This weekend, I finally received my $20 rewards for backing the Pay it Forward Kickstarter! For those who don’t know, Pay it Forward is a group of fountain pen enthusiasts who want to make the community a more welcoming and inclusive place for newcomers. You can send your unused notebooks, pens and ink samples for them to hand out. Since 2017, they have travelled to many pen shows and offered a table with free pen kits for newcomers to the hobby and children. They also have a table for donated new notebooks! Last DC Pen Show, I dropped off all my extra Field Notes, limited editions and other goodies that were previously sitting in a shelf. It felt very good to give away paper for others to use! For myself, I picked out a little pen bag and found inside an amazing demonstrator Jin Hao pen and sample vial of ink.
I wish this group was around when I first started my obsession in 2016. I figured out what pens and ink and paper I liked through trial and error. The pen community was still a bit intimidating to me at the time so I didn’t participate online. Pay It Forward both recycles stationery and creates a welcoming atmosphere.
PIF created a kickstarter last year to raise more money for tables at pen conventions and to spread the word. I donated $20 for a pack of Story Supply Co x Pay It Forward dot grid notebooks and a bottle of “Heart of Gold” ink, made by Papier Plume.
The notebooks are a reddish-orange and yellow. On the cover is the PIF logo, three hands holding stationery items. Inside is a place to write your name, date, and location. On the back cover is the mission of PIF. I liked that the cover was not a uniform red, but had yellow undertones. The paper is moderately fountain pen friendly like other SSC notebooks. The dot grid is a bit dark for me, but is much lighter than the Elemental notebook grid.
As for the ink, it’s a dark orange, with some nice shading. It reminds me of a sunset. The flow is nice and wet in my Sailor 1911S Medium nib. Compared to other inks I have, Sailor Apricot is lighter and has a silver sheen. Monteverde Ruby is much redder, like tomato soup.
I love PIF’s mission of creating a welcoming community. I’m happy to support their kickstarter and hope to see more PIF tables in the future.
I bought these products with my own funds. I was not paid for this review.
Decided to use all-black pocket notebooks for the next few months. The first three from the left are for writing down story ideas, while the last two are for random lists and doodles.
Field Notes Lunacy is my favorite FN edition by far. I was lucky to grab a pack right before they sold out everywhere. I love that it has gray paper with reticles and it’s even fountain pen friendly! There are facts about the moon on the inside pages. The set contains a full-moon, half-moon and quarter-moon cutout on the cover.
Field Notes Three Missions is another favorite because of its space mission-themed covers and light gray grid. However, it’s not fountain pen friendly so I use gel pens on the paper.
Story Supply Co. has amazing paper suitable for fountain pens. This edition, Morning, is based on misty autumn days. It has a lovely faded logo that blends in with the misty cover. I want to review this one on the blog soon.
The two on the right are for lists only. I have an Elemental pocket notebook which actually isn’t too bad except for the very dark dot grid. I don’t mind the dots for quick checklists. Then there’s the Field Notes Pitch Black, which I love but know it’s always available so I might as well use my limited edition ones for writing my story ideas.
Nothing quite compares to Tomoe River paper. It is as smooth and thin as tracing paper yet sturdy and bleed-resistant. It exhibits more shading and sheen than any other paper I’ve tried. The ghosting takes time to get used to but becomes less of a problem as the pages fill up. I’d still rate TR as the best paper for fountain pen lovers. However, some other contenders come close in quality. Today I’ll be reviewing one of them, Stalogy. Many people use the A6 as a cheaper Hobonichi alternative. It sells for $17.50 rather than the $35 + that a Hobonichi demands.
A6 (4.1 in. x 5.8 in.), also comes in A5, B5 and B6
The Stalogy has a slightly-textured black cover with some golden stamps on the front. I was instantly impressed by its minimalist yet sleek exterior. The logos are off to the left side so they don’t get in the way. Stalogy’s motto, “What Should Have Been, Is” is printed in tiny letters. Unfortunately the cover is rather flimsy for me. If I used this as a planner, I would put on a protective case. From what I’ve heard, Stalogy notebooks fit inside of Hobonichi covers. It doesn’t lay flat easily. I needed to break in its spine so it wouldn’t spring up. Notebooks like the Nanami Seven Seas lay flat with ease.
There are 368 pages packed into this small notebook! They are thin and crinkle easily. Inside is light gray 5mm grid that doesn’t reach the borders of the pages. It also has two unique features that are more useful for planners. Tiny months and days are printed where the header usually is. Numbers representing times line the left border. Unfortunately, these numbers are tiny and such a light gray I couldn’t see them well.
