Tag: bag

Endless Bag Quest

current bags

Its not just me, right? Besides perpetually questing for the perfect pen, ink, notebook, planner, pencil, ad nauseum, you also are on the perpetual hunt for the perfect bag too?

I have several bags that are pretty close but not perfect. There are occasions where I need something slightly smaller, slightly larger, slightly more rugged or slightly more dressy, etc. Gentlemen in the audience who have fewer requirements, I suspect, and more pockets (“I am only slightly jealous of the amount of pockets sewn into men’s clothing,” she’s says ironically) but I also hear men raise similar ranges of needs so I’m trying not to pigeonhole anyone. Is there a “perfect” bag or can we ever get to one or two perfect bags? One for work, one for travel and maybe one for weekend jaunts?

The bags I currently have in circulation are:

I work a corporate, 9-to-5 job and I feel I’ve reached a point where most backpacks look too academic to carry to work. However, I do carry a good deal of stuff with me so I need a decent-sized bag. I like being able to switch between some sort of handle for getting in and out of a car and then use a shoulder strap/cross body strap for the 0.25 mile walk from the parking lot to my desk. Really. It’s a big campus.

Stuff in my bag

Usual contents of daily bag are:

  • pen case (pictured is my favorite LWA member-only pen case)
  • notebook (not pictured, currently XL Moleskine soft cover book)
  • planner (pictured Filofax Personal Original in dark aqua)
  • travel mug/water bottle
  • knitting project (not shown: can be small sock project or whole dang sweater)
  • small cosmetics bag (vintage Girl Scout fabric purchased at Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago)
  • phone
  • ear buds
  • sunglasses
  • business cards (Pantone case)
  • wallet (Coach wristlet)

Moleskine MyCloud bags

I’ve considered one of the Moleskine MyCloud bags ( I know, its crazy talk but I like the subtle exterior and the bright interior colors). They look well-constructed as well. There are an assortment of internal pockets for devices, pens and accesories but I cant’ find many review online so I am having to scrounge information. I have space credits (AKA money in my PayPal account) right now so I’m considering the reporter ($139.95) or the tote ($159.95). I do agree that our bags are our mobile offices and our desks-on-the-go especially when travelling.

Do you have a favorite bag? Or are you, like me, still hunting for the perfect combination of good looks and functionality?

Pocket Notebooks for the Ladies

Most of the distinguished gentlemen of the pen blogging community talk about pocket notebooks and the ease of pulling them out of a shirt pocket or back jeans pocket. But what about us ladies who might not have the necessary pockets nor want to carry a book in our rear pockets? The whole idea makes me think, “Stop staring at my Field Notes, jerk!”

So, how do we ladies carry a handy, jot-a-quick-note notebook that does not mean having a bag or purse with us at all times?

After working on a small team of almost all women last year, I discovered the handy convenience of a wrist clutch. The women on my team varied in personal aesthetics but all unanimously embraced the wristlet in various forms.


From memory, there was a BlueQ tyvek zip pouch with pretty graphics printed on it, two Coach wristlets (one in fabric and one in leather) and a Kate Spade wristlet in stripes. All the specific bags we carried have been discontinued but these images will give you an idea of the general look. The links are to the current offerings from each brand. The prices of these pouches ranged from $7 to about $100 though several were purchased on sale or at outlet stores so I think none of us paid full retail except me. The size was fairly consistent across all four bags — about 5.5″ x 7.5″ with of about 1.5″, give or take a half on inch. In these, we each had enough space to carry a small pocket notebook or a stack of 3×5 index cards along with our cell phones, ID and work badge, credit cards and cash for lunch. I think any lady could find some sort of wrist bag or clutch that suited their personal aesthetics from handmade Etsy designs to high-fashion designer styles.

The key is to find one large enough to hold your absolute essentials but not so large that it becomes a purse. I use my wristlet as my wallet and dump it into my purse/tote/backpack/bag at the end of the day. The wristlet is also handy for quick errands and shopping trips when I don’t want to haul around the whole mess that is my bag.

If your job or daily life requires more hands-free mobility, you might want to consider a small crosssbody bag instead. Its a similar idea to the wristlet but with a strap long enough to position the bag comfortably at your hip. No fanny packs or bumbags, okay? That is not a solution. With crossbody bags, there are as many looks, styles and materials to choose from as you could want from high brow to budget priced. On Etsy, there were over 14K search results for “crossbody bag” so there’s definitely something for everyone.

crossbody bags

I picked two to show the range, one from Kate Spade (over $200) and one from Mochi Things (about $20).

And what are the best pocket notebooks to carry in your new-found wristlet or bag? The same awesome notebooks the boys carry: Field Notes, Word.notebooks and Doane Paper Utility Notebooks, of course.

Out of Print Library Card Pouch

Library Card Pouch

The Out of Print Yellow Library Card Pouch was a little gem I spied on Amazon for $14.99. I stuck it on my wishlist as a reminder to order it later. Well, my darling husband spied it there and bought it for me.

It’s about 6×9″ in size, perfect as a carryall for pens, pencils, and related tools. Its made of bright yellow canvas, printed with blue library card lines and has a matching blue zipper.

Library Card Pouch filled

I tossed all my regular “daily carry” tools into with plenty of room to spare for some washi tape, glue stick and other items I might add for letter writing on the road. The canvas isn’t lined or heavyweight so its not as sturdy as my usual LWA member pouch. I love the look and the bright color but it isn’t sturdy enough to usurp the LWA pouch as my EDC. I might use the Library Card Pouch when traveling or to carry my knitting tools. Either way, I might pull out my embroidery tools and embellish it with some embroidered text. What book might it be and who else checked it out?

Timbuk2 Chicago Edition Messenger Bag (Bonus: Bag Dump)

Timbuk2 Chicago Edition Medium Messenger Bag

Last week was my birthday and my darling husband found the perfect gift for me: the limited edition Chicago version of the Timbuk2 messenger bag. This was a version limited to just ten bags for the grand opening of Timbuk2’s Chicago store. It would never have occurred to me to call the store and see if there were any left following the grand opening at the end of May. I would have just assumed that they sold out of these gems in a day or so. I also had no idea just how limited they were. Only TEN were made and when he called last week, they still had two left. Can you believe it?

So, the staff at the Chicago store kindly sent him one. And voila! The ex-pat Chicagoan can proudly carry a Timbuk2 bag inspired by the flag of her hometown — a city so grand its flag is emblazoned on shirts and bodies and just about anything else you can think of.

What makes this design unique from the build-a-bag option on the Timbuk2 website? First, the sky blue cordura nylon is not a color currently offered through Timbuk2. This might not be an issue for anyone else since Timbuk2’s build-a-bag offers dozens of solid cordura fabrics as well as prints, waxed canvas and more but for they put the idea of a Chicago flag themed bag in my head and nothing less would do for me.

Timbuk2 Chicago Edition Medium Messenger Bag

I haven’t bought a new Timbuk2 bag in a long time and there are some new features and some things have been upgraded, moved or modified. A lot of the changes seemed like really smart improvements too while keeping the elements that make a Timbuk2 bag so durable.

The new things include:

