Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Incoming and Outgoing Mail

I'm having fun with the Month of Letters so far.  Keeping my fingers crossed that I can stay on track with it!

Here's what came in the mail yesterday from a penpal that I actually met through LetterMo, Ria, and have kept in touch with over the past year:


The front of the envelope is covered in washi tape, and it's really a fun idea.  I have a lot of washi tape that I have bought because I liked the designs, but then I never know what to do with it.  This could be a possibility!!

And here's today's outgoing mail: a postcard to a LetterMo contact (a new one this year, just basically a postcard swap), and a reply to the above letter.


As you can see, I got a little creative with the washi tape on the reply letter (creative for me, anyway).  I searched for something suitable to put in the lower left box that I created with the tape, but I couldn't find anything or think of anything.  One of these days I will throw all caution to the winds and just doodle something there!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Month of Letters 2014


Greetings, all!  I know this blog has been dead for months now, but I am itching to change that.  And what better way to (gently) wake up a blog entitled "Writing By Hand" than to celebrate the first day of the Month of Letters 2014?  In case you are not familiar with this, it's a month-long challenge which is actually probably one of the most do-able challenges out there: just send a letter or postcard to someone every day the mail runs in February.  So Sundays are out, as well as February 17, which is the President's Day holiday.  That adds up to only 23 pieces of mail.

In case you don't have anyone to write (and a lot of people don't these days, I suppose), the members of the LetterMo site would be glad to swap addresses with you.  You might not (and probably won't) get many life-long penpals out of the exercise, if that's your goal, but you just might!  However, the good news is that any kind of letter or postcard or greeting card would count -- and surely you have some family members or friends that would enjoy a "just because" letter or card?  Or send a thank you note to your favorite author or musician or even just your kid's teacher.  Really, the possibilities are endless.

So I am in, of course, and here's my first day's mailing:


Leave a comment and some contact information in the comments section if you'd like, and I'll make sure you get some mail too!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Wedding calligraphy

Many of you know that my daughter is getting married soon (because you have heard about it in letters from me).  And soon means Saturday.  This Saturday.  (gulp)  We're ready, though!

However, I have talked a lot about doing calligraphy for her wedding, so I thought it was time to show it all off.

Very early in the process of wedding planning, I decided I would do the calligraphy for her invitation envelopes.  So I got out the pointed pen and the ink and started relearning my copperplate hand.  I had learned it years and years ago, but had not really used it since then.  However, it was much like riding a bicycle -- a few wobbly starts, and then it all came back to me.

Then we went shopping for the invitations themselves, and we fell in love with a particular style that just happened to include a spot for custom calligraphy. So I thought, SURE!  Why not?  Add that to the list!  The advantage was, I only had to produce a master copy of that calligraphy (the couple's names on the invitation) and send it off to be mass-printed on the invitation.  But I probably wrote those names about 50 times to get them as perfect as possible. By the way, the invitation came from Crane's. THE BEST CUSTOM STATIONERY, HANDS DOWN!

An inner envelope and the invitation.

An outer envelope.  These were huge, by the way, requiring extra postage.  Didn't think about that!

We sent out 144 invitations.  They took about four months to do.  (Yes, this was HORRIBLY slow, but I just did it on the side, in spare moments, so I wanted as much time as possible to get them finished on time.  I could have done it faster.)  I started at the first of the year and finished by April, a few weeks before it was time to mail them out.  Once I finished with that little project (ha) I started looking around for something else to do.

Another obsession of mine is chalkboards.  Specifically, the decorative kind, which is just really another form of calligraphy.  Lots of people use these chalkboards as decorative/informative elements of weddings, receptions, parties, etc.  So I thought, let's try this out!  My wife and daughter were certainly supportive of my efforts -- free calligraphy, right?

Drinks menu (small chalkboard) for the bar area at the reception.

Large chalkboard that will be placed on an easel to welcome guests to the reception.

Smaller chalkboard used for the wedding favors area -- my (future) son-in-law makes a mean grilling rub that he put into test tubes (because he's a scientist) to give to the wedding guests.

And then, there's going to be a bridesmaids luncheon the day before the wedding, so why not do a couple of chalkboards there to label the drink dispensers?


So there you have it -- my calligraphy journey to the wedding day!


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Winner of the INDIARY Expedition Notebook

Well, it's Saturday, and so it's time to pick the winner of the INDIARY Expedition Handmade Notebook.  And Ye Olde Random Number Generator says...


This means....

Derrick is the winner!

Congratulations, Derrick, and I think we all agree that if you do indeed have "Spawn's Journal" tooled into the cover of this notebook, you are completely obligated to show it to us on your blog.  Can I get an "Amen" on that??!? :-)

Now get ready for another giveaway (the 10,000 page views giveaway), coming soon!  (Right after I address this whole "Week of Pencils" thing that I have been talking about forever.  Or maybe during it, I don't know.  Time to put up or shut up!)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

10,000+ Page Views!


