Monday, February 27, 2012

Review: Pelle Journal - Burnt Cognac, Large

This is a review of the large Pelle journal in burnt cognac.
Pelle Packaging Resized
The beautiful pristine white box arrived with WRINKLES.
In the package:
- Burnt cognac leather cover
- One extra rubber band
- One refillable notebook (blank)
- Cotton cloth case


To note:
- Size: 4.5” x 8.3"
- Made in USA (the back of the cover is printed with “ in USA”)
- American leather
- Stringed book marker
Pelle Outside Resized
It's a lot more orange than I was expecting but this lighting makes it look even MORE orange. Sorry folks. It's still a nice, warm color.
First impressions:
- Lovely, warm, supple leather cover
- Great contrast with the lime green elastic band
- Untidy appearance

The Pelle journal is not unlike the famous Midori Traveler's Notebook. In fact, it is rather LIKE the Midori Traveler’s Notebook. Soon you will be able to fill your Pelle with calendars, cases, and pockets, but for the time being, you can select from four different paper refills (plain, lined, grid, drawing), and various colored elastics. Oh, and there’s an adorable “Pelle” print on the bottom of the front cover. 

Not surprisingly, the notebook does not lie flat. The refill is thin but it’s easy to hold it open while you write. The leather is quite supple and soft so it’s really like writing on a small pile of paper. It’s soft enough to fold the cover back when writing so it doesn’t flop around in your way while you write. You will likely need another surface to write on though. This leather journal feels good in the hand, and it looks pretty decent. The Pelle journal gives me the romantic feeling towards notebooks that I get from my Midori
Pelle Resized
The lime green makes for some great contrast, no?

The Pelle journal is handmade in the USA, and the leather comes from the eastern US. This particular journal is “burnt cognac” which sounds, to me, like a toasted orange-red. Which is exactly what it looks like. The leather is soft, smooth, and supple, with black edging. The inside of the journal is almost orange and fuzzy. When scuffed with my fingernail, a big, light scuff showed up and I was able to blend it back in by rubbing it with my thumb, because of the oil-tanned leather. Remember, this is a leather journal and by nature, leather has its own unique distressed look and that will continue to change over its lifetime. But not in a bad way! Change, in this case, will only contribute to its character.

The leather came out of the packaging smelling like leather. It was delicious. I still smell it regularly. Just like the Midori, this Pelle makes me feel cool, adventurous, and creative.


First, the cover is a thick linen type that I think is a nice, classy touch. It does take away from the “adventure” type feel of the leather journal though, and turns it into more of a classy-student type journal. There are 64 pages of creamy, very smooth, off-white 28 lb paper. Though it is a cream color, it is not as yellow as the Rhodia Webbie. It’s a bit closer to the ivory of the Quo Vadis Habana. It did speak “fountain pen friendly” to me before I even wrote in it. There is very little tooth to it and thus, I imagined there would be very little feedback when writing. While the paper is smooth, it is not so slick that it is glossy, like the old Quo Vadis Habana.  

How does it play with fountain pens?
Fountain Pens Pelle Resized
As you can see from the tests, I used a Rohrer & Klingner glass dip pen (because it’s a heck of a lot easier to clean than a fountain pen between each ink), and it puts down a pretty thick, wet line of ink - certainly more than fountain pens do (even a wet inky flex). I did the fountain pen ink sampling in the Midori first, and had kept wiping the excess ink off the dip pen in the ink bottle. It took a long time so when I was doing this review, I left the excess on the pen and it's pretty obvious what an effect that had! Almost everything I wrote bled through or showed through. The great thing though is there was no feathering, not even with some of the feather-prone J. Herbins. Given that most people wouldn’t be writing extensively with a dip pen, casual writing with fine fountain pens will be tolerated okay. In my writing with a Lamy Al-Star, Lamy Studio, Pelikan M1005, Noodler’s Ahab (Yes. The wretched thing wrote three words, and it was a struggle.), Platinum Preppy, Pilot Vanishing Point, Jinhao X450, Jinhao X750, and Pilot Plumix, there was no feathering, except for my really wet blobs of ink, but a fair amount of bleed through and showing. 

