Clairefontaine Trophee Paper

Technically, Clairefontaine Trophee Paper is a high quality paper made for copiers, laser printers and ink jet printers. However, because it is available in many pleasing colors, I wondered if I could use this with my fountain pens as stationery too.

I really like purple, so I chose the color lilac to give it a try. Trophee paper does not have the same super-smooth surface as regular 90g Clairefontaine writing paper. Even though it is different, I found it to be a nice quality surface for handwriting.

This paper is 80g so I wondered if some fountain pen ink might show through to the other side and I am really happy that it didn’t! None of the fountain pens and inks that I tried feathered or bled through the paper, but the Sharpie pen bled through the paper as it usually does. The Noodler’s Nightshade ink took awhile to dry on this paper so I ended up smearing it slightly.

Writer’s Bloc has imported this A4 size paper in three different colors: ivory, pearl grey and lilac.

I’m happy to have the lilac color Trophee paper for using my fountain pens to write an occasional note to friends or family. What’s your favorite color of paper for writing notes and letters?

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Minilabo Owls Small Notebook Review

Right before I was leaving on a trip, the Minilabo Owl Small Notebook arrived in our office. This was the perfect pocket-size notebook to take with me for notes and it had such an adorable 70’s-vibe owls graphic on the cover that I couldn’t resist!

Minilabo small notebooks feature 64 pages of white paper with gray lines. The paper is FSC certified, which means that it comes from responsibly managed forests. I am unsure of the exact weight of the paper – it seems somewhere in-between the 64g paper in my Rhodia Weekly Notebook and the 80g paper in my Rhodia notepad. The lines are spaced almost 7mm apart and they do not completely go to the edges of each page. This little notebook is staple bound with two staples. It is approximately 4” x 5 7/8” in size.

The cardboard cover is laminated with a matte finish on the outside and a glossy finish on the inside. The whimsical owls on the front cover seem to be created with and surrounded by a collage of decorative papers. The design carries over to the back cover with a crescent moon. The pattern inside the cover matches the background design of the tree.

How does this notebook paper hold up to fountain pens? Not too bad, but not perfect either. There was a tiny bit of feathering with some inks and the wet writing fountain pens bled through to the other side of the page. On my trip I used a fine nib fountain pen with washable blue ink and it worked fine. No feathering and no bleed through so I was able to use both sides of each page. As a lefty, I appreciate that ink dried quickly on this paper to help prevent me from smearing my writing. Take a look at the ink writing samples and see what you think. Here’s one side of the page:

And here’s the other side:

Minilabo small notebooks also come with a Rainbow or a Floral cover. I love the bird and the alien on the rainbow cover!

What’s your favorite pocket size notebook?

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The Forgotten Pen Collection

While on a hunt for a certain type of pen, I remembered that I had a basket of pens in the bottom of a drawer that I hadn’t looked at for a long, long time. Pulling out the basket and rummaging through it was like going on a journey back through time. There were pens in there that are over 25 years old! Sheaffer pens that I gave to my husband while we were still dating, mechanical pencils that I used while learning Mandarin over 10 years ago, 3 pens that light up, 2 pens with aliens on them, a fish pen, a wooden pen painted to look like a Russian doll, metallic contour pens with toxic xylene in them and the list goes on. I don’t even remember where many of these came from.

After sitting inactive for so long, I wondered which pens would still write. Most of the old BIC and Paper Mate ballpoints, Pentel Hybrids, random highlighters, rollerball and alien pens were pretty much dried up and dead. Interestingly, the edding 751 metallic contour pens worked like they were fresh out of the package (thanks to the toxic xylene perhaps?). A group of BIC Brite Liners were still nice and bright and useable. A few color Sharpie markers still had some oomph. A couple of Paper Mate ballpoints worked with some coaxing, and some not-too-ancient Pilot BP-S ballpoints worked just fine.

The one old pen that stood out above them all was the STAEDTLER Liquid Point 415 in black, made in Germany. I definitely expected this pen to be all dry and crusty, but it worked like a dream with a nice, consistent, wet black line. This makes me feel confident that the unique DRY SAFE feature found in other STAEDTLER pens will actually enable the pens to be left uncapped for days at a time without drying up, and perhaps even to sit in a drawer untouched for 10 years and still be usable. (I think I’m going to experiment with some other STAEDTLER pens to see what happens.) It does say something for the enduring quality of the STAEDTLER brand.

Do you ever discover old pens hidden around your house? What’s your most interesting or favorite discovery?

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Should Children Learn Cursive Handwriting?

Whether or not children should be taught how to write in cursive has been a topic in the news recently. We thought we’d interview our resident teacher, Kelly, about her thoughts on this topic.

Kelly, do schools still teach children how to write cursive handwriting?

It varies from school to school, but generally after the primary grades (K-2) handwriting is not explicitly addressed in the curriculum. None of the schools that I have worked in teach cursive systematically or consistently through grade levels.
Why is this skill often no longer included as part of the regular curriculum?

Mainly it is because so much more focus is placed on content areas like math, science, and reading. Even while teaching writing teachers focus so much on organization and ideas that the quality of the handwriting is often overlooked. There is so much to teach in a day, and handwriting– especially cursive– just gets pushed to the wayside.
Why do you think children should learn cursive handwriting in this digital age?

There is value in learning cursive. It teaches students the correct way to write letters so that they can write neatly and efficiently. Speed and legibility are extremely important in standardized testing as students are expected to write essays in short periods of time, and those grading these essays need to be able to read them! In my fifth grade classroom last year I still had students writing their letters backwards, which was both surprising and frustrating. Those that wanted to write in cursive for their final drafts struggled and often had to ask me questions like, "What does a cursive ‘D’ look like?" However, students that had been taught cursive in previous grades generally wrote faster and neater, which is important as difficulty of content and expectations for quality escalate quickly from fifth grade on.
What can parents do to help their children learn cursive even if their school doesn’t include this in the curriculum?

Encourage your students to practice, practice, practice! Watch how they write letters and encourage them to use the correct direction and stroke order when printing. Generally kids think cursive is pretty cool, so if you can teach them how to write it they would be happy to learn (and show their classmates and teacher the next day). At the very least check their homework for spelling and legibility as these are two of the most neglected writing components in school today.

It is also very helpful if your students have the right tools they need to fit their writing style. This might mean finding thicker or thinner pens to write with, using wide-ruled or graph paper to write on, or it could be as easy as adding a pencil grip or eraser.

Thank you Kelly!

Writer’s Bloc has some useful tools for learning cursive or for improving your own handwriting. Many of these tools are used daily by students in parts of Europe, where cursive handwriting is still being taught in school.

For very young students, both the LAMY ABC Fountain Pen and the Pelikano Junior Fountain Pen have ergonomic grips to assist with proper finger placement. These fountain pens have rounded nibs that are very forgiving and easy to write with. The Pelikano Junior is even available with a specially designed left-handed nib. Being a lefty myself, I can tell you from personal experience that this does make a difference.

For older students, the Pelikan Pelikano Fountain Pen has been in use by millions of students for 50 years and has been recommended by generations of teachers. Like the Pelikano Junior, this pen is also available with a left-handed nib option.

The LAMY Safari is another fountain pen that has been a favorite of both students and adults for the past 30 years.

Of course, learning to write includes making mistakes and maybe even spilling some ink! Washable blue fountain pen ink makes clean-up (including laundry) and corrections easy. Using the Pelikan Ink Eradicator Super Pirat Pen you can erase your writing errors with one end of the pen and then make your corrections using the blue pen on the other end. There are many kinds of washable blue fountain pen inks available in both cartridges and bottles, including LAMY Blue, J. Herbin Bleu Myosotis, Aurora Blue, Pelikan Royal Blue and Pelikan Violet.

French ruled paper seems very unusual to most Americans, but its lines are useful for guiding the size of your upper & lower case letters as well as the size of cursive loops & strokes. There is an example of this as well as a few instructions from DarkskyZ on the Fountain Pen Network (scroll down to find it). I personally enjoyed trying this techniqu

What are your thoughts? Do you think it is important for children to learn cursive handwriting? What tools do you use to help children or yourself improve handwriting skills?


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