  • A padded grab handle to make it easier to pick up the bag like a briefcase
  • Clips to close the bag are now under the flap to create a more streamlined front panel
  • Clips are connected to straps under the bag that can be used to hold a jacket, an umbrella, a poster tube or yoga mat or used as compression straps to keep contents from flopping around
  • The pocket under the panel now has a side zip pocket for wallet, phone or other items that need to be handy but kept secure
  • The key leash is now attached inside the front pocket (it used to be inside the inner pocket)
  • A stiff piece of plastic has been added to the top edge of the large inside slashpocket to keep it from being flimsy. Earlier versions had a slash pocket plus a pocket with velcro which never got opened because the velcro was too sticky
  • Speaking of velcro, previous versions of the messenger bag had two vertical slashes of velcro on the inside flap. Now there is a horizontal swath of velcro on the inside flap guaranteeing that the bag will stay closed no matter how the flap is aligned and without the added security of the clips. The velcro is super sticky too.
  • There are also water bottle sleeves inside on both the right and left sides, one is mesh and the other is solid (this is an upgrade feature on the build-a-bag)
  • The shoulder strap is softer, more flexible webbing material which is less likely to rub skin raw or gouge a groove in your shoulder. However, I still recommend investing in the velcro strap pad cover. I’ve been using the same one for over 15 years — I just switch it from bag to bag as needed. Best $15 I ever spent.
  • There are reflector tabs at the end of the compression straps for late night biking and the small horizontal loop on the center strip is designed to hold a blinky bike light.


Timbuk2 Chicago Edition Medium Messenger Bag

Stuff that stayed the same:

  • The red key leash is still there and one of my favorite features even though the placement changed its still super useful. I added an extra leash to the leash so I can clip my keys and then throw the whole thing into the depths of the bag rather than trying to squeeze my giant car key/alarm doodad into the small front pocket.
  • The lining is still waterproof and now there is an extra bit of fabric at the flap fold to eliminate potential water from getting in on the sides. Did I ever tell you about the soaking one of my Timbuk2 bags got a few years ago? I got caught on my scooter in a torrential downpour with no place to pull over and get shelter. When I got home, I was drenched from head to toe — so much so that I took my shoes off and literally poured water out of them like a cartoon. The whole time, all I could think was that everything I owned of value was in the TImbuk2 bag on my back and the exterior Cordura was drenched. I worried that my phone, camera, and all the other paper goods in my bag would be drenched. When I opened the bag though, the only thing that was even damp was the corner of a magazine that had been sticking out of the exposed corner of the bag. So, no more exposed corners with the new design so get out there and ride without fear of anything being damaged in a monsoon.
  • There is still an inside pocket with slashes on the outside of it that hold pens, business cards and other sundries. The pocket itself is a bit smaller than previous models but perfect to stash earbuds and the like.
  • A crossbody strap is included for additional support when carrying the bag on a bike
  • The build quality is still excellent. Ends are nicely folded and finished. Everything feels well constructed and durable.

The crap that went into the Timbuk2 Chicago Edition Medium Messenger Bag

Pictured above  is all the stuff I dumped out of my previous bag and need to fit into the medium Timbuk2 messenger:

Timbuk2 Chicago Edition Medium Messenger Bag

It all packed into the Timbuk2 neatly with plenty of room to spare for other things that pop up like a book to return to the library, my mail reply kit, a sack lunch, etc. There’s also more than enough room to use this bag to carry my 13″ laptop should the need arise. The top photo is actually the bag fully packed.

Timbuk2 messenger bags start at $109. If you have an old bag you’d like to replace, Timbuk2 does offer an option to recycle an older bag called LifeCycle. You can recycle an old bag by sending it to Timbuk2. If you recycle a bag, you’ll receive a 20% off coupon for your next bag purchase. If you love your Timbuk2 bag but its seen its better days, Timbuk2 can help you get it repaired.

Have you ever used a Timbuk2 bag? Do you like it?

Timbuk2 Terracycle Mail Bag Messenger Bag

Timbuk2 Terracycle Mail Messenger

Ever wanted a bag made form old USPS mail bags? Well, now’s your chance. Timbuk2 has introduced the Terracycle messenger bag made from old canvas mail bags. Each bag is unique and this option will only be available for a limited time. They are available in small ($99) or the medium ($109) and in original white canvas or in an overdyed brown (seems more UPS than USPS, but who am I to judge?).


