Elias Pen and Ink Journal


Here is something pen and ink fans will find truly interesting and delightful. I used to keep a software database of pens, but I haven’t been very good with keeping it updated, until I eventually just forgot about it. Here’s a truly analog way to document an analog hobby.

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Everything Calligraphy came up with its very own pen and ink journal! It’s soft-bound and uses their own 90GSM ivory colored paper that’s fountain pen, brush pen, and pointed pen friendly. Hardcore, man.

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The theme of Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo is the thread that runs through the different sections of the notebook, from cover to cover. When I first held the journal in my hand, it really felt like something that you can keep as a “pen memoir”, and I felt sorry I wasn’t able to document the old pens that I had already sold, or the inks that I already used up.

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There is a simple Elias logo on the binding, and the spine feels nice and tight. It’s bound securely, though it’s not going to lay flat by itself. It’s not difficult to write in or leaf through, though. The journal is bound by plain white, textured card paper, and there’s a translucent, waxy paper that wraps around it. I really like the illustration used in that decorative wrap. It’s printed neatly and is really like a slice of a story.

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It also smells good. Mmmmm. Yum. The journal has several sections. I’ll show each section in this review.

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The first section is the Pen Journal section. It has space for every kind of information useful in a pen. Like brand, model, nib size, rating systems, etc. The opposite page is dedicated entirely to writing samples, or (like what I did) a review of the pen. You can put anything! How you got the pen, its little back story, anything that helps you either catalog the pen’s specifications or document its history. You can even stick a printed photo of the pen, if you like. You can get as creative as you want, there’s space for it!

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The next section is the Ink Journal. It has all the pertinent information you need to catalog your ink. From the cost, to the properties (shading, sheen drying time, flow), a portion for swabs and water resistance tests, and your comments. Here’s a photo of my first ink journal page, documenting one of my new favorite inks, Kyo Iro Moonlight of Higashiyama. It’s a straightforward way to catalog your ink collection. The paper being Elias paper, it shows off any shading and sheen so well. The paper also holds up very well to my water resistance test.

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I had to chuckle a little at the next section, the Future Pen and Inks. It’s like a wishlist. You can note down pens and inks that caught your attention and would like to purchase in the future. This is a list you can really have fun ticking items off of.

Elias Pen and Ink Journal

Elias Pen and Ink Journal

The next section contains coloring sheets. Line drawings of scenes and excerpts from Noli and El Fili. It adds a really Pinoy flair to the entire thing. I like how the line drawings are made. They have a folk-artsy feel to them. The pages remind me of these traditional Japanese line drawings before anime became popular. There’s a story going on in each drawing and it really captured that overall theme of the journal. The person who drew them is Julz Riddle (a Filipino teacher and artist). Her Instagram account is @hulyariddle. Here are a couple of samples from the journal.

Elias Pen and Ink Journal

Elias Pen and Ink Journal

Those who are into practicing calligraphy will love the next section.

Elias Pen and Ink Journal

Elias Pen and Ink Journal

These pages with guide lines can help you achieve consistent strokes. Even if you only want to improve your handwriting by practicing writing in script, this can be really helpful.

The remaining pages are blank sheets, doodle pages. If you look at the back of every single journal I have, the last pages are basically doodle pages. Figure eights, “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”, baybayin scribbles, anything! A blank space to doodle and free the mind. How wonderful that there’s a space in this journal for doodling.

Overall, I don’t think I’ve come across a journal that’s exactly like this, and with a very Filipino flair. It’s really a great way to celebrate your fascination with pens and inks (and doodling!). I’m glad that Everything Calligraphy came up with something so special for pen fans like us, and I’m planning to fill up my journal soon. It would be a great way to keep record of each pen and ink color that I have. Maybe someday when it’s time to pass on my pens to my nephews and nieces, they can have this journal as a companion of sorts, to help them appreciate the pens not just as writing instruments but as little things that brought me joy at some point in my life.

The Elias Pen and Ink Journal is available at Everything Calligraphy.

Moleskine Watercolour Album (First Impressions)


I must admit that I’ve never been particularly impressed with Moleskine notebooks before. They’re not very fountain pen-friendly and they’re quite expensive. Since I’ve been trying out different watercolor journals that I can take around with me in my bag when I go out, I thought I’d give their watercolor notebooks a try. Maybe they will be suitable for urban sketching. I bought the smallest size first so I can try it out before committing to a bigger sized journal.

I was pleasantly surprised with it. The size is 5 1/2 x 3 1/2 inches, it has 30 leaves (60 pages) of 200 gsm, acid-free, cold-pressed paper that have 25% cotton content. I’ve only used 100% cotton paper and I love them a lot, but I wanted to try something smaller and with thinner paper.

Since it’s not 100% cotton, I expected it to buckle a lot after several washes, but it actually held up pretty well with a few light washes. You can add several layers without the paper warping. I do mostly ink and wash drawings, so I think the paper holds up pretty well because I don’t do a lot of super wet washes.

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I like that the blank ink of my drawing pen pops on the paper. It seems to be very picky about fountain pen inks. Some bleed horribly while some don’t, but pigment ink work very beautifully with it.

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It’s easy on my brushes too, since the paper doesn’t fight it too much. On the flip side, the paper absorbs the water pretty quickly so I have to work very fast if I want to do some basic blending. I need to be careful with blending washes on paper, though because it doesn’t seem like it will take a lot of abuse like 100% cotton paper does.

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I like the subtle texture of the paper too. It adds some character to the paintings.

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I picked this size because I thought I’d just test the paper out, but turns out I like this pocket-sized notebook a lot. It’s just big enough to accommodate some simple sketches, but it’s great for practicing layers and drawings.

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I like that the binding allows the little book to lay flat easily, and the hard cover also makes it easy to hold up when sketching without a hard surface. I think it’s great for urban sketching.

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I’ve tried other journals that have about the same cotton content and I’m so disappointed that the paper somehow makes the colors of the painting look dull. This one stays true to what it’s supposed to look like. It looks so vibrant, especially in person. It’s hard to capture the colors in photos at home (it’s a bit too dark in my study), but the colors really pop on the page.

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So far, the ink that works best with this paper (aside from the pigmented drawing inks) is J. Herbin Perle Noire, in case you want to use fountain pens in your drawings. I don’t have waterproof Noodlers inks yet, so I wasn’t able to test them. Iroshizuku inks don’t fare too well. They spider out and feather like crazy.

It’s also pretty nice that the paper doesn’t show a lot of warping, as you can see below.

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Overall, me likey. It fits my preferred style, at least. If you’re fond of using a lot of wet washes, I’m not sure that the paper can hold up well to it. But for urban sketching and some light washes and layering, it works well enough. I think I can commit to a larger notebook now.

Review: Rhodia Pads


Completing the roundup of my review on Rhodia products from Everything Calligraphy are Rhodia bloc pads in different sizes and colors. These are actually pretty nice. It’s a challenge to find fountain pen friendly pads because many will bleed through and feather in an awful way. A lot of pad papers I’ve used are only ballpoint pen friendly. A few do hold up well with fountain pens and rollerballs, but the texture isn’t as pleasurable to write on.

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Rhodia is a bit expensive. Relatively more expensive than most pads you’ll see in bookstores or school supply stores. The quality of the paper is a lot different, though. Probably the only locally available “rival” in quality is the Elias notepads. Once you use one of these, you’ll understand why they’re pricier.

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I tried out both the color and the classic pads. I’m leaning more towards the color pads because I like the texture of the paper better. I also like the color of the pages, they’re cream-colored and it really makes the fountain pen inks I tried on it look a lot lovelier. The photo below shows the difference in the color of the paper.

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Below is a photo of the page of writing samples. As expected, the paper held up very well with fountain pens, brush pens, and parallel pens. The 3.8mm parallel pen did have a bit of bleed through. Not too bad, but it’s noticeable since the ink I used was the default black cartridge, which is highly saturated.

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I think the paper is different from the Webnotebooks, but the writing experience is close to the Rhodia color pads. I love the texture of the paper. It’s different from the classic pads (which tends to be too smooth for some of my fine-nibbed, dry-writing pens). Rhodia’s color pads are 90 gsm and the classic pads are 80 gsm, both handle ink pretty well, but I personally like the color, quality and texture of the paper used in the color pads.

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I noticed the white pads are more resilient to calligraphy pens, though. I’m not sure why, it could be just the pens that I have (I don’t really have that many to test it with).

Here are a few closeups of the writing samples for the color pads:

Here’s a close up of the writing samples for the classic pads.

I love that these pads can really show off the shading, sheen and shimmer of the inks and the unique character of each ink and pen combination. Such is the pleasure of using good paper. I also like that the binding makes it easy to fold the cover. It’s very durable and doesn’t break apart when you’ve been using up the pages and not tearing them off. I used up my last large Rhodia pad without hardly tearing a page off, and the binding held up really well. If you do need to tear off the pages, the mini perforations make it easier to do just that without compromising the binding.

Overall, these are good quality pads, no surprises there. 🙂

Rhodia pads and other paper products are available at Everything Calligraphy.

DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT A PAID POST, I DON’T DO PAID REVIEWS.

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Review: Rhodia Classic Stapled Notebooks


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Here’s another Rhodia paper product that I’ve only tried recently. It’s the Rhodia Classic Stapled Notebooks. It’s a lot more affordable than the web notebooks (P199 per piece) and only comes in lined and graph.

The cover looks pretty simple. Just the basic soft cover in orange, black, and white. It looks like something I would have loved to use for class notes.

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As the name implied, the notebook is staple-bound, which is why it’s more affordable than the other kinds of notebooks. While it’s pretty useful for basic writing, note-taking and other casual writing, it does have some drawbacks. The cover is pretty thin, and it’s a lot harder to lay flat unless you weigh the cover down.

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It doesn’t have the premium feel of the web notebooks, but course this was not designed to be the luxurious leather-bound journal, it’s the affordable, rough and tumble cousin that you can take anywhere. It’s light, it’s no-frills, and the paper (while different in texture and quality) is still quite good.

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The paper is 80 gsm, with lines that are a bit purplish-blue, reminiscent of the notebooks I used back in my school days. The lines were noticeably farther apart than the webnotebooks.

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Personally, I prefer the width of the space between the lines of the webnotebook, and the light grey colored lines. Here are a few

The paper is not as smooth as the webnotebooks, but it’s still very fountain pen friendly. Doesn’t show off sheen or shimmer too well, but shows off shading just fine. It also holds up well to parallel pens and brush pens. It doesn’t feather or bleed through, and the show through is very minimal. Pretty good for an affordable Rhodia notebook. If you need a good fountain pen friendly notebook for casual writing and note taking, this is a great choice.

Rhodia Classic Stapled Notebooks are available at Everything Calligraphy.

Disclaimer: This is NOT a paid post, I don’t do paid reviews.

Review: Rhodia/Rhodiarama Webnotebooks


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The first Rhodia product I ever tried was their winter white notepads. I thought it was pretty elegant, and the paper was excellent. I’ve been curious about their notebooks ever since, but they’re always out of stock (at least it always is here in the South). Good thing Everything Calligraphy now offers these notebooks. So are these really as nice as people say they are?

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In a word, yes. These are very good, premium notebooks. They’re relatively expensive, but I believe it has a good reason for being pricey. I tried out the plain Rhodia Webnotebooks (photo above) and the more colorful Rhodiarama Webnotebooks, and there’s just so much to like about them.

The first thing you’ll notice is how beautiful these notebooks are. They’re very different from handmade leather notebooks, of which no two creations are the same. These look like they’re churned out of machines to make them look precisely the same, and there’s a beauty to that too, as much as there’s something beautiful about unique, handmade journals. I love the stamped Rhodia logo, and the quality of the cover is pretty excellent. I like the brushed steel look of the journal on the right, but the classic black journal really hits the spot. It has a soft, velvety feel, almost like high quality silicon. It’s very classy, very well put-together.

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The more colorful Rhodiarama Webnotebooks are made of the same material and they’re also ridiculously perfect-looking.

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I have a soft spot for happy colors, and I find the colors of Rhodiarama to be quite eyecatching. When you open up the notebooks, it’s even prettier.

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A nice splash of happy colors! Also, psychedelic zebra. ^_^

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All Webnotebooks have a pouch at the back for little slips of paper and whatnot. Pretty useful, though I personally don’t really use the interior pockets of any journal so it doesn’t add to the bulk when I close it.

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The spine is neatly bound. Again, ridiculously perfect-looking. I find the bookmark a bit on the short side, I wish they made it just a little longer.

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The notebook also lays flat quite easily. The smaller Webnotebooks don’t lay flat as easily, but that’re pretty much expected because of the size. These bigger notebooks are easier to write on because it takes little effort to make them lie flat as you write.

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Aside from the aesthetics of these notebooks, the important thing is how they hold up to writing tests.

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The paper they used in Webnotebooks doesn’t seem to be the same with the ones they used with the notepad. These have a different look and feel to it. According to the specifications of the notebooks, it has 96 sheets (192 pages) of ivory-colored brushed vellum paper at 90gsm. It’s thinner than how I remember the pad paper that I tried before. First impression was that the paper did not feel heavy or too thick.

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The grey-colored dots of the dot grid notebook aren’t too intrusive to writing or drawing. The lined pages look pretty nice too.

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I like that the space between lines isn’t too wide, and that the lines are light grey in color. Not too obvious, just right for a nice-looking journal. Writing on the paper gives some sort of feedback. It’s not glossy or smooth, you feel the texture of the paper as you’re writing. I find it pleasant. Here are a few close ups of the writing sample:

Even if it’s textured, it shows off sheen and shading. It doesn’t feather and has no bleed through and minimal show through at the back. It seems the paper is most pleasant to use with wet writers and wider nibs. Brush pens can feel a bit rough on the paper. It absorbs ink a bit too fast, making it feel like there’s some drag as you write.

Overall, pretty good! Expensive, but good quality notebook. I would recommend it for journal writing, things that you really want to keep over a long period of time. Not exactly suitable for watercolor and whatnot, but really great for regular writing, especially if used with fountain pens.

Rhodia and Rhodiarama Webnotebooks are available at Everything Calligraphy.

Disclaimer: As I mentioned before, I am not affiliated with Everything Calligraphy. This is NOT a paid blog post and I DON’T do paid reviews.

Review: Contrail Street Journal


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I saw these cute little journals on my way to a mini pen meet last Sunday at Glorietta, when I dropped by Powerbooks at Greenbelt. They’re kinda hard to miss because the covers are just so pretty! I wasn’t familiar with the brand, so discreetly printed at the back of the cover, but the paper seemed nice so I bought three. A quick search on Google showed that Contrail is made by Itoya, a Japanese stationery company. I’ve had such good experience with Japanese stationery that I was pretty sure I’d like this one too, and I was right.

I just love the design of their covers. Really. I love the colors that they used, and the patterns. These are very tastefully designed covers. I also like that the binding is neatly stitched with white thread. It looks very cleanly done.

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I’m not sure what you call these lines. They’re grids but rectangular instead of square, and they spacing is pretty tight. I imagine it could be designed specifically for Japanese characters? I’m not sure. I’m not too crazy about the guide lines, but they don’t bother me much. I like that the lines are light brown, you can just ignore them completely when you write.

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The paper is pretty good. It’s not smooth, it definitely has texture to it, but there’s very little feathering using my fine to broad nib. Some feathering can be noticeable with my 1.5 mm stub, though. Here are a few close ups:

The texture is beautiful. It’s not going to show off sheen, but it will show off some shading. It’s hard to explain why but sometimes I miss enjoying texture on paper because oftentimes when the paper has some texture to it, fountain pens bleed all over the place. It’s pretty rare to find paper that allows you to enjoy texture while you write without excessive bleeding and feathering.

The paper handles brush pens very well. It distributes the ink smoothly, and allows the pen to glide on the paper without difficulties.

