Updated: Jul 10
Novel Notes fans tend to be a conscientious bunch, and it makes sense as all the products are ethically-made. It is a primary focus of the brand. This draws in the kind of people who care about the planet and those living on it. As someone who also cares deeply about potential harm I can cause by my actions, and the things I buy, I know how it feels to make compromises for the sake of living an ethical lifestyle. When I founded Novel Notes, I was aware that there would be compromises when making products out of recycled materials and avoiding plastics. This was especially true at the beginning, when the first batch of products was made with thinner, poorer quality paper. I couldn't wait to be able to upgrade the notebooks, and have been making small adjustments to the manufacturing process and materials ever since. Despite always aiming to source high quality 100% recycled paper, there was one thing I was worried about…
There have been several people who asked whether the paper was fountain-pen-friendly, and my answer is usually "it depends". The reason that this was not an easy question to answer is, firstly, I am not myself a fountain pen user so I had not conducted tests. The exploration of fountain pens is not a rabbit hole I can afford to go down, especially since finding my dream ballpoint refill! Also, my priority has always been to find paper with brilliant ecological credentials that I could obtain locally, without supporting unethical businesses like Amazon. Once I started working with my local printers, the types of papers that they could source for printing bigger batches was again limited by what would be available in larger sheets for the printing machines. My research into recycled paper that would be suitable for fountain pens came up with nothing.
I would have to explain to enquiring folk that unfortunately it would be really hard to find 100% recycled paper that they could use their beloved fountain pens on, because of the nature of being recycled. The more that paper is recycled, the more the fibres of the paper are broken down. This makes it difficult to achieve a smooth texture without additives to coat the paper. The disrupted fibres also allow liquid to pass more freely through the paper, which can result in ink bleeding through or feathering. I assumed that this is just one of those compromises that has to be made for the sake of ethics.
Despite not having much experience with fountain pens since trying out a Parker pen for a while in my school days and realising I'm just more of a ballpoint person, I did take an interest in other people's experiences. Apparently different inks are more 'wet' than others, and the size of a nib will affect how much ink is released as well. Various factors in how people write, and what their fountain pen preferences are, meant that it was hard to offer advice on what their experience with Novel Notes refills would be like.
Just the other day, I had a familiar message in my inbox – another potential customer wanted to know if the Novel Notes refills would be suitable for fountain pens. I wanted to offer the usual apologetic "it depends" response, but she had bravely taken the plunge and already bought a set of Dots refill sheets to test out. Fellow instagram user Helen (@stokie_helen) was kind enough to share the pen tests with me, and I was shocked by the results!
Eight pens with eight different inks were tested on a sheet of Novel Notes Dots 100% recycled refill paper. No bleeding or ghosting to be seen!
The pens and inks tested were:
Platignum Studio (medium nib) with Pilot Iroshizuku Ina-ho ink
Waterman Carène with Waterman Serenity Blue ink
Wedgwood (medium nib) with Diamine Kelly Green ink
Lamy AL-Star (fine nib) with Diamine Night Sky ink
TWSBI Diamond 580 (1.1mm stub) with J. Herbin Rouge Hematite ink
TWSBI Eco-T (1.1mm stub) with Pelikan Edelstein Amber ink
Super5 (fine stub) with Lamy Petrol ink
Deli Pink Fox pen with Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-budo ink
As if that wasn't enough, Helen also shared a full page pen test of the Visconti Homo Sapiens with stub nib and Waterman Mysterious Blue ink on the Dots refill sheets. Beautiful results, and beautiful handwriting! Slight buckling under the wet ink, but no ghosting or bleeding visible on the reverse.
Thank you, Helen, for sharing your outcomes. I'm sure it will be useful to other fountain pen fans who are looking for eco-friendly paper and notebook options, and I can excitedly direct people here whenever they ask if the paper is fountain-pen-friendly. I am proud to be able to offer Novel Notes products as environmentally-friendly and vegan stationery alternatives, now with one less compromise creative, eco-friendly and vegan folk have to make in their sustainable lifestyles.
The more support that Novel Notes has, the more positive changes I am able to make with regard to how the products are made and what they are made from. With the help of compassionate and conscious customers, I have been able to improve the quality of materials, work with local manufacturers and printers, and keep production ethical. I hope that in future I will be able to improve accessibility to sustainable vegan stationery by increasing production and availability, and reducing prices for end users without compromising on the founding principles of Novel Notes.
To support the continued development of Novel Notes and the #sustainablestationery mission (and try out Novel Notes fountain-pen-friendly paper for yourself), visit the online shop. If, like Helen, you would like to stay in touch on Instagram and share your pen tests or anything else you have created using Novel Notes stationery, follow Novel Notes at @novellovesnotes. It would be a pleasure to see how you use the products, and useful for others to see what is possible if you choose to share your photos. Please do share any other recycled paper finds that are suitable for fountain pens! The #sustainablestationery mission is not just about promoting Novel Notes, it is to encourage the use of ethically-made, safe and sustainable materials in general. Working together, we can inspire change.
For full transparency: the photos have been edited for brightness, contrast, and colour balance as the originals were a bit dark. The aim is to show the paper a bit more accurately. No other edits have been made. Colours may appear different on different screens, but the images hopefully give a reasonably good idea of how the paper performed with the various pens and inks. I have shared Helen's images for information purposes, with her consent.