Paperchase NOTO journal (large, brown) review. A lesson in line spacing.

Buying a new journal is a wonderful thing. There is the anticipation of unwrapping it and opening its crisp new pages, trying out the paper and putting it into service, with all the potential enjoyment that this offers.

While prowling the aisles at Paperchase recently, I picked up this Paperchase NOTO journal. Available in different colours and sizes, I first saw a smaller, black covered version, unwrapped for display. The nicest thing about it is the leather-look cover, which does look very much like leather with its mottled tones and grain. It feels like leather too, soft and pleasant to the touch.

I decided to get the larger one, in brown, which appeared to be A5 (although not exactly), with an elastic loop closure, a ribbon page marker and 224 ruled pages.

This was sealed in shrink-wrap and so the only other visible indication of its specifications was on a paper insert saying “specially handmade for Paperchase in Italy using recycled paper” and bearing a symbol of ruled lines and then the price sticker on the back: “LRG JOURNAL NOTO BROWN 120 PAGE”, made in Italy, and the price. On Paperchase’s own website, where you can order online, the description includes the statement, “Being made in Italy especially for Paperchase, it has natural quality and style”.

As a veteran of notebook purchases, I now have a three-point routine on getting my new notebook home. First, is to number the pages. I find this inexplicably soothing and satisfying. There were 224, not 120. Second, is to try various fountain pen and ink combinations, starting from the back pages. This gives you a good sense of the type of paper that you are dealing with and its limitations, as you check for bleed through, absorbancy (or woolliness and feathering) and show through. It also overcomes first page nerves.

The third thing, (which I have now learned from purchasing this notebook) is to check the line spacing properly, preferably before you buy. I am a wide line person. Given the choice when buying a pad of file paper, of wide or narrow line spacing, I pick the wide.

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Paperchase NOTO journal with Tesco cartridge/converter pen

 

I had not before measured what line spacing I liked and at what point the narrowness veers towards irritation and annoyance. However a simple and accurate check can be made by counting the rows in your new notebook, measuring the total height of those rows and then dividing the total height by the number of rows.

In the case of the Paperchase NOTO (large), you have 26 rows in which to write, measuring 182mm in total, which gives a row height of 7mm.

I noticed that this was somewhat narrower than the spacing on the paper insert behind the shrink wrap would suggest,  which I later measured as 44mm / 5 = 8.8mm. I also noticed that the page lines do not quite go to the edge of the paper, but stop with a margin of 9mm. Ha! This means that you cannot see the ends of the printed lines when looking at the closed notebook sideways on, which might have given you an idea of whether the line spacing is suitable or not, when the book is sealed in shrink wrap.

This led me to get out a pile of different notebooks and journals that I had used, of varying line widths, to find my preferred row height. What I learned from this exercise, is that most of these had a line width of 8.00mm or above. The widest (another Paperchase A5 journal with bonded leather cover) actually gave a very generous 10mm. The worst, was a Ryman A5 diary which I had very nearly given up on after a few days’ use, having a stingey line width of just 5.8mm. This annoyed me every day for a year. On some days I wrote on alternate lines.

A difference between 8mm and 7mm might not sound much, but it is a drop of 12.5%.

Coming back to the NOTO, it does feel well made, with proper stitched binding. The pages measure 142mm x 210mm, (which I think is just slightly narrower than A5, but the same height). The paper is of a cream or ivory colour. The weight in gsm is not given but it is reasonably thick and not flimsy. It is a recycled paper, acid free, chlorine free and pH neutral.

I do like the appearance and feel of the leather-look cover. It remains to be seen how this will wear over time if carried around.

Having bought it specifically to use with fountain pens, I was eager to try some. Whilst the paper looks and feels smooth and pleasant, it did seem a little on the absorbant and fibrous side, leading to a slightly wide and woolly line. Some feathering can be seen, especially if examined under a loupe. I have used other Paperchase notebooks with crisper results. Waterman Tender Purple ink in a Platinum 3776 Century, produced a particularly high level of bleed through. Conway Stewart Tavy, by Diamine, (my current favourite blue black) in a Kaweco Dia 2, also suffered bleed through, such that the other side of the page was border-line unusable. On the other hand, Waterman Audacious Red ink which I currently have in a Cross Century II, a Lamy Vista and Noodlers Ahab, fared well although you can produce bleed through if you try, by adding some pressure for a wetter line.

