In my last post, I discussed why I started bullet journaling and why you might contemplate doing the same. I also discussed the matter of choosing the perfect notebook for YOU. Or not? My first purchase, was a Leuchtturm1917, and it turned out to be one of those bad purchases you would rather forget about having made. Only, I had invested a lot of time and creative energy in it, so it really had me down.
After a lot of research, I started getting really serious about a notebook called Scribbles That Matter. Why? Well, some of the better books, can not be had or bought in Sweden or by Swedes, only existing on the other side of the pond. Like a brand called Lemome. I will probably never get my hands on one, so I will not be able to say if it is better than the invention of the wheel. The same goes for some other notebooks. But I will be able to tell you about the brand names that top the list of most used books. And Scribbles That Matter is one of them, Nuuna, another one.
Everything was speaking for an STM, as it is shortened. Only, what I soon was about to discover, was that it is easier said than done, to get hold of one of their notebooks. It is a small company, based in London, UK. And when I discovered it back in the beginning of September, or was it August, they were prioritizing their US buyers and market. The only place, where you can buy their books, is via Amazon and not only did Amazon.com not ship to Sweden, they were also the only Amazon site, which had the full collection of colours.
Now, if you are like me, colour matter. If you are going to buy a nice, expensive notebook, you do want it to have the colour of your choice, since you are going to look at that book A LOT for the next few months. For some, up to a year! And my first disappointment came, when I went in to the Amazon UK site and noticed that the only colours you could have in Europe, were white, canary yellow and cobalt blue. But then on Instagram, they posted, that lovely pastel colours were being ready for sale in a couple of days. My heart started beating faster since pastel colours have a very soft spot, in my heart. Not practical at all of course as a notebook colour, but does one ALWAYS have to think practical. With anticipation, I kept a tab up for Amazon day after day, and the stock never changed! But the yellow book sold out. The cobalt blue book sold out and finally all you could buy from the European platform, were white notebooks and there I draw the line for being unpractical!
I wrote to them and contrary to Leuchtturm, their customer service is great. They actually talk to their customers and listen. To a point. On Facebook a roar went up, since the pastel colours were put up on the US site and the American members of the group started to post their happy packages, having arrived. Meanwhile, we boiled with frustration in Europe! Week after week went by and I had decided that on the 1st October, I was saying goodbye to my Leuchtturm for good, whether I had been able to get an STM or not. But the date kept creeping closer and closer. And no pastel colours or any other colours came up for sale. Not on Amazon UK, Germany or Italy. Fine said I, I guess I will not be an owner of their notebook after all. Now I really had to hurry and find another option. And that option looked like Nuuna.
Before I go in to that notebook, I want to talk of a book I can not afford myself. The one I would have loved to have ordered at that point. On Etsy, a seller who calls her shop The Citrus Book Bindery, have some notebooks which sound amazing. I have not heard one person speak ill of them, but then they do not come cheap. They are handmade through and through. The owner understands the problem of ghosting and bleed through and has taken that in to account when creating the paper, which has the thickness of 130 grams compared to Leuchtturm’s 80 grams. So you can imagine the difference when you flip a page. We are talking thick paper here. Her initial production was in her own kitchen, trying to get good paper for herself, but also to start a business, since she, an American, had married a British man and had to find something to do in her new country of abode.
With her you choose your style of paper, that is dots, grid or lines, and you choose your colour of cover and binding thread. All in all a handmade product, made to your specifications and needs. All sizes available. But for us, who for one reason or other, do not have a big amount of money to spend on a journal, which might only last for three-four months depending on how much or little we put in to it, this might not at all be an option. It has not been one for me. And I strongly doubt that it will. There comes a point, when one has to accept facts, that the perfect notebook does not exist, and one is forced to lower one’s standards. I have got to that point today, but had not yet reached that point in September.
Back then I thought that the perfect notebook did exist, somewhere out there, but that I had just not looked hard enough. A notebook without any ghosting and bleed throughs. Now I know better, but then I started to look in to Nuuna. Which sounded great from the start. So great, that I sent for it. Nuuna, has 256 pages compared to Leuchtturm1917’s 240. And while Leuchtturm or LT, as I will continue to call it, has 80 gram paper, Nuuna’s is 120 gram thick. 40 grams make a big difference.
