Wednesday, November 11, 2015

More Bookbinding & Bartering: Blue leather journal

Another bartering opportunity presented itself when I asked Volker (PenParadise) whether he wanted to trade some of my bookbinding work for a TWSBI Vac which I had coveted for a while. He agreed so as a part of the trade I made this journal in deep royal blue and radiant orange, some of his favorite colors.

The leather is some veg tanned and rather pricey oasis goatskin. The grain and surface are marvellous but it's much too thick for good results so there's a lot of paring to do beforehand. Luckily I own a Schärf-Fix (which is tricky to master but oh so powerful) now but even so I spent what felt like hours working on it, carefully skiving off layer after layer. It's so easy to produce holes and ruin the piece. Didn't happen here though - phew.

Inside there's chamois Karstadt System Inkjet paper with a custom printed dot grid. I hope Volker will put it to lots of use!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Weekly Pens, Week 45 2015: Sparkles & Demonstrators

As daylight is becoming increasingly rare these days my "weekly pens" shots have been rather subdued this week.

As the new pen roll (which is awesome and which I still haven't shown you in full!) holds 8 pens, consequently the number of inked pens has grown to 8 as well and I'm even having difficulties sticking to this number! This is partly because I'm having so much fun mixing inks and pearl luster pigments. I used to make my own teal & gold mix before Emerald of Chivor came out but Leigh Reyes's post about colorful luster pigments pushed me right over the edge into sparkles wonderland!

Maybe that's why I love demonstrators so much these days.

Sadly the Lamy Vista hasn't worked well with my sparkling ink mixes, when none of my TWSBIs had the slightest trouble with the amount of pigment added the Vista feed kept clogging up so I've cleaned it out and filled it with Stipula Zafferano. That one is very light indeed though so I might add some red or orange to improve legibility.

From left to right:
  • TWSBI Vac with IB nib, Octopus Karibik
  • ST Dupont Olympio XL with IM nib, Herbin Bleu Ocean
  • Pelikan Fantasia with IBB nib, Herbin Gris Orage
  • TWSBI Eco with 1,1 italic, Iroshizuku Yama Budo (+ sparkles)
  • Conway Stewart Churchill with IB nib, Octopus Karamell (+ sparkles)
  • Montegrappa Miya Argento with IB nib, Sheaffer Skrip Black (+ sparkles)
  • Lamy Vista with 1,1 italic, Stipula Zafferano
  • Montegrappa Extra 1930 with IB nib, Noodler's Cayenne

Monday, October 26, 2015

Weekly Pens: Week 43 - 2015

It's been a while since the last Weekly Pens!

Here's the pens I'm using this week. It's a wild mix but consistent in terms of nibs - all italics.

Montegrappa Miya Argento - IB nib - Sheaffer Skrip Black with multicolored pearl shimmer
ST Dupont Olympio - IM nib - Herbin Bleu Ocean
Pelikan Fantasia - IBB nib - Herbin Gris Orage
Conway Stewart Churchill - IB nib - Octopus Karamell with gold shimmer
Lamy Vista - 1,1 nib - Iroshizuku Yama Budo with pearl shimmer
TSWBI VAC - IB nib - Octopus Karibik

I've clearly been bitten by the shimmer bug but instead of investing in the Diamine Shimmertastic ink range I've started experimenting with mica shimmer of which I still had a fair amount left from soapmaking (as I've realized I prefer soap without any color in it).
I make sure to use those mixes only in pens which I can take apart completely and scrub the feed clean if need be.

Admiring the sparkles float around in the ink I noticed that I "needed" more demonstrators so I got the Lamy Vista - my only Lamy pen, I'm not a fan usually but the eyedropper Vista looks cool and the factory italic isn't bad either.

Also I managed to barter for the TWSBI VAC which is awesome! Thanks Volker, your notebook is almost finished.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Handmade Leather Kindle Cover & Making of Pictures

About this time last year I got a half leather Kindle cover from Bomo Art. I loved it but it didn't hold up to daily use very well. My Kindle goes wherever I go and so does its case. It is pulled out of and stuffed back into my bag several times a day. A paper cover, even if reinforced with leather at spine and corners, is too flimsy for that so I decided a full leather cover would be better.

I measured my Kindle and cut some 2 mm cardboard for the covers and some slightly thinner one for the spine. For the front cover I made a debossed design similar to the red Carta Fiorentina journal from my last post.

In this picture the cardboard is ready to be covered with leather.
I chose thin calfskin in a very light natural tan tone but was looking for something a tad darker with an antique-ish finish. Back to dying with ink then! On my first attempt of doing that I merely painted the leather with a brush but I didn't like the durability, it really needed the Acrylic Resolene to stay put and not bleed, so I tried another method this time.
I used fountain pen ink again with good results, specifically Herbin Ambre de Birmanie.