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There’s a bit of ghosting at the back, though I would not consider it bothersome. There’s also a bit of bleedthrough where I wrote with my 1.5mm nib. It could be because I used a very wet ink (J. Herbin Emerald of Chivor). It’s not so bad either, in my opinion.

The size is about 3.25 x 5.75 inches. It’s pretty small and can comfortably fit in your backpocket or your bag. I heard they’re also available in National Bookstore, at P149 per piece. These are great for everyday writing and small brush calligraphy projects. I’m so happy we have Itoya here in the Philippines now. What a great time to be a stationery fan!

Comparison: Elias and Tomoe River Loose Sheets


EverythingCalligraphy sent over a few loose sheets of Elias and Tomoe River Papers for me to compare. These two are my favorite types of paper, and I was really happy to compare them side by side. I must admit it’s quite difficult to do that, though, because they’re quite different. To the uninitiated, paper is paper is paper. To the true pen and paper fans, it doesn’t matter if you have the best writing implement in the world. If you write on poor quality paper, it just grates on the nerves. Writing on good paper is such a pleasurable, tactile experience that I enjoy so thoroughly that it takes me a long time to pick a notebook, and only a few make it to my “staples”. These two are at the top rung.

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I tested the paper samples with different pens and inks. Here are a few close up shots of the writing samples.

For Elias’ 90gsm loose sheets

Elias paper is so easy to like. It’s smooth and creamy and makes your pen’s nib just glide on the paper. Even scratchy nibs feel smoother on it, and I’ve yet to see a pen and ink combo that will make it bleed through or feather. Here are some writing samples below.

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Continue reading

Review: Elias Traveler’s Notebook Insert


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I think many people have been waiting for Elias to come out with these inserts for a while. I’m so happy that they finally made these. Traveler’s notebook inserts aren’t very easy to come by in bookstores. They’re not always readily available, so it’s always good to find online stores that sell them. I bought a set of three inserts from Everything Calligraphy last week, and I couldn’t be happier.

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Here’s to give you an idea how thick the insert is. These are 40 pages of 90gsm, acid-free, ivory-colored, fountain pen-friendly paper. I suggest you buy the pack of 3, since it’s a little bit cheaper. I like the cover of the inserts. It’s easy to slip into a traveler’s notebook because the cover is sufficiently thick. I also like the color which is a very dark blue. I wish they would offer options, though, like craft or white. I like that the cover is plain and there’s a simple “ELIAS” logo at the back. Plain covers can be decorated with stickers, stamps, and other stuff.

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Note to self…buy white chalk-based stamp pads. ^_^

The paper and cover are stapled together. It’s nice enough for daily use. As usual, the paper is excellent. I can’t quite describe how pleasurable writing on it is, except to say that it’s creamy. It makes your nibs feel smoother.

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The word “February” was written with a brush pen, and it works great with those too. It’s smooth and shows off the gradients with the strokes. It works fabulously with fountain pen inks, and I’m glad that one can enjoy the same paper quality as with those in their bigger journals.

Here are a few writing samples below.

It also takes my Pilot Parallel pen without issues. The paper stays smooth even when I scrape at it with some very fast writing, like what I did below. There’s no feathering or bleed through either.

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Here is an example of Pilot Parallel pen over watercolor. It’s pretty neat. 🙂

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Overall, I love the quality of the paper and I think the price is really good. I’m glad we journal junkies have more options now, especially for the regular TN size.

Elias travelers notebook inserts are now available at Everything Calligraphy.

Review: Smells Like Sundays TN-Sized Notebooks


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Saying that I love notebooks is an understatement. I have a lot of notebooks in different shapes and sizes in my office, library, bedroom, bag…you get the idea. I have three different journals at any given time, plus notebooks for other things. I would almost never be caught outside the house without carrying one with me because, well, it just makes sense for me. That being said, premium paper is muy expensivo. Paper lovers are willing to pay this price, though, but being able to find affordable, good paper is always a treat. I wrote a few days ago about how I discovered Smells Like Sundays. I think they sell other stuff too, like coloring books for adults, etc. Their TN-sized notebooks are pretty nice and is priced under P100 each.

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It’s pretty slim, slimmer than Midori TN inserts and the paper is thinner. I didn’t get to count how many pages there are. It’s unbranded and unmarked. It got a little confusing to find the front page until you open it, so I stamped the front of the notebooks that I don’t put inside my TN.

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The craft cover is pretty nice, though they also have black and white covers. These normally come in a set of five different sized journals and two craft pens, but they were nice enough to sell me individual inserts for my travelers notebook. That size is pretty hard to find in bookstores. They’re not as common as A6 an A5 sizes. You can imagine how happy I was to find one journal in a gift pack of 5 that fits my TN perfectly.

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The notebook is very neatly stitch-bound with a thin strip of thread. I tore out pages from my first notebook and the binding didn’t budge at all.

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I use it as my notebook for Sunday sermon notes and daily devotions. It’s not paper that will show off sheen and shading. The pages are too absorbent. They absorb ink as soon as it’s on the surface, but it does show a bit of the ink’s properties. Here are a few close ups of writing samples:

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The paper has some texture to it. I miss that kind of paper. Since I started using fountain pens, I always use fountain pen friendly paper that almost always feel the same. This feels like the old kind of paper that I used to enjoy. It’s pulpy, has a more natural feel to the finish, you can feel the texture of the pages as you write. A closer look shows that it almost feathers, but it doesn’t. Not in a noticeable way, at least. I used a Pelikan M600 with a medium nib that writes more like a BB and a Parker 51 with a medium nib. You can still see the reddish shading of the Syoro, but it’s not so pronounced.

