Author Archives: leslie

State of the Art: Coffee Bag Wallets

I’ve been making recycled coffee bag wallets for years. I used them extensively throughout grad school and sold them. I haven’t had time to make them recently.

Many of the coffee companies I’ve been getting coffee from have changed the bags they use- they’ve gone from the tube style to a style that has 4 sealed edges or are short and squat. I welcome that they use less plastic but the lower amount of plastic means I don’t get to make the bifold bill fold wallet, since there just isn’t enough bag there to make one.

I started looking at some of the wallets I like online, and my Baronfig card sleeve. I’ve always wanted a slim wallet that holds very few cards and takes up as little real estate in my pocket as possible. But I’ve always wanted something that holds cash as well. The Baronfig sleeve doesn’t hold cash well.

I decided to make something a bit larger all around than my Baronfig sleeve, not to hold more card, but to hold cash.

I attempted to heat seal the pieces together but that didn’t work well at all, so I’ll try stitching them together. That’s for next time.

Review: ScribbleSheets Orange Opal Edge Journal

ScribblSheets popped up in most of my social media feeds and I admit I was quite taken with the pretty edges. I reached out to the company and requested a copy for review, I’m really glad they said yes. Shipping was delayed due to the current state of the USPS, but wasn’t as bad as some of the other things I’ve ordered recently. The journal was packaged in a bubble mailer and within that a crisp cellophane wrapper.

At first glance the ScribblSheets Orange Opal Edge journal looks like a standard moleskine style journal, and in many ways it is. It measures 8.25×5.75 inches or 21x14cm also known as A5. It includes a sturdy elastic and a generously long narrow ribbon. The ribbon arrives heat sealed but I hit mine with a lighter just to get that seal a bit extra.

The covers are black vinyl or what everyone is calling vegan leather these days, and I won’t rant on the disingenuous nature of the idea of vegan leather. It’s plastic, and vinyl at that. It’s a nice vinyl and feels grippy and slightly squishy. On the lower back cover the ScribblSheets logo is debossed. It’s small and tastefully done.

The back cover sports an elastic loop for a pen, it’s large enough to accommodate a fountain pen, mine is currently holding my Wing Sung 3013. But It’ll hold a Preppy snuggly. It will not hold a pencil. I find that it’s a tad narrow and my pen flops around a bit, but in my Lihit Lab Bag in Bag it’s fine.

The inside back cover lacks a pocket, but I added a little slash pocket of my own. Inside there aren’t any markings at all. No logos, no square or lines to write your name or address. I used a ruler and added mine own in pencil then cleaned it up. Easy. There aren’t any page numbers either.

The grid is perfect. It’s the palest grey imaginable, so it completely disappears behind your writing no matter the color. I love it. At 5mm it’s a perfect distance for my writing. Each page has 40×28 dots per page. It’s a good number for a bullet journal- enough spots for a monthly log and more than enough for a day’s task list. My Peter Pauper ruler works perfectly with this grid size.

The paper is amazing with pencil, it’s got just the right amount of tooth for an HB like the Musgrave Harvest Pro or even the firm core of the Blackwing Eras. I also really like it with ballpoint and gel inks.

The paper does okay with finer nibs and well behaved fountain pen inks. You’ll be able to see in the images some long fibery feathering that reminds me of the old moleskine paper. But then it does fine with other inks and nibs. Generally, thus far I’ve been sticking to my Wing Sung 3013 loaded with Shaeffer Skrip Peacock Blue. It has been doing really well with this ink.

Now, let’s talk about the Orange Opal edge on this journal. It’s incredibly pretty. I’m not sure how they get the edge colored, I’m assuming that it is some sort of printing process, what ever it is it’s great. The colors are lovely and soften as the journal is opened. I really love the pattern and how it looks. It’s a nice touch on a nice journal.

Inside there are 160 pages stitched in using the Smythe (the same as the moleskine) style. They lay flat and the pages stay open. I had a few loose stitches in the start of my journal, but it didn’t impact my use. I had absolutely no glue creep between signatures or at the stitches. The block of the journal is affixed to the covers well. Like most journals the spine is stiff at first but then opens flat and is flexible.

