I have been a pocket notebook addict since before the fountain pen bug started to bite its hardest. I’ve worked my way through countless Field Notes, plus a fair few of the lovely dot-grid Calepinos, and various books from other brands like Word, before settling on the Tomoe River books from Taroko Designs and Goulet.
My carry has evolved over the years, and now my pocket notebook lurks inside a Nock Sinclair, where it’s always accessible but protected from the rough and tumble.
To me, these are books to be used and abused, for shopping lists, to-dos, odd thoughts, whatever you need to write down when you’re out and about. And for that purpose, I’m pretty particular about what I look for.
The Field Notes proportions — 3.5 x 5.5 inches — are just perfect, fitting the back pocket of your jeans (or your Nock, if you’re so inclined). A good pocket notebook should have rounded corners so they don’t snag. Simple saddle-stitched (stapled) bindings are fine for these short-lived, utilitarian notebooks — perfect binding is overkill. They should have a robust card cover that can handle a bit of wear for a couple of months, while being flexible enough to sit on without discomfort. Ideally, they should offer a choice of dot, grid, lined or plain paper (I’m a dot man, myself).
Today, after Field Notes has blazed a trail, there are countless brands that fit those criteria, each bringing something different to the table. And one of the great things about pocket notebooks is that every month or two you get to try something new, for not very much money. In fact, there are subscription boxes for them — I subscribed to Field Notes’s Colors editions for a couple of years, and here in the UK, thanks to the newly rejuvenated pocketnotebooks.co.uk, we have one too.
So that brings me to the Whitelines notebooks, sent to me by Stuart at the aforementioned Pocket Notebooks (yes, for free, for review).
Whitelines notebooks are from Sweden, and they really show a Scandinavian class. The three-pack is simple, minimalist, and bound together by a striking neon orange belly-band. You can immediately see the brand’s USP, even if the name and the tagline on the belly-band haven’t already given it away.
Unlike other notebooks, which have white paper printed with dark lines to write on, Whitelines goes for the inverse: pages that are completely printed light grey, with white lines standing out in relief (6mm spacing, if you’re particular). The idea is, in the words of the company, “dark lines distract, white lines don’t.” I’m not convinced that’s true, but I’m happy to run with it…
This motif continues on the (silk finished) cover, which also has the brand name debossed for an unobtrusive effect— very classy.
The brand name also appears very subtly at the bottom of each page.
Other than the unique line scheme, the specs tick all the usual boxes. 48 pages, 80gsm paper, rounded corners, and so on. It works. And I’m pleased that a graph paper version is available too.
I confess, I was both intrigued and concerned about the whitelines effect. Would it make inks look dull? Would it ruin the writing experience?
I was actually pleasantly surprised. Ink looks good, and dries quickly. Obviously, the paper is not pure white, but it’s not distracting — I use cream Leuchtturm paper most of the time at work, and don’t notice the colour; it’s the same here. After a moment, you just don’t notice.
I tried out five fountain pens, each with medium nibs or thicker and a variety of inks of different colours from different manufacturers. I also tried out a fine black rollerball.
The paper is quite smooth, not much tooth — which might be an effect of the printing process. Most importantly, it performs well. There is a little bit of feathering, but I am really impressed with how little — even with wet Sailor inks and the flood from the Pilot FA nib. This is definitely usable paper. Feathering is what put me off Field Notes, despite the wonderful creativity of its designs.
The Whitelines stock is 80gsm, which is a little bit lighter than the 90gsm used in Calepino or Rhodia’s Clairefontaine paper. Which might be why, even though it has a layer of grey ink across both sides of the page, there is quite clear showthrough: I can read my writing from the other side of the page, even from the fine rollerball. But only the Pilot FA had any actual bleedthrough. As a regular user of Tomoe River paper, I don’t mind a little showthrough!
Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the Whitelines books. The design is something different, yet it doesn’t get in the way. The paper performs well, even for fountain pens. The binding is even and the trimming is well finished.And, at £9 for a pack of three, it’s priced to compete fairly with Calepino and Field Notes.
Of course, there’s always room for some improvement. I’d love to see a switch to 90gsm paper to reduce showthrough. Page numbers or some perforated pages would be handy. But these are quibbles. If you’re in the market for a new three-pack of back-pocket notebooks, definitely consider the Whitelines.