Timbuk2 Terracycle Mail Messenger in brown

Bag Lust: Po Campo’s Midway Weekend

Po Campo Midway Weekender


Po Campo is a bag company out of Chicago specializing in stylish bags for the active urban dweller and bike-centric woman. Their latest creation is the Midway Weekender. It’s designed to comfortably hold a change of clothes and miscellaneous personal  items. On the bottom portion is a zipper compartment for shoes or sweaty gym clothes. The straps on the side will accommodate a towel or rolled yoga mat. Can be carried by the handles or by the shoulder strap included.

I think its a great looking bag, good looking but truly functional. The bag starts shipping February 17th. A bit late for my travel needs but I’ll definitely be considering one of these in the future.

The bag measures 16″ wide x  13″ tall x  7.5″ deep. Large enough to tote a laptop as well as all those items needed on a trip or just going back and forth to the office. It’s available in black, brown and a blue-and-white stripe. Vegan materials. $99.

(via Po Campo)

Review: The Hightower from Nock Co.


I was lucky enough to receive an early prototype sample of the Nock Co. Hightower case in the awesome Kickstarter edition peacock. The Hightower is one of the six products in the initial product assortment from Nock Co. which is currently available through their Kickstarter page only.


There is no branding on the outside. Its a blank slate for you to add patches or keep it plain. I love that the Nock Co. branding is subtle inside and not emblazoned on the front.


The Hightower is designed to hold three pens on the left hand side and a small notebook (might I recommend a Field Notes?) on the right. Though the right hand could also be used as a freestyle pen pocket. The interior of the teal case is navy blue and the trim is black. The flap keeps pens protected and keeps them from falling out.

I have never really used a slotted pen case before being more of a “throw every tool into a zipper bag” girl so it actually took me emailing Brad to figure out I needed to slide the clips over the slot to keep them in place. I kept losing my itty bitty Kawecos into the slot abyss. (Shakes head at self and says exasperatedly, “Idiot.”) Once that issue was addressed, I started playing with which notebooks I could fit into the pocket.


I had a  Field Notes, a Miro Utility notebook and a Cambria Cove (discontinued Hallmark subsidiary catalog company) notebook in it over the course of the week. Then I stuck them all in. It was a little bulky but it worked. There’s not quote enough room for a pocket-sized hardcover notebook — it fits but its a little difficult to slide in and out and close with pens in it as well. This didn’t stop me from carrying it around most of the week with ONE pocket notebook and my iPhone stuck in the pocket though. That worked pretty well.

The bottom line is that this notebook/pen case is flexible, very well-constructed and easy to use. I kind of fell in love with it this week, not that I should be the least bit surprised with all the thought and care Brad and Jeffrey put into creating these products.

Now I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of the line. There’s three weeks left in the Kickstarter and then they’ll start production with plans to deliver by January 2014.

(more details are available in my previous post, Nock Co. or their Kickstarter page. And their are some other reviews of the Nock Co. products listed on Link Love this week.)

Ladies’ EDC: The Gold Edition


I know you boys out there talk about your EDC all the time. Well, I’m here to give the girls their five minutes. I mentioned a few months ago my desperate search for an easy EDC for the necessities of a modern girl’s life: phone, a couple credit cards, ID, some cash, pen, notebook and maybe, if I’m lucky, a tube of lip balm. I purchased the lovely Coach clutch I featured in that post but its a tad on the pricey side. When I saw this golden zip clutch from Fossil ($55), I knew I had to share it.

fossil-side view

There’s room for cards and cash and a mobile phone. I bet you could even squeeze a mini notepad (a Rhodia No.10 would fit)  and a compact pen in one of these as well. The lip balm might be tricky. But it sure is spangly! Its also available in black, brown, camel and teal (the orange, yellow and magenta versions are already sold out on the Fossil site).

(via Fossil)

Ask The Desk: Cambridge Satchel

Ask The Desk Header

Mary Ann asked:

How has the Cambridge leather satchel been working for you?
I am interested in getting one but would like to know more about it from a user.

my Cambridge satchel. tres bletchley circle!

I’ve had my Cambridge satchel for well over a year now. It is a classic English school satchel in medium brown and measures 15″x10″x4″. Its large enough to tote my 13″ MacBook Pro but on most days I don’t carry it with me since I have a workstation at work.

