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Hunting the perfect Journal ( and creating it in an Osterley)

My husband is a very patient man, but ( if you will excuse the cliche) in some ways he just doesn’t understand me. I was explaining, at length, over a Thai meal about how I was sorely distressed at not being able to find the One Perfect Journal. I have been using the same range for many years but it is not supporting my needs any more. Plus it is discontinued so I am forced to find a new one.

The One would be beautiful to look at ( thats Moleskines out at a stroke then). It would mysterously morph its paper so the next sheet magically met my need for pretty decorated lined/ simplecream ruled/ watercolour/ cartridge/ plain/ squared paper. It would contain my life thought in one place but would equally meet my need to categorise my life into ever smaller compartments. It would allow flexibility depending whether my mood was Serious Writer or Playful artist. It would hold myriad pens. It would have pockets and pull outs and do dah fripperies. The One would be bound for archive purposes but not bound to allow me to recategorise. It would be elegant and leather and yet affordable. It would be my constant companion with places to put quotes and research notes and my random thoughts and dreams and moans and I would always be able to find everything.It would be perfect for words and encouraging of sketching.

The One was not, I had established that morning, available at Paperchase, WH Smiths, Woods the Stationers, Waterstones or online. Not even at Diagon Alley. The ones instock had competing oros and cns all of which added up to distress and confusion. My husband took a bite of Toong Tong and said, “You should write a book about journals you know so much.” Oh yeah, good advice I’d love to do that…. But I cant find the perfect journal to write my notes in! He rearranged his face to show the look that means: I really am interested and I do want you to be happy but I have no idea what you are talking about. What is wrong with a Silvine exercise book?

But I know there are people out there who feel my pain and so for your benefit, I show you my solution.

First take an Osterley A5 Filofax. Not quite in the affordable bracket new, but mine was cheap on Adspot and when you take into account that (a) it is reusable and (b) I will pay lots of money for a perfect affordable journal, it will do me. In fact as I had it anyway and it was sadly underused, it is in fact free :)

Take one £5 letter set from Paperchase and use every bit of it cover included for added value. The back of the letter paper glued to Filofax own brand dividers is pretty and dividers allow categorisation.There are two styles of paper and the kraft version can be combined with the already curvacious folder to make pockets.

The envelopes can be tipped into contain secrets!

A Jill Bliss journal hacked apart provides pages for a common place section.

The Thoughts section is the main journal and has a range of paper including proper art papers and kraft papers. (Paperchase do a £3.50 journal which includes smooth and pretty thick ivory plain paper and also kraft paper which unglued and punched well). I have sections for notes and ideas for my next book idea, for my financial budgets, for my reading logs and for my monthly life plan reviews and a plastic envolope for general dodah thingies I might have a need to put into a pocket until I get to a glue stick.


In the back pocket is a bound Jill Bliss journal for those random research and follow up notes that come when I am reading or web browsing. (The last few pages deal with my research onto the WW2 activities for the Scots Guards, the cost of a double sink and a list if collage artists to follow up). Bound/ unbound. It makes me happy!

As you can see from that photo the Osterley has two pen loops cleverly out of the way of the tabs. I can fit tow Triplus Pens down the side of the notebook. But, ( and here is where I get arrogant and consider myself a genius) I have recreated this by using stick on velcro on cut up bits of the letter folder to add two Artists sketching pens. I did try flex penloops first but the shape at the bottom of the Pitt Artist pens means that they will not slide into the elastic. I have one more pen clipped inside the rings.


The pockets hold sticky notes spare velcro strips, the remainder of the letter pack (including the four sheets of stickers it included) and a pile of bookmarks. The addition of the velcroed pens did mean that they got inth ewya of a filofax today ruler so. A using Iclips magnetic calligraphy bookmarks as page markets with the ruler in the back for when drawing a straightline is necessary.

I have trialed this set up for three days now and it is magic! Already my journal is much more visual than when I used a bound lined journal. I feel I can write/ draw what I feel as and when it comes and if it turns out that if I am writing ideas relating to an art project ( current or future) I can take it out and put it in my studio binders. Previously I would not write it in the journal I carried with me because it was the ‘wrong place’ and so usually it got forgotton or the moment passed between thought and getting home to the studio journals.

At first I thought it was not perfect for two reasons. First, portablity. It is often said by filofax users than a full A5 feels like a brick. This does not. Its more like a house extension. But, when I think about it, the places I journal are home, work, parents house and a variety of cafes. All of which are within feet of my shelf or car at any time. So true portablity is not really an issue. And should I go roaming a selection of loose leaf pages tucked into a folder or ipad cover can come with and be inserted later. But what should I somehow come separated from my journal ; like when I go to the theatre, don’t think I would possibly need it sitting in the dark and then get inspired by a set design….Happens more than you would think! I can write on anything to hand, napkin, icecream receipt whatever, and punch or put in a pocket later. And actually, I can just about fit two pocket molekines in the front cover should I want to have a stand alone art element for sketching whilst out and about.

The second issue I struggled with more is archivabilty. Loose pages with treasury tags in a box? Blah. Not elegant or beautiful for back reading. Thermal binding? Spiral Binding. Ditto. Self binding with stab stitch with a beautiful cover like this one I found on Etsy? Oh yeah baby, and an extra tick for my journal supporting creativity in a different way.


So this is my journal and I shall be sticking to it now I have created it. Although it does not stop me wondering what it would be like to use a moleskine with this beautiful cover….

What are you using as a journal? Is it perfect for you?


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