on the inside back cover you see the knots of the elastic closure. They are tiny knots that don’t get in the way, and theoretically I guess you could replace the elastic. This is a good thing, as the elastic is very thin and flimsy and seemed like it could easily break if it snagged on something in your bag.

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The covers do overhang the pages a bit more than I’d like, but not terribly, and the corners are beautifully tucked in to a nice, tight roundness. Other than that, the notebooks I received seemed very well made, with careful attention to detail and craftsmanship. One of them was just a teensy bit off being totally square– it’s barely noticeable, and somehow it bothered me less than it might on a mass-produced notebook. When something is handmade, I can understand there being a little human error, vs. the supposed precision of machines. The sizes are not quite standard compared to most other notebooks– shown with a pocket Moleskine for comparison. I like the slim Record 216, which is a great size to slip in a pocket. And the chunky LP Record is very appealing. The Record 288 is pretty close to the size of a Moleskine– I have to confess I wish they had just made it the same standard 3.5 x 5.5″ size Moleskine and many other brands use.

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The paper inside is a creamy white. It is quite thin and feels wonderfully smooth and refined. It’s a pleasure to write on with any pen, and fountain pens do perform nicely on it. However, there is a lot of show-through, though bleed-through is a little better than average compared to other papers this thin. Fountain pens may take a little longer to dry.

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The bottom line here is that you get a nicely customizable, beautifully made notebook that will be a pleasure to behold, and a pleasure to write in, until you turn the page and realize you won’t want to write on both sides! But the sensory delights of Design Y notebooks will cost you quite a bit. The current prices are as follows:

Record 216: 3780 Yen, or approximately $37.03

Record 288: 4935 Yen or approximately $48.35 (including elastic closure, bookmark and dyed edge. Subtract 105 Yen for no bookmark, 105 Yen for no elastic, and 210 Yen for no dyed edge.)

LP Record: 8925 Yen or approximately $87.44 (including bookmark. Subtract 105 Yen for no bookmark, add 105 Yen if you want an elastic closure.)

Shipping from Japan is additional, based on weight. For these three notebooks shipping to the US, it would be about $18.22.

So you’re probably thinking, holy $&%^@, she spent almost $200 for 3 little notebooks. Well, these are the sacrifices I make to review things for you, dear readers! It is a little hard to justify, especially as the notebooks are almost too nice to use. I keep telling myself I should try to use one as a daily notebook, but they seem like they should be used for something special instead. I do love having them– there is something just so wonderful about the craftsmanship and that real leather smell, I have to take them out and fondle them every so often, just to appreciate how beautiful they are compared to cheap, mass-produced notebooks. If you want to have a special notebook in your collection, or give a notebook lover a drool-worthy gift, Design Y will fit the bill!