Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Happy Yuletide

`Tis the Season! 
I bought a fabulous leather trench from a second hand shop, the leather was just so soft and buttery. I cut it to pieces and made a bag (for myself) and a cover for notebooks (for my son´s minder).
The TN is made by assembling two layers of leather, gluing and hammering them together. The optional size visually for me is 12 cm´s width to a5´s height. So I measured and made the leather covers to fit 12 cm notebooks. I glued and hammered and stitched additional, third layer of leather to the spine, to give it strength and to avoid the dreaded puckering that always is so very gringe-worthy...
Picture above is closest to truth, talking about colour, since it´s been taken with flash. We had absolutely no natural sunshine today and the sun was up for only 5 hours today altogether. But... as it is in Nature, days will get longer every day, starting tomorrow.
However taking pictures with flash gives a unnatural glare and my source of picturification is a phone camera so adjusting flash doesn´t exactly isn´t an option. So... pictures below are all taken without flash and show a much darker shade of leather than the lovely really is.


After having finished making the covers, I oiled and conditioned the leather. It was very dry to begin with. 

Inside the covers it has two flaps. This is to ensure that possible a4´s don´t escape, and also, the topmost flap assists in keeping the notebook pages open. The crocodile textured leather actually is genuine alligator. I bought a vintage bag from Amsterdam back in the days and used the bag so fastidiously that the very intricate lock system finally gave up. I snipped the seams open and gave the leather new life. Alligator is perfect material for such flaps because it is very hard, almost scale- like. My son explained that it feels like the skin of a dragon would feel like. Harness- like.
The first notebook is 60 gsm. paper from Staples. I suppose it is the closest experience to Tomoe River paper we get to come in our neck of woods. This is my absolute favourite paper in the world thus far. So thin, so good quality, takes any media and doesn´t even wrinkle when using watercolours. Shades through, naturally since it is very thin paper indeed, but so far even the wettest ink has not bled through. It feels silky smooth to touch and after writing on it, it only gets better.
I covered the notebook with a piece of wallpaper.
I am giving this shebang to my son´s minder (I could say nanny but the lady does not live with us, claiming her to be a "babysitter" gives me all kinds of wrongful vibes since my boy certainly is not a baby anymore), she always seems very keen on my notebooks and organisational systems. She deserves to experience this goodness herself.

On the inside of the cover I slapped a few sticky notes just for fun.


Second notebook is printed from MorganLeFaesTrinkets - blog. I have used her printable notebooks with quotes on them for... I can´t even remember how long. They all have 5mm grid on them and I love grid. I can colour code my page markers to the same places every time I take on another notebook to use. 

Third notebook is a monthly calendar that I printed from Ray Blake´s blog My Life All In One Place. It is a "full" or "regular" size notebook and I just trimmed and extra cm. to the sides. It contains monthly spreads to year 2016 and 2017.

Fourth and fifth notebook are weekly spreads to take one through the entire year.

At the back there are additional two pockets and a pen loop- pen loop made from the alligator leather.
You can´t quite see well but the sneaky sneakster in me had this wonderful notion to hide the knot from the elastic closer to the outer edge.Perhaps one can see it better from very close but this gives somewhat cleaner outlook to the back cover. 

The overall feel of the notebook is very soft, very pliable yet very sturdy. All the layers of leather give it sturdiness a notebook such as this greatly needs. 
All notebooks were printed to 80 gsm. paper in "ivory", from Staples, save the first one that is white and 60 gsm. 
I hope she will like her gift, my son said she will certainly be thrilled, and those two have known quite many years already, as have I... so I do believe that she will be quite pleased.

Happy Yuletide from us to you and yours!

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Oiling the Malden binder

As promised, above the oiling as I usually do it. These days I rarely bother to really rub the oil in, because these really are not its first conditionings either. However, I recommend rubbing very meticulously your leather goods for the first dozen or so times. Better be safe than sorry.