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Here’s the back of the pages. If you look closely, wet writers will produce a bit of bleed through. Little pins of ink that aren’t very noticeable. I can live with that. I think that this quality is really great for the price.

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I hesitate to use expensive paper for things like grocery lists, to-do lists, and such. I would never think of using my precious Tomoe River paper for something other than journal entries and art. That’s why I bought a lot of this, so I can write on nice paper without thinking  ohmygoodnesswhywhywhy while jotting down everyday notes.

This notebook and other sizes are available in craft, black, and white covers at Smells Like Sundays.

Smells Like Sundays, Indeed


A friend of mine gave me a set of journals and craft pens from Smells Like Sundays for Christmas. I enjoyed it a lot, so I bought more of it in my favorite size so that it can fit my traveler’s notebook. I’ll write a review about it soon-ish. 🙂

 

Sunday Leather Craft’s TN


I’ve been bitten by the TN bug. I’ve written about the Midori Travelers’ Notebook here and a comparison between that and Sunday Leather Craft’s TN here. I thought of leaving it at that but I felt like it would be great to take a closer look at Sunday Leather’s traveler’s notebook since I really liked it a lot.

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I’ve had a couple of pen cases made by Toto of Sunday Leather Craft, and I’ve been pretty happy with them so far. He does great work at very reasonable prices, and he’s not hard to collaborate with. Of course, he sometimes has a lot of clients lined up so you need to patiently wait your turn. He has always met the deadlines that he commits to, though. It’s always great to work with people who are easy to contact and who keep their word. It’s also great to support local artisans who use locally-sourced leather and other materials.

The leather used on the TN is soft but not extremely so. It holds its shape without the edges curling up or the covers flapping around. It has this raw feel to it, and I guess it will be especially appealing if you like your leather TN to look more rough and tumble than too well-put together.

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Here is the setup of the elastics inside the flap. That’s one continuous string that can hold one insert per string. Although if you want to maximize it and put in as much as you can, this can potentially hold 8 inserts or more. Unless the inserts are thin, though, I would find that uncomfortable to write on. That’s just me, though. I know a lot of people would enjoy a chunky TN.

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Here’s what three individual inserts looped into the elastics look like. Of course you can also change the elastic and pick a thinner one (or use Midori’s replacement elastics) because these are a little thick. The leather is soft enough so that it will wrap around nicely on multiple notebooks.

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The elastic that closes the TN is located along the spine. I think this is a good idea because of the softness of the leather. This way, the leather doesn’t bunch up when you’re pulling on the elastic or when it’s wrapped around the TN. Like any other TN, you can customize this with charms, beads and whatnots, but I prefer to keep it simple and unadorned because I don’t like having to shift the elastic around before I write just so I won’t feel the charm behind the notebooks.

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I noticed that Midori’s inserts make it a bit hard to lay the TN flat. I guess continued use will change that? Or buy inserts that already lay flat. It’s a minor inconvenience that I put up with.

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Overall, I like this TN. It has a nice, rustic look and feel to it. It doesn’t have that perfect, industrial, mass-produced vibe. It’s as individual as the person who will use it. I miss the bookmark that I got used to in Midori’s TN, although I’m guessing it’s easy to attach one if you really want to figure out how, what with all those holes already punched and set up in it. The price is incredibly friendly too. It’s one of the more affordable fauxdoris that I’ve found from local sellers. If you want something that looks fancier (like, with pockets in flaps, etc), or if you want a different size like A5, you can always specify what you need. That’s the beauty of bespoke leather notebooks. 🙂

Check out Sunday Leather Craft for more TNs and other leather goods.

My First Two Travelers’ Notebooks


I first came across Travelers’ Notebooks (TNs) last year. I was skeptical. They just seemed too expensive for me, and the shape was odd. I was completely sold out on A5-sized journals and didn’t see myself having much use for such an odd-shaped journal of sorts. I hemmed and I hawed and I waffled around trying one until early this month. I decided to try a Midori Traveler’s Notebook and a hand-sewn TN made by Sunday Leather Craft.

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Sunday Leather TN on top, Midori TN at the bottom.

I was completely unprepared for how much I was going to enjoy these journals. These are both TNs, they look similar, but they feel different.

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The elastic of an MTN is simpler and uses a thinner rubber band. The Sunday Leather Craft TN has a thicker band and a piece of leather which helps keep the cover closed, I guess, but I opted to remove it to make it look simpler.

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The leather that Sunday Leather Craft uses is relatively firm, but is a lot softer and more pliable compared with Midori’s TN. The result is that it feels more floppy. Not in a bad way, though. I like that it has this very raw feel to it. It can accommodate more inserts too, because it’s softer. It also lays down flatter than a Midori TN.

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Sunday Leather Craft’s TN is already set up for multiple inserts. I watched a few videos on YouTube on how to “hack” a Midori TN to hold more than three inserts but this setup eliminates the need to poke holes into the leather. If you’re comfortable with chunky setups and multiple inserts, this will definitely make it easier for you to do that.

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The Midori Travelers’ Notebook, on the other hand, feels more polished. The leather is stiffer, although it looks like it will get a tiny bit more pliable with time. The leather is gorgeous, but I really don’t mind it getting scuffed while I use it (it already has a few dings on it after a few weeks of use) because I want it to show signs that it’s been used and loved and taken everywhere.

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The elastic that closes the Midori TN is knotted at the back of the leather cover. The leather is stiff enough that it doesn’t cause any deformation because of the tension of the elastic. Sunday Leather Craft’s TN is knotted from the spine, which is a smart design given the fact that the leather is softer than Midori’s. It minimizes the bunching up of the leather as long as there are notebooks inserted in it.

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Midori TN (bottom) is a tight fit. I have the same setup of notebooks in both TNs (two blank notebooks and a sketchbook), but Sunday Leather Craft’s TN is roomier.

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It’s very tempting to put more  notebooks in the roomier Sunday Leather Craft TN. Maybe I will stuff more in there and see how the leather will hold up with the chunk. Of course, lugging that around will be challenging (and might cause lower back pain, haha). Plus, I usually include a lot of photos, washi tapes and other stuff in my journals, so it will need some room to grow.

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The paper I used on these two TNs are Midori’s inserts. They’re good, but I’m afraid I really cannot get used to them. I am going to replace these with Tomoe River inserts as soon as possible. Aside from the quality of paper, Tomoe River inserts are also thinner. You can put more inserts without bulking up the notebook too much. Of course, Tomoe River inserts are more expensive and not always available locally. If you aren’t very picky with the paper, the default Midori inserts are good enough, and they have different kinds of refills too if you want to use your TN as a planner as well as a journal/sketchbook.

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Midori sketchbook insert

I do like the sketchbook inserts, though, even if they do add to the bulk of the TN. As for the shape of the inserts, I’m surprised that I adjusted to it pretty quickly. I initially felt that it would be too narrow for the size of my handwriting. Turns out it’s not that bad. It doesn’t feel cramped at all. It even fits in my bag better than my A5 journals do. Even if it’s chunky, it’s actually lighter and easier to carry around.

There’s a huge price difference between these two, though. The locally-made TN from Sunday Leather Craft costs about 1/3 of the price of the Midori. It doesn’t come with inserts, though. You can even ask them to customize it with pockets or choose the color and texture of your leather and the color of the stitching. I think it’s great value for money.

Overall, I love these TNs. I like the size, I like the flexibility of the inserts, and I love the leather cover. I can store the inserts as I fill them up and let the leather cover age beautifully. I like it so much that I’ve decided to use it as my main journal for next year.

I’ll probably write a separate review of the Sunday Leather Craft TN after the new year. 🙂

Midori Traveler’s Notebook First Impressions


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I’ve been waffling about getting one of these since last year. I wasn’t sure I would like it, even after seeing some people’s TN setup. I honestly thought it was too expensive for a notebook cover, and I didn’t get all the fuss about it. This year, I finally took the plunge, promising myself that I will keep an open mind as I tried it out.

I forgot to take a photo of the packaging, haha. But I do like the way the starter set was packaged. It’s a reusable, recyclable cardboard case which looks really simple but oddly beautiful. I guess that’s part of the appeal of this TN. It looks deceptively simple but every little thing about it is wonderful.

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I prettyfied it a bit by attaching a charm of two leaves on the bookmark. I decided not to put a charm on the band that holds the covers together because I am not sure if it will be intrusive when I lay it flat on the table to write.

The elastic that closes the TN is attached through a hole in the middle of the back flap. You’d think you’d be bothered by the knot that goes in there, but surprisingly, it’s not really noticeable. The elastic that Midori uses for their TN is thin but feels sturdy. I compared it with some of the elastics that I found in bookstores and they’re much better. Those I found in bookstores weren’t rigid enough, and they were too thick.

I like the quality of the leather a lot. It holds its shape and feels firm but supple. It will age really well, I think. Smells wonderful too. 🙂

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The placement of the knot where the elastic pokes through, plus the stiffness of the leather, makes sure that the spine of the TN isn’t wrinkled up as it holds the inserts.

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Here’s what the bottom looks like. There’s no wrinkling on the leather at all. The leather looks like it will age really well, and take all the abuse and beating of being lugged around everywhere. I know you can fit more than 3 inserts, I watched some TN hacks on YouTube, but I think three is a good enough number for me. The inserts are pretty thick, and I suppose they would get thicker as I fill up the notebook with journal entries and photos. This is chunky enough for me. I’m waiting for the Tomoe River paper insert to be restocked at Pengrafik soon so I can replace the notebooks with the thinner Tomoe River refills. More on that shortly.

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The first thing you’ll see when you open my TN is a plastic card carrier, which I used to carry my favorite instax photos around. Six slots for both flaps mean I can carry 12 photos.

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The fly leaf of all TN inserts have this box where you can write a summary of what your notebook is about. Or, in my case, I wrote my favorite verse.

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The paper itself is good. I think I’m just too used to the Tomoe River paper to enjoy it that much. It shows of the shading and sheen, though the coating sometimes makes it hard for the ink to spread on the paper. I find the pages too thick but then again, I’m used to Tomoe River paper. There’s no bleed through or feathering, though. So that’s great.

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I’m pretty disappointed that it doesn’t take watercolor well. The paper just absorbs the water too fast, so I cannot work with wet washes at all. I cannot layer the colors. The paper is only suitable for pen and ink sketches.

IMG_3569 A good alternative would be the sketchbook insert, which is made of thicker paper. It’s still too absorbent for wet washes but at least it can hold up to simple watercolor paintings.

