In pursuit of a Better Letter Record

Dear Everyone ~


I have just discovered that I am not the only letter- and
postcard-writer who struggles to keep track of outgoing correspondence.
I occasionally think that there must be a better form of record-keeping
than my ongoing list, which looks like this.

I tend to assemble mail in batches,
and then I like to take a “group photo” so I have
a visual reminder of the ensemble.


Well, my postal muse, Alyson, belongs to the San Francisco
Correspondence Co-op, and fellow member Margarete recently wrote to the group,
“I mailed a bunch of postcards yesterday and I realized
a few I don’t remember who I mailed to.
How do you keep track of outgoing and incoming mail?
Do you write it in a journal or a calendar?
I need a system and haven’t found one.”
Alyson quips, “Quandary loves company!”
and proceeds to read me the replies.

Five co-operative correspondents wrote right back:
Ryan, Laura, Shelley, Pamela, and Sally.
Overall, the thread was fairly funny—and familiar.
It seems the “pile system” is quite popular. So are phone photos.
Here are a couple of my favorite back-and-forths
(shared here with permission):

Sally says,”Ha! The nightmare of organizing!
I used to keep a ledger…” and she shows a photo.
Her notations are all handwritten, as are the index tabs
affixed to multiple pages. Pamela promptly points out that she doesn’t
see a tab with her name on it! Sally soothes,
“Oh it’s there all right. You can see I don’t even alphabetize.”

Laura acknowledges, “I’d often forget to write in a journal
and started just laying out my outgoing mail on the seat
of my car when I was in the post office parking lot
and snapping a photo so I could log it once I got home,
but then eventually just stuck with the photos.”
She adds, “I’m really visual so seeing the card
or envelope is enough to remind me what was sent.”

Wow: Shelley shares that she keeps a traditional log with columns:
date incoming, date outgoing, source/recipient, type
(postcard, note, letter) and group identifier (friend, penpal, etc).
She leaves a blank column in which she inserts the date
when she replies or receives a reply.
She is happy with her system … and I can see why!

* * * * *

This may seem like a little thing …
but for those of us who send a lot of mail, it is Such a Thing.
And, apparently, it is not a new thing.

Lewis Carroll had so much to say on the subject
that he wrote a little booklet (3 x 4 in.) about it.
“Eight Or Nine W I S E W O R D S about Letter-Writing”
was published and sold with a tiny Alice in Wonderland case for postage stamps.


The booklet is delightful and improbable, as Carroll’s example of an
epistolary exchange involving pink elephants seems beyond the looking glass.

Carroll goes into great detail about the wisdom of addressing the envelope
and affixing the stamp before beginning to write your note or letter:
“And I’ll tell you what will happen if you don’t.
You will go on writing till the last moment, and,
just in the middle of the last sentence,
you will become aware that ‘time’s up!’ Then comes the hurried windup—
the wildly scrawled signature—the hastily fastened envelope,
which comes open in the post—the address a mere hieroglyphic—
the horrible discovery that you’ve forgotten to replenish your Stamp-Case—
the frantic appeal, to everyone in the house, to lend you a Stamp—
the headlong rush to the Post Office, arriving
—hot and gasping, just after the box has closed….”

Carroll's scheme of record-keeping is elaborate in the extreme.
I can only dream of such a system!


Introduction to Boxmaking is this Saturday, July 20
& there is one seat open!

Very Epistolarily, Bari

Sweet show & tell with Isabel

Dear Everyone ~

I'd like to tell you about Isabel and her Katazome-covered notebook.


Isabel is eight and a half.
Her mother is a wonderful watercolour artist and book illustrator;
her father is an artist and screen printer.
Isabel made her first visit to my shop a couple of years ago,
on the occasion of my annual studio sale.
Her mother described Isabel’s visit as one of “total enchantment.”

Isabel came back to the shop several months ago with her mother,
and the assortment of little Japanese tri-fold notebooks caught her eye.
These are almost always in stock, usually just one each of various patterns.

Recently Isabel and her mother popped in for a visit,
and Isabel had brought her notebook to show me.
I was beyond delighted, and asked her all manner of questions.
Here are a few of her responses.


About choosing her notebook:
I remember choosing it.
I liked that it had cover paper that had a plain
background and shapes in rainbow colors.

About using her notebook:
I thought that I would just draw in it, and I do,
but I also kind of use it as a little newspaper I am creating.


About writing in her notebook:
I like using the tiny pencil,
and I like it more than using a big pencil.

B9F280AC-B0D8-4C61-8443-BF87F5DE47AE 3.jpeg

About carrying her notebook and keeping it safe:
I take it places with me, but not all of the time.
When it’s at home, I keep it in an art drawer
that has my other sketchbooks in it.