Overall I really like the ScribblSheets Orange Opal Edge Journal. With 160 pages I’m not looking at more than 3 or 4 months use before I have to start a new journal, but I like starting a new journal. At $16.99 it’s not cheap but the pretty edge is a nice design element, and while the insides are sturdy and useful, that edge makes this journal stand out. It’s a pretty element that might seem a little frivolous at first, but it’s an understated design element that only the keen observer of your bullet journal will notice, but I notice every time I open up the journal. I like that.

This isn’t going to be your fountain pen journal, but the journal you use on the go with a pencil or gel pen, maybe even a Bic Cristal.

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Maker: Setting Up My Every Thing Every Where Journal

I mentioned on instagram that I had decided to retire my 2020 Every Thing Every Where Journal (ETEWJ) and start a fresh one for 2021. I never do this. The whole POINT of the ETEWJ is that it is flexible and not retrained by dates or years, rather it flows undated with my needs and my uses.  The next issue of Useful Journaling (1.3) explores the idea of Every Thing Every Where Journals.

My need for 2021 is to leave behind 2020. Also, the Baronfig Work/Play III has a lot of really intense journaling that needs to be left behind, though referred to often. Mostly I did not want to carry that weight with me on the daily.

So I ripped open my new ScribblSheets (full review soon!) journal and started to set it up. You’ll recognize many elements from Bullet Journaling, but with some added flexibility. I’d cut out chunks and added things as I need change.

To start I add a bunch of sticky notes to the front pages- a few extra large lined, a few regular 3×3 inch, a few 2×2, a few flags, and a handful of tabs. I use these to flag books I’m reading but to also flag important notes in my journal as I’m working. I’ll slap the large post it notes on the outside of the journal to trigger me to remember specific things.

The first spread of pages gets divided into 3rds, and I add in what would be called a “future log” but only includes 6 months. My ETEWJ rarely lasts 6 months, sometimes they are abandoned, but more often than not, I fill them in 4 to 6 months.

I then add in monthly logs for the next 2 months. I use a durable file tab in blue to mark the current month, on the fore edge of the book for easy access. I use these to mark off weekends, pay dates, dates when bills need to be paid, and when I need to do various assort things around the house. Blogging info goes in here as well.

Then I’ll start specific project logs. These only get a paper tab when I’m actively working on that issue. If you think of GTD, this would be your project to do list- it’s got all the things that need to get done to make this project a reality. I call this my Every Thing Task List In the case of this example, Useful Journaling, the to do list doesn’t change, but it helps to make one of these lists for each issue. The opposite page get the rough outline for the current issue I’m working on. This will get translated to Google Docs or NovelPad for drafting.

The next spread gets my Blog Posts To Do list. This page gets a durable plastic tab on the top edge of the page in whatever color I’m feeling at that moment. When a stationery item arrives at my house it gets logged here. As I write, photograph, or post I tick off the appropriate box.

Then come my weekly logs. I use a separate DayJob bullet journal, so my ETEWJ only concerns my side hustles and other creative work. Having a daily log for all of this seems unnecessary and I don’t put pressure on myself to do this work during my DayJob work week. Generally these are labeled with weekend dates. The opposite page is for information gathered in regards to my side hustles and creative work. The left page is for short bursts of info, quotes, and things I want to remember.

This series of notes is from my old ETEWJ.

This series of notes is from my old ETEWJ.

After this I’ll use the next free series of pages for notes. If I’m reading my ETEWJ is there with me. I’m taking an edX class on Project Management, my ETEWJ is there with me as I take notes and learn. I also use as many pages as I need for planning and designing things I’m interested in. I’ve got ideas for making planters out of pallets so I drew up some basic designs in my journal.

Then I’ll start the weekly log for the next week. The ribbon marker is always on the current week’s log.

Rinse, repeat as needed.

What I like about this system is that it is fluid and easily adapts to what I need,

Review: Wing Sung 3013 Vacuum Fountain Pen

The Wing Sung 3013 vacuum filling fountain pen is 100% copy of a TWSBI Vac 700. I won’t lie, I purchased the Wing Sung because the price of the Vac 700 is out of my reach right now  especially for a pen that I wasn’t sure I would like.

