Sunday, September 30, 2012

September Miscellany

I'm writing this month's miscellany earlier than usual (and scheduling it to post on the usual day) because as of September 26, I'm on vacation!  That said, if I miss any essential links in this miscellany, they'll be included in the October miscellany.  Now, onwards!
  • I'm beginning to suspect that I need a new pencil sharpener.  Maybe this Stad T'Gaal pencil sharpener would be the one for me.  Do you have any pencil sharpener recommendations?
  • I've seen this video before, and you may have seen it already too, but I love watching it every time.  I wish I was this good at calligraphy.
  • Angela at Paper Lovestory has recently written about her experiences with minimalism and decluttering.  I also like to keep clutter to a minimum in my environment.  Although I wouldn't describe myself as a minimalist, I can't think clearly if my surroundings are cluttered and lately I have been practicing the habit of clearing off my desk at the end of every day.  It only takes a minute, and it is so nice to sit down to a nice tidy desk the next morning!
  • This looks like a fun project that I would like to try: washi tape pen cups from Azizah.  The pens (and pencils) are starting to stack up on my desk and I should start using a cup or something to keep them together.  Alas, I do not have any washi tape... something that I really should remedy soon.
  • Finally, videos of cats playing with pens - just because.  I usually keep my pens safe from the paws of my cats, but I remember that years ago I used to write while sitting on the couch and then leave my papers and pencil lying there afterwards - and my cat loved to play with my pencil and lose it down the back of the couch.
That's all for this month!  Stay tuned for more posts on my travel journal and I'll be back from my vacation soon!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Binding the Travel Journal

I wanted a simple notebook to take with me on my trip as a travel journal, so I thought that I would try binding one myself.  For this project, I used Gwen Diehn's instructions for her "three-minute pamphlet" journal in her book The Decorated Journal.  (Long-time readers of this blog may recall that I actually made a pamphlet journal like this a few years ago as well.)  Because the complete instructions are available in that book, this post is not going to be step-by-step tutorial, but simply an overview of how I made my travel journal.

My single-signature travel journal, posing with my beloved green Lamy Safari fountain pen.
Gwen Diehn's three-minute pamphlet is a single-signature book with a stitched spine and a soft cover.  It is just about the most basic book that you could make.  It took me longer than three minutes to complete it (measuring and cutting the paper takes longer), but it was still a very quick and easy project, requiring no special supplies.

For the pages, I used five sheets of Canson drawing paper.  I had a leftover pad of that paper, so I thought I might as well use it.  The sheets were 9 by 12 inches, which meant that when I folded them in half to make the book, the pages were 6 by 9 inches - a reasonable size, large enough so I wouldn't be cramped, but small enough that the book wouldn't be bulky or unwieldy.  I could, of course, have cut the paper to size if I needed to, but why make things more complicated if you don't have to?  Also, I used five sheets of paper because that would give me nine complete page spreads - I wanted at least one page spread for each day of our week-long trip, as well as a bit of extra space if I needed it.  For the cover, I used some brown handmade paper that I bought years ago for a different bookbinding project but never used.  This paper came as a large roll, so I actually had to measure and cut this paper.  Following Diehn's instructions, I cut it slightly larger than the interior paper.

Sheets of paper, cut and folded, waiting to be made into a book.
Next, I folded all the papers in half, using the handle of my scissors to smooth the fold and make it crisp.  This was especially handy in the case of the cover paper, because handmade paper has no grain like machine-made paper does and so it didn't want to fold very evenly on its own.  I nestled all the papers inside of each other, tapping them on my desk to line them up, and slipped the cover paper on the outside.  Because the handmade cover paper had a rough side and a smooth side, I made to sure to put the rough, textured side on the outside.  I used a push-pin to punch the holes (I don't have an awl) and sewed the pages together with upholstery thread and a needle.  Upholstery thread is sturdier than ordinary thread, so I usually use it for bookbinding, but you can actually use just about any kind of thread or string.  And I only have it in green, so green it was!  But I like green, so all is good.