Nuuna, is a big brand from Germany, containing Swedish paper, believe it or not. And it is not too difficult to get hold of. Amazon has it, even the little paper and pen shop in Lund, our closest town, has it, which has just happened in the last couple of months. Nuuna has much going for it in my opinion. The paper is thick, which is nice, and it has both numbered pages and the dots sit closer than the LTs, which is good if you, like me, write small. The 5mm between dots in the LT, seems a little bit of a waste. The 3,8 mm is much nicer. But I was not totally happy with my Nuuna and others have pointed out the same complaints as I have.
Like I said in my previous post, I do love vintage. Brown colours, old paper look and so on. And the cream colour of LT was nicer on my eyes, than the stark white, you find in Nuuna. When I have made my pages, it has been difficult to make them look as cozy as I have wanted them to look, because of that white colour.
Because of the thick pages, you do not quite get that comfortable flip through feeling, when you move through your book looking at pages or searching for something. It becomes rather stiff, turning the pages. This made me a little bit unhappy. But, you say, you did want thick paper so that it would not ghost or bleed through. Well, that is the problem. Even though the paper is that thick, you have still not received no ghosting. Because while Nuuna has set up a very nice book, with nice quality paper, the paper is not made for bullet journaling art style either(see previous post on Leuchtturm1917). You are supposed to use pencil, biro and some felt tip pens. Maybe fountain pen as well. It does have bleed through and some ghosting, depending what medium you use, and this because the paper lacks COATING. This is a definite miss on Nuuna’s part! They could conquer the entire bullet journal market if they fixed this problem, but they will not answer to complaint and feedback, just like their cousins, LT. And because of that, they will lose customers, because today’s bullet journaler wants to do more than just take notes, and wants the freedom to use whatever pen, he or she wants to.
What I discovered when I tried to use some of my new funny pens, was that I would have to keep them in my drawer and not use them in my Nuuna. Uni Pin worked great. The page just absorbs the pen and you can erase pencil lines straight after filling in with the felt tip archival ink pen. No smears, like in LT, where you have to wait days for the inks to dry. But when you layer the felt tip pen, say colouring in a Halloween cat, THAT will ghost. I was not prepared for that. After having looked at lots of pages, where people use Zebra Mildliners, a form of pale or pastel highlighter, I decided that I liked it and wanted to try it in my Nuuna as well. I never dared to try them in the LT after seeing how bad it ghosted with regular pens, but Nuuna was surely going to live up to the pressure. Or? I made an October weekly spread, with a bat girl in grey and purple and wanted to match the rest of the week with that image, so I got a lavender mildliner out and a dark grey one. And with the help of a ruler, I drew lines for the day boxes. To my horror, when I turned the page, every single line had bled through. Not just ghosting, but had bled through, rendering the page useless. It gave me knots in my stomach, since Nuuna is not a cheap notebook. It cost more than an LT. I did not want to look at the eyesore, so I glued a stationary sheet on the back of the page, which made the page twice as thick.
I decided to be more careful in the future, but looked at my three pretty packages of mildliners, wondering what I would use them for now, not being able to use them for their purpose. Then came the next disaster. When people are talking about notebooks on Facebook, then they talk about Tombow brush pens. I used them years ago, in the US, when I used to make my own stationery and cards. But I abandoned them because they are not waterproof and sending cards and letters in the post, with that sort of ”ink”, which might float out, if it is raining when the postman delivers your post, was not to my liking. In October, I started to feel that urge, that many bullet journalers feel after seeing hundreds of posts about an item, and wanted to try Tombow myself. My old ones from the late 1980s had dried up, but the paper shop in Lund, had taken in some colours and happily I bought two orange ones, since I had a weekly planned with funny stamped pumpkins. Happily I set to it, colouring in two of the pumpkins on a left page. Only to sadly discover that my new purchase was a waste. The orange colour ghosted badly on the previous page, ruining a spread I had been rather happy about. So, no mildliners to be used, no Tombows, so forget about learning how to brush letter and using those pens in a Nuuna. Brushlettering being a dream of mine.