Ink is rubbed into the leather with cotton balls (I'd advise wearing gloves)...

... let dry, then rubbed again with clear water. The dye is worked into the surface, excess dye is removed, making sure the fingers stay clean when handling the finished product.
Rinse and repeat until the results are satisfactory. As long as you don't soak the leather it will take this procedure quite well.

Leather is awesome for bookbinding but it comes with a catch: It's usually a little too thick and stiff, especially when covering the corners. To avoid bulky corners it helps to pare the leather down a bit, making it thinner and more pliable.

To do this you can use all sorts of knives and machinery. I like this little toy which is called a leather skiver:

A tool to peel leather like an apple. Works best with veg tanned leather.
Time for the results:

The inside is covered with bookcloth and marbled paper. The Kindle is attached using double-sided tape. I used bookcloth underneath it so the tape can be replaced without ripping anything.

Debossed design on the front cover

After the dying procedure the leather usually looks a little matte. With this one I didn't use any finisher products but it did regain some sheen with use from rubbing and hand oils.

I gave this one to my Mom meanwhile to replace her machine made cover. She especially likes the feel of the leather.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

3 Takes on a Carta Fiorentina Notebook

This post is going to be picture heavy but I just had to take a lot of photos!

"Carta Fiorentina" is a range of traditional Italian paper patterns. They all have this cheerful but nostalgic vibe and I especially adore the floral patterns.
Also in my opinion they go really well with almost every shade of brown. To enhance their air of nostalgia I chose leather for spine and corners. They are approximately 21 x 13 cm - this is because the paper had an unusual format to begin with. They have about 140 pages.

I used two different leathers, natural tan calfskin dyed with ink (Diamine Chocolate Brown) and sealed with Fiebing's Acrylic Resolene and reddish brown sheepskin. Also I made some "fake nerves" for the spine.

Those two have hand sewn book blocks made of 110 gsqm grey-brown laid paper. It has nice deckled edges so I chose not to trim the edges. (Also I still don't have a good paper cutter so I'm having trouble getting straight and smooth cuts).

It was my first attempt at dying leather and if not for the Acrylic Resolene the color would bleed and rub off a lot. Since then I've tried another way to dye leather which worked out much better.

There are so many colors in the Carta Fiorentina pattern it's easy to pick one for endbands and ribbons.
The paper is a little on the rough side but it tolerates fountain pen ink pretty well.

The third take on Carta Fiorentina is somewhat different. I made a debossed design based on the floral vines and lined it with red book cloth.

It took me quite a while to finish the intricate details of the vine.

For the book block I used some Neusiedler Japan Post paper I had dyed and distressed using strong espresso. The paper is usually high white and now has a brownish tinge and some stains here and there.
The book is A5 size and has matching Carta Fiorentina endpapers. It has about 200 pages.

The bookcloth is red but with a layer of green underneath. You usually just see the red but near edges or when looking at the book from different angles you get a flash of the green from time to time.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Omas Outing

Went to meet some fountain pen friends and one of them wanted to see some Omas pens, so I grabbed them and took a family photo.

Omas Extra Lucens, Ogiva Autumno, Paragon Arco old style, Ogiva Vintage saft green

Only after I had packed them I realized I'd forgotten the Bibliotheque Nationale. Bummer.

I think the Extra Lucens is the star of the bunch though its partial transparency looks only half as great when empty.

Backdrop: My new and gorgeous pen wrap! It's still a little blotchy from the leather oil but that should have resolved itself by next week, then I'll show it in all its glory.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Benefits of Bartering

A friend who is really proficient at sewing is making me a pen roll - and not just of any material but of this amazing leather!

This will be the outside of the roll, the inside will be made of somewhat thinner natural tan leather and hold 8 pens, 4 thick and 4 slim ones. There will also be a flap to protect the pen's caps from rubbing against each other. It should be ready some time this week and I'm really excited! I've always wanted to have a pen roll but the ones I saw never appealed to me.

What's best is I'm allowed to pay for this with a handmade journal. I think the pen roll should be ready some time this week and the notebook is already finished: dark brown leather with Italian peacock paper cover.

A 5 sized journal with leather back & corners

This paper is gorgeous. I have some stationery with this motif and had been looking to buy a matching journal a while back but couldn't find a convenient option. Of course I'll have to part with this one - it goes to a young woman who is a psychologist -, but I have more than enough of this paper left to make another one for myself.

Sprinkled edges. At the far left: curious tomcat's whiskers!

I pressed the book block firmly between two boards using winches, then sprinkled the edges with watercolor in various shades of blue to match the cover.

I'm not sure how these ridges on the spine are called in English. (If you know, leave a comment!) In any case they complete the nostalgic look.

Spine and corners are made of heavy grain lambskin. It's a little hard to work with as it's quite stiff but I really like the look of it on the finished book.

I love bartering like this, wish there were more opportunities for it.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Summer Mail - Birds and Cats

Enjoying a warm summer evening on the balcony, penning a letter to a dear friend with my Pelikan Fantasia. My tomcat Chaplin quietly relaxing next to me.

The Fantasia, currently with a BB italic nib, has been inked since I got it last winter (with Herbin Stormy Grey, though many inks will look nice with this pen and nib). Pelikan M1000s are just great writers overall.

If you'd like to know more about the pen you could check out my post from back then with more infos and photos.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

To Feast One's Eyes

The days are growing shorter, the nights chillier. All the kids have gone back to school. Fall is nearing.

What I loved about going back to school when I was a kid? Not too much obviously, but going to the paper store and getting a stack of new and shiny school things had a certain appeal. I was really untidy back then (in fact sometimes I still have a hard time tidying up) and the wonderfully smooth, clean and crisp covers of my composition notebooks never stayed that way for long.
Every now and then my watercolor paint-box was so beat up I needed a new one and the rows of perfect, smooth and shiny paint pots were a marvel, made complete by a tiny tube of gouache. Each time I made a resolution to keep this one clean at all times. I even remember trying for a little while; cleaning the casing, wiping out the pots after mixing colors. I didn't manage for long though. Soon everything was back to normal: color all over the casing, the tube of gouache lost etc.

When I got another watercolor paint-box last year my approach had changed a bit. I had learned to appreciate signs of use and see their beauty. What has remained though is a love for color palettes.

These are ribbon pagemarkers and end bands for bookbinding. The end bands go at the top and the bottom of the book block, near the spine. It makes the book look nicer and to a degree hides irregularities in the binding. 
An eBay seller offered a selection of those in various color ranges. I love ideas like these, you can try all the colors but don't burden yourself with huge quantities. 

I'm not sure if I'll ever use the fuchsia. Silver and white are no-brainers I guess.

Sometimes I just love organizing these things and getting ideas for projects to come. I cut some scrap cardboard into makeshift bobbins so I could store them neatly wrapped and sorted instead of stuffing them into a plastic bag.

I should order more orange, it's almost gone.
Also I need to use turquoise, petrol, white, cream... sheesh.

Also my bookbinding yarns were all over the place until this perfect glass jar showed up in the kitchen. 

That orange yarn is one of my favorites for coptic binding. It's about 1 mm thick and very pleasant in looks and handling alike.

Do you like color palettes and do you like to organize your stuff? What exactly and why?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Notebook Giveaway - The winners

Thanks for your interest in my giveaway! 

For lack of competition the winners are clear:

Verba Volant, Scripta Manent & Semikolon: Gwen Beau

Whitelines Lined: drasir

Italian leather journal: Nomad60900

Some of you have already PMed me on other platforms. I don't have any contact data from Gwen Beau yet so please PM me on FPN, FPGeeks (elderberry) or Penexchange (Holunderbeere) or leave a comment (I know you have already but then removed it) as I will need your shipping data! 

I will ship the notebooks next week and hope you'll all have lots of fun with them!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Paper love - A rose is a rose leather journal

Had weird weather for the last weekends, so much time for crafty stuff and here's a another notebook bound in camel brown calfskin. My first attempt at a full leather binding. With that book I hadn't started to pare down the leather near the corners so those look a little bulky. Also the spacing between spine and front/back cover should've been somewhat larger. I'm still OK with the overall result. It has a very rugged, solid feel to it.

I picked that postcard up at a small tattoo convention, it's advertisement for a Giessen tattoo parlor. Very nice design I think!

The postcard sits in a slight indentation to give some protection from wear and tear.

A while back a bought a selection of end bands and ribbon bookmarks in all kinds of colors which was a really great find. I chose something in pale pink to match the roses.

Goes well with the pink Caran d'Ache Leman!

Not much to say about the paper, ready made book block with 144 chamois blank pages, slight laid texture, very nice paper and overall quality. Just can't go wrong with those but they become a bit boring. Some books with handmade book blocks are coming up!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

These Beautiful Pens Notebook Giveaway

I love paper and notebooks and I've bought a lot of them in the past. Now that I've started to bind my own books and choose exactly what paper and covers I'd like the time has come to admit that some of them will never get any use from me. I thought about giving them to goodwill but then giving them away via the blog might be much more fun!

So if you'd like to receive a free notebook, have a look at what's on offer.

All notebooks are in good condition, occasionally have been tested with fountain pens on one page. That page has been removed.

from left to right:

  • Italian leather notebook: dark red sheepskin cover with heraldic embossing, cream lined pages., slightly smaller than A5 size, quite thick. Very ink friendly.
  • Whitelines Lined: A5 size. Did not work with my fountain pens.
  • Semikolon: ca. 12 x 17 cm, quite thick (2,5 cm), ribbon bookmarks, elastic closure, pocket in the back cover, pencil loop with matching pencil. Lilac velours cover. Blank cream paper with a a laid texture, Semikolon uses awesome paper usually

  • Verba volant, Scripta manent: A5 size, coptic binding & glue, filled with blank paper in white, grey, ochre, green and blue. 160 pages. Ink friendliness not tested but paper feels nice.
  • Rannenberg & Friends "Kladde": cahier style A5 size notebook, blank pages. Not for fountain pens, feathers!
  • Christian Lacroix notebook: ca. 12 x 17 cm, lined paper, ribbon bookmark and printed flyleaves, very smooth, coated. Works with most inks, others just won't stick to it, like writing on glossy paper.

Caution: Due to shipping cost I have to limit this giveaway to recipients within Germany! 

If you would like to receive one of these books, just leave a comment and tell me what you like about this particular one! You can also choose more than one but please bear in mind that Büchersendung shipping should still be applicable. Especially the thicker books are rather heavy.

The giveaway will stay open until August 16th or til all notebooks are gone! 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A few lines a day - 5 Year Diaries

I intended to publish this post way back in January when the timing would have been perfectly suited and also took the pictures back then but then I didn't get around to it - and I don't plan to wait another 4 months so here you are!

A few years back one of my friends told me about a 10 year diary she was keeping and I found the idea intriguing. If you haven't heard of these before: They're books with one page for each day of the year, the years are lined up underneath. That way whenever you make an entry you'll be reminded of what you were up to the year(s) before.

Then in spring 2013 I bought a tiny 5 year diary by Ice Plant at RSVP Berlin. (It was this one: ) I used it until 2015 but never got totally comfortable with it, A 6 size is just too tiny and the paper didn't like fountain pens much either. So despite the 5 years being far from over I got myself a "Jahresweiser".

Jahresweiser in dark red leather
That name is a little awkward even in German and would roughly translate to "year guide", though it also hints at growing wiser with the years. In contrast to the Ice Plant book it's a true calendar - in my case for the years 2015 through 2024 - and it also tells you what weekday it is and whether today's a public holiday. (So far it's only available in German though)

The differences don't end here, the Jahresweiser is also pretty large and heavy - somewhere between A5 and A4 -, bound in leather with gilded edges and features very smooth and ink friendly paper. It even comes with an extra sheet of paper to test with your pen.

It's definitely higher quality than the Ice Plant (more expensive too as it's hand made) and clearly made to keep at your desk rather than lug it around on your travels.

The only thing I don't love about it is the leather, it's okay but the finish is not to my liking. You can also buy a Jahresweiser without covers and bind it yourself and looking back that's probably what I should have done. Back then though I couldn't foresee that I would be able to tackle such a project!

You can get one at If you prefer cloth over leather you could check out Manufactum, they sell a custom version bound in grey bookcloth.

Nice golden embossing. Can also be had in silver. There's also a cover in furnished wood.
5 year diaries are perfect for people like me who just can't manage to journal every day. For me most things run in streaks and so does keeping a journal. At times I write pages and pages, then nothing for months. It's still a nice enough pastime but the documentary value is somewhat meager. With a 5 year diary you are neither able or obliged to write a lot about your day - there isn't much room - and I usually manage to jot down a few words so blank pages are few yet.

Jahresweiser from the inside: holidays and weekdays are visible at a glance. The paper is very smooth.
If nothing in particular happened there's always dreams, books, movies, food or the weather. Weather milestones (first snow etc.) can be astonishingly interesting over the course of years.

By reading forums I found out about another type of 5 year diary and started one last winter along with the Jahresweiser: The "Q&A a day". The page setup is quite similar to a regular 5 year diary but every day asks you a question. They range from existential ("What makes you 'you'?") to trivial ("List 5 things you ate today") and plain weird ("Are you the original or the remix? Why?"). I'm far less disciplined with that one than with my regular 5 year diary but I'm still on it.

I also have to note the very nice design: embossed Kraft paper covers and gilded edges. The paper works really well with fountain pen ink.

The paper is not as smooth as in the Jahresweiser but still very nice. Haven't had any bleed through or feathering since. I exclusively use Rohrer & Klingner Salix and a very wet pen for both journals.

Do you keep a 5 or 10 year diary? If not, do you find the idea appealing?