Traveler’s Notebook meets the Paper Penguin

After recently dipping my toes into the cult of the Tomoe River, I wanted more. I wanted something I would use regularly, but not another new notebook—not just yet anyway. Soon, but not just yet. A couple of possibilities immediately leaped to mind… (i) I’ve never liked, or used, blank notebooks, and the blank insert that came with my Traveler’s Notebook some weeks ago has never been touched. That could be replaced. (ii) I’ve been looking for a Traveler’s Notebook insert with detachable pages for leaving notes, or for disposable entries that I don’t want to keep.

Time to go shopping.

I have to admit to being a little unimpressed with the lack of imagination in the range of official Traveler’s Notebook inserts… a lightweight notebook (plain… no thanks), some planners, a diary… my eyes are glazing over… plastic wallets… <yawwwwwn>… sketch notebook, stickerzzzzzzzzz <snore>.

Sorry, I must have dozed off. Nope. The innovative stuff can mostly be found amongst the independent producers. And where can you find some of the best of them?


You want a Tomoe River Traveler’s Notebook insert? Sure. No problem. Cream or white paper? Lined, grid or plain? Passport or regular size? 80 or 160 pages? Want something to help you with your finances? How about a ledger format for entering your checkbook transactions? Maybe you could use an address book for some important contact details? And all of these were just in the first of the Etsy shops I came across… the Paper Penguin Co.

Sadly, there are simply only a limited number of their innovative inserts that you can stuff into a Traveler’s Notebook. I ordered what I had been looking for, and sat back for the worst part of the whole purchasing process… The Waiting.

Turns out that wasn’t so bad either; the wonderful Dominique at Paper Penguin put my order together and had it with me in 11 days. This will not be the last time I do business with this lady.

From the outside, the two products are pretty unassuming. Both come with identical, light brown, Kraft cardstock covers…

… but open them up, and they’re considerably more interesting.

160 Pages of Tomoe River in Your Traveler’s Notebook

For $12.46 CAD (as at 2018-02-08), you get 80 sheets (160 pages) of 52gsm Tomoegawa (Tomoe River) paper. The notebook is stapled in the centre and you get multiple choices of grid (5×5mm grey), plain, or lined (6.5mm spacing, grey), or white or cream paper. Plus, the notepads are available in Traveler’s Notebook regularpassport, A5, A6, or B6 sizes. So there’s no complaining about the lack of choice. In addition, Dominique states:

Due to the thinness and unique characteristics of the paper, my printing process may cause some pages to appear with waves or slight wrinkles. There may be some pages that this can occur and I do my best to catch any issues or wrinkles before making the notebooks. Please contact me directly if you have any concerns.

I ordered the Traveler’s regular size, with lined, white paper. I examined every page of the notebook when I opened my parcel, and there wasn’t a blemish or a crease to be seen anywhere. So for delivery and service (on both the inserts I ordered), Dominique and the Paper Penguin Co., get an unequivocal 10 out of 10 from me.

In fact, the only real criticism I have of the Tomoe River insert is obvious from the moment you open it up, and is the same for every Traveler’s Notebook insert ever made. In fact, it’s my only problem with the whole system… it will never, ever, lay flat. Now, I know this is hardly a fair point. I don’t think anything short of a brick would ever get this system to lay flat. The size and construction of it, just doesn’t lend itself to folding like that. But… sometimes, just sometimes, I feel like, if I could get my Traveler’s Notebook to just lay against a desktop, as flat as a pressed pancake, then everything would be just fine with the Universe.

To get that notebook to lay like that for the picture above… well, let’s just say you can’t see the 50ml bottle of ink holding the left side down, and the paperweight on the right. Still, you can see the stapling nice and clearly can’t you? It’s a nice, neat job.

Writing on this paper is such a pleasure—no feathering, no bleed-through, just that smoothness that makes you want to find more to write.

Look at how clean the lines are on the page, even with a 1.1mm stub nib and a generous, wet line from a TWSBI Diamond 580AL. The blue ink is Sailor Jentle Blue, which has a nice, quick dry time on this paper.