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Bleed through, worst from Waterman Tender Purple ink in a broad nibbed Platinum 3776 Century.

 

For black inks, I remembered my Sailor Kiwa-guro black pigment ink. I tried this first in a Platinum Preppy 0.5mm (medium nib). The ink performed well with this paper with no bleed through, minimal show through and with less feathering than with the other inks, thus giving a crisper edge to the lines. However the 0.5 nib was perhaps too wide for my smallish handwriting and for the 7mm line width.

The best match that I have found so far, is the same Sailor Kiwa-guro black ink but in a finer nib. I used a cheap, £2.00 cartridge pen from Tesco, a clear and red plastic demonstrator yet which has a nib that I particularly enjoy, unmarked but I would guess a medium/fine with a pleasant feedback. I use this with a converter.  I have often marveled at how good this pen is, defying its modest cost.

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Sailor Kiwa-guro black pigment ink used with a Tesco cartridge-converter pen. Performed particularly well on this recycled paper.

Since buying the NOTO journal, I have looked for reviews online. An old one from 9 April 2010 on FPN by ImolaS3, compared a variety of notebooks then available in the UK and concluded that the Paperchase NOTO was the best by far. I wonder whether the paper might perhaps have been different then from my example with its recycyled paper, since my experience was rather mixed, until I discovered a winning combination of pen and ink to pair with it.

In summary, I think this is a good-looking journal, in a practical, portable size. The 7mm line width is slightly narrower than my ideal row height but this is a matter of personal preference. The key issue is whether the paper will work for you. But if you are prepared to experiment a little to find which pen and ink combinations suit the paper, then you will be fine.

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End page. Acid free, Chlorine free, ph Neutral and Selected recycled fibres.

Paperchase Inky Swirls Open Spine Notebook review

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Paperchase, Inky Swirls Open Spine notebook, with Cleo Skribent Classic Metal, piston filler.

For the notebook enthusiast, Paperchase has a lot to offer. For those unfamiliar with the name, Paperchase is a chain of high street stationery shops here in the UK, selling pens, greeting cards, novelty gifts and stationery supplies as well as numerous styles of notebooks. The shops are bright and attractive although the displays of fountain pens in spot-lit glass-shelved cabinets, are very uniform from branch to branch. You will never see a fountain pen displayed at an angle of other than 90 or 180 degrees on the shelf and equidistant from its neighbour. Not that this a bad thing particularly. I enjoy browsing and shopping there. They also have a loyalty card offering various special offers and benefits.

On a recent visit, I noticed a new type of notebook. Available with a choice of cover design, (I chose the Inky Swirls), this measures 216mm x 172mm (8.5 inches x 6.8 inches). It contains 288 pages, of cream (not quite white) paper, with headings “SUBJECT” and “DATE” at the top of each page. Lines are ruled, in a reasonably wide format that I like, giving 22 rows per page (not including your header and footer area).

What sets this note book apart however, is that the pages are sewn AND the notebook does not have a covered spine! At first glance, it looks like a book from which the spine has come off. Instead, you look directly upon the neat row of batches of sewn pages.

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The unusual exposed binding of the open spine notebook

The colourful front and back cardboard covers are attached, with dark grey end papers. The notebook is nicely bound, but the absence of a spine looks a bit odd at first.

The great advantage though, is that the notebook will open and lay flat easily at any page. This is quite unusual.

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Notebook opens flat with ease.

At home I paginated my notebook (surprisingly relaxing, thanks for asking) and then tried out a few different fountain pens on the last page to see how the paper behaved. I found it very smooth and pleasant to write on. However, the ink did bleed through the paper with most of the pen and ink combinations that I tried, to the extent that you might use only one side of each sheet, if you are fountain pen user. There were some combinations that fared better. My Cleo Skribent Classic with fine stainless steel nib (currently inked with Cross black) writes a very fine line and did not bleed through. Also My Pelikan M800, medium nib, with Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue did quite well at avoiding bleedthrough, (unless you let the nib linger too long in one spot). On the other hand, a very wet Sheaffer 100 with a Sheaffer Skrip blue cartridge, bled like a stuck pig.

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The back of a page, demonstrating bleedthrough from a Sheaffer 100 inked with Sheaffer Skrip blue cartridge.

In the UK we have a saying, that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes. This set me thinking that perhaps there may be no such thing as not fountain pen friendly; you just need to find the right friend.

For example, I have been reading a very cheap penguin paperback edition of William Wordsworth Selected Poems.  The yellowed, coarse paper is of the type that you would probably not even consider writing on with a fountain pen. Ironically, some of the most beautiful poetry in the English language, printed on some of the worst paper. However with a bit of trial and error I found that the ultra fine Cleo Skribent Classic with Cross black is also able to write on this without undue feathering, bleed or showthrough. It is satisfying to find combinations which cater to a paper’s strengths or weaknesses.

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The Cleo Skribent Classic with stainless steel fine nib. There was no bleedthrough with Cross Black ink.  

I am fond of the cheap edition of Wordsworth’s poems. I don’t mind that the cover gets creased and dog-eared.  And I don’t need to feel too worried about scribbling in it. In a way, the Paperchase open spine notebook looks a little like a book that has been pre-loved and worn.  I rather like it.

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The Pelikan M800 likes this notebook. No bleedthrough, with Graf von Faber-Castell, Cobalt Blue.

Paperchase A6+ Flexi Linen Notebook review.

wp-1489261822080.jpgMy liking for notebooks goes back to childhood when it was a treat to visit Arthur Birds, our local independent stationer and book seller in Ickenham, a villagey suburb on the outskirts of London. Then, as now, I appreciated good quality and for a notebook, that included having stitched binding so that you could open the book flat without risk of the pages breaking loose.

Today I am looking at a notebook from Paperchase. A sticker on the back cover describes this a COLOURED SQ GEO A6+ FLEXI LINEN NOTEBOOK. They are made in the UK and sell for £8.00. Happily I picked up mine for £4.00 during a sale.

The “coloured sq geo” refers to the cover design and there are several other options. This one consists of a geometric pattern of squares in shades of purple and white. It also  has purple endpapers, a matching purple bookmark and purple headband (the pretty piece of material like a small caterpiller at the top and bottom of the binding).

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The book contains 320 ruled pages of almost white (ivory?) paper, with a pleasantly generous line spacing. There are 17 rows to a page, measuring 137mm (not including the top and bottom margins) and so this means each row has a height of 8.059mm. Personally I find this ideal as I am not so keen on narrow line spacing.

I should mention that the book is actually larger than A6. I assume that this is why it is called A6+. The pages measure 163mm x 119mm and the covers are slightly larger all round, to protect the paper. This is a very useful and convenient size to carry in a bag or large coat pocket without being too bulky and heavy.

The cover material is hard to identify. It does have a pleasant texture and the covers are flexible, but I am not sure if it is linen. Whilst it has a cloth-bound feel, I would guess it to be some sort of man-made material, but whatever it is, it is nice to hold and feels tough and hard wearing.

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The binding, I am delighted to say, is very well done, with 10 sewn batches of folded leaves and a pleasing, rounded fore edge to the leaves. The book can be flexed in the hand as you flick through the pages, yet the cover seems sturdy and protective. All in all it feels very well made.

The paper is very smooth to the touch and of an ideal weight, being neither too thin and see-through nor too thick and stiff. The weight is not stated. I would guess it to be a little heavier than your typical 70 or 80gsm office paper and so perhaps somewhere around 100gsm.

For the fountain pen user, the paper is smooth and I have not experienced any feathering or bleeding with any pen and ink combinations that I have tried so far. Show-through is minimal. I would describe this as fountain pen friendly paper.  I would just caution that if you have a very smooth, highly polished nib, it may skate around on this paper and struggle to lay ink down. I think it needs a nib which is a little “toothy” to make the best use of this paper. Recently I have been enjoying a new Cleo Skribent piston-fill fountain pen with a stainless steel, fine nib. The paper is not overly absorbent and the ink does not spread and so a very fine nib does produce a very fine line. The nib on the Cleo Skribent is quite amazing and with no pressure will lay down a line on even the smoothest of papers.

When I buy a new notebook I like to try out a few different pens on the back page to check for feathering and bleeding and general fountain pen friendliness. I then like to paginate it, with pencil or ballpoint pen so that I can go through the whole book quite quickly.

I was sufficiently delighted with this book to go back for two more, even though these were back at the usual price of £8.00. For the many hours of use that I will get from 320 pages, I think this is great value these days.

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Paperchase Soft Flexible Journal, a brief review.

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I have recently come to the end of my first one of these. I had written the date in the front, 10 October 2015, so it has lasted me over a year. To give it its full title, this is the A6 Black 300 Page Leatherlook Note Book. It is made in Spain and sold by Paperchase, a chain of stationery shops here in the UK.

However, according to my dictionary, a “leaf” is the term for a portion of a book of which each side is a page. What they should have called this, is a 600 page note book.

600 pages! That is too many to paginate, but also too many not to paginate. I did in fact chose to paginate mine, although this takes a certain amount of fortitude and patience. You might not want to tackle it all in one sitting.

A6 size is approximately 6″ x 4″ or 150mm x 100mm and the book is 25mm thick. The black cover has a pleasant matte, leathery feel and is soft and flexible, like a paperback novel. The paper is white, with squares comprised of pale grey lines (yet on very close inspection these turn out to be more like a blue or purple). The line spacing is a little too narrow for single line writing unless you have very small handwriting but you may write on every other row, to give a generous wide line spacing if preferred.

The best thing about it though, is that the paper is remarkably fountain pen friendly. It is a 70gsm paper, smooth without being overly glossy and does not suffer from feathering or bleed-through. Show-through is minimal and so you can write on both sides and really make use of those 600 pages. For the purpose of this post, I did try using Pelikan Edelstein Tanzanite (which is my “most-prone-to-bleed-through” ink) with a glass dip pen and having shaded a block of six squares in a pool of wet ink, I was able to produce just the beginnings of some bleed-through on the reverse, but you would not do this in normal writing conditions.

The pages (or leaves) appear to be glued rather than stitched, but the binding is strong and after a year’s use I have not had any pages breaking loose. You need to be a little careful not to crack it open too flat but the cover and spine are flexible and floppy. The cover will get a little creased and dog-eared with time. It is a good size to write with, on your knee.

I have enjoyed using it very much. Flicking back through, I see that I used it mostly for sampling various fountain pen and ink combinations, occasionally writing a list of what pens were inked and with which inks, records of purchases at pen shows, music that I had listened to, notes from TV documentaries, names of contestants and their professional dance partners in “Strictly Come Dancing” (doesn’t everyone do that? Oh.), colour samples of inks, doodles and sketches and just gratuitous fountain pen writing for no reason other than the joy and therapy of putting pen to paper.

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Once I realised how much I liked this notebook, I went to another branch to buy a spare and was disappointed to find that there was none in stock. I looked on line at Paperchase’s web site and found a statement that it was a  favourite but out of stock at that time. They seemed to disappear for a while. Back in the branch last December, I bought the closest equivalent that I could find, which was an Agenzio soft black, ruled notebook, with the same leather-effect cover, sewn (yay!) and with 384 pages,  but crucially for me, was not fountain pen friendly and every pen and ink that I tried bled through (with the exception of a Platinum Preppy extra-fine 0.2mm nib with a black cartridge) and so you could not use both sides of the paper with a fountain pen.

I kept an eye open for the 600 page notebook whenever I was in one of their stores and happily, they did reappear in time for me to buy another before finishing my first one. I was so delighted that I bought two of them. And then, inexplicably, another two.

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Here are the new notebooks, still with their protective sleeves, next to a Parker IM (new version) which I have included for scale. Keen-eyed readers may recognise that the pen rests are crafted from blocks of sponge which are part of the packaging of Pelikan Edelstein inks.

The notebooks are priced at £7.00. Finally, I have no affiliation with Paperchase (although I spend rather too much time in their shops) and am not paid or compensated in any way for this review. But these are great notebooks. Credit where it is due.