Cambridge Satchel

It is made from very stiff, thick leather. It needed to be treated with mink oil to help soften and loosen up the leather. Once I did that, it became a very comfortable bag to carry. Because of its generally rigid shape though, it is difficult to overstuff it like you might with a nylon bag or backpack.

Cambridge Satchel side view

The strap is adjustable by way of a buckle and is surprisingly comfortable without any extra padding. There’s a lot to be said for leather. I do wish I had purchased the model with the handle on top which would make it easier to pick up and pull in and out of the car. If you walk or take public transportation regularly, you might not need a handle but if you’re pulling the bag in and out of a car, the handle would definitely be advantageous.

It does limit how much I can carry since I can’t overstuff it which has actually been a good thing.

Cambridge Satchel inside view

I thought I’d share a peek inside the bag to give an idea of how much it will hold and still close easily.

Cambridge Satchel contents

Inside is an A5 and A6 hardcover notebook (Piccadilly and Leuchtturm 1917 respectively), my Lihit Teffa Bag-in-a-bag (holds my letter writing supplies), iPad Mini in a Macally cover, my LWA members pen case filled with lots of writing tools, a reusable shopping bag, a granola bar, hankie, Pantone business card case, keys, sunglasses, Swiss Army Secretary pocket knife, and a few loose pens.

The Cambridge Satchels are available in several other sizes and a huge array of colors. For the higher price and super durability of this bag, I chose a classic color (vintage brown) which would not feel dated or too trendy. The 15″ size like mine is $172 from the Cambridge Satchel Company. The Batchel (the same bag with a handle) is $187. And the Backpack model which is the same bag as the Batchel with straps to carry as a backpack is $195.

Bletchley Circle

If you’re looking for a classic bag made of durable materials and simple good looks, the Cambridge satchels are a good investment. I was tickled to see that a bag similar to the Cambridge satchel was carried by Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin), the main character in Bletchley Circle set in London in the 1950s. I told you its a classic.

Saki Collection Pen Roll

The Saki Collection pen roll (P-661) is a fabric pen roll available in six different traditional Japanese fabrics. The P-666 which is another variety of the same design available in seven solid colors with contrasting ties, if you are not a pattern lover.

The case holds about six pens, two in each of the three divided areas. Thinner pens or pencils might fit up to four in each compartment. Its a good option to keep finer pens from rubbing against one another if you store just one pen per compartment. My pens aren’t so fine that I need to be that cautious. It definitely is a better solution for full length pens, my little Kawecos and Ohto Tasche got sort of lost in the compartment though they did seem quite cozy all tucked in.

The Saki Collection pen roll is a lovely, elegant option at a reasonable price. Is it time to give your pens a classier home?

Available from JetPens for $13

Hey Goldilocks, pack it up!

After a Goldilocks moment with a couple sale backpacks I found on Timbuk2, I was able to establish that the 10L-sized Pisco was a tiny bit too small for me and the 20L-sized Shotwell was way too big. Goldilocks needed a bag that was “just right” so I’ve been on the hunt for something in the 15L range.Timbul2 didn’t really have anything in that range and most backpacks I found are either too hi-tech or too kid-centric for me. So, where do I turn? My friends, of course!

Thanks to a tip from Kathy at 16 Sparrows, I discovered the Kelty Cycle Hiker which coincidentally is 18L-sized and styled in a classic, non-super-hiker/skater/kid look. In cross-referencing, I also came across the iconic Fjällräven Kånken, a Scandinavian classic since 1987 which is a 16L volume bag. In the “plus column” for the Fjällräven Kånken is that its available in a wide range of colors but sadly it doesn’t have padded straps or much in the way of internal organization. The Cycle Hiker has more internal organization and those coveted padded straps but is only available in a few colors.They are comparably priced in the sub-$75 range though both can be acquired for a bit less with some searching on the internet.