Similarly, the Sailor Kiwa-Guro Nano (Ultra) Black, from an Edison Collier, 1.1mm stub nib,  is also very well-behaved.

As I’ve come to expect, there is a degree of show-through, as opposed to bleeding, and even that is far from being a problem.


Overall, the Tomoe River Traveler’s Notebook insert is everything I have come to expect from that paper; namely, it’s pretty much perfect for all that I need. I love it already and will be buying more. The insert is practical, well-made and excellent value for money—this comes highly recommended.

Perforated Pages

As you can see, these pages need a brick to keep them flat too…

The perforated lines down each page are clear, and possibly slightly more coarse than I would prefer, but that’s just nit-picking I suppose.

There are the same variety of choices available for this notebook, as for the Tomoe River. Once again, I opted for the Traveler’s Notebook regular size, white, 118gsm lined paper. Although, at 118gsm this paper hovers over that odd area between heavy paper and light card. It’s also the ideal weight for those pages to be torn out and left as notes, or maybe as a standalone message…

I used my usual collection of every-day inks, Sailor Kiwa-Guro Nano (Ultra) Black (above), Sailor Jentle Four Seasons Irori red (below), in 1.1mm stub nibs…


And Noodler’s Golden Brown in a broad nib…

The insert has 40 pages, that is 20 individual sheets that can be used on both sides. Feathering is almost non-existent. As you would expect with a paper of this weight, bleed-through and show-through with even the wettest fountain pen nibs, just does not occur. The fact that you only get 20 individual sheets is a bit of an issue for me, since I will probably go through these fairly quickly, but given the weight, I can fully understand why the Paper Penguin Co., opted for not loading up any more.

It was at this stage that I needed a little help with keeping the pages flat…

I needed the extra set of paws because, whilst the perforated sheets are heavy enough to let you use both sides with no writing issues, the perforations themselves add an issue I didn’t foresee. As a right-handed user, my hand naturally rests on the sheet and drags slowly down the inside, central line of the book—directly along the line of the perforations of the sheet on the left of the book. This feels as though the perforations are coming apart, although it didn’t look like it had done anything when I checked. Alfie made sure that the page stayed where it was supposed to, until I wanted to test its detachable properties.

You can move now my little friend, I want to see how easy it is to tear a page out…

Tearing the page out actually proved a great deal easier than moving my helper…

… for whom the whole process was frequently exhausting.

We did manage to tear a page out eventually, and those perforations—whilst making the job extremely quick and easy for rapid, on-the-go, convenience—leave a fairly rough edge to the detached paper. We tested the edge, and found that gentle rubbing of the rough edge against a small cat’s nose, makes him wake up, sneeze, and stare at you accusingly until he is stroked and given treats.

Testing in this manner, is obviously only a job for kittens trained to handle high-risk stationery, and should not be repeated at home.

6 thoughts on “Traveler’s Notebook meets the Paper Penguin

    1. The bricks could be attached by one of the Traveler’s elastic bands, just to make the whole thing a little more cumbersome. I’m not sure animal welfare law would allow us to do the same thing with kittens though; besides, they’d probably run off with the notebook.


  1. I definitely need to get on this magic paper fad, and really glad this shop exists to get some refills…though it’s been a struggle to justify paying the price of one book for shipping to canada 😦
    As for your no-lay-flat-travelever’s notebook, I completely empathize. I tried out this ‘page anchor’ that I saw online, and it has been wonderful in keeping my book flat while I doodle and make notes! It does get in the way in the top middle portion, but keeping my book flat mattered more to me haha!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had the same problem with the notebook inserts and TN not laying flat. It was sooo frustrating. But then I discovered the solution was to simply bend it backwards, like all the way 360 degrees backwards to prime the leather so it’ll hold. You won’t break the binding of any notebook since they’re thin enough and are usually stapled. And the leather needs to be primed since it’s so stiff at the beginning. Now my TN lays flat no problem. I do that with each new insert I get and it’s all good.

    Liked by 1 person

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