So, I had to accept that it was best to keep to a black uni pin all the time and colouring in with Faber Castell Polychromos pencils, after rubber stamping. At this point, I started using the last page of the book as a pen and ink testing page. I wanted no more surprises. And good thing I did. I discovered that Nuuna was like LT. It could not take Versa Fine rubber stamping ink, since it bleeds through on both books. And this creates a problem, because the only ink working 100% with acrylic stamps is, versa fine. All other inks give a blurry image and not crisp lines. And most stamps today, are acrylic since they take up no room. And I am an avid stamper. I love rubber stamps and being able to recreate a favourite image over and over again. But not only can the two books not take versa fine. They can not take Memento, Colorbox, Tim Holtz, as a matter of fact, LT can not take any rubber stamping ink at all, without bleeding or terrible ghosting. Nuuna will take Versa Chalk and if you stamp the image once on a separate paper and then in the Nuuna, it will take Color Philosophy. But this creates a hell if you live in Sweden. The latter has to be sent for, from the UK, and shipping is high. Versa Chalk is a little bit easier to get hold of, but non of the physical shops have it, and sometimes you just want to see the colour before you buy it. The saddest part with this is, that I have tons of shades of colours in the brands, which can not be used.
In November, a month after I started using my Nuuna, and when I had decided that even though Nuuna had not quite lived up to my expectations, I did something I would live to regret. Nuuna comes with soft covers only. It is not a thin cover, but it is soft cover. A cover that is said to be leather but I doubt it very much since it does not smell like it. Since the books are so thick, a hard cover is not really needed to give it stability. But what I noticed on my black Nuuna Voyager size Large, was that the cover got dirty. It attracted finger prints, oil and other dirt and I did not find this attractive. Also, even though my particular model came with what I call a belt, which prevents it from opening accidentally, I did not really use it. It seemed like a great idea at first, since you can attach pens or a mobile to that belt, but it makes it more difficult to get the book out of a full rucksack, if things are attached to the outside of it. I am glad that I did not use my belt, since I have since heard that it will make the covers warp. They can not handle the heat which is created when you put on and take off that belt, the whole time. This did not happen to mine, since I kept the belt off. Also it was so much work to put it on and off, that I hesitated from using the bullet journal when it was on, because it became a chore to take the belt off. And THEN your bullet journal has ceased to fill its purpose!
What I decided to do, was get a protective cover for my bullet journal. It was risky of course, since Nuuna is not standard A5 like all other notebooks tend to be. It is both wider and taller. Getting a cover would lock me in to continuing with Nuuna, no matter what I felt about the notebook. But at this point I felt that, no way, I can not change notebook a second time, after just a month. And there was no other option to Nuuna anyway. STM still had not changed their stock availability! So, I chose a pretty cover in blue. Especially made for me on Etsy, to Nuuna’s strange measurements. The seller telling me that the blue would be Ravenclaw blue, from Harry Potter, and she would do beautiful embossing on it with the Ravenclaw emblem and some quotes I had chosen. I can not describe how excited I was about this. To show publicly what house I belong to!
Till the cover arrived. I unwrapped it in the car, since the postman met me on the parking lot, when I was on the way to fetch my sons. I thought or hoped that the colour was not what it looked like in the car on that grey day. It was not blue though. It was turquoise. So MAJOR disappointment. But that was not the end of it all. When I got inside, I tried to put my Nuuna in it and what happened then can only be described as a disaster. I put the book in to the elastic strings, which it came with, since the covers usually are made for TNs. (Traveller’s Notebook, which will be discussed in a later post) And the elastic strings lost their spring, just like that and became all limp. This usually would happen after months or perhaps years of usage, so I do not understand it. But I thought, I will fix it somehow, tighten them so the book does not fall out. And I was ready to accept the awful colour. But what I could not accept, was the state of my hands. I looked at them and they were covered with turquoise stain. Immediately I ripped the Nuuna out of the cover and threw the cover on a towel, telling everyone to not go near it. Then I started reading about how to get rid of excess colour in leather. All articles assumed that one was asking about gloves and they said to put them in the wash machine. But obviously, you can not put a leather cover in the wash machine!
When my husband got home, I asked him to hold my cover and look at it. I wanted to see if my hands are strange somehow, because the seller must otherwise be a very dishonest one. She must have noticed how much the leather bled and to pack something like that up and send it all the way from Canada to Sweden, charging an arm and a leg for the cover and the same for the shipping, well that stinks! He took the cover in his hands, looked at all the quotes and then discovered his turquoise hands so he put it down immediately. We decided that I would go in to the cobbler in Lund and ask him, if there was anything I could do. So I headed to Lund the next day with the cover in the towel and in a plastic bag. His response was that people who use that much colour in the leather, are poor crafts men. That their products render themselves useless because there is no way at all to get rid of excess colour. The only thing he could suggest was that I go and purchase a hair spray bottle with silicone in it, and spray the cover with it, to see if I somehow could seal the pores. I did but it has rendered the cover all sticky and strange feeling. And I guess that only an idiot would use it, because as soon as the hair spray wears off, which it will do soon, when you pull the notebook out of your bag repeatedly, you are back to where you were from the start, with a cover staining everything that touches it.
I am afraid that this was a bad set back for me and when the next sad thing happened, in connection with my Nuuna, I started to have second thoughts about that notebook. When we entered December, I started to stamp an advent candle stick on every week spread, colouring in a new candle every week, in order to get the four coloured by Christmas. Now, some of Polychromos pencils smear in all colouring books, like red and black for instance. I coloured the candle stick itself, red, and the red colour kept on smearing every day on the opposite page. So I decided to erase the smears one last time and then spray fixative on the page. Oh, I should NOT have done that! The stamping ink bled through bad time. It was like it burned itself through the paper and on the backside of the page, it ruined the page entirely. The bled through stamped image turned PURPLE! So, I will not recommend using fixative at all in a Nuuna. Disaster!
By now, Amazon had finally stocked up on Scribbles That Matter, STMs. Not all colours that the Americans could always choose from, but at least the mint green and lavender, I had been dreaming of. At this point I ordered them as a back up, if the Nuuna was just going to drive me bananas. At the same time, my son came home from England, saw my Nuuna and fell in love, so he went and bought himself one. He loves it, but he does not use anything but Polychromos in his and Muji pens. And now and then he stamps letters and numbers with an old light blue stamp pad, which has not got as much ink in it as they usually have. He never takes his outside the house and only documents football matches and scores in it, so more along the lines of what Nuuna planned for it to be used as.
While out Christmas shopping, I realized that my Nuuna was on the brink of being too large for my mini Kånken rucksack. It just fits which makes it difficult to get in and out. Everything has to be taken out, to put the book in, and you have to wiggle to get it out. And what happens then? You feel it is too much of a hassle and you start trying to keep things in your head instead of, in your bullet journal. That combined with wanting less white pages, made me abandon my Nuuna, 1st January 2018, and get my mint green STM out of the closet.
STMs notebooks come with a thick hard cover. But they feel more padded than an LT, which makes them feel cheaper somehow. At the same time, it gives more stability on the side of the book, where you have not written on that many pages yet. I have the funny version with all the icons, that many have objected to, since they feel it is beneath them to carry around something so childish looking. STM customer service listened to them though, and came out with a pro version without the icons. So you can stay a child at heart or you can be an adult in all things.
The notebook, comes with an elastic, often in a totally different colour than the book, which some object to as well. I find it fun! And it also comes with a pen holder, which I do not use, since it would just get caught on things when pulling my book out. Besides, which one of all my favourite pens would I put in there? I much rather have all my pens safe in my pencil-case.
The paper is not as dark cream as the LT has. But a nice shade actually, since it is easier on the eye than the Nuuna white. And the thickness is right between the two, with 100 grams. The dots are 5 mm apart, like in the LT, so that is on the negative side in my opinion, but one of those things we just have to live with, if we want one of the main company books. 5 mm between dots, is standard. Another standard size is the A5 for the notebook. For those who wonder about sizes, it is a good size, it is not too small and not too big to carry around and a bullet journal should be transportable. It is also big enough to make a monthly spread in or a weekly one. Depending on of course, how much one wants to squeeze in on a page, when it comes to extras like decorations and boxes for trackers, notes and so on. It is the prefered size and there is a reason for it! Thanks to the padded covers, it is slightly thicker than the LT but has fewer pages. In this notebook you only get 201 pages plus a pen test page, a key page and three index pages.