* * * * *

The notebooks are covered in Katazome paper, which is stencil-dyed.


The notepad measures 2⅜ x 4⅜;
the address book is the same size.
(You would need to have micro-writing to stay neatly within the lines.
It’s fairly hilarious.) The right panel has a handy pocket.


The entire notebook is 9⅛ x 4⅝ when open flat,
and 2⅞ x 4⅝, and half an inch thick,
when closed with its charming bone clasp.

The petite pencil can indeed be sharpened in a regular sharpener.
Its ferrule (the brassy little metal band) has a tiny drilled hole through
which you could in fact attach a length of twine.


Inspired by Isabel, I have made a batch of refill pads,
using Antique Laid writing paper.


Click here to see the array of Katazome covered notebooks

There are seats available for next Saturday's bookbinding workshop;
Duo of Two-signature Stitched Booklets

Isabel is swell, Bari

A summerweight little book covered in linen

Dear Everyone ~

When I visited Boston in the spring of 2018,
my aunt took me to the studio sale of a clothing and textile designer.
In a room full of lovely garments, was a bag full of 3 x 3
hand-dyed linen squares. Yes, they spoke to me, and I did not resist.
I could immediately see them as covers for little books.

I experimented with assorted types & colours of threads,
including pale oranges and ochres. Ultimately,
I bought some undyed Japanese cotton yarn
(just next door, at Knit1).
Though the Japanese-style binding is very sturdy,
the books have a dreamy quality.

The 16 interior pages are crisp Esleeck (a now-closed paper mill
in Massachusetts) Fidelity Onion Skin, from the days of typing paper.
I don’t know of anyone in the U.S. who makes onion skin or
cockle-finish (which was air dried) paper today.

The paper is quite receptive to a micron pen, fountain pen,
or sumi-e brush pen. Lightly applied watercolour would be divine.


The book fits perfectly in a square (3½ x 3½) glassine,
sealed with a dainty bit of washi. The glassine gets an outer wrap
of white tissue on the bias. Fresh & dressy.


Click here for a Little Linen-covered Book

Airily, breezily, calmly, Bari

Last Friday, June 28, was the fourth anniversary
of the shop’s opening. A sign heralding this will
be in the window as of July 6.

The thrall of wall-to-wall postcards

Dear Everyone ~

In honor of the beginning of summer, I’ve just updated my postcard wall.
It is now two-thirds, maybe even three-quarters, of the way to the kitchen.
Some of the recent cards have come from my Post Crossing exchange.
Many of the new arrivals have come from long-time friends and from customers
(who I now consider friends), some of them right in Chicago.

Occasionally, a customer will take a moment to send me a card from the road,
or the plane. Armel recently sent me a postcard from Kenya,
mailed in an envelope with a marvelous stamp: the shape of Kenya made of produce,
with close-ups of selected crops. In December of last year,
Armel sent me a glorious card from Venice …
which finally arrived at the beginning of June!
That was a grand surprise.

It’s particularly thrilling to receive a one-of-a-kind postcard
drawn or painted by someone I know.
A couple of local friends are especially prolific, and generous, and inspiring.
Here are three front-and-backs made by Maralee,
who meticulously adds an artful detail and a subtle splash of
wordplay to the message side as well.
She is also clever at selecting stamps that complement her theme.

My friend Janet, a “graduate” of Sketch, Doodle, Draw when I first opened the shop,
has become a dedicated artist of beguiling mostly botanical cards.
She uses a micron pen or fountain pen for contours,
and then coloured pencils or watercolour — and honours her tools delightfully.

* * * * *

My morning ritual is to sit at my desk at home,
while I’m having tea, and write a postcard or two.
I send several postcards every week,
usually ones that I’ve drawn with pen and ink or micron or a brush pen …
on whichever blank watercolour cards I’m favouring at the time. I
am always behind on my correspondence,
as shown by the current assortment of cards patiently awaiting messages and recipients.


* * * * *

Three new Hahnemühle watercolour postcard products are now in stock.

The 250 gsm pad comes in two sizes, the smaller of which (4⅛ x 5¾)
qualifies for the postcard rate (35¢).
The larger (4⅛ x 8¼) requires First Class postage (55¢).
For 55¢, you could also mail your card in a European DL envelope,
if you happened to have any handy.
The other new Hahnemühle item is a tin of postcards with rounded corners.
The cards are slightly heavier and slightly more textured than the tin we showcased in May
(which promptly sold out, but is now back in stock).