For $7.42, the 3013 is a steal. It feels well made when compared to some of my other knock off pens. The body is sturdy, threads well molded, and generally looks pretty nice. The cap continues the TWSBI knock off theme and looks startlingly similar to TWSBI’s caps. The clips is generic looking but sturdy. The finial is plain domed chrome. The cap is postable but throws the balance of the pen off.

The nib is the classic Wing Sung Pilot knock off, and mine is fine, and writes smoothly. The feed is clear plastic and also a Pilot copy. The grip section is round plastic and reminiscent of the TWSBI Diamond series.

The back end has a cap that unscrews. One must be careful to NOT unscrew the silver band just below the cap as that will allow you to removed the mechanism. Once the cap is unscrewed the piston slides in an out much like the plunger on a hypodermic needle.

The mechanism builds up a vacuum until the plunger reaches the bottom of the body of the pen, at which point the vacuum releases and sucks up ink. Getting a full fill takes some work and practice, but once done, this pen sucks up an enormous 2 ml of ink. To compare, most pens take up about 1 to 1.5 ml. A converter gets about .75ml, while a cartridge has around .5 to .75ml. 2ml is a huge amount of ink!

The only problem with it sucking up that huge amount of ink is that only only get to fill it once in a long while, and frankly, I really want to watch this thing suck up ink!

The nib is smooth and the grip is nice. I did fine that the body of the pen is a bit sharp, but this didn’t actually impact my use. The sharp area didn’t rest on my hand or under my fingers. I did use a sharp knife and patience to knock the sharp edge off the body of the pen. I know that the sharp edge was a complaint of some early Vac 700 users.

Overall, I really like this pen. At $7.50 it’s a steal. The combination of the fun filling mechanism, nice heft, and smooth nib makes this an everyday use kind of pen. That is to say, that since I received this pen and filled it I have not put it down. There is no getting around the fact that this pen is a direct rip off of the TWSBI Vac 700. After using this pen, I’m convinced I will like the Vac 700 and I’ll be using the Vac 700 as a carrot on a stick.

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Week Links 2021-01

I’ve been thinking about index cards again. I just picked up a new to me but VERY vintage steel card box to match my other vintage steel card box and just wow are they pretty.

But it got me thinking about using index cards again. Here are some links to pictures that I spent time pouring over and reading.

The Pile of Cards Method:

Pile of cards album

Pile of cards album 2.

Then there’s this collection of techniques.

Maker: Demise of Small Companies

Way back in 2009 or even further back I picked up a copy of Make the Cut a fabulous software that let me control my Cricut craft cutter. I was able to cut anything I wanted and items of my own designs. Awesome.

Well that was fun, until Provocraft decided they didn’t want third party software controlling their machines. Then sued the makers of Make the Cut. Make the Cut was tied up in court for years. Googling the company shows several lawsuits. Eventually the software was locked down and the code needed to make the software able to work with the cricut was locked out. If you upgraded your copy of make the cut past MTC 4.1.0 it can’t be hacked to work. You also need to install the pccplugin which you have hopefully saved on a thumb drive somewhere.

Make the Cut is now abandonware. The developer has allowed the site to come and go it is currently up and you can download the software, though there are reports in the forum that the new serial numbers no longer work. The forum and site are up now, I was unable to get any assistance from the owner for getting my reg key. I used their automated system and it did not work. I also have not received an answer via their support ticket system. According to several users on the forum, the user has not responded to anything on the forum for over 5 years at this point (writing this 12/2020).

If you have access to the computer you had Make the Cut installed on you can use these instructions to attempt to retrieve the registration code. I was able to successfully reboot my nearly dead old laptop and pull the code out. Then I emailed it to myself AND saved the MTC4.1.0 installer, pccplugin, and reg code to thumb drive. This will get stored in a safe place and I’ll also back these files up to the cloud. And you should to.

I’ll update my old posts about MTC. Apparently now you need to use Sure Cuts a Lot, but I do not think it can be hacked to work with the crapcut. Again I salute Provocrap with a middle finger salute. We should be able to use the Crapcut with any software in the same manner we use a printer.

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Review: Peter Pauper Metal Stencil Bookmark for Bullet Journals

The name of this ruler is ridiculously long. It tells you everything you need to know about what this thing is in one giant mouth full.

