I first came across Travelers’ Notebooks (TNs) last year. I was skeptical. They just seemed too expensive for me, and the shape was odd. I was completely sold out on A5-sized journals and didn’t see myself having much use for such an odd-shaped journal of sorts. I hemmed and I hawed and I waffled around trying one until early this month. I decided to try a Midori Traveler’s Notebook and a hand-sewn TN made by Sunday Leather Craft.
I was completely unprepared for how much I was going to enjoy these journals. These are both TNs, they look similar, but they feel different.
The elastic of an MTN is simpler and uses a thinner rubber band. The Sunday Leather Craft TN has a thicker band and a piece of leather which helps keep the cover closed, I guess, but I opted to remove it to make it look simpler.
The leather that Sunday Leather Craft uses is relatively firm, but is a lot softer and more pliable compared with Midori’s TN. The result is that it feels more floppy. Not in a bad way, though. I like that it has this very raw feel to it. It can accommodate more inserts too, because it’s softer. It also lays down flatter than a Midori TN.
Sunday Leather Craft’s TN is already set up for multiple inserts. I watched a few videos on YouTube on how to “hack” a Midori TN to hold more than three inserts but this setup eliminates the need to poke holes into the leather. If you’re comfortable with chunky setups and multiple inserts, this will definitely make it easier for you to do that.
The Midori Travelers’ Notebook, on the other hand, feels more polished. The leather is stiffer, although it looks like it will get a tiny bit more pliable with time. The leather is gorgeous, but I really don’t mind it getting scuffed while I use it (it already has a few dings on it after a few weeks of use) because I want it to show signs that it’s been used and loved and taken everywhere.
The elastic that closes the Midori TN is knotted at the back of the leather cover. The leather is stiff enough that it doesn’t cause any deformation because of the tension of the elastic. Sunday Leather Craft’s TN is knotted from the spine, which is a smart design given the fact that the leather is softer than Midori’s. It minimizes the bunching up of the leather as long as there are notebooks inserted in it.
Midori TN (bottom) is a tight fit. I have the same setup of notebooks in both TNs (two blank notebooks and a sketchbook), but Sunday Leather Craft’s TN is roomier.
It’s very tempting to put more notebooks in the roomier Sunday Leather Craft TN. Maybe I will stuff more in there and see how the leather will hold up with the chunk. Of course, lugging that around will be challenging (and might cause lower back pain, haha). Plus, I usually include a lot of photos, washi tapes and other stuff in my journals, so it will need some room to grow.
The paper I used on these two TNs are Midori’s inserts. They’re good, but I’m afraid I really cannot get used to them. I am going to replace these with Tomoe River inserts as soon as possible. Aside from the quality of paper, Tomoe River inserts are also thinner. You can put more inserts without bulking up the notebook too much. Of course, Tomoe River inserts are more expensive and not always available locally. If you aren’t very picky with the paper, the default Midori inserts are good enough, and they have different kinds of refills too if you want to use your TN as a planner as well as a journal/sketchbook.
I do like the sketchbook inserts, though, even if they do add to the bulk of the TN. As for the shape of the inserts, I’m surprised that I adjusted to it pretty quickly. I initially felt that it would be too narrow for the size of my handwriting. Turns out it’s not that bad. It doesn’t feel cramped at all. It even fits in my bag better than my A5 journals do. Even if it’s chunky, it’s actually lighter and easier to carry around.
There’s a huge price difference between these two, though. The locally-made TN from Sunday Leather Craft costs about 1/3 of the price of the Midori. It doesn’t come with inserts, though. You can even ask them to customize it with pockets or choose the color and texture of your leather and the color of the stitching. I think it’s great value for money.
Overall, I love these TNs. I like the size, I like the flexibility of the inserts, and I love the leather cover. I can store the inserts as I fill them up and let the leather cover age beautifully. I like it so much that I’ve decided to use it as my main journal for next year.
I’ll probably write a separate review of the Sunday Leather Craft TN after the new year. 🙂