Postcards in their Tins
Hahnemühle Watercolour Postcard Pads

À la card, Bari

Next week, the shop will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday (July 3 & 4),
in addition to our usual closing days of Monday and Tuesday.
I wish you a Festive Fourth!

Washi ’n’ wear: Light wraps for summer

Dear Everyone ~

The studio’s complimentary “signature wrap” has recently undergone a subtle shift,
inspired by a friend whose papery sensibilities I admire. She wraps her packages
with the tissue on the bias, and she is a big fan of “dress pin” washi.
This tape is brilliantly designed so that when you apply a piece to anything,
it looks as if the pin has gone through the paper or fabric.
I love this trompe l’oeil effect.

After a bit of experimenting, I decided I even like leaving one corner
of the tissue un-tucked in. It reminds me a bit of a furoshiki.

The “clip” pattern offers assorted butterfly clips and bulldog clips.
When you apply a piece on top of twine or cord,
it looks as if the clip is holding the beribbonment in position.

The “envelope/eyelet” tape includes several string-and-button closures.
I am particularly fond of using these on envelope flaps.
They are also great to secure the ends of a wrapped package.

The pin pattern is very temporarily out of stock;
the other two patterns are available immediately.
You can order now, and we will ship as soon as your order can be complete.
(Parcels will be sealed with a surprise pattern of washi!)

Numerous other patterns (in a range of widths) are available at the shop.
Assortment boxes of six patterns are also in stock in limited quantities.


Assorted washi tapes

That’s a wrap, Bari

A summary of new papery pleasures

Dear Everyone ~

Some dreamy delights have drifted into the shop,
especially for correspondents, watercolourists, sketchers,
doodlers, listers, collagers … and packaging admirers.

I’m so very thrilled about accordion books (a.k.a. concertinas)
from Germany in a quartet of sizes; 30 cold-press watercolour “postcards”
in a very pretty protective tin; and fountain pen inks from Japan
in fourteen nature-honouring colours.

The accordion sketchbooks are made from natural white
Hahnemühle heavy watercolour paper.
(It is truly two-sided, which is not always the case.)
The covers are charcoal grey cloth with a bit of sheen and subtle texture.
The red elastic closure wraps from the back to hook over
the upper front corner—something I’ve never seen before.

Don’t feel left out if you aren’t a watercolourist.
These books make lovely travel albums, swatch collectors,
or celebratory cards where everyone gets his or her own panel to inscribe and decorate.
An accordion book left open on a mantel or shelf is a lovely enticement to remember an(y) occasion.
The Hahnemühle paper is also great for coloured pencils and for pen and ink.

Speaking of ink: these fountain pen inks are made by Kyo-no-oto. Yes, in Kyoto.
Why would I resist nine numbered inks plus five special-edition colours?
Their boxes are little jewels (2¾ x 1⅞ x 1½) of packaging detail.
The numbered inks come in a superb letterpress-printed box
made of ultra-heavy natural white watercolour paper.
The wrap-around label is printed on slightly glazed white paper.
The combination is exquisite.
The five special-edition inks are in a different palette,
with a different box design, and the ink bottle itself is definitely luxe.

These perfectly portable postcards come in a tin that is noteworthy in its own right.
The 4 x 6 postcards have rounded corners and rule-lines for an address.
The card surface is ideal for watercolour, pen and ink, coloured pencil,
and even markers. The cold-press stock is natural white …
and the raised Hahnemühle logo on the lid is the best little crest.

Link to the ink
Click here to the accordion books
Click here to the tin of postcards

Capering with paper, Bari

A summer season of favourite workshop flavours

Dear Everyone ~

The summer workshop schedule has stitched itself together beautifully.

Even before the official start of summer, I’m delighted to report
that Cat Bennett has agreed to teach an added session of Drawing Faces.
(Her Saturday session sold out almost immediately.)
Her “bonus session” will be the afternoon of Sunday, June 9.

Drawing Faces — June 9

I will teach three bookbinding workshops this summer:
Coptic Stitch (with hard covers); Duo of Two-signature Stitched Booklets;
and, Buttonhole Stitch.
I will also teach one session of Introduction to Boxmaking.
The dates are listed below, and full details are in the class listings.
If my workshop dates don’t sync with your summer schedule,
you are welcome to propose a different date for a private or semiprivate workshop.

Coptic Stitch — June 22
Introduction to Boxmaking — July 20
Duo of Two-signature Stitched Booklets — July 13
Buttonhole Stitch — August 10

Becka Bravo is back!
She will teach Modern Calligraphy once in June and once in July.
She will also teach one session of Watercolour Brush Calligraphy in June.

Beginning Modern Calligraphy — June 23 or July 21
Watercolour Brush Lettering — June 23


Julie Wildman will offer her Modern Brush Calligraphy workshop in August.

Modern Brush Calligraphy — August 24

The wonderful British seaweed postcard and notecard sets
are back in shop and online. If you missed them the first time around,
they are well worth a look.

Splashily, Bari

Hugely good things come in small packages

Dear Everyone ~


I have always been attracted to desk accessories in general,
and to mini-versions of things in particular.
My very newest “big little news” is a set of mini memopads from Japan.
Each measures only 2¼ x 1⅜ x ⅝ thick.


The covers are so charmola.
The spine view reminds me of a box of matches AND of a miniature book
AND of the vintage packaging for red-bordered labels.
Each cover features a delightful cut-paper illustration: a red bird, an apple tree,
blue lotuses, a bookish girl, and a chrysanthemum close-up.

These are eye-catching as a set, and even a single pad makes a great party favor.
I couldn’t resist wrapping one and tying on a half pencil covered in Japanese paper.


I use butterfly clips pretty much every day, for organizing,
for gifting, and for sealing packages in the shop.
The smaller sizes remind me of bonbons:
my tiny butterfly clips covered in Japanese paper are ¾ wide;
the teeniest are ⅜ wide.
They are as practical as they are pretty, and pretty sweet.


Few paper things are more endearing than a minuscule envelope.
You can use them for postage stamps, little messages,
tooth fairy you-know-whats, and Blackwing eraser refills.
My tiny envelopes measure 1 x 1 and my teeny envelopes measure 1¼ x 1¼.

Last but not least, another new arrival in the shop are paperclips made of paper.
Each little box contains 6 white, 6 tan, and 6 black.
They are a stylish accent and a great alternative to stapling or sticky-noting.

Diminutively, Bari

Everything's coming up ... letterpress!

Dear Everyone ~


I first fell in love with Lynn Faitelson’s With Love postcard
when I received a red one in a package from her.
In a word: swoon.
This card can make anyone’s mail day.
When I was in Boston last month, I visited Lynn at her studio,
and the With Love postcards were on press.
I ordered some on the spot, and Lynn suggested
that I might like to also order a second colour.


The package from Lynn in which I first received the surprise
With Love postcard, contained a sample set of her letterpress-printed
botanical cards
. My heart literally pitter-pattered ...
at the combination of colours, the flowers, the smell of freshly printed cards,
the feel of letterpress ... and the realization I could hand-tint
the cards with coloured pencil or watercolour!
I knew these were destined to be a Springy new arrival.


I am thrilled to be Lynn’s first retail account for this fresh line of cards.
I am offering them as a set of three,
each letterpress printed in a single rich colour: teal, fuchsia, and orange.
They beg (well, whisper) to be hand-coloured!
I’ve packaged them in a handy glassine sleeve.

* * * * *

We do believe in judging a book by its cover …
and we also like to judge notecards by their box.

This set of six letterpress-printed Noat cards are generously sized (4¾ x 7¼ )
and come with a lovely envelope.
The box itself functions a bit like an envelope, which adds to its charm.
The designs remind me of mysterious miscellaneous bits foraged
from a forest bathing adventure, or a walk in the park.

Don’t dawdle (stationary) at your desk.
Spring into May with some new cards (stationery).

Letterpresto, Bari

The Bostonians are coming... to teach!

Dear Everyone ~


Cat Bennett seems like an old friend,
even though I’ve only known her for three years.
She taught at my studio in the fall of 2017 and 2018 … and this year,
she is coming to experience summer (we hope!) in Chicago.
And she is bringing her husband, author and writing coach Allan Hunter,
to teach two classes as well.
These will be the first writing workshops I’ve offered,
and Allan is a confidence-building guide extraordinaire.


Last year, Cat’s Drawing Faces workshop drew more interest
than we had seats available, so she is teaching it again.
And, because she is personally reveling in using a sketchbook,
she has created a new workshop focused on that very thing.

IMG_2141 (1).jpg

Allan, who is a professor at Curry College outside Boston,
will be offering Finding the Stories in Your Life and
Finding Your Writing Voice.
I will be eavesdropping on both!

* * * * *

Drawing Faces: Saturday, June 8 — 10am–1pm

The Artful Sketchbook: Sunday, June 9 — 10am–1pm

* * * * *

Finding the Stories in Your Life: Saturday June 8 — 2–5pm

Finding Your Writing Voice: Sunday, June 9 — 2–5pm


Toodle-oo, Bari

All three of Cat’s books are always in stock in the studio.
She graciously signed a supply of them last year,
and she will be happy to personalize while she’s here.
(So, if you have unpersonalized copies in your library, bring them with you!)