It’s a bummer since I can’t integrate watercolor paintings in my journal entries, but it’s nice to have a separate insert just for drawings and paintings. I like that it has perforated sheets, too.

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Here’s a stippling of a koi fish that I drew last night. On a side note, I did not know that stippling was so much fun! A closer look at my little fishy…

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The paper feels so nice for pen and ink drawings. It does add more chunk to the already chunky setup, though. Still, I like it and I decided I’ll continue to fill it up with pen and ink drawings. I think I’ll wait for the Tomoe River inserts for my watercolor paintings (which I prefer to integrate with my journal entries, anyway).

I also bought a locally-made fauxdori from a local leather artisan. I like it too, because it has a different feel to it. I’ll probably write about that in a separate blog entry and compare it with a Midori Traveler’s Notebook. Overall, I think the Midori TN is worth the price. I’m still learning how to maximize it, but I like my simple setup well enough. The size is comfortable, the leather cover is just gorgeous, and the simple details about it make it such a beautiful notebook cover. I’m happy I tried it out, looks like I’ll be spending a lot of time with it. 🙂

My First Hobonichi Techo Cousin


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Back in the last week of October, I got my first ever Hobonichi through Pens-Galore. One of my friends is a huge fan and she told me that this planner uses Tomoe River paper. I’m sold. I love Tomoe River paper so much because it’s so thin but also very durable. It’s fountain pen friendly and is one of the best paper I’ve used for it. It just shows off the character of fountain pen inks in such a beautiful, delicate way. I picked the Hobonichi Cousin because I primarily wanted to use this not just as a planner but also a journal. The smaller Hobonichi (A6 size) is just a bit too small for my needs. It came with a cute little uni pen and a blue tissue dispenser.

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Interior front pockets

The cover is also made by Hobonichi. It’s black outside and beige inside and fits the cousin perfectly. There are several pockets on it that makes it really convenient. The back also has an extra pocket, and so does the outside of the cover. It’s really simple-looking, and I thought it a bit too vanilla at first, but I admit it’s growing on me.

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Back, interior pocket

The cover also has two pen loops that are meant to carry one pen and at the same time close the cover securely. Of course I wouldn’t be using the loops at all, my pens are safe in my pen case thank you very much. The cover also has two pieces of lace for bookmarking. These are quite distinctive of the Hobonichi covers. I like them because I can bookmark two separate parts of the planner.

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Months at a glance

The planner has this section that lets you look at the month at a glance. It’s a great way of looking at the holidays, birthdays, and other important dates for all of the months. There’s also a small portion at the bottom that lets you take down a few notes for each month.

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Month spread

There’s a month-view spread too. So you can put in more details of your monthly plans but still see them at a glance. This is my favorite view for planners because I’m not very down-to-the-hour detailed with my daily plans. I just need an overview to help me remember important dates of the month.

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At the side of the monthly spread, there’s a place to note down some highlights. You may also note down important things that you don’t want to forget for that month. I’m planning to put some of the Bible verses that have impacted me greatly for that month, or encouraging verses that I want to remember and ponder on.

I love that there’s so much space to write on. 🙂 As you can see, the Hobonichi Cousin starts its monthly spread on December of this year. So that great for making early plans for this very busy month.

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Day at a glance, divided by hours.

For the more detail-oriented, there’s a page for your day at a glance. It’s divided up by hours, with the week starting at Monday. The day at a glance pages also starts on January. I’m pretty excited to start that. It’ll be a great help in keeping track of my (growing) list of responsibilities at work. 🙂

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Daily page

My favorite part is the daily page. Look at all that blank space. Sigh. You can use this to jot down more extensive notes about your day or, like me, use it as a daily journal. I usually write more than one page a day in my journal, but I’m planning to use this page for my daily devotions. I’m really excited about this.

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The daily pages are made up of light-colored grids, and each month has a different color. If you look at the side, you’ll see the different colors there, to help you find your pages easier. Since this is Tomoe River paper, it can take watercolor, markers, ballpoint, fountain pens, sharpie, and other kinds of writing instruments without bleed through. You can even include photos in your journal entries. I’ve seen other users include instax photos, washi tapes, etcetera into their journals. It will bulk up the planner but the  binding can take it. If you’re planning to use stamps, I recommend chalk-based stamp inks, not alcohol or dye based inks (those tend to bleed through most kinds of paper).

Overall, I like the layout of the Cousin a lot. It’s not overly complicated or redundant. I like that the binding lets you lay the planner flat while you write. The paper is excellent too. I’m excited to use this for planning and journal writing soon. 🙂

Paper Review: Maruman Mnemosyne A5 Grid Notebook


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Here’s something I got as a gift from my brother. It’s a Mnemosyne spiral notebook with grid paper. It’s my first time to try Mnemosyne and I’m pretty satisfied with it, for the most part.

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The cover is hard black plastic, which looks scratch and stain resistant, making it an ideal notebook. Inside is a cardboard flyleaf.

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The paper on this notebook is pretty good. It’s so pleasant to write on because it has this nice feedback. There’s not much coating on it to make it too slippery for ink. Any kind of pen will do well with this kind of paper, I think. Since I favor fountain pens, I immediately put it to the 1.5mm test. Needless to say, it performed very well.