My travel journal opened up to the centre, where you can see the loose ends of the thread hanging loose.  What do people do with these ends?
Diehn's instructions for this book do leave the loose ends of the thread hanging on the outside of the spine.  I never know what to do with those ends, and they always annoy me.  Once, I tried braiding them and attaching a bead on the end, but the bead just got in the way every time I opened the book.  This time, I sewed the spine so that the loose ends would be inside the book rather than outside, but I still don't like them.  When I do bookbinding again I'm going to try a different method that doesn't leave any loose ends hanging.

Finally, I put the finishing touches on my book by using my corner rounder to round off all the corners of the pages, since to me round corners look way classier than square corners.  And I also made an envelope of vellum paper which I glued onto the back page.  I will use this for any paper scraps and ephemera that I acquire on my journeys.  I used vellum paper because it is translucent and will allow me to see through into the contents of the envelope.  This envelope was actually a bit more trouble than it was worth however, since the paper I was using was not really large enough, so I had to make it in two pieces and glue the flap on separately, and then I was rushing to get it done and ended up with this funny looking gap between the top of the envelope and the flap.  Oh well - I am still pretty happy with the end result.

The vellum paper pocket on the back page of my travel journal - not perfect, but it works!
Overall, I really love the way my travel journal looks.  I love its simple (even minimalistic) design, and the way I was able to tailor it specifically to my needs (the right number of pages for the duration of my trip, unlined paper, rounded corners, etc.)  I love the colours and textures of the papers that I used for the cover and for the envelope.  The cover paper was perhaps a bit too thin and if I was doing this again I think I would look for a heavier-weight paper, but given that this is a relatively short trip, I think it should hold up long enough.  I haven't used the Canson drawing paper with watercolours before, so I hope that it works out.  It is a relatively heavy-weight paper (115g) though, so it should be okay with the light watercolours that I will be using.

I'll share the supplies that I'll be using with my travel journal in a post next Monday, and after I return from my trip I'll share some pages and let you know how my travel journal worked out!  Stay tuned!

Read more: Supplies for the Travel Journal + Pages from the Travel Journal

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

On Vacation

As of today, Wednesday, September 26, I am officially on vacation.  I am going with my family to the Pacific coast of British Columbia.  I will be walking on the beach, peering into tide pools, wandering under giant redcedar trees, and perhaps checking out a few bookstores as well.

I have scheduled some posts on my travel journal to be posted in my absence, and your regular programming will resume when I return.  I won't be online for the next week, so I won't be able to respond to any emails and comments until I return.  Comment moderation is off, so if any spam comments appear on the site, please disregard those!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Desert Island Blogs

A Penchant for Paper has been featured in Planet Millie's Desert Island Blogs series!  Head on over there to find out what three items I would take with me to a desert island.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Drawing Practice

I always used to think that I couldn't draw, although I always wished that I could.  One day, about four years ago, I thought to myself, "I'm just going to try drawing something and I'm not going to worry about whether I can actually draw or not."  My first drawings were rather awkward, but they weren't as bad as I thought they would have been.   I began to think that maybe I could draw after all...

EDM #1: A shoe.  This is probably one of my better drawings.  It's a drawing of one of my hiking boots, and my boot actually looks exactly like that, except that the drawing turned out a bit short.  My feet really aren't that small!

EDM #2: A lamp.  This one wouldn't be that bad except that for some reason whenever I draw a lamp I draw the shade too small.  I drew another lamp after this one and the same thing happened.  No idea why...

EDM #3: A purse, wallet, or bag.  Flat, dark objects with few distinguishing characteristics are way harder to draw than you would think.

I've been practicing drawing off and on ever since.  I haven't taken any classes in it.  I haven't read any books on how to draw.  I've just done it.  I just sit down with my pen and my sketchbook and try to put down the lines just as I see them, without being influenced by what I think a pen or a tree should look like.  And, surprisingly, it's actually not that hard...  The more I draw, the better I get at it.  Although my drawings will never be perfect, I am delighted to discover that I can draw.  And now, to practice and improve my drawing skills even more, I've recently begun working through Danny Gregory's Everyday Matters (EDM) Challenges, after I saw Daisy Yellow begin exploring the challenges earlier this year.

EDM #4: Your mug or cup.  This drawing doesn't look that bad, but it actually looks nothing at all like what my mug really looks like.  I'm not sure what went wrong... It's just one of those deceptively simply shapes that are unexpectedly difficult to draw.

EDM #5: Your bed.  I love this drawing.  I think it is one of my favourites.  And in case you were wondering, I do make my bed every day, but often it doesn't get done until rather late because my cat usually sleeps on my bed all morning.  That dark lump in the drawing is her, by the way.  I made sure to draw in her ears poking up so you could tell that it was actually a cat and not just a random dark lump.

EDM #6: A favourite well-loved object.  The object I chose was a small bird ornament that I've always had sitting around.  I've actually tried drawing it before, but my earlier drawing was awful!  This one is way better.

EDM #7: A bottle, jar, or tin from the kitchen.  After my difficulties with my mug, I thought the jar would be just as bad.  But it actually was a quick, simple drawing that turned out very well.

These are my first 3 sets of pages, which include the first 10 drawing challenges.  Some of the drawings are good, while others... not so much.  But that's okay, and I'm sharing all of my drawings, both the good and the bad, to encourage you to try drawing as well.  Because I bet that you, like me, can actually draw better that you think you can, once you let go of all your old ideas about whether you can or can't draw.

EDM #8: Your watch or other piece of jewellery.  This drawing didn't turn out that great.  The watch face looks too small.

EDM #9: A bit of "organized chaos."  This was a fun drawing.  I chose to draw the surface of my desk as it looks like during the day, when I'm right in the middle of a million different projects.  It's not usually this messy, though!  I always clean off the surface of my desk at the end of every day.

EDM #10: Your hand.  Is it just me, or does my hand look seriously creepy in this drawing?  I know my hands are long and narrow and kind of bony, but they're not really this creepy-looking in real life, trust me!  I think I need to practice drawing hands some more.

As I continue with the challenges, I think that I will start using my watercolour pencils to add colour to my drawings.  But for these first drawings I just wanted to focus on the drawing itself.  I've been using my Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens (in fine and super-fine) for all of these drawings so far.  I really love those pens for drawing.  They're simple and comfortable to use, come in many nib sizes, and have waterproof ink.  They're also great for writing if you want to add some quick notes to your sketch.

Do you draw?  Do you think that you can't draw?  If so, do you think that you ever might give drawing a try anyway?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Office Supplies from the Past: Bensia Non-Sharpening Pencils

Have you ever used a non-sharpening pencil?  I used to use these all the time back in elementary school, after I stopped using wooden pencils and before I discovered mechanical pencils.  I remember that I used to think that non-sharpening pencils were so cool, and I could entertain myself for far too long popping the leads in and out.  I hadn't thought about these pencils for years until I discovered a handful of my old pencils in my mom's desk.

But what is a non-sharpening pencil (sometimes also called a pop-a-point pencil)?  Well, it consists of a plastic body that contains a series of pencil leads (eleven of them, oddly enough).  Each lead is about half a centimetre long or thereabouts, and is attached to this little white plastic thingamagig (don't mind my overly technical language here!).  When one lead wears down, you can simply pull it out of the top, push it into the bottom, and ta-da!  A new sharp pencil point will be revealed.  No sharpening required.

Contains small parts.  Probably not recommended for children under three years of age or anyone else who may be tempted to eat their pencil.  Even if it does have pictures of fruit on it.
Eventually, of course, all of the points become worn down and you end up spending most of your time simply snapping the leads in and out, searching fruitlessly for one that is slightly less worn down than the others.  Not that that's not entertaining in itself, of course.

The pencils were made by Bensia, and came in a variety of colours and styles.  One of mine (the green one that says "fruit collection" on it) was even scented, although the scent is long gone by now.  The pencils came with a plastic cap with an eraser on the end (so that when the cap was posted the eraser would be in the correct location for erasing), although one of my pencils has lost its cap and another has lost its eraser.  And the plastic caps are also very prone to cracking - all of my surviving caps have cracks in them.

Cap with eraser, cap without eraser, missing cap.
My most prized non-sharpening pencil was the one with the coloured leads.  It contained eleven different colours (red, pink, orange, yellow, light green, dark green, light blue, dark blue, purple, brown, and black), each of which was, of course, only allotted a half a centimetre of lead each.  Being the crazy kid that I was, I never used this pencil but saved it for a special occasion that never came - with the result that I still have this pencil today, relatively pristine except for the inevitably cracked cap.