But if the paper doesn’t ghost, then it is worth it right? Well, it takes a couple of minutes, perhaps more, before felt tip pens dry. But that is an improvement from the LT, which takes much longer. Nuuna absorbs all ink at once, I might add for comparison. I am afraid to say that Scribbles That Matter will also ghost, even though the paper is 100 grams thick and is coated.
When it comes to the ghosting though, it really depends on what pens you are using. IF you are light on your hand, and say only write plain text with a felt tip pen, you ought to get away with no ghosting at all. Now, I am talking about big brand names, like Uni Pin, Micron, Sharpie Art Pen (NOT the alcohol based ones that Americans seem to love). Cheap brands, are not always reliable and really need to be tested before you write with them inside your book. There is a pen test page yes, in the back of Scribbles That Matter, but it seems like that paper is not the same as the rest of the book, so you might need to take the page before the pen page, for serious testing.
As soon as you start doing major art work or say Faux Calligraphy or Modern Calligraphy, you are on your own though, when it comes to ghosting. As soon as you start filling in colour, rather than writing straight up and down letters, the book will start to ghost and now you have to decide how much you will be able to live with/tolerate and what is too much. At this point, I have come to the conclusion, that the perfect book does not exist. ALL books will ghost at some point unless you get yourself an art journal. An art journal is made for water colours, all sorts of paints and pens true artists use, and is made to take the abuse so to speak. It will have VERY thick pages and you will have a difficult time to find such a notebook with dots, grids or lines, since they are not really meant for writing in. But some people will move over to this, when they can not live with any kind of ghosting.
Citrus Book Bindery, which makes notebooks to your specifications (mentioned earlier in this post), which has 130 gram paper in the bullet journal notebooks and even thicker for the art journals, might be the only notebook to consider if you want absolute zero ghosting.
My first page in my new STM turned out a disaster. The Monster of Stationery on Instagram had made a wonderful year at a glance page, and I wanted to make a similar one myself. I assumed that she had coloured her boxes with some sort of pastel highlighter, so I grabbed my Stabilo pastels and set out to create something pretty, like everyone else does with their highlighters. Noone can accuse me of having created a pretty page here:
In other words, these pens are not as easy to use, as you think, and get a great result with. But the worse part was, when I turned the page back to the index page!
Before I leave off the STM comments, I want to show the pen tester page, even though it is not the same kind of paper as the rest of the book. I guess they feel, that the paper will still show the same results:
In my next post, I will return to ghosting quite a bit, when I discuss pens I use and pens I do not dare to use. But, in closing, I would like to say something about the notebooks, I did not buy or consider seriously. I have already, discussed the Citrus Book Bindery above. I did not buy a book from the owner of the company, because I felt that the price was too stiff for a regular notebook. When I say regular, I mean a notebook where you would feel free to put down anything. The more expensive of a book I get, I feel the pressure of not ruining it with scribbles, mistakes and silly things. I would only consider a book like that for serious diary keeping and as I mentioned in my previous post, that is something I am not good at keeping up with. When you buy a notebook, you really do need to consider what you are going to use it for. Some people have pages after pages with trackers. They track water intake, sex life, money-saving and money spent, how often their kitten goes to the toilet, how often their children have temper tantrums, you name it. I think some people have got in to a control freak stage never heard of before. And that demands a lot of pages. Some people even complained in January, after setting up the month, that they had already used one-third of their books or more. IF you are going to have 30-40 pages of trackers and other things EVERY month, there is no point to go for the high-end books. You can’t buy those books every three months, year after year, unless you have a really big income and the majority of us do not.
Another book, which I really would have loved to have purchased, had it been easier and cheaper to send for, is Hippo Noto. If you consider Scribbles That Matters difficult to get hold of, then you have not checked out the Hippo Noto. Unfortunately, not that many people are owners of this book yet, so you can not really get an honest opinion about it. What I can say is, that it is a thick book with 500 pages, but even if it sounds a lot to carry around, it is not, since it contains Tomoe River paper, a thin Japanese paper which carries the same qualities, as say a much heavier paper. I am not going to say Bible paper, because it is not that thin, but when we talk Nuuna 120 grams, Scribbles That Matter 100, Rhodia 90, Leuchtturm 80 and Moleskin 70, Hippo Noto has 68 gram paper, so you can imagine how thin it is. But it also proves something to people, that ghosting is not ALL about paper weight. It is also about coating. Tomoe River paper is famous for writing on and is used for the ever popular Hobonichis, in Japan. This latter notebook is indeed not a notebook, but a pre-printed calendar which many in the bullet journal society, use for combined calendar/art journal. It has 52 gram paper. Since Hobonichi does not ghost more than LTs 80 gram paper, I would want to say that Hippo Noto is in most probability not ghosting more than any other book, BUT I doubt that it is ghost free.
The thing with Hippo Noto is, that 1. You can only buy it from the official site, so supply and demand is BAD. 2. It takes months for you to get your book since they first take pledges to see how many are interested in the book, and then the printing starts. From what I have heard on Facebook, the last batch had serious problems, so they are far from sticking to schedule. People are anxiously waiting for what they have paid for and writing irate messages on internet, since there are no up-dates as to what is happening. 3. The book is VERY expensive at $33. And for someone like me, who live in Sweden, the shipping is $32. In other words, the book really costs $65. Those brave souls, who have bought this book, have had it get stuck in customs. And another $42 must therefore be added to the price, if the same happens to you. $107/848 SEK/€86/£76 for a notebook which has basically no reviews yet? For me, this is just too much, even if it has 500 pages and will last forever. My husband asked me ”Do you really want a book that lasts that long?”. I might add: ”Not being able to change if you are unhappy with it?”. And I could also add, what will the book look like when you are half way through? Nearing the end? IF they set up an office in Europe, instead of just offering it from the US, I might consider it. One day. But not now. Not without pictures of ghosting and ordinary people saying what they think about it.
I looked in to two other books as well, namely Rhodia and Lemome. I did not seriously look at Rhodia, since colour options were not that great on Amazon and I like a splash of colour on my notebooks. The fact that it has 90 gram paper also made me hesitant, since that was too close to the hated LT. But if you are in Sweden, you can send for a paper kit from a place called tidformera.se. There you can test the paper in the different notebooks, they carry, which is great to do, before you spend your money. I did not know this, before I bought my Nuuna, for instance. And it could have been helpful, since they carry Rhodia. There ought to be similar things, from the outlets, where you buy notebooks from.
Finally, I want to mention Lemome, which has some funny colours. Unfortunately, Amazon does not ship this notebook to Sweden, which is sad, since many people speak highly of it, on Facebook. Thick paper, no ghosting, which I interpret as some ghosting with certain pens, just like in Scribbles That Matter. I did look in to Lemome seriously from eBay, but when shipping, at the last stage of check out, came up to $43, I said no way. It does not cost a private person $43 to ship a notebook and I do not deal with dishonest sellers who are out there to make dollars on shipping, putting the extra in to their own pockets. There is a limit to what shipping should be allowed to cost and eBay is getting famous for greedy sellers.
Now, some of you will ask, what about Dingbats? This is a notebook I have never considered seriously. As soon as I heard that it had perforated pages, it fell off my wanted list or should I say, list to check out. I do not want pages to fall out in my notebook, and there will always be that risk, when the book is set up to have removable pages.
I seriously hope, that this post has helped someone save some money. I think or fear that we all will do mistakes as far as notebooks go, because what we like, prefer and can tolerate is so very different. What one person recommends, another person will hate. But I have tried to be dead honest in this post and the previous. I do not tolerate ghosting well. I have always hated it, from when I was in school and notes could be seen through the paper, to when I have tried to keep a diary and having had to abandon my beloved Uni Pin pen, because it has rendered the back side of the page, un-usable! The one important thing to consider as a bullet journaler, is to not rush out and buy what everyone else is using. Do the same research you would do before buying a telephone or a laptop. No, a notebook will not cost as either of those two, that is true. And life will go on, even if your choice of notebook, will end up in the bin. But contrary to a mobile phone and a laptop, most of us put a lot of effort in to our notebooks/bullet journals! We pour our heart and soul in to them, we try to create something pretty, and to abandon our hard efforts is more difficult than abandoning an iPhone!