I have been eyeballing this stainless steel ruler for a few years. It would go out of stock then jump up to $10 then drop down to $5 and go out of stock before I got home from work. Bonkers.Stencil bookmark for bullet journals

I finally say it was $4.95 again and IN STOCK! After ordering it arrived in a few days. The ruler/bookmark is wonderfully thin. If you ever used an eraser shield, it’s slightly thicker and sturdier. The ruler is laser cut into the metal and looks great with metric on one side and imperial on the other. Between the two are a variety of dashed and solid lines, rectangles and ovals, as well as an assortment of little icons sized for a standard 5 or 6mm dot grid bullet journal.

I purchased this for the bookmark and ruler aspect. I find a thin ruler like this incredibly useful when setting up my bullet journal pages in my Every Thing, Every Where Journal (ETEWJ.) Even better is that a slim ruler can live in the pocket of my ETEWJ and not make a giant bulge to write over.

The ovals and rectangles will be the shapes that I most use in the stencil part of the bookmark. I don’t use icons when I habit track but I did test them out. The stencils work pretty well when used with a fine liner or felt tip pen. It did not work well with any of my gel pens and in fact ruined the tip on an Energel Pro refill! Luckily it was almost dead anyway. I did not test this with a fountain pen, but I would image it would kill the tipping on a good pen.

The little icons did fit in the 5mm squares of my BaronFig journal and I did not think to test them in my work Leuchtturm 1917. While I don’t see myself using the icon stencils in the future, I know a lot of people who are less confident in their ability to draw an envelope than I am, this is for them.

Overall, I really like this as a ruler and as a bookmark. It’s sturdy and the laser etched markings mean than the ruler will last. For $5 this is a great add on to any journal purchase or gift.

The link is an affiliate link to the ‘zon. If you follow the link and make a purchase, Amazon tosses me a few pennies sometimes halves and quarters of pennies. I did purchase this with Ko-Fi funds.

Week Links

In this week’s links I dive down a few rabbit holes.

Gelatin printing is the predecessor of the gelli printing plates. Linda Germain has a great blog and website dedicated to make plates out of gelatin. If you sign up for her newsletter you can get a very easy recipe for a partially plasticized version of the plate. That just means that the gelatin has been stabilized with glycerin and won’t grow mold the way just gelatin will.

I’ve been using Insight Timer to relax a bit here and there. It has free and paid options, and best of all the app has a nice little timer that uses different chimes instead of my phone’s horrible blaring alarm. There are loads of different folx doing the mindfulness and meditations so you can find a voice you like, versus getting stuck with voices you hate.

I love to look at drawings as much as I like making drawings. I discovered this guy via Austin Kleon’s blog.

 

State of the Art: Making it Work

A thing that happens a lot among artists is that we find a tool we like, use the hell out of it and realize that it doesn’t just work the way it is so we start to need to adapt our tools. This can be done simply with a knife or scissors. Or with the addition of layers of masking, electrical or duct tape. I often will use jelly silicone pencil grips to bulk up the grip of a pen.

A case in point is this little number I did to this Bic Gelocity. You know the one I reviewed over here. Well it is not a great pen, but it does make nice fine deep black lines, but wow is it uncomfortable. I slid a gel grip on hoping it would slide around easily but instead it’s a snug fit. I wedged it just above where the cap clips and used a pair of scissors to snip the cap off so it fits without needing to go over the now phat grip. The clip started to catch on the grip so snip snip, that went goodbye as well. I filed the sharp pieces of plastic down and now the Gelocity is more comfortable and not bad for sketching in a pocket notebook.

I’ve also removed clips that poke into the meat of my hand, bulked up pens with masking tape and made adaptive devices for other people with Crayola model magic.

I also have added a roll of fabric to the side of my mouse to adapt my grip to reduce stress. This is a temporary fix and I’ll eventually go back to a ball but for now, it works.

While I would hesitate to make a more expensive pen 100% mine, I wonder why? Why not take my Sarasa Grand and bulk up the grip with Sugru or Sculpey? Why not stretch and slide a silicone squishy grip on there?

I might raid my pen cup and play some more.

Maker: Writer Processes- Using Docs

A slightly different port today. If you’ve been reading for awhile you know that I write novels (4 years winning NaNoWriMo) and I’ve been using Google Docs for this since, well, what seems like forever. I adopted it early on as a way to work on the go and on my breaks at the DayJob, as well as for my thesis in graduate school. My work style has evolved as docs has evolved. Let me go over my current method then we’ll compare how other writers’ tools work in future posts.

Docs is primarily a place to churn out words, and it’s great for drafting large volumes of words especially if you are collaborating with others. Several self published authors I know use docs as their primary writing tool. In part because it’s free and available on all their devices. It also makes it easy to share with beta readers and editors.

Docs has offered an outlining tool that allows you to create an outline and add headings. The headings appear on an outline bar to the left of your work area. You can toggle this on and off as you are working. My current method is to outline in a doc as so: (I apologize for this not looking like the outline style in docs, it did not translate well to WordPress.)

  • Title of Piece
  • Chapter 1(This gets a description)
  • Scene 1 (one sentence description)
  • Scene 2
  • Chapter 2
  • Scene 1
  • Scene 2
  • And so on.
Outline

This is what it looks like in the writing area.

Outline on left bar.

This is what the outline looks like on the left bar of the page. It looks very much like a table of contents.

All of this appears in the sidebar as soon as I designate them with a heading style. This is easily accomplished with a quick highlight and select.

The side bar lets me navigate through my document quickly and easily. Say I want to work on scene 5 in chapter 10, well I can easily find that one the side bar and navigate to it. Or if I decide to change a character’s last name in chapter 3, and she’s not mentioned again until chapter 10 I can toggle to chapter 10 and leave myself a note, “Don’t forget Jane’s last name is now Dough not Doe.” I can highlight this or use a comment on the chapter title.

How has this worked in practice? Really well. It’s simple and brainless. While I didn’t plot my 2020 NaNoWriMo novel once I started and got an idea of the characters and setting, I plugged in chapter ideas and went back into the story and added in scenes and chapters as I needed them. It was very flexible. I wrote some of the scenes out of order and then cut and pasted them into the spaces where they needed to be. This was easily accomplished by toggling through the chapter and scene headings on the outline bar.

I use a similar method for the blog. I write a long list of the items I have for review, and turn each one into a heading:

  • AmazonBasics Mechanical Pencil
  • Wing Sung 601
  • Jinhao 51A

Super easy and this lets me quickly and easily toggle through my list of items and find them when it comes time to post them to the blog, then it’s a quick copy and paste.

I mentioned in a recent post that docs worked better than ever before for my NaNo win. In past wins I broke my novel up into 10 to 15K docs. After that loading took forever and it wouldn’t register as I typed, then an entire paragraph would slooooowwwwly load. It was enraging. I’d stop typing waiting for the doc to catch up with me. Loading the doc when I opened it would also take forever, the larger the doc the longer it would take. I remember waiting for one doc to load and it took a full five minutes! Not this year, even at 40k words the doc loaded quickly and kept up with my typing. It wasn’t until I hit 45k that I noted longer load times and any lag in what I had typed loading.

Some positives:

  • It’s free
  • Available anywhere I take my phone or have access to a computer with wifi.
  • Works well on all my devices, now that I have docs sideloaded onto my Kindle.
  • Outlining is fast and easy.
  • Load times and lag are better than ever before.
  • Many add ons to make it work better.
  • Super easy to just open up a doc and write.

Some Negatives:

  • Moving scenes and chapters is hard if you work out of order, cut and paste can leave you with missing work, create a copy before you cut and paste stuff!
  • Significant lag times at 50K or more words, even on high speed internet.
  • Add ons can slow the app way down.
  • No concentration/typewriter mode. (One of my favorite tools in JotterPad and Dabble.)
  • No dark mode.
  • Uses Google Drive storage and does not back up elsewhere, so if google deletes your account, well, you’re SOL.

Obviously this has worked for me thus far. When I mentioned the idea of “if it ain’t broke why try to fix it?” to a friend, she suggested that I might LIKE the ease of use of a few other apps and sites. That the ability to easily drag and drop a chapter like a file is worth learning a new process. I’ve requested review access to a few pieces of writing software and apps. Thus far the learning curve isn’t that high and they are easy to use. More on that in future reviews.