Above the generic olive oil I happened to grasp first from the cupboards today. Beside the Malden binder in personal size, also known as the Brains at our household.

I then pour some oil (whichever oil, really) onto the palm of my hand and just spread it merrily around the binder.

You will see how it will start to seep in to the leather, simultaneously making you a respectable leather- product- owner, while giving your leathery item extended lifespan. You may proceed patting your own back or shoulders if other people are not available to congratulate you on this outstanding act of decency.  

At some point it pays to spread out the remaining oils evenly to the binder- or to add more oil to the thirstier areas.

As you will see, even after 37426348736482 applications, all of that oil will be absorbed. Once this stops from happening, another round of back-/shoulder patting is in order as your leather now is in the state of "saturated" which most mimics its natural state while it still was on a living, breathing and feeling animal. Continue thine oilings until saturated state is achieved. This might take several months even for us most enthused greasers.

For the insides, I just usually open the binder, empty its pockets and...

Get oiling. This is best to do in the evening and leave the natural fats seep into the leather over night. Having laminated page lifters on either side helps protecting the pages as well. I do the same treatment to both front- and back parts, usually during consecutive evenings. 

All of these pictures were taken close to window, but since it was a cloudy and murky day, I added an artificial light which caused the reflective bits.

Above is a picture of the oiled binder closed. This is next to window, in natural daylight. Compared to the dry, scale-like leather this binder was just months ago, it has a completely different texture now.

And the binder opened. Leather still is "rustic" in its appearance but to touch it, feels like touching  finest aniline leather. And after every application, the leather gets softer and softer.

Music of the day.

Friday, 2 October 2015

The aging process of a Malden personal binder.

The picture above was take 5th of August this year. I just had picked the parcel and opened it outside, in direct sunshine. The binder was bought second hand but it was most evident that it was, as the seller listed, never been used. Leather was gorgeous, yet very dry. Binder´s condition left nothing to moan about. The parcel was superbly packaged and I left praising thank yous in his message box. Of the six rings inside one was perfect which is one more than the usual Filofax standard these days is so Lady Luck was apparently feeling quite frisky those days.  

The picture above shows the same binder, opened but the sun was covered with clouds. It still was very bright and hot like in a hot summer´s day would be, just without direct sunlight. 
As shown, the binder came with its original diary pages, dating from 2011. Alongside there was older pages as well, so there is no way telling (apart from contacting Filofax requesting the time estimate of the code in the strap but I somehow manage to make do without that bit of knowledge) the binders age in years. It did not lay flat. Contrary to other Maldens I have, this one had something... crinkly inside. It doesn´t crinkle anymore. It also is properly greased like a well oiled machine, that I intended the beast to be. Said in its literal meaning.

Above is a picture also taken outside. The binder is now almost a month old (counted in active using time). By this time I had oiled this conservatively every now and then. A lot of scratches came and went as I rubbed them off. I did not want to oil this too heavily at first, I wanted the parchment- like dry and thirsty leather to suck up the oil and hand creme from my hands first. I knew it would and had I wanted to prevent this, I would have soaked this beauty in a closed plastic bag in olive oil, in the very beginning. When leather is saturated with natural oils, any additional oils and fats can be easily wiped off. If leather is dry however, it will act like a rescued puppy and get evvverything it can from anybody and everybody, just to hold on to dear life. The fats the leather first soaks will stay, and can stain leather unevenly, lest the fats and oils are spread and rubbed in evenly. First is the magic word here in terms of talking about dry leather. I knew this and I wanted to use it to "age" the binder visually faster than it would have done so.

Here above is another picture taken near window (South, light is harsh) and now the binder is wee over a month old- using vise. One can see how the driest bits close to upper and lower edges have started to pigment darker, also there is a distinct hand print in the works on the spine area. It is not easily seen here, since the window is lighting the spine, but it was easily seen with one´s eyes. 

Picture above is taken this morning, The binder has been in active use for two months (shy of just three days). Lighting is cold now, as is the weather and glove- season is upon us. This is how I carry my planner everywhere. Everywhere and I am not joking. The back pocket holds my phone usually (not now as I used it to take these pictures.) I am ready to take calls and jot down appointments at a moment´s notice even when I take Feisty McWigglebottom to his walks. The binder has been subjected to winds, several rains, it has been scratched, it has been slept upon (McWiggly). It has had coffee spills, it has been wiped with kitchen towels after been submerged in flour and it has also experienced the excitement when spills happen during making one´s cleaning products. To put it in short, it has not been babied. It is a hard working binder, and will get treated accordingly- in good and in bad. To make it as resistible to life as humanely possible, I have now oiled it several times. I use avocado oil, sunflower oil, olive oil. I have dropped EO´s to the carrier oils every now and then to give it a nice scent. I have rubbed it with my hand cremes as I rub them into my hands. I make most of my own cremes, so usually it is a random mix of cocoa butter, shea butter, coconut oil, carrot oil, EO´s, rose water etc. This leather has probably seen every fat there is in the house and we have a lot of fats. During the summer months it also was subjected to WD-40 as I oiled my son´s bike´s bits and that gunk was all over my hands. I just happened to have placed the binder as a weight to the rags, to keep them from flying off with the heavy winds. As mentioned, this thing gets no special treatment. Living with us gets you messy at times but hey, at least life never gets boring around here.
As a result, it has become soft, so soft and pliable, I can not even describe it in detail. I can not see myself ever parting from this beauty. I know we´ve only been in each other´s lives for two months, but it seems like so much longer period of time, do you know what I mean? 
*crickets sing*

Above another picture from this morning. Now the deeper colouration around spine area is more visible, even from low quality pictures like these, naturally seen with the naked eye it all becomes more enhanced. I placed a sweet inside the back pocket to show just how soft the binder has become. One can almost spell the brand of said sweet through leather.

Then the scratch test. A Malden leather can recover from terrible things, you know? I wanted to demonstrate a deep scratch ( I pressed hard on the leather with these talons) I made on the darker bit. I wish the picture would better show contrast between scratch and deeper coloured leather better but alas, the light is bound to reflect from that surface. Let it be said, it was very clear and very deep.

After rubbing it less than ten seconds, can you see the scratch? 
Key words- well oiled leather. 

Weekend is upon us. If only time allows, during these following two days I will post the basic oiling process I do to the binder, how it will look during oiling and after oiling. 
I know I haven´t been most active at around this corner of the world, but there are those times when a lot of life flows in fast pace and the only sane thing is to jump along. 
But oiling, this weekend, I´ll make a note of it in my planner and see that it gets done!

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

One Book July challenge

There is this evil challenge in the land of Interwebs, created by Klair from Rhomany´s Realm. Personally, I never imagined I would ever partake in this experiment since my system of planning has been pretty much the same for years and years already. During the past years I have tried different options in terms of size and portability. have EDS with severe issues when it comes to my joints so I have needed to tweak the system to make it more feasible and safe to lug around.
Having that said, my planning has been moved from ring bound binder to bound books and then back to ring bound planners. Why? Because in ring bound planners I don´t have to carry that many pages because they can be added if needed. 
I have been most content in personal sized planners, given they have adequate space to write in, yet are not hideously large, which resonates to their weight. 
However... during this July I have been subjected to this #onebookjuly2015 to the extent that I found myself thinking... is there something for me to learn? Have I indeed paired down to absolute essentials? 
Onebookjuly basically is a challenge that encourages its participants to use one book, one pen, for one month. Many participants joining are combining their journals to the merry lot as well- which is in the spirit of this challenge. I however, will not be doing this. I have a system that works like a clockwork and I am not messing that up. I have people that need to have their salaries payed, along with other legal duties that come (I do the books myself so it all has to be documented clearly), son who partakes in several therapies due to his several medical conditions, I am running this home and my son´s school in this binder and because apparently I hate sanity, I have taken up studying once more and there is a book project looming at the background as well. 
When it comes to creativity, that will happen if there is time for it. Another binder will see to that.
Klair herself has explained the ethos of the challenge well enough on the video linked below, so I shall leave further details to the good Lady herself.

What I was intrigued however, was the knobby puzzle of pocket sized planner. I have this beautiful Finchley that was burning my hands (shelf), you see. I know I have a lot in my plate but also, it is July and my son´s school and therapies are on their leave. I could do with the pocket size for July, common sense told me so and it was right. Also, can you see how much smaller the pocket sized planner is, compared to personal size? My personal binder is a generic one from Ajasto. It is a Finnish brand that makes wide range of calendars and planners. Not great quality but let´s say this, their pen loops do not just rip off, unlike the pen loop of my Filofax did.  Might I mention that there wasn´t even a pen in the pen loop, just poor craftsmanship, that´s all. Were I to whine about Ajasto binder, I would make a note of poor design. The flap that closes the binder with a magnet is designed to stay closed.When one opens the binder, the pesky flap just folds over paper because the binder pieces were cut that way that the inner piece is very much shorter, bending the flap to a closed position, even while attempting to use it. I have slathered the persistent piece of plastic with Plade so it would not crack, while I muscle the damn thing off my way, but it only is a matter of time when the binder breaks because of this basic level of stupidity. 

For a layout I usually use the vertical layout with times. I use Ajasto refills. For July and its pocket sized planner, I used pages offered free for printing by Ray Blake in his blog, My Life All in One Place. I had prior printed these for Field Notes sized Traveler´s booklet, but cut them in A6 size, so trimming them to pocket size was no problem at all. One thing I should mention, Ajasto refills are larger that Filofax refills in pocket size, and since the rest of the refills were (aside from "information" pages) Ajasto refills, I chose to trim Ray´s pages in matching larger size as well. 

Two weeks into July and I indeed learned something new. Instead of a week on two pages and daily pages, what I really need is two sets of weeklies. In the other set of weekly pages I will do the reminders, notes ( bills that are due, phonecalls to make etc.)while the first weekly pages will remain dedicated to meetings, places to be and when etc. 
I already do the very detailed daily planning, note taking while phone calls etc. on a desk planner in A5 size. This I never lug around but the personal sized binder is a constant companion. 
So last night, I copied all the information concerning July from pocket sized planner back to my irritatingly flappy personal binder (this binder will change shortly, even if I like its red- ness greatly) and will add another set of weeklies. This is a great time to add refills since schools are about to start again in less than a month´s time.
To put it all in a nutshell- an old dog can indeed learn new tricks.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Quick, easy and inexpensive TN covers.

A brief hullo.
I have now lived in TN that is regular sized otherwise but I´ve shortened it by 3 cm´s. 
Warmer months have come upon us and portability becomes even a greater issue than before. 

I will go back to the shortened version of regular TN in due time, but in this short post I´d like to address quick, no fuss, inexpensive TN covers. Probably even a baboon could make these so no need for even basic leather working skills are required. 

All you need is cardboard and rubber band. I have some craft paper and cardstock, all varying between 120-200 gsm.  If it´s on the lighter side, I just glue two sheets together before cutting. If I´m glad with cardstock thickness, I´ll just cut merrily away. I round the edges, also will round the middle point of cardstock. I will slide a rubber band to the covers and call it a day. That´s it. The rounded groove in the middle will hold the rubber band in place. 

I usually boink a hole for closing elastic to the mid-back covers but this time I thought to myself... why not try the mid-back for a chance. I remembered why I hatehatehate the knot at the spine, it pokes the whole bunch of notebooks away from spine and you want them to be close to the spine instead. See the absolutely dreadful gap at the spine. Uuuurgh!   

