Today The Stationer is three years old, and what better time than this to FINALLY get my act together and launch my own product! Introducing… The Work Book

A notebook, with desktop scene including a pencil, eraser and paperclips.

I’ve always had ideas for products I wanted to make but never any confidence, or indeed any clue on where to start… Until back in March when I did an Introduction to Book Binding workshop at London Centre for Book Arts and ideas really bouncing around in my head. Maybe I could actually do this!

I wanted to make an exercise book, but one with really good paper. Something really nicely made, with great, sustainable materials that perform really well with all kinds of writing materials.

I started by getting loads of paper samples and whittling them down to those that looked nice, performed well (especially with ink), and were sustainably made. The one I settled on was the most expensive of those I tried (of course!) but I love the unique, mottled effect and am pleased to have found a paper that is half recycled and half FSC certified that can handle ink (unfortunately I couldn’t find a fully recycled paper that didn’t feather with fountain pen ink). At 100gsm, it’s also a nice weight for this type of book, not too bulky. I got some of the paper digitally printed so that I can offer the Work Books in plain, lined or grid.

A notebook spread with plain paper.
A notebook spread with lined paper.

My next decision was the front cover. I knew I wanted to use Risograph as I love the aesthetic (if you’re unaware, it’s a printing type that’s somewhere between screen printing and photocopying, and prints one colour at a time, allowing you to overlap two different colours to create a third). I sketched out some ideas, which Harry (my husband, who is – very helpfully! – a designer) made look pretty awesome, and then also got into the right format for Risograph printing, which looks pretty complicated to me. I got them printed by Risotto Studio, in Scotland. I have been a fan of their work for a while so was excited to use them for this project.

A risograph printed notebook cover.

For the cover paper, I found a 100% recycled card in 270gsm, which is probably the thickest you can put through a Risograph printer. I really like this light grey colour, and think it works perfectly with the colours I chose for the print.

The next piece of the puzzle was deciding on the binding! Halfway through the process I decided I was probably insane to hand-bind them as I have zero spare time (with a toddler, a part time job and running a business) but after investigating other options, I decided that the handmade element of this was too important and decided to take a punt. And as I have found out, it’s amazing what you can achieve if you just put your mind to it. And if don’t mind being tired after a week spent using every spare hour binding books (that is me right now)!

I’m so glad I did do it myself in the end, it was a really enjoyable experience. I used 2 different coloured threads together as I thought it looked cool, and I hadn’t really seen it before.

And for the final element, I had a stroke of luck! I was looking for somewhere to trim the notebooks, as the for edges of them end up quite uneven when you bind them, and found a print finisher in the industrial unit right behind my house! I’m pretty sure the guy that runs it thinks I’m pretty weird as I had so many questions for such a tiny job but I took myself round there bright and early (7am!) on Wednesday morning to get my books trimmed. They did it super quickly, and then the guy running the place was SUPER kind and didn’t charge me. At this point the tiredness was really hitting me and I may have welled up a bit…

Anyway, I just thought it would be nice to jot down a bit about the process of getting a product made, from a complete novice, in case it’s interesting to anyone. I have 50 A5 64-page notebooks available, in a mixture of plain, grid and lined, and am selling them for £7 each. You can buy one here.

Oooh, and whilst I have you a couple of quick notes:
1. I’m offering 15% off with the code HAPPYBIRTHDAY this weekend (until 11.59 on Sunday 8th December (GMT)
2. For any Londoners, The Stationer has a stall at Pexmas this Sunday if anyone wants to swing by and get any Christmas gifts.