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I like that the paper keeps the vibrancy of the ink even after it has dried for a few days. The paper shows off the shading of the ink so beautifully, but unfortunately it doesn’t play well with sheen or micronized gold particles. Emerald of Chivor looks like a dark blue green color, Stormy Grey is just dark grey. You can probably spot a teeny bit of sparkle there, but it’s negligible. That’s the downside of this paper. It doesn’t showcase the characters of the ink too well, except for the shading.

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It’s pretty resilient to bleed through, though. On a 1.5mm nib with one of my wettest inks, it held up pretty well. The front of the pages are grid-lined, the backs are blank. The pages are also perforated so that you can tear them off neatly if you need to. I like that.

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The verdict…it’s pretty good, if you don’t mind the lack of sheen on sheen-y inks. This is pretty nice to write on, and the paper’s quality feels great. This notebook and a steno version of it is available at pens-galore.com.

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Review: Kokuyo Campus Notebook


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I was looking through a nearby Japanese surplus store in our neighborhood when I saw this notebook along with other piles of notebooks stacked in a corner. I have this habit of buying notebooks even when I don’t need them because…well, who knows when you might need them, right? So I bought one and, fast forward to a few days later, I went back to buy the rest of their stock.

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Kokuyo Campus Notebook looks like something I would have enjoyed back in college. It’s a simple notebook. The cover isn’t very impressive. It looks like something you’d take to school with you (or where you’d scribble down mad ideas and formulas). Definitely not a looker. Also, it’s P40 (a bit less than $1).

For the price of Php40, I was so surprised that the paper was excellent. It was smooth but has some texture to it. It shows the shading of the ink well. There’s also minimal show through and absolutely no bleed through even when I used my 1.5mm nib on it. Here are a few close ups of the writing sample:

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I’d say that’s pretty nice. The per is nicer than some of the journals I bought that are much more expensive. Since I was already in the store, I also bought this cute little pen tray:

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Elias Notebooks’ Newly-Launched Notepads


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I was so excited to learn that Elias Notebooks has finally launched their notepads. I needed something to use for my letter-writing project and I thought that I’d try out their small pads. Turns out they’re the perfect size for correspondences. I got the lined pad and dot grid pads.

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The notepad uses perforated sheets so that it’s easier to tear out. It’s pretty convenient, and the pages tear out easily when I tried it.

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They’re blank on the other side so that it’s more presentable when writing letters. They look very neat when folded up.

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Of course, the paper is wonderfully smooth. It’s the same paper that I enjoy writing on in my journals. If you’re unfamiliar with Elias’ journals, read this review.

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I am looking forward to using this for my letters. I’m happy that Elias came up with these pads and I think it’s a great addition to their product line.

Elias’ notepads are P230 for the small ones and P380 for the large ones. Check out their FB page for more information.

Curnow A5 Tomoe River Paper Journal


Ever since I first heard about Tomoe River paper, I’ve always been curious about it. I heard that there’s no feathering or bleed through even for wet writers, and that the paper is thin and almost like papel de hapon. So when Kailash of Pengrafik.com offered a limited number of journals for sale, I decided I’ll buy a couple so that I can see whether I’ll like it or not.

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148mm x 210mm, 80 pages

The binding is stitched, which I like better than stapled. It looks clean and well-made. The journal is very thin even at 80 pages. The thinness of the paper makes it look more compact, I guess.

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The journal is really simple-looking. Just an ivory-colored cover and plain ivory-colored paper.

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The paper itself is fascinating. It’s so thin, almost like tracing paper. The texture is very pleasant–not completely smooth or waxy, but similar to paper that’s used for certificates, only more porous and finer. Writing on it is an interesting experience too.

I like that it has some feedback, and I like that it really retains much of the vibrancy of the ink so that the colors don’t look washed out after it dries. In fact, it looks much like how it looked while wet. That’s pretty awesome. I am also so relieved that it’s not too slippery or waxy. All my currently inked pens (on the writing sample) wrote on it without any difficulties whatsoever, even my extra fine nibs. Right away, I thought that the texture, the way it held the ink without feathering or bleeding and the thinness of the page would make it a wonderful sketch pad.

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You probably won’t be able to use the other side of the page, though. The writing shows through a lot. Update: After using this journal for both writing and drawing, I realized that the show through is very tolerable. I can write at the back of the pages too, and they’re readable. The more you use this paper, the more it grows on you. It’s kinda hard to explain why something so thin can feel so luxurious. You gotta try it out yourself.

Elias Soft-Cover Journals are Here!


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Last week, the soft-covered journals of Elias Notebooks became available and I got a first look at it during the March pen meet of FPN-P. However, they only had the blank journals available, and I wanted to wait for the lined and dot grid journals. I got it in the mail yesterday! I’m so happy.

This design is called gold mosaic, and it’s really pretty in person. Basically, it’s the same awesome Elias paper but with a soft leather cover instead of the hard cover. Personally, I like both the hard and soft covers. The hard covers are a bit more formal-looking. The soft-covered ones are lighter, easier to carry. I love them both.

Matching Journals


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I got this in the mail today, a large and small Elias journal in tan colored suede. These journals are just beautiful, and the paper is perfect for fountain pens. The photo couldn’t capture the rich dark brown suede, though. In person, the color is more like chocolate truffles. Yum.

Learn more about Elias Journals here. BTW, I’m just a happy customer, not in any way affiliated to them. I buy my own journals, pens and inks, and will always make a full disclosure if I’m reviewing or writing about something that I did not buy for myself. 🙂