I’d like to see more features that distinguish it from an average planner. Hobonichi Techos have yearly/monthly pages and timetables. However, if you’re more of a bullet journal person and don’t mind making your own layouts, the Stalogy offers similar paper and portability, while being twenty dollars cheaper. For me, I prefer structure so I like the Hobonichi style more. (My current planner is a cheap Exacompta student one I got at my university bookstore lol.)
The paper is very thin and light, reminding me of tracing paper. But despite looking delicate, it handles ink well. There was heavy show through, but only my globby Pilot Precise V5 RT bled in places. The ghosting is distracting, but if you’ve used 52gsm Tomoe River paper, it is also known for that. I didn’t have any heavy sheen inks on hand, but all my inks showed shading. There was no feathering or spreading of ink. I did see a hint of sheen in my Iroshizuko Momiji sample. It takes over ten seconds to dry, around the same as Tomoe River or Apica paper. Be careful not to brush your hand against the drying inks, especially if you are a lefty. I’m left handed but I’ve grown used to writing in a way that my hand doesn’t touch the paper lol.
Compared to my Nanami Cafe Note B6, the grid on the Stalogy is much lighter. I’m usually a fan of lighter grid but in this case it looks fuzzy and hard to see. The TR paper is equally as thin. There are small boxes at the top and bottom of the Cafe Note, spaces for dates or page numbers I guess. The Cafe Note A6 is only a dollar more than the Stalogy and has 480 pages! I personally think the Cafe Note is a better deal but shipping can raise the price. Stalogy is available with Amazon Prime.
I liked the Stalogy at first, but I’m not a fan of making my own planner. It’s nice but not as mind-blowing as Tomoe River offerings. I’m thinking of using this as a diary because it is undated. I would recommend it for people who want more freedom in their planner or those who appreciate quality paper.
I bought these notebooks with my own funds. I was not paid for this review.
I always am on the lookout for new places to buy quality notebooks and pens. D.C. doesn’t have as many stationery stores as NYC, but it does have the homegrown Jenni Bick. I visited it a year ago, and finally had the chance to go again with a friend. The store is located only a few minutes walk from the Dupont Circle metro, if you take the 19th Street exit. There is also a Krispy Kreme nearby, if you hunger for fresh donuts and paper. 🙂
The store is easy to see, with a giant selection of notebooks displayed proudly in the window. Once inside, a rainbow of Leuchtturm1917s greet you, stretching across the wall to your left! Even though I’m not the biggest fan of the 1917, this display makes me smile.
You’ll find many types of notebooks here, both the usual Moleskines and Paper Blanks, to Japanese brands like Midori or Stalogy, to more obscure companies. The selection has only gotten larger since last year, to my delight. The Leuchtturms take up much of the front. There is a section for Nuuna notebooks, which I had never seen in person before! There is also a clearance table, a Moleskine display, some fountain pens behind clear glass and fountain pen ink from Lamy, Faber-Castell and J. Herbin. Jenni Bick also has a selection of store-made leather journals. They are beautiful but extremely expensive. If you need a memorable scrapbook or journal, this section is for you.
There also is some art supplies in the back! There is a table with notebooks for people to try out and write in. This is a great idea because often I am enthralled by a notebook’s cover but disappointed when the paper ends up being terrible.
The employees are so nice and helpful here! They are knowledgable about every type of paper. Honestly, I’d love to work at Jenni Bick so I could be around stationery all day. I was heading to the Phillips Collection afterwards, so I couldn’t buy anything too big or bulky. So I settled for a blue inkpad, a Stalogy365, a discounted Semikolon notebook and some elastic bands for my Traveller Notebook.
If you’re in Dupont Circle, I recommend stopping by. There are other great stores and museums nearby. Second Story Books is a treasure for anyone who loves used books for cheap!
I’m finally back from the dead! I apologize for the long absence. This semester was really difficult for me. Between dealing with my student job, annoying roommate, and dreaded homework, it was hard to keep up with my blog. I focused mostly on new extracurriculars and keeping my grades up. Unfortunately, all my creative outlets fell by the wayside, including writing this blog. 😦 However, I did find a fun new hobby: art!!!!
I always liked drawing characters from the stories I wrote. But when I got older, I was intimidated by my amazing artist friends and stopped drawing. I never really improved past stick figures. But this year, I took an intro art class and drew five pages in a sketchbook every week! I was drawing much more than ever before. One of my aforementioned artist friends also encouraged my art. This time, I didn’t let insecurity stop me but kept on trying. In six months, I definitely improved! But I still have a long way to go. Maybe later I’ll show an album of my progress. Here’s one drawing I made recently:
With the paycheck from my job, I also bought Copic markers!!! For those who don’t know, they are alcohol markers that can be blended together to make watercolor-like drawings. They are amazing but so expensive. I wish I got a whole set in Japan, but unfortunately I didn’t have enough room in my suitcase. 😦 So in December I picked out 45 individual markers for around $260. Yes expensive I know. But I already had other markers I collected over the years. My collection is now around 75 markers. I’ve wanted them for years now so I think that was a paycheck well spent.
In other news, here are some of my currently inked pens:
My current favorite ink is the Kingdom Note Thysanostoma thysanuran ink, aka the scientific name for jellyfish!!!! It’s a vibrant purple that leans more pink than blue. In my broad Sailor Nib, it shows lots of shading. It even has a hint of black sheen on Tomoe River paper! I’m going to treasure this ink because I don’t know if I’ll ever get it again.
I wrote some stories, but mostly for my creative writing classes. However, I hit the 250 page midpoint of my Hippo Noto! Despite my initial concerns, the spine did hold up. Some of the sections felt loose but didn’t fall out. As time went on, it became harder to keep the pages flat. I’m ready to move on to the next notebook but I still have 250 more pages to go. My other journals were 200-215 pages so this sure is a change. Besides the Hippo Noto are my two Field Notes I use to jot down lists and ideas.
Here are the notebooks I filled with school notes! For the first half of the semester, I wrote with fine tip gel pens, then switched to fountain pens. On the left are two 80 page Kokuyo Soft Ring notebooks and on the right are two Kokuyo Campus notebooks. I still need to write a review on the former. I obtained mine on my Japan trip but I didn’t get enough. Turns out the ones I have aren’t available online to ship to the US at all. 😦
I have tons of new blog ideas that I hope to bring to you soon. Look out for a review of a local stationery store and my thoughts on the Stalogy365, Taroko Enigma, Story Supply Co Morning, Studio C and other notebooks!
I’m sorry, but it isn’t happening this year. For some reason, my last two Novembers weren’t busy at all. In 2016 it was the senioritis and existential dread of the presidental election that gave me the motivation to win. And in 2017, my unusually easy classes and lack of a social life allowed me to write a sequel. This year… I’m swamped with school, work, friends, and trying to carve out time for myself. My outline for Nano fell by the wayside. I think that’s a good thing. So here are my reasons to justify quitting Nano three days in:
Instead of focusing on a single, all-consuming task, I’ve diversified. What I’ve improved at this semester:
drawing, thanks to my art class I realized I actually have some skill!
writing short stories, not novels
keeping a daily diary
making friends, going out with them, being a normal human being?
holding a steady job and learning to save my money, banishing micro transactions to the abyss
procrastinating on writing stationery reviews, I’M SORRY OK
Yes, I wish I had time to write a full novel. But that means I would have to put aside my other commitments.
2. I don’t know if writing so rapidly actually produces quality work. It’s been two years since I wrote my first novel and it’s still a giant mess. The prose is choppy, there are gaping plotholes everywhere, and I made the big mistake of starting in the middle of the plot, getting to the end, then writing the beginning. DON’T DO THAT YOU WILL REGRET IT. I think my novel would have turned out better if I slowed down and concentrated on quality not quantity. Right now, the story is horrible and I’m not quite sure how to fix it. As a result, I might scrap or rewrite all 120,000 WORDS I wrote. That’s not going to be fun. O_O
3. I learned how to finish a novel. I proved myself, twice, that I can commit to writing at least 50,000 words. Before 2016, I never wrote more than 10,000 words. My stories fizzled out after a few pages. So I should be proud of how far I’ve come. I don’t need Nanowrimo anymore to inspire me to finish. And that’s the beauty of this hellish month-long torture exercise.
Goodbye, Nanowrimo. I’ve learned so much from you but now it’s time to put you aside. But I’ll always remember that sweet satisfaction of hitting my daily word count.
Lately, the world is feeling more crazy than usual. I doubt I’m the only one that feels this way. But one of the best ways to unwind is to keep a diary!
I have to admit, this is a recent habit of mine. I only started writing in a diary consistently three years ago. There are some failed attempts shoved in the back of my closet, but we don’t talk about those wretched journals. 😉 Here are the supplies you need:
One object in which you can write upon (ex: notebook, stack of printer paper stapled together, the pristine walls of your house)
An instrument to write with (ex: pen, pencil, quill, stick?)