Decisions, decisions! I think I’m going to order the Kelty.

Anyone else stocking up on back-to-school items, even though you might not be in school anymore?

Rickshaw City Tote Flash Sale

Rickshaw Bags is having a flash sale today on their new City Tote bags. Get any one of these simple little bags for half off today. But act fast, this offer expires tomorrow (06/01/12).

Promo Code: totetastic

Order online or in store. Offer valid from 05/30/12 to 11:59 6/01/12 PST

Now, I need to go play with the color configurator… tweed or cordura, tweed or cordura?

Classic Backpacks from Herschel

Herschel Supply Company
produces classic backpacks and other bags in traditional shapes and durable materials. My favorite is the one pictured above, center. Its the Varsity and features a padded computer sleeve and zipper towards the back to keep a clean simple line when carried.

I’m also fond of the Claim ($69.99) with the interior organizer pocket and red ticking lining.


(tip from @JamesStacey via Brad Dowdy [@Dowdyism] on Twitter)

The Everyday Carry (EDC)

The everyday carry (EDC) is a topic frequently discussed among pen and pencil afficiandos. We all have little gems and jewels that we love to have and keep but we are often asked, “But which ones do you use everyday?”  Stationery Traffic recently answered this question by showing the contents of his Maxpedition EDC Pocket Organizer filled with his daily tools.

This is my EDC photo from December. The contents have not changed dramatically, maybe the color of the LePens and I’ve got two Kawecos now instead of the Lamy.

What is your favorite EDC?

(via Stationery Traffic)

Notebook paper pouches

Whether your tastes lean analog or digital, these embroidered notebook paper pouches can help keep you organized. The smaller 7×9″ is perfect for pens and pencils. The larger 9×10.5″ holds an iPad. $22

(via Quirk Gallery)


Link Love

I realized recently that while I’m on-the-go, I favorite lots of things on Twitter with the intention of going back to visit them later. So I thought I’d start making it a regular feature here. Great links, photos and info culled from Twitter.

If you work in a design firm, ad agency or other venue where those little (and quitte expensive) Pantone chips get torn out and wind up in jars, drawers and taped to sheets of paper, you may want to consider getting the Slip Pantone chip sleeves. Its a convenient way to store chips that get pulled but not used. Five-pack for $12.95, 10-pack for $19.95. (via SwissMiss and ChipSlip)

Delfonics pencils, pouches and more are available from Notemaker, an Australian office supply shop. (via Notemaker)

A beautiful vintage Aurora 88 from Mr Maxim. (via Twitter)

A feature on Mr. Zip, our favorite postal mascot. (via Felt & Wire)

An iPad fits inside a Letter Writers Alliance members-only document folio. (via LWA and Flickr)

Best tool to stir a martini? A Blackwing pencil, of course. (via Pencils.com)

Mail, letter and typewriter inspiration (from Tiny Mailbox)

A video tutorial on how to switch a Rickshaw Bags shoulder strap to be left-handed compatible. And while we’re on the topic of Rickshaw Bags, have you seen the new Zazzle print-your-own graphics Zero Messenger bags? (via Rickshaw Bags)

A Taipei pen shop with a fabulous sign (via Patrick Ng and Instagram)

Also, from Patrick‘s Instagram feed is this letter lovers cycling helmet from Nutcase. Handle with care! (via Instagram)

In a jam and need a ruler? Try these printable paper rulers. (via Twitter)


The Envelope iPad Case is available in four

The Envelope iPad Case is available in four dignified colors including this delectable mustard that reminds me so much of a sunny manila envelope. You might want to add this to your Christmas wishlist just in case you get that new iPad you’ve been dreaming about. $48

(via Poketo)

I’ve had several people ask if the JetPens Lihit Lab Teffa Bag in size A5 that I posted about a few weeks ago is large enough to hold an iPad. The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. While it fits height-wise, the iPad is too wide by about an inch.

The A4 version would fit with room to spare but it might be too much room. Anyone want to try it out and post your results?