Traveler's notebook mods

Traveler's Company Traveler's Notebook modifications

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Ah yes, my Traveler's Company traveler's notebook (TN) that I received as a gift many years ago—still grossly underused since I mainly use A5 size for most things personal. I have a very romantic idea of what these notebooks should look like based on what the internet has fed me: stuffed to the brim, all sorts of collagey inserts, vintage/nostalgia vibe, brass, lots of danglies/customization/charms/etc. Honestly I like all of these things, in concept!

In practice, I am very basic and function is always what wins. Function for me means: not a super fat book, not a carry-all, it's for writing/drawing in the pages, and it has to lay as flat as possible.

I finally bit the bullet and made the little changes to my TN:

  • Put something on the closure string
  • Cut off that bead!!
  • Insert two bookmarks instead of one
  • Move the closure cord to the spine

I wasn't sure if this was all going to work out, but thankfully it did!

Collage of 3 photos of different views of a modified traveler's company notebook cover, showing the front (closure elastic across cover), back, and front (closure elastic undone). The notebook is camel brown coloured leather, with a light brown elastic closure cord. The elastic closure also has a wooden ring hanging from it. A fountain pen with a brown cap and jade coloured body is paired with the notebook.

Pen in photo is a Manaslu from Jeb's Pens with a gold tone jowo B nib! MATCHY!!

My "charm"

My cover is scuffed up not because I carry it around, but rather, because of a short stint with some brass charms/tassels that I had on here, as well as some metal dangles on the bookmark strings. This notebook cover has BARELY been used.

I removed all of the metal charms/dangles NOT because of them scuffing up the cover (I don't care!) but rather, I don't like the sound of metal hitting things (e.g., when I put the notebook down on any hard surface, it would make clacking or jingle noise). While I don't care much about scuffing up the cover, I do care a bit more about metal scraping up against my writing surfaces—it means I'd have to be more careful about where I put the notebook down! Sometimes metal charm/dangles got trapped underneath my notebook and I'd have to pull it out while writing. Long story short, I got rid of everything metal and opted for an old ring made out of bent woods and some mysterious material. It's very lightweight and round, so doesn't make too much noise or scuff other things up. By chance, the colour scheme of the ring matches super well with the camel cover, elastic cord, and the off-white bookmarks I added! MATCHY!

No more bead/clasp

The original TN has a metal crimp/clasp/bead in the top left of the notebook. It holds the elastic knots in place and keeps them out of sight. This means that the notebook doesn't quite lay flat at the top of the spine and there are also metal scrapping possibilities against your writing surface.

I finally cut it off. Cutting it off meant that I didn't have enough elastic to string it the way it was originally, so I strung it a different way (reverse-ish), which still works for my purposes (I don't have a super stuffed notebook system). Instead of tying knots on the inside, I tied the elastics on the top/bottom, facing the outside. The spine still lays pretty flat, so I'm happy!

Photo collage of the front and back of the traveler's notebook cover, with a fountain pen resting next to the cover, on the right. This photo shows how the elastic was knotted on the exterior of the cover.

Two bookmarks

An easy add. I had leftover waxed linen thread from my bookbinding! I tied 2 loose strings together at the top and then threaded it through one of the top elastic loops. It stays in place just fine. The waxed thread gives it some stiffness, so it tends to want to lay straighter against a page, which is what you want a bookmark to do.

Photo close-up of the elastic knot on the exterior side of the traveler's notebook, showing a white linen thread fitted through the knot, which acts as 2 bookmarks

Move closure string to the spine

The original TN has a hole in the backcover for the closure string to be knotted through. This meant that there was a "bump" from the knots that could be felt if I was writing on the right side of the book. DO NOT WANT!

I used an awl and screwdrivers to create a hole into the spine. I covered the original hole on the outside of the cover, with a round washi sticker.

Photo collage of the front and back of the traveler's notebook cover. This photo shows how the backcover's elastic closure was moved to the spine.

I also repurposed an old metal fold-over "crimp" to keep the elastics in place without a knot (to further reduce the bump).

Photo collage of the interior side of the notebook cover. It shows how a metal crimp was used to keep the elastic closure in place without a knot.

What's inside?

I started with a moleskine cahier, cut down to A5 slim size. Quickly realized it made all my FP inks look horrid. OBSERVE:

Photo collage of the moleskine cahier notebook cut down to A5 slim size. One shot shows the exterior of the notebook's cover, decorated with stamps and a drawing of a sad Sally. The other shot shows the interior cream coloured grid paper, with horrible looking fountain pen ink writing.

Offensive! Completely unacceptable!!

So I made my own notebook out 5mm dot grid printed on HP premium 32lb paper. The cover is of course, another HWA cover leftover, further covered by a ginkgo ecoprint collage paper from StudioPetaBooks. Sorry Jake, there's only so much of your face that I want to see. I used leftover waxed linen thread (also from HWA) for 3-hole pamphlet binding. Notebook lays super flat! FP ink looks OK on this paper, though not as nice as FP specialty papers. What pains me the most is that there's significant paper cut-off to get a half-letter-sized notebook to fit the A5 slim size of a TN.

Photo collage of two notebooks resting inside of the traveler's notebook cover. One notebook has a off-white cover because it was DIY-ed in-house, while the notebook with kraft paper is an official insert from Midori. The DIY notebook has dot grid ruling printed on it and scrap paper pasted on the interior cover to obscure old art that was printed there.

I have another insert that's the official #03 blank insert with white Midori MD paper. It's nice stuff...feels kind of rare since Midori MD paper is primarily available in cream colour. This insert doesn't lay as flat, so maybe I'll pull out the staples some day and rebind it (?) or continue to reverse crease the notebook.

I made my own "clear file folder" insert by cutting down an old plastic folder (with pockets) and taping together 2 pockets with washi tape. The rest of the file folder became a shitajiki/writing board.

Photo collage of a plastic folder insert made out of plastic sleeves and washi tape.

Also made a scrappy insert that primarily serves as a pen loop flap-out that also folds flat. Maybe I can merge the clear file folder with this...hmmm!

Photo collage of four images. The first two photos show a Traveler’s notebook with a piece of folded cardboard jutting out and around the front cover, holding 3 platinum preppy fountain pens (like a sheath). A third photo shows the same cardboard sheath, but with a OPUS88 Omar inside of it instead. The final photo shows the insert pulled out, laying on top of the notebook.

What am I using it for?

Now that I'm officially not a bound to digital work calendar, I'm going to try to use the notebook for work-related writing/brainstorming! We'll see how it goes...

After writing this post it became obvious that I'm very particular about my stationery. I'm glad I got to repurpose a bunch of existing items to make these mods to my TN!

Today's music post: Tout Est Bleu by Âme Strong.

Waxed paper weave

Strange DIY from old prints

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I have these extremely old risograph prints from 2012 that have been sitting in a portfolio...so I decided to make abstract art out of it haha.

I cut the prints up in 1" x 17" stripes, then taped one end and wove them together.

Photo collage of making weaved paper (in yellow and red colour) out of interlaced strips of paper

After that I sacrificed this peeler to the craft spirts and shaved some candle wax onto the surface, and ironed the wax to melt it and have it penetrate the paper. I flipped it over to do the back-side as well. I ended up using a hair blow dryer as well to flatten down the uneven wax parts as much as I could.

Photo collage of melting wax onto weaved paper (in yellow and red colour)

I'm not sure what I'm going to do it this, but I do like it more than the original drawing...

Today's music post: Jumping Dance by Mario Mathy (1987). This is one of those times where the video is a must watch for the strange but extremely passionate and energetic vibe this person has for their keyboard playing. It's REALLY 80s...

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After my previous fail at exposed spine binding a notebook I decided to try again.

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I watched SeaLemon's tutorial on kettlestitch binding more closely this time. I still messed up the tautness of some of the thread/stitches, but it's OK for now. I regretted not waxing my thread because it was knot-central.

The paper was given to me by a friend, salvaged from a mostly unused pack. Since it was for calligraphy I expected it to hold up pretty well to fountain pen, but I found it to feather and bleed a bit. Might not work as well for double-sided work.

Also tore up some old extra risograph comic pages from Martial Spirit and gluestick-ed them onto the extra HWA comic covers for the cover, haha...

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What will this notebook be used for? I have no idea...

Today's music post: BabopbyeYa by Janelle Monáe. The song gives me Bond-esque vibes and showcases her vocal range wonderfully.

Paper marbling with pigmented fountain pen ink

Happy accidents with ink marbling

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My barrier to trying out paper marbling has always been the materials/set-up required. I don't have a studio with a dedicated craft space to get messy. My rental is carpeted. My work desk is where my papers and computer live. I can't afford to get nail polish or oil-based inks all over the place!

I saw this tutorial for suminagashi (Japanese marbling) from Rokolee. It looked like it could be simple to do at a smaller scale and I wondered if it would work with fountain pen ink, specifically pigmented ones. I sacrificed a small amount of Platinum Carbon Black ink in a vial and used that as a tester. It does work!! Like the video, I used very few items:

  • Platinum carbon black (pigmented) fountain pen ink, in a vial
  • 2 brushes
  • Cup of water with 1 drop of dishsoap
  • 1 styrofoam tray I had from grocery shopping
  • A bunch of extra letter-sized HWA covers cut down to quarters (100lb coverstock)
  • Some place to dry the papers; honestly I just laid them on top of the boxes piling up in my apartment haha (some of them were laying on papers inside my recycling bin)

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Because of the weight of the cover stock, the dried papers weren't super curly, at least not in a ripply way. I did end up ironing them a little bit to flatten them down, but they were completely usable even without.

I don't have other pigmented inks to try this with, but I imagine that it would work with other colours. So much fun potential! Marble pattern feels timeless, elegant, and an interesting way to decorate otherwise plain things. I also have an itch to DIY my own paper so I can reused all these...papers (overprints, cut-offs, etc.) I have...but same thing re: no studio space, haha.

Today's music post: Wadada Lasts by Mama Odé, from their Tales and Patterns of the Maroons album. The album is described as "At its core this is a classic “hip hop” format LP - but have you ever heard Creole Sega Rap Roots music before?"

I'm trying to link to music in way that directly leads to a way to hear and support/pay for artists' music at the same time. Bandcamp has been doing Bandcamp Friday on the first Friday of every month until the end of the year. It's where Bandcamp waives revenue sharing that day and more $ by fans go directly to the artists. Bandcamp fridays coming up are:

  • November 6 2020
  • December 4 2020

I've been hearing abysmal things about little musical artists make very little revenue from streaming sites like Spotify, for example, "£12.34 (about $15.67) for five to six million streams" as cited in the article. I haven't done extensive research into what platforms get the artist the best cut.

Commonplace book + DIY cover

Midori MD A5 grid commonplace book and DIY cardstock notebook cover for the notebook.

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I mentioned previously that I have way too much cardstock leftover from some printer shenanigans from HWA. I started another Midori MD Notebook to make a commonplace book to write down knowledge that I would want to refer back to in the future, e.g., notes from books, courses, articles, etc. Kind of like a school notebook but broader. Since this book mainly sits on my desk, I wondered if it was possible to make a book cover for the notebook out of the cardstock. Luckily letter-sized paper is slightly taller than A5, so the overhang made it possible!

Here is the book cover, made out of 2 pieces of cardstock. The white cardstock was a regular letter-sized one, cut in half, and then glued + folded around the length of the A5 notebook. Also scored down the middle of the brown cardstock piece. I wasn't confident I could glue such a narrow sliver of cardstock for the sleeve/pocket (where you slip in the notebook covers), so I put in some small stitches instead.

Fits!!

After that I felt like it was looking plain for a commonplace book, so I took some leftover Daler-Rowney FW acrylic ink (green) and painted it on in a weird mottled-like texture (dabbing with the brush, but not smoothing it out)

The string tension tore through the now wet paper, so I yanked them out and had to glue the pockets down later on. That actually resulted in a more snug-fit and less "wiggle room" of covers sliding up/down, which was not a bad thing!

Not long after, it still felt plain, so I took a leftover gold STA metallic pen and free-handed the cover.

It was a mindless, 'go with the flow', relaxing art thing to do! Some of the lighting in the photos make it look more teal, while in real life it's more green in the sunlight. Make this book feel fancier than it really is!

Also made an A6-sized one (left) to use up the green paint. On that one I used copper acrylic paint streaks, and also rubbed on candle wax + melted it to the cover for stability/some water resistance (IDK if it'll work, but it was fun to do).

With regards to the notebook itself, it's a Midori MD Notebook A5 with grid ruling. I hand numbered all the pages, and then made an index at the beginning (page 3) + left a few more pages after blank, to allow for the indexlist to increase as I filled the book. I officially started jotting down contents on page 7!

Today's music post: Open My Heart by Jay Diggs. I am a total glutton for this retro-style of music cheese. Is 90s considered retro now? AHHHHHHHHHHHH...