I'm not quite sure how it happened, but this morning I logged in to my Blogger account and saw that the page views on this blog have surpassed 10,000.  I knew it was coming, but it just "snuck up" on me!  I am very excited and gratified by this, so to you, readers, I say THANKS!

And yes, I remember that I promised a 10,000 hits giveaway (way back when I hit 5,000).  As soon as my current giveaway (the INDIARY notebook) is finished, I'll have some more goodies to give away in honor of this milestone.  Stay tuned!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Review and Giveaway: INDIARY "Expedition" Handmade Leather Notebook

Two weeks ago I received an email inquiry from INDIARY (www.INDIARY.com), a new (to me) company that makes some of the most beautiful and affordable handmade notebooks out there.  Their representative wanted to know if I was interested in reviewing one of their notebooks.  Ummmm... Yes!  I am always up for a review of anything having to do with paper, pens, pencils, or notebooks.



So today I am reviewing the INDIARY "Expedition" notebook.  (Here's the direct link to the item's page on Amazon.com, which is evidently the distributor for all the notebooks in the INDIARY line.)  The notebook is handcrafted out of buffalo leather, with a string closure, wrap-around flap, and filled with 100 pages of handmade paper.  Yes, you read that right.  This entire notebook, down to the paper itself, is completely handmade.  It is a work of art.  And it is a feast for the senses, from the feel of the leather, to the texture of the paper, to the wonderful leather smell of the entire notebook.

The INDIARY logo stamped on the front flap of the notebook.


Did I mention the smell?  This is hardcore leather, folks.

Detail showing the edge of the notebook and the signatures of paper inside.

Closeup of the signatures -- each signature contains 10 sheets (folded to make 20 sheets in the signature), and the notebook contains 5 signatures for a total of 100 sheets.

 A closeup of the handmade paper inside the notebook.  This paper is soft and silky to the touch, and nearly every page has flower petals embedded in the paper for a really wonderful touch.

 Writing on the first page of the notebook.

 Testing the notebook out with some favorite writing instruments.


Closeup of writing samples

 Another closeup of more writing samples

I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive about the handmade paper in this notebook.  Even though handmade paper is usually beautiful, it can be fantastically finicky to use.  It often bleeds like crazy and can be almost too delicate to write on.  As you can see from the above photos, however, even a fountain pen (the Lamy Safari with a medium nib) performed respectably on this paper.

Surprisingly little bleedthrough -- I've seen much more expensive papers with more bleedthrough than this!

 The only writing instrument that really did not play nice with the handmade paper was the Blackwing 602 pencil.  I daresay any pencil would work the same.  It probably helps that the Blackwing is typically on the soft side, so the writing (or drawing, if you're so inclined) is feasible.  But don't try to erase!!  You can see what happens in the photo above when I unthinkingly tried erasing.

So now I can hear you thinking (one of my many hidden talents) -- "Gee, this is all really beautiful, Randall, but I can't afford something like this."

Yes, you can.  This notebook is normally $39.90, which is a great deal for this kind of item.

But right now it's $25 (on sale as of this writing).  Can you say BARGAIN!?!?

If you have Amazon Prime, that's all you'll pay (unless you spring for faster shipping).  I don't know about you, but I for one have never seen this kind of handmade notebook for this price.  If you are in the market for a completely handmade notebook, I don't think you can do better than this one.

WANT TO TRY ONE?  OK, LET'S DO A GIVEAWAY!

INDIARY supplied me with two of these notebooks -- one to try out, and one to give away.  So here's your chance.  You can win one of these beautiful notebooks.

RULES OF THE GIVEAWAY:
1. Leave a comment on this post telling me what you would use the notebook for.  In particular, I would love it if you would give me some insight on how to use the handmade paper of this notebook.  It's not your average paper, to be sure, so I know I can't really use it like ordinary paper in an ordinary notebook.  I'm thinking this kind of paper calls for something really artistic.  Please give me some ideas!  (If you don't have any ideas, just tell me how cool my blog is.)  IMPORTANT: To have an eligible entry, your comment MUST provide some way for me to contact you.  You probably know how this works!

2. The giveaway will be open until Saturday, June 15.  I will choose one commenter to be the winner.  The winner will be chosen in the usual way, by random number generator.  And then I will send the notebook out to the winner as soon as I can!

Good luck!


DISCLAIMER: This notebook was supplied for review by Anja and the fine folks at INDIARY.  I was not compensated monetarily for this review.  All opinions here are my own.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Entering a Pencil Phase

I go through phases, like most humans I guess.  (If you are not a human, you probably should not read any further because you just won't understand.)  This blog goes all over the place because I have interests and phases that go all over the place.  And for the past couple of days, I have been using this little baby more and more:


I have begun to remember the things I love about pencils -- their simplicity, their usefulness, their cheapness (unless, of course, you buy high-end Blackwings or pencils like that, which I admit I have done).  So I think for the near future I will be using pencils more and more, and will be working on a "week of pencils."


Because, after all, I STILL have THIS: