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While I enjoy the net and like creating content for it, the bulk of my writing goes into a pocket sized journal called a Moleskine. I generally use Uniball Signo Gelstik, although for fine lines I use a Pilot G2. The Gelstiks are cheap enough so that I don't have to worry about losing them and can have a big handful every where I work, in my bag, by each chair, etc. G2s can get expensive when you look at getting dozens.

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I generally color in my sketches with a Koh-I-Noor watercolor wheel. It is a set of stacking discs that screw into each other and form a tightly packed set of colors. The occasional gouache or acrylic also make it into the pages, plus I glue in random objects - tickets, labels, etc.

Many people have waxed poetic about their Moleskines, so I'll point out that it is something that I can leaf through and review my life. It provides a vantage point on your thoughts and movements that is difficult to achieve otherwise. The journal is paper, but the ink, watercolor and items inside are a record of my life. Journals are cheap; they are merely containers. Even the contents are unimportant. What they reference, however, is your time and how you have spent it. And that is a valuable currency indeed.


or: How to Slice, Dice and Improve on a Good Thing

This article assumes you are familiar with the multitude of features in the Moleskine notebook line. They are durable and practical notebooks that have been refined over the years into an item of elegant practicality. Ignore the hype and dubious history and you still have a quality notebook that can be had for a low price relative to similar notebooks.

I personally use the Pocket Plain Moleskine as my daily journal and note reference. It has become my wallet and a daily capture device (for you David Allen fans). It contains my identification, cash, formatted notes and a variety of tools. It also features four pockets (one accessable without opening the notebook, and one locked), a pen loop, a card holder, a ruler, a 9 1/2 by 5 1/2 inch mindmap, a formating template and a self indexing system. Basically, it is the Pocket plain with a few additions.

3x5 Card Holder

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This modification creates two pockets to hold 3x5 cards at the front of a pocket Moleskine, at the other side of the book from the accordian pocket. These cards (or in my case, cut paper) are great for repeating lists like grocery and shopping lists. I use the same size strips for recording calls and reformat them back into the journal. The rewriting of the notes after I get off the phone allows me to rethink various points and formulate notes for the next call.

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One nice feature about the holder is that it can be made from a 11 inch strip from a US letter sheet. I printed out a nice pattern and cut it out and sharpied the edges so there wasn't a white edge. For patterns, I suggest this site. Use a thicker paper or light cardboard &emdash; it will get beat up. My next Moleskine that I modify may well have fabric tape reinforcing it.

A good tip when modifying your Moleskines is that the cover can be disassembled with a bit of poking. Seperate the endleaf (the cream inner layer to the cover) from the bookboard (the stiff part of the cover covered in oilskin), creating a pocket as wide as your strip and about an inch deep. Cover the end of the strip with glue, insert it into the pocket, and close the Moleskine, placing a heavy weight on top of the Moleskine.

Redesigning the Pockets

Early on I discovered that heavy usage of the pocket sometimes causes holes to tear in the outside edge (the base of the pocket). After this occured a few times, I set about reworking the back pocket design to make it more capable and (since I kept my money and credit cards in there) a bit more secure.

More to come... need to get illustrations or photos here...


Here are some tips for using a Moleskine.

Tip #1 - The ABCs

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Moleskine address books are not indexed like most address books: they have equal numbers of each letter (unlike most that combine XYZ, for instance). This means that they are useful for anything that can be alphabatized.

Try getting a large address book and using it to record your impressions of where you dined out that evening. Record what you ordered and how you liked it. You'll build up a list of favorite restaurants -- and possibly ask yourself "why do I keep going back?" about a few poor ones.

Tip #2 - The Knot

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An easy way to keep your ribbon from fraying or slipping up into the book is to tie a simple overhand knot at the very end. The end of the ribbon will fray slightly, giving it a worn look, while the rest of the ribbon will be protected. In addition, the knot adds a bit of bulk to the end, preventing the ribbon from slipping up between the pages.


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I have not had any problems (other than bleedthrough) with watercolor, gouache or acrylic in a plain Moleskine. A light coat of white acrylic to the reverse side of the watercolored sketch will allow you to use the back, or you can just glue in a ticket, winelabel or other "attachment" to the back of the sketch. Most of my sketches have other things faintly visible through them, since I don't mind the slight bleedthrough for anything except "sketches for a purpose" or technical diagrams. And once I scan those, I tend to fill in the back of the page. Mine is a journal, not a medium for finished art; your needs may vary.

I like the page count of the plain over that of the sketchbook, and that was my original reason for sticking with plain. Now I like the aesthetic of seeing lines of text or the dim impression of another painted sketch though the page. I have two unused pocket sketchs sitting on the shelf. For what it's worth, acrylics tend not to be visible on the other side or have any problem with attaching. Gouache has a minimal bleedthrough, less than most pens.

I have noted one minor issue - gelpen ink on top of a (dried) acrylic work will cause the ink and acrylic to become tacky for a very long time... enough to rip tiny pieces off the facing page when you open the book again. I was using a Uniball when I discovered this.


Copyright 2011 Sarah and Evan Edwards. Running on Click, software written by Evan.