Saturday, December 2, 2017

Review: AsianVintage Traveler's Notebooks

Today I will be reviewing for AsianVintageTN, a shop for handmade traveler's notebooks and journals made with genuine leathers. Run by Len and based in Illinois, it acts as "your source of Asian journals, planners and supplies." 

I was first drawn to these notebooks because of their similarity to the Traveler's Company notebooks (which I still refer to as Midori). I was curious to know how they would hold up. I know that a lot of writers and journalers prefer the genuine and authentic version, but I like the creativity in innovation and design. 

Len was kind enough to send me two notebook covers for review, along with refills. I received the camel and olive standard sized covers, which are currently sold for $27.00 and $35.00, respectively. 

They both arrived without any scratches, but I like to use products for a little while before putting my review in writing. Here are the covers after about two weeks of use.

The first thing I noticed was that both covers were very smooth. The camel was much softer and scuffed very easily. The camel cover had a bit more of a harder feeling to it, and did not scuff as easily. 

The bottom left corner of each back cover was stamped, though using two separate stamps.

Three blank refills, along with a zipper pouch and card slot insert, came with the notebooks. The blank inserts had stitched binding, rounded corners, and off-white paper.

There are the usual tin clasps, though they appear slightly bigger than the one on my Midori and differ in color.

The insides of the camel cover are raw and soft, whereas the olive one is smoother but still harder. Both covers have thinner leather than that used for Midori (Traveler's Company).

Above is a photo I snapped of the packaging when I first received the notebooks in the mail. The cardboard boxes and elastics are all very similar packaging to the Midori. 

I liked the shop's touch of including their own pamphlet in the front. Doesn't it make you want to travel and view nature?

Each notebook cover came in a linen bag, with an extra elastic. I ended up swapping out the main elastics for both covers, which is why the camel cover has the olive elastic and vise versa.

The olive notebook cover has an unnecessarily long elastic bookmark, which I later ended up cutting and knotting in order to match the camel one on the left. This seemed like more of a quality control issue than anything else.

I noticed that the covers appeared larger. After comparing them to my black Midori, I found that they were in fact around half an inch wider. This solves the issue of overhang that a lot of TN users complain about, which often results when one uses more than two inserts in their notebook cover.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the notebooks and their quality. The leather is thinner, something I didn't personally like. The easily scuffed nature is also something to consider, depending on how fast you like your leather to show wear. For instance, my black Midori shown above has been in use for two years and I like the slow character it is gaining.

Because AsianVintage TNs look so similar to Traveler's Company, they act as a good substitute. If you appreciate their characteristics, I'd urge you to try them out.

Disclosure: I was sent these notebooks in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way. 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Service Women Stamp

The zipper pouch of my traveler's notebook plastic insert houses paper ephemera, such as an old map print and a decorative paper for French men's watches; things that I find interesting. I was able to add this 1952 3c "Service Women" stamp, a deep blue paper that shows women in uniform from the Marines, Army, Navy, and Air Corps.

It's so small in proportion to the size of the insert, but it was something that really touched me. That's why I found it nice to flip open my Midori and have it as one of the first things I look at. Girl power, am I right?

Monday, October 9, 2017

Review: Rossi 1931 Notebooks

Today I will be reviewing for Rossi 1931, an Italian stationery company founded in Borgo San Lorenzo, Florence. They produce greeting cards, journals, decorative and writing papers, and other fine stationery.

I was kindly sent ten notebooks to try out, and was excited when a huge package from Italy landed on my doorstep. 

The first three notebooks varied in size, but had the same cover material. The smallest notebook had blank pages, while the other two were lined.
The paper was a smooth and creamy off-white, on which I decided to test my most used pens -- the Pilot G-2 07 and Sakura Pigma Micron 05. 

As you can see, there is some bleed through with the Micron. I was pleased to see only some ghosting with my Pilot.

Again, minimal ghosting of the Pilot G2 is present, but nothing obstrusive.

Moving on to this style of notebook, you can see that the cover design is similar. However, the A5 size has blank pages and a sewn binding, whereas the smaller one has lined pages and spiral binding.

This A5 notebook made me smile, with its lobster cover and red underwater design. Again, this one also has blank pages and a sewn binding.

The hardcover lined notebooks pictured above made me swoon--I loved the French words and the vintage look. The larger one has gold detail, and both of their elastic closings are similar to the Moleskine.

Speaking of gold detail, this hardcover blank notebook was also a pleasure to page through. Do you see the gold-lined pages? 

This Pinocchio notebook has a fun and playful look. With the spiral binding and elastic, it looks like a very classy notebook to bring to school or work.

Overall, I am very impressed with the quality and design of these notebooks. I would be slightly wary about the type of pen to use, but Rossi notebooks work well with my primary writing utensil. While I've always been minimal with my journal covers, the decorative aspect certainly appeals to a number of vintage and stationery aficionados.

Disclosure: I was sent these notebooks in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Mushrooms and autumn

It was the first day of autumn, yesterday. I saw a mushroom peeking out from the uneven grass of someone's yard. It made me realize how much I missed painting these things of fall: fungi, colorful leaves, fiery trees.

I cannot wait.

Friday, September 15, 2017

New books, Pentel paints

It's been a little difficult waking up early again and getting back into the swing of classes, but 18th century satire should help. I've been wanting to read Candide by Voltaire for quite some time, so it was nice to find it at a used book sale earlier this week.

My brother also gave me his Pentel watercolor set, which had sat unopened for a long time. I squeezed the tube paint into a small plastic palette, and have been using it since. 

I've been doing a bit of what one would consider to be urban sketching. It just feels so liberating to draw with light, fast pen strokes to capture the essence of a subject. There's a lot for me to still learn, but for now the lack of "rules" has been enjoyable.

Earlier, I mentioned that I've been exploring different drawing and painting styles. I enjoy the slow, layer-over-layer style of watercolor painting, but trying out new things is always a good experience.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Started in my Moleskine

My first Moleskine came in last month, a pocket hardcover with blank pages. I will be doing a more thorough post with thoughts later on, but I thought I'd mention how easy it is to carry around. Considering that I fill up notebooks extremely quickly, I really appreciate the simplistic and no nonsense style of these.

As you can see from the photo, it's smaller and more compact than my Midori.

It's been a little over a week, and I've written a ton. I've also added in washi tape and painted a little, which even surprises me. I've never been too into crafty journaling--I write my words, and that's usually it. But I've been getting a lot of inspiration from different sources, and I've found that I do (sort of) like the color that tape or paint gives to a page.

I wanted a Moleskine so I could at least say that I tried it out--I mean, I've heard from a number of people who have acted as though it was the god of all notebooks. More on whether I agree with that statement later...

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Review: ZLYC Traveler's Notebooks

ZLYC traveler's notebooks in dark coffee, compared to Midori traveler's notebooks in black.
Today I will be reviewing for ZLYC, a company whose original aim has been to provide handmade items for their customers. Their main products are handmade leather journals, wallets, purses, and wooden watches. They state that in their brand, one can "find the charm of handmade crafts." 

I was kindly sent the ZLYC Traveler's Notebook set of three in dark coffee to review for you all. The set is usually around $40 on Amazon, but you can buy the passport or standard size individually as well.

My notebooks came packaged inside of a box with the ZLYC logo.

Inside, both notebooks were wrapped in plastic bags. Under them was a canvas bag and card.

Both the passport and standard size covers came with extra black elastic, as well as three inserts: lined, blank, and calendar. These inserts were held by orange elastics, which contrasted really well with the dark brown leather.

The leather itself is buttery smooth to touch.

Among the aspects I want to point out about ZLYC, I especially like how the notebooks are sewn, rather than stapled. It makes them feel much more secure.

Both ZLYC and Midori have tin clasps, although they differ in color and shape. The ZLYC elastic is also thicker than Midori's.

I know that some people don't like how Midori covers have the elastic knot on the back cover, which can interfere with writing. They might appreciate the fact that the ZLYC elastic starts at the spine.

I'll start with the standard cover.

The standard cover came wrapped with the leather pen holder. I tried housing one of my Pilot G2s in the case, but it was a tight fit. Realistically, I don't see myself using it.

The blank insert has off-white, creamy paper. I noted that the ZLYC paper felt slightly thicker than Midori's.

The PVC insert has a zipper pouch and card slots. The plastic feels fairly durable. If desired, you could turn your notebook into a wallet.

This calendar insert has a strange format, with every two pages containing squares numbered 1-31. It's not something I'm accustomed to, so I don't think I'll be using the passport or standard calendar inserts.

I liked the lined insert, especially because I enjoy writing. The grey dashed lines are inconspicuous and easy on the eyes.

It would be rather redundant to show photos of the passport inserts, as they are virtually the same as the standard's--apart from the smaller size. I thought it would be helpful to take out my inserts and compare the ZLYC passport cover to Midori's.

I didn't enjoy how tight the elastics were. As you can tell from the photo above, the Midori cover lays pretty flat, whereas the ZLYC passport curls inwards--a sure sign of tight elastics. This made removing inserts a hassle. I didn't have this issue with the standard notebook cover, though.

Something I also noticed was how the ZLYC cover was slightly wider than Midori's. Often, when using three paper inserts or so in a Midori notebook, there's a bit of "overhang." Due to ZLYC's larger cover, one doesn't face the same problem. 

Because I wanted to show how the ZLYC notebook looked after a week of use, I decided that I would take the passport size out everyday.

This is my ZLYC after a week of use. I was pleasantly surprised at how easily the leather was scratched and scuffed up, but I guess that's the "vintage" aspect of it. The dark coffee color is really good for those who want the Indiana Jones look right away.

In addition, I was interested in seeing how the paper would hold up to watercolor and ink. I wasn't expecting professional watercolor paper quality, but I wanted to know if painting was possible.

The paper holds up surprisingly well to watercolor. Warping of the page was expected, but there was no bleed through or damage to the other pages. As you can see from the above photo, I used my Pilot G2 pen and experienced ghosting and what appears to be a dot that bled through. This did not affect future writing.

The verdict? The ZLYC notebooks are an affordable alternative to Midori. They come with extra inserts, and gain a lot of character in a short amount of time. I'm happy with the feel of the leather and the paper. This set would be a good option for writers and journalers alike.

Disclosure: I was sent this notebook set in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.