Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Unpacking “the Stefano” and First Field Test

Handwritten note and sketch by Stefano.
It looked like a gift!
Before I talk about the results of my first field test of “the Stefano” (see the previous post to learn about how and why I came to acquire this new sketchbook cover), I have to show you how it arrived after its long journey from Italy (twice!) and more of its details. When I opened the padded envelope, inside was a package that looked like a gift – rice paper tied with raffia and a button (made by Stefano) that reads, “Listen to the waves!” When I opened the wrapping paper, the beautiful leather cover was inside, and inside that was a kraft-cover notebook with an original sketch by Stefano. Tucked into a pocket was a handwritten note. It felt like my birthday!
Closed sketchbook cover fastened with bands.

For my custom-made sketchbook cover, I chose black leather, which has a rustic matte finish that looks like it will take on a nice patina over time. The cover closes with two elastic bands, and I chose red for those – Stefano and I agreed that red would look sharp against the black leather. Two more elastic bands inside along the spine hold up to two signatures in place. The cover has two hand-stitched pockets, one on each side, to hold spare signatures or ephemera. The back cover has a small “bro” stamp (I couldn’t photograph it well), signifying that it was handmade by BroLeatherWorks. A bookmark made of a matching red elastic cord is embellished with red buttons that match the one on the spine (the bookmark got a little in the way as I sketched, so I might remove it, since only a small knot through a hole in the spine secures it).
Two hand-stitched pockets inside.

Sketchbook cover with single signature in place.
I stitched up an eight-page single signature (below) made from one 18” x 24” sheet of 100-pound watercolor paper (that I happen to have a huge stack of), which yields a 6” x 9” page (12” x 9” spread). This page size is slightly larger than the 5 ½” x 8 ½” Stillman & Birn sketchbook I usually use, but I specified these dimensions to Stefano for three important reasons:
 1. I don’t waste any of the 18” x 24” paper, and all I have to do is fold and tear it – no measuring necessary (my experience with bookbinding indicates that measuring accurately isn’t one of my assets)!
The sketchbook fits perfectly in my Rickshaw Bagworks bag.

2. The sketchbook fits perfectly in my Rickshaw Bagworks sketch bag (below).

3. The 12” x 9” page spread fits on my scanner.
For my first field test on this gorgeous day, I walked a few blocks to the Maple Leaf playground where I sketched last week. I attached my watercolor kit – the essential element to my outdoor sketching – to the left side of the cover, and as I had hoped and expected, the leather is sufficiently thick and sturdy that it supports the kit well. It was breezy, and the right-side page kept flapping, so on a whim, I pulled the upper closure band around the corner of the page, and voila! It serves double-duty! And “the Stefano” works exactly as I had hoped!

Watercolor kit attached to left side of leather cover. Elastic band keeps page from flapping in the wind.

With this first sketch, I already got a little paint on the inside cover, which I’m sure Stefano will be pleased about. After all, it was made to get painty and well-used.


  1. This is very cool! I've been waiting to hear about it. From how you're using it, the leather must be thick enough to offer good support. Wow, I might have to order one!

    1. Thanks, Kate! The sketchbook is working out perfectly!

  2. Thanks a lot for your passionate review Tina.
    I love to make things for people like you.
    Take my greetings and hugs to all Barcelona!

    1. Thank YOU, Stefano, for making my beautiful sketchbook!

  3. I absolutely love this idea, as I've been reading up about making your own signatures. I like the idea of binding them later, in case I want to use one signature for a different theme. I'll have to request this leather "case" for Christmas! Thanks for the write-up.


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