I say fine fountain pens because the paper seemed to “absorb” ink or something, so several colors are coming out a bit darker than on coated paper. This also resulted in more bleed through than I think would be normal with 28 lb paper. If you're writing with a fine nib or dry ink, I think you'll be fine. Otherwise, be aware that you might not be able to use the backsides of the pages. I'm surprised at the results of this paper with fountain pens. 

How does it play with gel ink/ball point pens?
The paper plays really well with other inks! There was very little show through, especially with lighter-colored inks, and almost no bleed through. The only place there was bleed through was where I really colored into the page, and that’s not a surprise. So overall, the Pelle 28 lb paper took the gel inks really well, even the really wet ones! 
Gel Ink Pelle Resized
Much better.
In summary, I am only somewhat impressed with the paper. I wouldn’t mind a wee bit more tooth to it. A weight of 28 lbs is quite high for a notebook that is not really marketed as “premium” fountain pen paper (although for the price of the refill, it is certainly premium…) and given the price, I expect it to perform really well. I think the refills are overpriced given the results of my writing. 

- Quality control - the back of my journal did not print properly with “ in USA”. Not cool! It looks like it didn’t even stamp at all. I know they’re hand made and all but… I’m still paying for a product!
- Elastic band is loose, even with two refills in the journal. I will have to take it out and tighten it. Not the end of the world but kind of annoying.
- The brass clasp of the elastics that hold refills in place seems like it could snap off. It is messily attached and looks blah.
IMG_2216 Resized
What the heck is THAT.
- Expensive refills, especially given the amount of bleed through.

Good ideas:
- Make your own refills with Hewlett-Packard 28 or 32 lb laser paper

Pop over for more Pelle!

JetPens $44.99 
Pelle $44.99  (but no burnt cognac?!)

Not comparing this journal to the Midori Traveler’s Notebook, the Pelle journal is quite decent. It is a warm, supple leather with really nice refills and lovely, not-too-yellow, smooth paper, if smooth paper is your thing - but beware the bleed through. I love the contrast provided by the lime green elastic against the toasty burnt cognac. Given the price, I’m not too pleased with the lax (but hopefully evolving?) quality control and I think the overall put-togetherness of the notebook is lacking a little and the refills are overpriced given their ability to take fountain pens. However, it’s still a really cool leather journal that I would be way too lazy and inept to make/invent/create myself and I am still enjoying using it and it still inspires me to crack it open and make some goodness! If a journal can do that in someone as terribly uncreative as me, then it deserves some kudos. I do like that it was sourced in the USA! That’s sorta green and local, right? And despite my complaints, it still looks pretty wicked. I just have to make my own refills for it and I'll be pleased with the better paper + supple leather cover combination.


Rori Lieurance said...

Gah! Excellent review!! Again, I'm so disappointed in the paper!! For such a premium price (Pelle AND Midori) the paper should be FAB! 

Shangching CH said...

I might not be the best judge to compare to two, but at least from the pictures, I find Pelle more "nomadic" than Midori (I know, weird adjective), in that the leather for Pelle looks more supple and rugged than Midori.  I am surprised that the refill can only withstand certain fountain pens and ink.  Perhaps the manufacturers will incorporate that in their future product revision.  After all, fountain pen users still occupied a small, but growing sector of the pen using community.
Thank for a detailed review!

GourmetPens said...

It does look nomadic! I think it' because it's more of a red-camelly type color than the suave, slick, polished dark brown of the Midori. Not that I have a problem with the Midori! Pelle is definitely more supple though, but I think over time the Midori will become more maleable. I was disappointed that the paper of either don't hold up really well to fountain pens. Like Rori said, you'd think it would given the premium price. 

GourmetPens said...

Agreed. Premium price indeed. Hmph.

PDXJill said...

Over time, I will be interested in seeing if you get oily patches bleeding from the leather. I make my own journals, and specifically avoid oil tanned leathers like English bridle leather or latigo because of that. Watch out for color rubbing off, too.

If you'd like to make one, use vegetable tanned tooling cowhide , dye it, use neatsfoot oil liberally to soften it, and then apply a sealant. You can make one for almost nothing - then put your money into high quality refills!

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