Another point. Paper loves paper. Flattability won´t be an issue and when covers need changing, it won´t be hard to look for another quick fix. Print the covers for added wo-hoo element, if you so are inclined. 
There is no reason to why not to cover the cardstock in plastic, one way or another... but I do love the feeling of paper for myself and as tatted pages are a mark of a book well loved, TN makes no difference in my eyes.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Notebooks that travel

So the Malden worked perfectly until I needed to write down notes on the go. I often get phone calls and need to make appointments in a moment´s notice. No problem, only... the large size combined with floppiness caused for the notebook to just slide in a relaxed fashion, straight to the floor or ground. This happened a few times until I decided life was too short.
So I took these leather covers. I used to have my book projects in this but I transferred them to the narrower Malden leather covers.

Covers are distressed with blade and sandpaper. 

I have a plastic pocket folded around all notebooks, at the front I have super stickies from Post- it slapped on them. These stickies hold grocery lists and brief notes.

On the other side of the plastic, I have sticky tabs in three colours. Then a craft folder of sorts follows, inside which I have put a notebook.

On the craft folder I have mark-it dots,stamps, tabs, sticky notes etc. You see how the notebook got victimized by a cup of coffee. This notebook was not the only casualty of coffee drinking.  

Then the next insert is a Commonplace Book. Alongside with coffee, it has gotten a lot of use.

I actually love the rustling of the coffee stained pages.

The following insert would be "Words". It is more private notebook. It is my journal on the go, some notes that have more longevity than the quick notes from the first book, also to do lists etc. 

The the monthly diary that I printed from the blog "My Life All In One Place". Ray Blake has a lot of printables in there.

Then follows the most important insert of them all, Chronodex. 
This I printed from the blog "Scription". Patrick Ng hosts the blog and has provided plethora of attractive MTN pictures.

After which I have daily journal, again from Ray Blakes blog. I have printed these on laser ink paper, 90 gsm weight, to able the use of fountain pens.

Towards the end I have "Info" pages. In which I have my son´s allergies, his school information, contacts, the company infro from which I reserve nannies when I need them and their rates, etc.  

And lastly a financial section. 

I have chosen not to show inside of the notebooks, solely for the reasons that I have a lot of writing and information in them, and all of it is private. But these leather covers manage to hold a lot of necessary information that I need with me.

Le Fin.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

The difference in leathers used in Malden binders

I´ve often told about difference in Malden leathers. It is understandable that once one sees a certain type of leather in a binder they wish to purchase, and then when it comes and proves to have quite the opposite look... questions arise. It is natural for hides to come in varying nature, in my opinion it would be responsible for a company- any company to first note that leathers can and will vary, or then perhaps they should outline the type of leather to use altogether. 
Had I have promised a customer a silk shirt in satin weft for generous drape, and delivered shirt made of Pongee silk with completely opposite effect it being of rough, nubby texture, this would not have been acceptable. Also, had I measured and agreed to make a size 38 garment, yet the outcome had peen of size 42, this would not have been acceptable and would have deemed me quite the unprofessional, which would be bad reputation and detrimental for professional pride. 
When I ordered two ochre Malden binders in a5, I got one in satin weft and size 38, while the other was size 42 and Pongee silk. In proverbial sense.
The other was incredible dry, it had small tears in leather and while I opened it, I heard the leather tearing apart. It was visibly made of thinner leather and held within itself great promises of future silkiness after- what proved to be several months- of conditioning. 