And that’s it! The next step is to write consistently. Your entries don’t have to be daily, but try to set aside a few minutes every week to sit down and write. Use those extra minutes spent browsing on your phone to do something productive instead.
Your diary doesn’t have to be an exact recording of everything you did that day. Unless you really want to???? Instead, here are some other ideas. What’s on your mind today? What are you grateful for? What do you hate? What’s your best vacation memory? Do you have an unpopular opinion? Are there any changes you want to make in your life? I have a great list of writing prompts in this post, if you need more ideas.
A diary is simply a place for you to put down your thoughts, in however form they take shape. I’ve doodled, collaged and pasted newspaper clippings in my diaries. It’s also not a contest of how pretty your pages are. Nobody is going to see it except for you. If you enjoy drawing then go for it! If not, don’t worry.
Diaries are also great therapists. Write something that infuriates or saddens you! Then you have a few options:
Keep it as is
Tear out the pages, dispose of them however you wish (shred em!!!)
Cover up the pages with pieces of paper and tape
Make the offending pages into art. I remember seeing somewhere on reddit that someone collaged and watercolored over an entry in their diary. Turn a painful memory into something beautiful. 🙂
I hope you enjoyed this guide. Happy diary writing!
Sorry about not updating! I’ve been busy settling into school and getting used to my course work. Here are my thoughts about a new notebook I found: The Oasis Notebook.
I first discovered the Oasis Notebook when I received it as a gift at the July D.C. Pen Meetup. It was elegant, sturdy and lay flat too! I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find it again. Luckily for me, they were available at the D.C. Pen Show, right next to the Sailor table.
Profolio is a new brand from Japan, made by the famous Itoya stationery company. All of their products feature a hybrid graph ruling, using both grids and lines. They can be used for taking notes, making diagrams or tables, or writing lists. There’s a space at the top to write a date. I bought the regular A5 Oasis in a “stealthy” black and a limited edition A5 with white paper.
The Oasis lays perfectly flat, perfect for long term writing. The paper is a nice cream color. There’s shading but no sheen unfortunately. I didn’t see feathering or bleed through but there is some show through because of the thin paper. It’s very smooth and pleasant to write with. The limited edition is the same except it uses bright white paper. It’s staple bound, so doesn’t lay flat. The cover springs up once I opened it up. I prefer the bright white paper but the ruling does look harsher on it. The lighting is kind of off but I tried my best to show the contrast in paper color.
Front of page
Back of Page
Comparing cream to white paper
I enjoy these notebooks and can’t wait to see more from Profolio! They are available online at Amazon and Anderson Pens. The Oasis comes in black, green and red covers. I haven’t seen the limited edition for sale online.
I bought these notebooks with my own funds. I was not paid for this review.
For the second time, I’ve been burned by Kickstarter. The first time was with the Hippo Noto’s long wait time and questionable sturdiness. At least the Elemental Notebooks delivered fast. Also, the chemistry-themed design is spectacular, living up to every picture released. It reminds me of another cloth-covered favorite, Baron Fig notebooks. I bought the Nitrogen and Hydrogen, and a set of Unobtanium pocket notebooks. (I forgot Oxygen had the blue cover, this is why I hated Chemistry lol) But the paper is more important than anything else for me, so the Elemental Notebooks were a massive letdown.
Once again, I’m late to the show. Check out Mountain of Ink’s review here. In the next paragraphs, I review the Nitrogen notebook and the Unobtanium add-ons.
100 gsm cream dot grid paper
A5 size, or 3.5 by 5.5 inches for Unobtanium
$20 per notebook, pocket Unobtaniums were add-ons for $12
two ribbon bookmarks
no table of contents or numbered pages
I was impressed by the Elemental notebooks as soon as I got them. The packaging is gorgeous! The notebooks come in black slipcases that explain the element the notebook is named after. The cover is made of a slightly rough cloth, with no decorations on the front. It reminds me of an old library book, especially with the indent near the spine. The dark green of Nitrogen is beautiful. The endpapers are well thought out. There’s a space in the shape of the periodic table to put your name in. The bottom of the spine is imprinted with gold foil showing the periodic element. It’s a nice touch. The edges of the book are tinted black with tiny colorful stripes meant to emulate the emissions spectrum of Nitrogen.
The Unobtanium notebooks have the element stamped in green foil on the lower right side. It’s made of a soft pleather material. They are the size of Field Notes, but have stitched bindings like Baron Fig Vanguards.
