Friday, June 26, 2009

Review: Paperblanks Smythe Sewn Journal Filligree Floral Ebony Midi Wrap

Paperblanks Filigree Floral Ebony Midi Wrap

I owe my friend Bobbie a big thanks for this one. I remember that she used to carry one, and I'd seen them for sale at Barns & Noble and Wegmans, but after having read comments on the Fountain Pen Network show the paper was iffy with fountain pen inks, I had chosen to stay away. (Also because I typically prefer plain covered journals.)

But my friend Bobbie who knew I loved to write, gifted me with this journal as a going away present when I left my last job. Afraid to try it with my fountain pens, I let it sit on my shelf for 6 months before giving it a shot. And am I glad I did.

Paperblanks Filigree Floral Ebony Midi Wrap

Let's first talk about size. This is a 5x7" Midi Journal. Smaller than a Moleskine and bigger than a small Habana, I like it's portability.

The cover design is Lyon Floral and this model is called Filigree Floral Ebony Wrap.

The cover is very hard and the book is closed with a magnetic flap. Other models of Paperblanks have the same flap but cut in a slightly different design - like a curve. I prefer the straight vertical flap on this model. To me, it's less complicated.

Paperblanks Filigree Floral Ebony Midi Wrap

The paper is a beautiful cream color. The 7mm ruling is very light, and does not run to the edge of the page. 80 leaves/160 pages. Paper weight is unknown, though I'm guessing it to be in the 80/90gm range. Paper has a very slight laid appearance. Acid-free sustainable forest paper.

Paperblanks Filigree Floral Ebony Midi Wrap

The books binder boards are European made of recycled materials. Cover design allows the book to lie very flat, and the pages open pretty close to flat. I've noticed that the book has been opening flatter as I've been using it. (I'm half way through it)

Paperblanks Filigree Floral Ebony Midi Wrap

Smythe-sewn binding.

Paperblanks Filigree Floral Ebony Midi Wrap

Large reinforced memento pocket. Sides of the pocket are a stiff fabric, and the pocket itself a stiff cardboard.

Paperblanks Filigree Floral Ebony Midi Wrap

My only pet peeve so far. I write on my leg a lot, which means that the flap dangles because you can't fold it back. This being said, it's left in a position that's prone to be bent backwards and apparently that's what happened because the cover paper split about 3/4 of an inch near the bottom.

By the way - these pictures do not do these covers justice. They are extremely vibrant in color and design, this one is embossed and simply striking. So much for my previous love of only plain covered journals.

Paperblanks Filigree Floral Ebony Midi Wrap

And now on to testing the paper with fountain pen inks. Many, many of them.

First off, it's smooth. Very smooth, but maybe just a hair less smooth than the new 90g Rhodia Webnotebook.

As I previously mentioned, I'd heard comments about the Paperblanks paper being unfriendly to fountain pen inks. I'd heard of some feathering, but mostly I heard of the paper being "weird" to write on if you leaned on it in a way that allowed the oils on your hand to be absorbed into the page. I understand what they are talking about because it used to happen to me all of the time with the Moleskine paper. Rest your palm on the edge of the page and go to write on it and the ink almost beads up and is repelled by the paper. I'm almost halfway through this book and I only had this happen one time and it wasn't as bad as with the Mole. This company (like others) mixes a clay wash into their paper to make the paper resistant to ink. An ink resistant paper is less likely to bleed, spread or feather. I'm guessing that the clay in the paper rises to the absorb the oils in your hand. If you often write with your hand on the page, then I could see this being a problem. I on the other hand usually do not, and I am not hindered by this issue.

Paperblanks Filigree Floral Ebony Midi Wrap

To date, I have experienced only minuscule feathering, no spreading, (pen nibs are writing true to width) and only the most minuscule of bleedthrough with my super wet writing M nibbed Sapporo. (See below for update)

The only ink based issue I had with with Noodler's Bulletproof Black. In fairness, I primed the pen right before testing it, and what happened is that the ink stayed smudgy for several hours after writing with it. It's like the top of the ink dried before the bottom. I remember that happening in a Mole.

06/19/09 - UPDATE. I have a second larger Paperblanks journal that I've been using to test Diamine inks. I've tested 18 different inks so far in that book and I noticed that the Steel Blue is bleeding. I have it in an EF Lamy Studio and it's writing very wet. (That ink also seems to take a long time to dry.) I also saw a few dots bleed through from the Aqua Blue but the Steel Blue is the worst - and when I say worst, it's not a terrible mess of bleeding, but it's enough for me to rescind my above statement that nothing was bleeding.

All in all, I am impressed with this product - despite the bleeding I had with one or two inks. Other than the small tear in the flap crease - with how happy I've been to write in it, I would definitely use these again. Several models are available in blank paper, (which I prefer) and you will also see me test a blank book with watercolor, marker, etc.

The only thing I think this company is missing is a plain solid black book. This is a premium product, and since it's fountain pen friendly, I know that there are a lot of people that prefer the plain black covered journals - and I think they would sell quite a few... hint hint.

Hartley and Marks is the Canadian Distributor of Paperblanks products. The journals are made in China and they have impeccable attention to detail and show environmental concern. These books are not inexpensive. This midi version sells for approximately $16.

Paperblanks makes tons of journals in multiple sizes, form factors and cover designs. I have a few more to show you in future posts, including a small sketchbook and a hand-stitched Tao journal.

Buy Paperblanks at Barnes & Noble, Borders,, and

From the Paperblanks website:

"Lyon Florals: master patterns inspired by the natural world.

This new collection of journals reproduces with astonishing fidelity a series of striking French fabric designs. Providing a glimpse into the creative process, each cover is inspired by the original artwork of a new fabric design. Dating from the 1860s, these master patterns were hand-painted prior to machine production. Drawing inspiration from the natural world, the designs feature an abundance of flowers, luscious plume-like foliage and twining tendrils."



Shade said...

Yay! that's good to know. I originally got a paperblanks to giveaway at a competition, but only two people showed up and they were only there one at a time. Do'oh to them, cause I kept it, and I've been keeping it in my pocket notebook stash for when I might need it.
Also, I'm left handed, so my hand goes over the page AFTER I write on it. YAY.
Thanks for the review!

Lindsey said...

love these journals. They did used to make them plain- I have 3- (2 crimson, one black) and was searching for a new one NOT covered in stuff albeit pretty stuff. Nothing tops the magentic closure. Also like the envelope in the back. My old ones utilize a triangular true envelope closure, which I prefer over these new ones that are more like an open flexi-file. Proof that when you find something you really like, buys lots! Later they will be gone.

Biffybeans said...

No problem Shade - you should break it out!

Lindsey - these journals are some of the most beautiful I've ever seen - though I agree on wanting to have plain options. The two links below are some of the more reserved models.

Iranna said...

Thanks for the review! A few days ago I held one of these in my hand and tried to guess whether the paper would be ink friendly or not. Ultimately I decided to go for the Moleskine. I might try this next.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...