I have great respect towards leather. I eat meat, I use leather. However, it does not mean we don´t need to respect the animal and the products it provided us with. Native Americans brush blood under their eyes (I do not know if this is true in all tribes but it was true with those with whom I talked with) after killing the animal and gives it thanks for giving its life to humans. In terms of consumption, I think all possible bits of beast should be used. You make hides, pelts, eat the meat, can do preservatives, boil glue etc etc. But you respect the process, you respect the outcome, dammit! When an animal has given its life for you fancy binder, bag, belt, coat, gloves, whatnot, do be decent and take care of it. When animal still has a heartbeat, it also has fat underneath its skin. This fat makes skin elastic, skin can stretch back and forth, it protects the beast from pesticides, diseases, sun, keeps the animal warm or cool. Just as with our species, humans, it is their largest organ and vital to surviving. When an animal is killed and it is separated from its harness, the hide goes through grueling process to make it pliable enough to serve us, the species of humans. The very thought that magically, we as "crown" of food chain, make it so that leather no longer needs the natural fats and oils and can sustain because of the awesome fact that a human is using it and all of a sudden it becomes something very else than the natural organ it once was, having its own requirements now denied and suppressed, is utter garbage and makes us assholes. And that is slightest of the cases. So condition yo´ leathers, dammit! If you are a company, pretend to have some respect, even if you really do not know the meaning of the expression. Trust me, the consumer will not know the lack of your morals, the consumer just won´t see cracking of the leather. Because it´s so hard not to notice it. 
If you are a person who never conditions your leathers... why!?!? Do you know that a leather product can outlive several generations, properly conditioned and will show beautiful patina, but will decay sooner if you just are not in a mood of taking care of something that died for you. Also, it makes you an asshole. Yes, I will judge. Forever. Should you care? Absolutely not but you should condition your damn leather products!

Above is picture of the two binders. The smaller and thinner one lays flat more so than its thicker, grainier and larger friend. Also, notice how the other pocket is of different colour. It is the same colour found on the outside. Best leather for this binder is found on the inside, on the zipper pocket.

The leather on the thinner one was and is thinnest on the upper corner here. It also is creased and pouching. After two years of active use, it still is.

I then applied natural oils (a mix I made back at the time. No chance ever to remember ingredients) to them- because of the dryness. This should be done every time for either dry leather, or leather that has not been conditioned for a long time. After the naturals, I applied medium brown leather creme. The difference in colour got significantly different. After this, another coat of natural oils was applied. All of this got sucked straight in the leather.

I was trying to demonstrate their difference by holding them up, but the coarser and thicker binder wanted to spread up (the hussie) and the flimsier one was having none of that and kept falling down. Perhaps the beast it came from used to be Victorian in previous life? So I opted to show the pair how to compose oneself  and stand up straight.

For several days I applied oils and cremes and leather conditioners to them and especially, the thinner one was beyond thirsty. The binders sucked all oils straight away and I just kept adding. How does one know when the leather is saturated=conditioned enough? The natural fats linger on before whooshing into the leather. Like any organic creature, leather needs moisture and it will feed itself until all is fine and dandy. Picture from above is a week after conditioning with natural oils with no pigment. I could see their true colours coming through as more moisture was given to leather

This picture above  is of the pair as they are. They still are getting conditioned, however they no longer are creaking or breaking and are saturated. The finer one is silky, buttery and soft. Even if I have decades working with different materials, including leather, I could not predict this level of softness after the dry, sandpaper-like feel. My friend kept hugging it and said it was an equivalent to a plushy toy for adult. This interaction made me very uncomfortable and we ended up in a friendly, yet determined enough tug-of-war when it came to possession of the thing. Ever since I´ve  kept it at quasi-safe distance from her.
I needed to cut out some material because the rings were useless and gaping, also I made it into a binder that holds 12 cm x 21 cm. notebooks. It is a home for my book projects and indeed, the colour is very espresso. All very naturally so.

The other below is to be seen on pictures on prior posts. I used it as my "one planner" but logistic challenges emerged when I need to use it on the go. Such generous and gorgeous floppiness needs two hands, I dropped it a few times too close to comfort and made it a home to Commonplace Book and Dear Diary. We now have received a new harmony as my planning needs have found a new home in a TN, which agrees more on opening, making appointements and taking notes on the go.