But the paper is where it all goes downhill… I opened up my Nitrogen to see large, dark, dots. I hate when the ruling is too dark. It distracts me from my writing and looks generally unpleasant. But then I used my new Sailor Kingdom Note fountain pen to write the header and was instantly disappointed.
Feathering everywhere! No shading, only a flat color. Something I’ve noticed with bad paper is that “splotches” appear, instead of shading. I experienced that here. There was more show through than I’d like, but it’s not terrible. The paper itself was an off-white color, with some tooth to it, like Baron Fig. This paper is really bad. It’s usable with gel pens, ballpoints and pencils, but the dots are still too dark for me. So I don’t know what to use these for? The Unobtanium has the same paper. At least I use those for taking quick notes and the dot grid doesn’t matter as much.
Comparing the dot grid on the Confidant, on top, with the bottom Elemental notebook
Honestly, I feel misled. The creators of Elemental notebooks specifically said the paper was good for fountain pens. They even posed the Oxygen with a blue TWSBI Eco-T in a promotional picture! They also said the dark dots were part of the prototype and would be lighter in the final production. I wouldn’t have spent $47 on these notebooks if I knew they weren’t fountain pen friendly.
Comparison to Baron Fig:
The Elemental Notebook just begs comparison with the Baron Fig! I’m a huge fan of the BF Confidant, so this newcomer had a lot to live up to. I’d say BF won, for pure stylishness and usable paper. My Nitrogen is a typical A5 size, while the Confidant is more compact. The ribbons on Nitrogen are longer, and there’s two of them. See how they lay flat and are easy to pull on? That’s what BF needs. The stubby bookmark isn’t enough for me.
The Nitrogen is more like a library book, complete with the crease near the spine and rough linen cover. The Confidant is like a luxury product, with softer covers and a modern style.
The Confidant wins the paper battle, by far. First of all, its dot grid is large but a soft gray. The Nitrogen has the problem of both dark and large dots, which makes writing very distracting.
The Confidant doesn’t have the luxurious Tomoe River feeling, but I actually like the slight tooth while using my fountain pens. Nib sizes tend to spread a bit, but don’t feather. The colors are vibrant and accurate. Honestly, I’ve only used the limited edition Confidants, and other reviews have made me question the paper quality. I want to do my own test on the regular Confidant. But the Nitrogen feathers and spreads everywhere. Instead of shading, I get weird splotchiness.
front of Baron Fig paper
back of Baron Fig Paper
Overall, if you want a cloth-cover A5 notebook with dot grid, get the Baron Fig. It’s cheaper at $18 and has better paper.
I think I’ve learned my lesson about not funding kickstarters. Both times, I’ve been disappointed. The nature of a kickstarter is itself fickle. It’s easy to run out of money, find problems in production, or deliver months late. I don’t blame the creators for running into problems, but I’m done accepting them. From now on, I’m ordering notebooks that are in regular production.
I bought these notebooks with my own funds. I was not paid for this review.
Note: This is part of a series. Read my other posts here, here, and here. 🙂
I’m sad to say that I’m back home now. Japan was a wonderful experience and two weeks didn’t feel like enough time. Unfortunately, we didn’t go to Osaka so I didn’t see Nagasawa. 😦 I did check out the Traveler’s Factory and Muji in Narita airport though.
I was excited to see this Muji-to-go after seeing all the great stationery stocked in convinence stores. But the selection was small and not very exciting.
However, The Traveler’s Factory sold Traveler’s Notebooks and its accessories. For those who don’t know, TN’s are leather covers that can hold small notebooks, or “inserts”. This allows you to carry around several notebooks in a portable package. I bought inserts with special covers exclusive to this store. I also bought vintage-style Pan Am stickers. My dad bought a brass bullet pencil and ballpoint. He was actually interested by the shop! My plan to convert my family is working. 😉
I also bought some stationery from convenience stores. The most common ones were Family Mart and 7/11. Yes, the latter is apparently very popular in Japan. These small stores actually have good selections of name-brand stationery like Kokuyo and Muji. Some 7/11’s had their own branded notebooks too! The items here were cheap yet high-quality.
I’m still surprised that such nice stationery is widely available and cheap. I’m used to the terrible paper sold in U.S. stores. I spotted nice pens used for signing stuff a few times. I guess Tombow pencils and Uni Sign pens are the equivalents of Ticonderoga’s and Sharpies in Japan!
Found at the Edo-Tokyo Museum
Found at the Meiji Shrine
I hope you enjoyed my blog series! I’ll try to post more reviews but college is starting up for me and I need time to settle in. For those who are interested, here are some non-stationery related pictures of my vacation: