Pencil it in

Pencil it in

Have you ever wondered what all the different pencil types - HB, 6H, F, represent? Or what all the fuss is about Blackwing pencils? Today's the day you're going to find out.

Woman with pencil in hair
For several decades now, pencils consist of a few elements: the wooden barrel, the graphite core, and often a ferrule and eraser. The ferrule is the metal ring that holds the eraser intact. The graphite core is often called a lead, but lead has not been used as a core for centuries. Graphite is a crystalline form of carbon, harmless if consumed, and mixed with clay to create the central stem.

Here's a little lesser known fact about pencils: works written or drawn in pencil tend to last better over time than ones produced in ink. Pencil markings are water resistant and hold up well to light.

As for types of graphite cores, the variations are due to the proportion of clay and graphite. The more clay, the harder the pencil. There is no common standard among pencil manufacturers regarding how to grade pencils. However, many of us have seen commonly used European designations, which use the letters H, B & F, and are interpreted to mean hardness, blackness, and fineness, respectively.

The range is typically from 9B, which is extremely soft and very black through to 9H, which is extremely hard and light grey. Standard writing pencils are usually graded HB, which falls between these two. The softer pencils along the B range are popular with artists for sketches. The hardest H pencils are used for special purposes such as cartography, and various printing techniques.
Blackwing Pencils
Blackwing was created in the 1930s, and Chuck Jones, the creator of Looney Tunes, produced his work using Blackwing pencils exclusively. Many other artists were loyal users, including John Steinbeck. The company went through several corporate changes over the years and the pencils were discontinued in 1998. This created a run on the remaining inventory, sending their prices up to $40 a pencil. Then in 2010, the brand was resurrected by a California company, Cal Cedar.

The pencils are created using cedar barrels, which smell great when you sharpen them. The quality of craftsmanship and materials is very high. No broken 'leads' or dry pink erasers that make things worse when you use them here - these pencils are second-to-none and the erasers are terrific.

The brand issues limited edition boxes of 12 in unique colours and graphite core combinations. Each edition has its own number and backstory. The standard, permanent Blackwing pencils are also sold individually, so you can give different types a try and determine your favourite. Be forewarned, once you use these, you'll have a new experience of using pencils. They really do make the ordinary extraordinary and make you appreciate such a seemingly simple thing.
Blackwing Pencil Sharpener
Featured Products
Blackwing Eras Blue Blackwing Eras Blue
Blackwing Eras Special Edition - Blue & Orange

 As the fragrance of blooming lilacs, lily of the valley and peonies draw you into the garden or park, it's a great time to sit with your pencils and sketchbook. Inspiration abounds! Or maybe you'd prefer to write in your journal. In which case, you'll likely use a pen. Have you ever wondered why there are different kinds of pens and what their special features are? We'll fill you in over the next few weeks, starting with the ballpoint pen to kick off the month of June!
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Time to Thank Dad

Time to Thank Dad

Please tell us you've also bought your dad soap-on-a-rope. We can't be the only ones who've tried to find a cool, impressive, unique gift for dad only to end up with a tie. Dads can be tricky to shop for. How many grilling accessories, fishing gear items, or golf balls does a guy need?

Sitcoms know a bit about this. There's been a variety of dads who've provided us with laughs over the years. Steven Keaton, Martin Crane, George Jefferson, Phil Dunphy, Cliff Huxtable, and who could forget George's dad, Frank Costanza. Whether loud and obvious or quiet and emotionally unaware, comedy writers will find a trait to poke fun at.


In real life, dads can be complex. Their role has shifted a lot in the past few decades, and there isn't always a lot of empathy for their situation. A dad has a big impact on our life. Their presence can make us feel safe and stable, even when we're an adult child. And you know this to be true: there are some conversations and experiences that are just meant for dad. Calm dads in particular can be a great source of reassurance when our lives feel overwhelming.
  • Leather Rustic Book Photo Album ~ For the dad who loves to reminisce... preserve all his favourite family memories in Claire Magnolia's handcrafted Leather Rustic Album. Made of soft top-grain distressed leather, this rustic album features a wrap tie closure. It is bound with glassine tissue interweaving between thick ivory cardstock pages for preservation and protection.
  • Audubon Birds Puzzle 1000 Pieces ~ For the dad who loves puzzles... this delightful 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle is perfect for bird enthusiasts. The image comes from the vintage archives of Cavallini Papers & Co. The puzzle is packaged in a 10 inch long cardboard tube, with puzzle pieces safely stored in a muslin bag inside.
  • HAM Fine China Mug ~ For the dad who loves to cycle... the perfect mug for his morning coffee or tea. HAM fine china mugs are hand decorated in Stoke-On-Trent. Each holds 300ml, comes in a HAM gift box and is dishwasher and microwave safe.

Mom isn't the only one who'd love to receive a handwritten letter. Many dads go without praise for long stretches of time, and we suspect he'll be touched to hear a few words of gratitude. Share with him what he's done that's meant the most to you. Remind him of some meaningful or humorous memories. Mostly, just appreciate him while he's here. It's too easy to let the years slip away without expressing your thoughts and feelings. Celebrate him this Father's Day on Sunday, June 20th.

p.s. Next week we'll kick-off a special six week series on writing instruments. Ever wonder what the difference is between different types of pens and ink? Why people are so passionate about fountain pens? Sign up for Tuesday's Tonic so you don't miss an issue. To subscribe, and receive treasured notes to your inbox each Tuesday morning, scroll allllll the way down to the bottom of our website and enter your email next to the button that says "SIGN UP"

Caps off!

Caps off!

When I heard JK Rowling say in an interview that she couldn't recall a single word from the commencement speech at her graduation, I laughed. The experience was mutual. Can you remember anything from the speech at your ceremony?

Graduation is celebratory, and yet it can often feel like a cocktail of emotions. There's the pride and relief of achievement, the anticipation of life's next stage... and maybe a summer holiday! There can be a sense of nostalgia recalling memories and knowing you may be moving away from classmates and friends. Sometimes there's a blend of fear and excitement about the future. The ceremonial music alone can bring on tears.

Whether you're graduating or not, it's always a great time to look back and think about what you've learned. How are you different today from the you a few years ago? What do you like better about yourself? Chances are, you've developed a new skill, attitude or picked up a dollop of wisdom. Celebrate yourself for it! And make sure your victories don't become long forgotten speeches - write them down.

Use cute little notecards and jot down one great thing you've learned or done today and put it in a jar. Keep this up, and at the end of the year, you'll see all the wonderful ways you've grown. Or, keep a journal that expands on moments you want to remember. Our brains have a negative bias when it comes to memory; override it and keep the positive alive by writing out the details. Remember the five W's & H: who, what, when, where, why and how. Add a little doodle or sketch, or snap a photo. Spray your notecards with the perfume you're wearing or add whatever triggers a pleasurable memory for you.
  • LAMY Aion Rollerball Special Edition ~ The smooth deep-drawn aluminium body components are the first of their kind and give the series a unique, harmonious appearance. Made in Germany.
  • Katie Leamon Luxury Personal Organizer ~ A beautiful keepsake gift for the new graduate. This luxury leather personal organizer is clean in its design, which lets the beautiful hide colour and texture speak for itself. Proudly made in England.
  • Pilot MR1 Metropolitan Rollerball Pen ~ A smooth bodied pen, great for everyday use. It has a metal barrel, tip and clip and smooth plastic grip. Comes with a black gift box. Refillable and more environmentally-friendly than a disposable pen.

If you or your loved one is graduating this spring, we say, caps off! Congratulations on your achievement! We wish you a joyful, prosperous, and fulfilling future!

Do you want to feel better?

Do you want to feel better?

Spring can make us a bit antsy for movement. Winter often means a more sedentary pace, but spring really calls out for us to stretch and move about. We all know it's great for our body, but some of us find out (sometimes the hard way) that it's also best for our minds and mood.
Bike riding
Want to try something really easy? Close your eyes (after you finish reading this paragraph, that is) and hold out one of your arms in front of you. Now ask yourself, how do I know my hand and arm are out there? Can you feel the aliveness in your hand and arm that makes you aware that you have a limb there, even though you can't see it? This is a great way to connect with yourself and feel more centered.

The Niagara region is rich with beautiful areas in which to exercise: the escarpment, fitness trails along the Welland Canal and Niagara river, the beaches along both Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, provincial and city parks, vineyards, and marinas. Whether you enjoy walking, running, cycling or roller blading, there's somewhere beautiful to do it close by.

If you prefer working out indoors, or you need to, there are many options. There're video workouts, which have become even more popular this past year. There're monthly subscriptions available though fitness instructors such as Tracy Anderson and Taryn Toomey. It's also great to check out your local yoga studio or gym. Many are now providing online classes. Free weights and home equipment are another option, if you have these tools. Otherwise, you can always design your own workout.

Anya Taylor-Joy, the actress known for her lead roles in The Queen's Gambit and Emma (2020) said she starts each day by dancing to three songs of her choice. Elizabeth Gilbert, the American author, said she also dances every day and that it has been an effective part of her healing process after the death of her partner. Both these women dance freestyle. No training required!

Featured Products




This week we are featuring our gorgeous new collection of Paperblanks notebooks.

  • Joyous Springtime Dot Grid ~ Mila Marquis’s ethereal artwork combines sparkling emotion and unashamedly sweet depictions of fairies and flowers.
  • Floralia Lined Softcover ~ The eternal appeal of a classic floral design is captured in the work of Irish illustrator William Kilburn (1745–1818).
  • Dharma Dragon Lined Softcover ~ Ancient spiritual practices meet modern digital art in a kaleidoscopic reproduction of an original Android Jones artwork.
  • Madame Butterfly Blank Softcover ~ French author and illustrator Benjamin Lacombe lends his unique spirit to our collection with this lively Madame Butterfly design.
  • Violet Lined Hardcover ~ This captivating image comes from the first edition of Scottish poet and anthropologist Andrew Lang’s The Olive Fairy Book.
  • Blue Velvet Blank Hardcover ~ Inspired by a piece of a 15th-century velvet dalmatic on blue velvet, decorated in brocaded gilt metal thread.

Yoga Centre of Niagara

The key is to find whatever feels good to you. If you're someone who performs best when there's accountability, consider buddying up with a friend or family member over the phone. Or create your own exercise log. Perhaps even to share with others. Exercise is flexible - we can customize it to be a reflection of ourself and make up the rules, if any, as we go. 
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Do you want to learn how to use Japanese paper?

Do you want to learn how to use Japanese paper?

Have you noticed Japanese papers in the shop? Maybe you've thought they're beautiful, but felt a bit intimidated, uncertain about how to use them. Or maybe you're already as smitten as us and want to know some new things you can do with them. If this is the case, this week's topic is for you.

When you picture Japanese paper, what images come to mind? Chances are, you think of colourful patterned sheets of cherry blossoms, leaves, or other symbols and motifs. Such paper is washi that has undergone the process of chiyogami. This means a repetitive process of transferring a pattern onto paper by hand using wood blocks (used primarily before the 12th century) or silk screening.


The pattern on a chiyogami sheet is applied one colour at a time. It's a fiddly process! Each screen needs to be perfectly aligned so the colour transfers onto the correct places of the pattern. The traditional inks create a vibrant effect which stands up well to fading. Many chiyogami patterns have metallic accents added at the end, which enhances the beauty of the design.


Now, what can you use chiyogami sheets for? Truly, your imagination is your guide. Most commonly, it's used to cover books (including notebooks and albums), as envelope linings, to decorate tea tins and small paper boxes, for origami, gift wrap, collage, paper dolls, scrapbooking, iris folding and chigiri-e. What's that? What's iris folding and chigiri-e?


Iris folding is the method of folding strips of paper (usually coloured) to create an effect that looks like an iris - the diaphragm of a camera lens. These designs can be used to make greeting cards, album covers, or beautiful framed wall art.

Chigiri-e is a type of paper collage made with washi. 'Chigiri' means to tear or shred in Japanese, and 'e' means picture. You use a template to tear off a piece of paper in the shape you want and then glue it to a thicker paper used as the canvas.



  • Chiyogami Mosaics ~ Six colour co-coordinated sheets of larger and smaller sizes plus over 20 pieces of Chiyogami paper in surprise patterns, colours, and sizes.
  • Floral Collection ~ A package of Chiyogami papers measuring 8.5 x 11" (21.6  x 27.9 cm) each. Includes five sheets with Japanese floral patterns.
  • Japanese Traditional ~ Includes five colour co-ordinated 8.5 x 11" (21.6  x 27.9 cm) sheets of Chiyogami paper with traditional Japanese motif patterns.
  • Chiyogami Buffet ~ Package of 45 Chiyogami sheets in a "buffet" of assorted patterns and sizes.
  • Emergency Pocket Pack ~ Mix of 3 x 3" (7.6 x 7.6 cm) Chiyogami sheets in 24 patterns. For art emergencies!
  • Kimono Squares ~ 6 hand-printed squares of Japanese papers, each 8.5 x 8.5 " (21.6 x 21.6 cm).

Inspired? We hope so. Using Japanese paper is a great way to develop your creativity and learn a little bit about Japanese culture. There's a reason these papers and crafts have remained popular for hundreds of years.

If you try iris folding, chigiri-e, or find another use for your chiyogami sheets, let us know!

It's rainy and grey outside. What can you do?

It's rainy and grey outside. What can you do?

On these rainy, grey days, it's easy to complain, but we're lucky. Most of us have such cozy shelters to nestle into with a myriad of modern day conveniences that would be the envy of our great, great grandparents.


Rainy day crafts


As the rain makes a meditative pitter patter sound against the window pane, we can delve into our inner world and put pen to paper. It's a great environment for journaling or sketching. We can draw with graphite pencils or coloured ones. We can use markers, charcoal or pastels. Whatever resonates with our self-expression. Check your notebook - does the paper stand up to watercolour? If so, paint away! For the little ones, finger painting may be a better idea. For true artists, perhaps acrylics or even oils.

Rainy days are also great days for crafts. There's knitting, crocheting, and sewing. There's a variety of paper-based crafts. Origami uses beautiful Japanese papers. You can create 3-D hearts, butterflies, cranes, and miniature boxes which double as gift containers.

You can make life-like paper flowers to fill a vase or large, pom-pom sized ones to decorate a room. Consider making decorations for someone you know who's having a wedding or baby shower coming up. Or any other type of celebration or event that can use a little creative expression. Mother's Day is around the corner!


Featured Products

We hope this week's featured products will inspire your creativity!

 Blackwing Matte Black Pencil 



Relaxing Music and Rain Sounds


It's easy to get lost in your creative pursuits and discover the afternoon whizzing by. Take a cue from your pet: stop and take in the moment and just gaze out the window. Through the comfort of the indoors, you can listen and watch the rain, which is soothing in itself. Just thinking about this makes us wonder... do you hear the music?


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Grab your umbrella!

Grab your umbrella!

So, you wake up, get showered, dressed... you're out the door feeling put together and ready to face the day. Then, before you can say, "wet blanket", a car roars by through a large puddle and now you're the blanket. Familiar? We know that feeling of being soaked down to our wet socks a little too well.

Rainy days

During this time of year, it isn't just rain showers that come around. As a prelude to the June wedding season, you might receive an invitation or two to a shower. These strange times won't hold us back from living life, instead, it exercises our creativity. Many people have adapted by holding outdoor garden showers or "shift showers" where two to five guests have hourlong shifts.


We can combine or replace this with livestreaming. And rather than bringing gifts the day of the event, guests can ship or drop off presents in advance. There are also some games and means of connection that are not affected at all, such as asking each guest to enclose a recipe card with a recipe written on it with their gift.


And as baby birds and other little animals venture out this spring, so, too, do little wee human beings. Baby showers can use new tactics such as "sprinkle showers" where guests sign up for a time slot during the day, drive-by showers, or virtual showers. To unite everyone in celebrating, you can send paper decorations and party favours to guests ahead of time so everyone can join in on the day of the event.