This coloured pencil used to be my prized possession - and now is proof that I really have always been this hopelessly geeky about writing instruments.
I'm not sure if Bensia still makes these pencils, but I did a quick search and discovered that you can still buy them on places like eBay and Etsy.  I haven't seen them in a store for years.  Back when I bought mine, I remember they were being sold next to the till at the hardware store.  I can't see them ever being more than a novelty item.  Mechanical pencils are much more practical.  Although it would certainly be possible to refill a non-sharpening pencil, I rather doubt that refills were ever sold separately from the pencils.

Have you ever used a non-sharpening pencil?  Do you have any other favourite school or office supplies from your childhood that you have saved or that you remember fondly?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Stabilo Point 88 Pens

Stabilo Point 88 pens are first cousins to the Stabilo Pen 68 which I reviewed earlier this year, although the Point 88's are, I am glad to say, much more like pens than like markers.  Again, however, I find myself puzzled by the cryptic numbering.  Just what does that "88" mean, anyway?  I assume that it refers to the nib size in some way, but how?

But let's get back to business.  The Stabilo Point 88 is a felt-tip pen similar to the Sharpie Pen, Marvy Le Pen, or Staedtler Triplus Fineliner, but is less expensive than any of these (Point 88's sell for 80 cents each at JetPens).  It is marked as 0.4mm, but because it has a softer tip than, say, a gel pen, it actually writes with a slightly wider line than you might expect - perhaps around 0.5mm or a bit more, in my totally non-scientific estimation.  It feels similar to the 0.3mm Staedtler Triplus Fineliner, and a bit finer than the Sharpie Pen or Marvy Le Pen.  It writes very smoothly and crisply and the colours are bright.  I expect that, as it is a felt-tip pen, the tip might wear down and spread out a bit over time, but I've been using my Point 88's for a couple of months now and they are still firm and crisp.  On poorer quality papers, the ink does show through a bit, although the back side of the paper still remains usable, and on better papers there is no show through at all.

The Stabilo Point 88 is designed, like the Pen 68, to resemble a wooden pencil.  It has a long, narrow, hexagonal body with no grip or clip and, unlike the Pen 68, the Point 88 is even the same yellow-orange colour as a typical wooden pencil.  (The Point 88 is actually identical in appearance to the Pen 68 in every respect except this.)  As I've already discovered with wooden pencils, the hexagonal shape is surprisingly comfortable to write with and the lack of a grip doesn't bother me.  The lack of a clip might be an issue for some, but it doesn't bother me as I rarely use clips on pens.  Ink colour is indicated by the knob on the end of the pen, and by the cap.  Be careful with that cap, by the way.  It is so small that I would imagine it could be easily lost if you didn't make sure to post it securely on the end of the pen every time you took it off.

The Stabilo Point 88 is a surprisingly decent pen for the price.  It is a low-cost alternative to the Sharpie Pen and, frankly, unless you needed a waterproof pen or you had a strong preference for the look and feel of the Sharpie Pen, I don't know why you'd pick the Sharpie over the Point 88.  And the Point 88 is available in a much wider selection of colours.  The store where I bought my Point 88's sadly didn't have too many different colours in stock, so I just ended up with the strangely festive combination of red and green, but there are a lot more fun colours available, such as azure blue, dark ochre yellow, and light lilac purple.  The pens are also available in sets of up to 25, so you can sample all of the colours at once.

Overall, I'd say that the Stabilo Point 88 is a great basic pen.  There are other pens in my pen case that I like more, but I would not hesitate to recommend the Point 88 if you're looking for a cheap, functional pen that comes in a wide selection of colours, and especially if you like the Sharpie Pen but want something cheaper and more colourful.  A set of these would be great to have on hand for doodling and sketching, but they are also great for everyday writing.  And at that price, it's hard to go wrong.

Related reviews: The Pen Addict, Amy (Up North), Paint Daubs, On Fountain PensThe Pen Chronicles (review of the mini version).

Friday, September 7, 2012

Pencil Review: Earthzone Recycled Pencil

Welcome to my second review of a wooden pencil!  Except... wait a minute... this pencil is not made of wood at all - it's made of recycled newspapers.  It's an Earthzone Recycled Pencil, and I really love the look of it.  The pattern of the newspaper is still clearly visible on the body of the pencil, reminding me of papier mâché.  Remember doing that back in elementary school?  You'd tear all these newspapers into strips (turning your fingers grey with ink), dip them into this thick gluey mixture, and stick them down in layer after messy layer on some kind of mold.  When it dried, it created a hard surface that you could then paint and finish.  Bowls were popular, I remember.  And I also remember in grade seven we used balloons as a mold, then added ears and a curly tail and they became fat, round pigs.

But I digress.  Let's get back to the pencil, shall we?

The Earthzone Recycled Pencil is round, rather than hexagonal.  After writing with it, I have decided that this makes it slightly less comfortable to write with than a hexagonal pencil, although that is, of course, merely my personal preference.  It also means that it may be slightly more prone to rolling off your desk than a hexagonal pencil.  The name of the pencil is printed in shiny blue letters on the side, and the pencil is finished off with the standard ferrule and pink eraser.

As for how it writes, the lead seems a touch darker than that of the Dixon No.2/HB which I reviewed earlier, although the lead feels like it is wearing down a bit faster.  I've only written about three paragraphs so far, and I'm already starting to feel the need to re-sharpen.

Speaking of sharpening, this pencil doesn't sharpen too badly, although the shavings are noticeably different than wood shavings.  They're white and crumbly and generally remind me of... dried papier mâché.  Although I had no problem with the lead breaking, the pencil did not sharpen particularly cleanly: some rough, papery edges were left around the base of the lead and I found it difficult to get a really sharp point.  I should say, however, that these issues may be simply due to my wimpy pencil sharpener and not the pencil itself. (I think that if I continue writing with pencils, I'm going to have to invest in a better pencil sharpener.)

These shavings look way neater in the photo that they do in real life.  And can you see the fuzzy, papery edge at the base of the lead?
The eraser is also not too bad.  Although it has somewhat of a rough, grainy feel, it does erase relatively cleanly, and I would see no problem with using it for small amounts of erasing.  (Large erasing jobs would probably be best done with a separate block eraser.)

Overall, I'd say that the Earthzone Recycled Pencil is not a bad choice for a basic pencil.  While it's still a low-end pencil, it is also clearly an improvement over the Dixon No.2, and receives bonus points for being environmentally friendly since it's made of recycled newspaper.  This would probably be a great pen to get for your kids, or for yourself if you're just looking for a basic pencil.  And if you're not too fussy about your pencils, why not choose the recycled option?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Shades of Yellow

I didn't think I would have enough yellow items to create a post, but after I scoured both my desk and my mom's, I actually found quite a few.  Unsurprisingly, most of these items are things that I hardly ever or never use, or are relatively obscure brands.  This selection also brings in a few more unusual items, such as a non-sharpening pencil, a paper punch, correction fluid, and stickers.  I only have one pen with yellow ink; the rest of the writing instruments are highlighters, markers, crayons, and the like, or simply have a yellow body.

From left to right: Eberhard-Faber 4009 highlighter; 2 Bic Brite Liner highlighters (one is mine, one is my mom's, and I actually don't think I've ever used this highlighter so I'm a bit puzzled as to why I have one in my desk); Pentel Fluorescent Marker; Bensia Non-sharpening Pencil; Pentech Rainbow Stix 1.3mm mechanical pencil; 2 unknown yellow-bodied ballpoints, one with a smiley face on the end (kind of hard to see in this photo, alas); Sakura Gelly Roll Moonlight in Fluorescent Yellow; Sakura Permapaque Opaque Paint Marker in yellow; Lyra Rembrandt Aquarell watercolour pencil in lemon; Laurentien pencil crayons; yellow-handled scissors; a unicorn-shaped paper punch (you can laugh); and some clips and a push pin.

From left to right: Rite in the Rain Journal; Prang ColorArt crayons; UHU glue stick (maybe this is cheating to include this, because the glue is purple - but the colour of the tube is still yellow); Dixon Universal Correction Fluid (I actually never use this stuff, because it always gets all lumpy and awful); and assorted stickers (fabric flowers and puffy smiley face stars).

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