Vows Book
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg


No wedding or baby shower going on within your circle this rainy month? Consider curling up with a good book, a warm beverage, a movie or show.


We've got you covered with ideas on how to spend these rainy days indoors - more on that next week.


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Touch her heart...

Touch her heart...

Last week we delved into letter writing. Who's one person you can bet would cherish a letter from you? Mum! You dads out there may want to step in for your little one here for the first time or new mother of your child.


Flowers with Mother's Day card


Mother's Day is right around the corner - it lands on Sunday, May 9th this year. How do you celebrate? Is it breakfast in bed, a family brunch, cards and flowers? This year more of us will be celebrating online or over the phone. For mothers who are separated by distance, a handwritten note makes a nice surprise.


Katie Leamon Heirloom Notebook
Miranda Hart Gardening


For those who are closer, food and flowers are perennial favourites that can be played up with decorative napkins, tablecloths and beautiful dinnerware and vases. Put love into your cooking, baking, and decorating, and it will certainly be felt. Handmade decorations and bouquets are a great way to personalize the table and honour your mom's favourite colours, motifs, and flowers. As the spring garden blooms, and if the weather cooperates, families can enjoy some nature outdoors together.


This time of year also makes us muse: have you ever asked your mother about her childhood? Your mother's mother? How well do you really know your mom? So many people go through life without really knowing much about their background. Consider using Mother's Day as an opportunity to connect with your mom and learn more about her as a way of honouring the woman who, quite literally, ushered you into this world.


We wish you all a wonderful, healthy, loving Mother's Day!


And before those May flowers arrive, we'll discuss April showers... next week!



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When was the last time you received a handwritten letter?

When was the last time you received a handwritten letter?

Have you ever checked your mailbox outside, fully expecting to find a fistful of flyers or bills, and instead, discovered a beautiful cotton envelope in a pretty colour with whimsical handwriting on it... addressed to you?  Whether you've had a rough day or a great one, little surprises like this are one of life's treasures.

Letter writing set with flowers

In this day of technology-dominated communication, correspondence that is personal, tactile, and thoughtful stands out like a bright star in the night sky.  You might even say receiving it is appreciated more now than when it was the default form of communication. 

Letter writing is a wonderful way to express gratitude, love, and good will to someone.  Since no tech company is monitoring or scanning your communication, you may feel more free to express your feelings.  Is there someone who's done a lot recently without thanks or said something specific that changed you in a positive way?  Maybe there's someone you haven't talked to in a long time and explaining things feels too awkward over an email or text message.  The act of handwriting is a great way to reflect on things and relieve stress.

G. Lalo stationery

Letters of Virginia Woolf

A handwritten letter lets you customize your message.  You can choose colourful stationery.  You can decorate the letter and envelope with doodles, stickers and a sealing wax.  You can enclose a personal item, such as a photograph, feather, bookmark, clipping, or recipe card.  Even choosing a stamp is a detail that you can select with your recipient in mind.

Letters are creative expressions that evoke the senses.  There's the feeling of the paper - smooth, textured, soft.  (Some papers are truly exquisite.  Next time you're at Figg Street Co., run your hand over some G. Lalo or Rhodia paper.)  Colours and unusual shapes and designs that stand out in the post.  Even scented inks fountain pen users can buy to add a special perfume.  The sound of opening the mail, or maybe more moving, is the sound of the writer's voice that seems to come through a handwritten letter more clearly, don't you find?

Once it's sent and received, there are more creative possibilities.  Have you ever gone through your keepsakes and found old letters?  How did you feel?  There's something thrilling about revisiting old letters.  Whether they're love letters, correpondence with a pen pal, mail from a close friend or letters that expressed thanks, if they made you feel good once, they're bound to delight you again.  Consider wrapping a stack of them with a pretty ribbon, piece of string or lace.  Then, like a small child who buries a time capsule in the back garden, stash your lot in a shoebox or special container for future moments of discovery and joy!

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Desk & Office Organization

Desk & Office Organization

Whether you are an employee, student, business owner, or use a desk for administrative or creative activities, there is something satisfying about a clean workspace.  Some like a tabula rasa or blank canvas look to their desk, while others delight in seeing a jumble of pencils and pens in holders and an abundance of colourful office supplies at hand.  Whatever your style, your workspace probably feels best when it reflects you.

Desk organization


Consider colours, textures, fragrance and items you like.  It doesn't all need to be functional.  Adding a vase of flowers to your area can give it some life.  Keeping items that make you feel good close by will make your use of the space more enjoyable.

Some people also create habits or rituals around specific objects.  For example, many authors light a candle on their desk as they prepare to write.  Others set out a week-at-a-glance notepad on their desk and review it each morning before setting to work.


Velvet Planner

Joy at Work


Consider making the ordinary extraordinary: rather than kraft paper brown file folders, add some whimsy with cheerful colours and uplifting patterns and designs.  If you like metallics or sparkle, think of the objects you frequently use and whether you'd enjoy a more beautiful option.  That funny mug or pretty vase might make an excellent pencil holder!  By energizing your workspace with things that inspire you, you'll feel good as you work through your day.

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Spring Cleaning

Spring Cleaning

As we watch the little bulbs of early spring push their way up through the soil and see perennials return and unfurl, we, too, become a little more keen to move about.  One way many of us peel back the feeling of winter and experience the fresh and new is by spring cleaning.

Spring Cleaning


There is something uplifting about removing things that are unused, unnecessary or undesired.  That feeling of spaciousness makes room for happier moments.  Releasing the past and making space for the new.

Once unwanted items are removed, we may want to clean our storage spaces or our home overall.  Washing windows, sealing stone countertops, cleaning cabinets, the inside of our refrigerator, microwave, and shower can reinvigorate our space with a sense of vitality.


Smitten on Paper Clips


After everything is sorted and clean, we organize our belongings and determine what and how we wish to display them.  This is when we may discover some changes we'd like.  Perhaps your vase needs an update.  Or you may realize you find keeping your favourite pieces within eyesight is more uplifting than hiding them away.  Other things that are necessary, but perhaps not as visually interesting may get moved into drawers rather than shelves.  Maybe you enjoy the look of utilitarian items and prefer it the other way around.


Cleaning with lemon


Perhaps one of the best parts of spring cleaning is knowing it's a part of life that you can actually do something about.  It's empowering.  Whether your space is a condo, apartment, townhouse, one room, a whole house or even just half of a closet - it's up to you.  It's yours to design.

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Signs of Spring

Signs of Spring

Leaping.  Jumping.  Bounding. Emerging. Taking shape.  Developing.  Growing. Becoming.  Signs of spring.  Brown turns to green.  Petals and blossoms emerge.  Chirping rouses us from our sleep as birds return from their winter holiday.  There is that wonderful damp and earthy scent of soil in the garden as it begins to wake up to activity.


Tulip on blue background


 For those of us who love stationery, we sometimes switch over to lighter and brighter colours of paper, pens and ink without even realizing it.  It's our natural affinity for colour at this transitory time of year.


Midori Tulip Letter Pad

Anyone who's spent any time in Southern Ontario knows March is consistently inconsistent weather-wise.  We watch our thermometers go up and down as spring starts.  We accidentally step into puddles of melted snow and listen to the sound of icicles falling to the ground.  The first few times we receive a truly beautiful spring day, there is a jubuliant feeling in our neighbourhood.  You know what I'm talking about - the first few days when we can comfortably sit outside for a while and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea.  Not needing to wear any winter accessories while taking a walk. Or the first day of the year when you can drive with the window down!

For gardeners, it might mean sowing snow peas outside or watching the snowdrops, crocuses and iris reticulata bloom.  There's a joy in those first few garden chores that re-connects us with our plants and the soil.  It is like visiting an old friend you haven't seen in a while.  It feeds the soul.


Country Basket


As you step outside and breathe in the spring air, take in the birdsong and savour each moment.  This is a particularly optimistic time of year.  As we sweep away the remains of winter, we step into another popular annual activity: spring cleaning!  More on that next week.  Until then...

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