One of the makers that caught my attention early on with this whole "pen thing" was Keegan from One Star Leather Goods. He has been manufacturing higher end leather products for over 5 years and has a stellar 5-star reputation on Etsy with over 2000 reviews.
Actually, my first review of one of his products that I purchased was his wallet/notebook cover called the Park Sloper Sr. (don't judge the old photos!) back in 2013. Since then he's made me a variety of pen sleeves, notebook covers, a belt, some watch straps... I keep going back because his work is excellent.
Keegan has recently been working on expanding a custom notebook cover offering where you can work with him on getting exactly what you want, all using some of the finest leathers.
Heading into the holidays he wanted to see if he could put together a custom notebook cover for me (based on my specs) to review here on the blog to give an idea of what options are available. Special thanks to him for providing the opportunity to once again review some of his work here on the blog.
My notebook of choice as of the last year or so has been the softcover Leuchtturm 1917 A5 notebook (in line ruled surprisingly) due to its high quality when accepting fountain pens, but not quite as glossy as a Rhodia which takes longer to dry. I consider it kind of the perfect middle range notebook that seems to work well in most instances for me. So, I instantly knew that this would act as the "base" of the cover.
I've always seemed to like the A5 size. Some people enjoy a smaller, more pocketable book, but the A5 gives me enough space to work without being constrained while also being your "normal" notebook size so it isn't un-rule-y. (Pun? Couldn't resist.)
If I'm totally honest, one of the hardest parts when working with Keegan is the wide range of leather types and colors that you can just from. It is A LOT. But, that also means that you will likely get exactly what you want.
Now, I've had him do several pieces for me and every time I'm still like, "um, what color is this one (sending him a specific picture from a listing in his store)?" As much as this is likely a constant battle for him, he is super cool to work with and willing to answer questions or help with decision making.
His motto is: "Buy good things, own them for a long time." He truly lives this philosophy himself and is anxious to make sure your purchase will serve you for years (if not forever).
I opted for a black and chestnut combination made from Wickett & Craig harness leather (a tannery out of Pennsylvania that has been at it since 1867) that looks pretty traditional, but still has some interest due to the contrast of colors. He has a wide array of colors like blue, green, red, burgundy... so, if you want to stand out a bit more than mine he can likely accommodate.
The leather has a slick, somewhat glossy feel, comes a bit on the stiff side, but is still pliable and will break in over time. It is beautiful stuff and smells amazing.
In addition to being a notebook cover I was interested in adding a pen sleeve to keep one close at hand. Stitched between the interior and exterior covers was sewn in a folded "loop" of leather that sits below the top cover made from the same interior chestnut colored material.
I wasn't expecting it, but really like the way he accommodated the pen sleeve. Well, part of what I like is actually by accident. You see, this cover is traditionally made for the hard cover Leucchturm notebook, but I prefer a soft so the cover fits a little large but that's alright. I like this because it creates a little bit of a cover for the pen that doesn't completely hide it, but tucks it in a bit. I also like the option that I can use it for either soft or hardcovers...
Like the cover, the pen sleeve will need to break in a bit to make adding and removing pens easy.
The final design feature is the addition of a brass snap closure. Connected to a strap of black exterior leather it loops around the outside edge and pen sleeve and snaps the notebook shut. As it is brand new the brass is bright and shiny, but over time it will likely gain an aging and patina all its own.
To stitch it all together I opted for the golden thread which brought the two colors together nicely.
Whenever I get one of Keegan's pieces in I'm always impressed at how impeccable everything is. Every seam is hand stitched, every edge is hand burnished, and they are always perfect. It is extremely obvious that this is not a mass-produced, quick turnaround leather goods outfit and it shows through his quality.
From a branding perspective, his covers and many of his products do come with some makers marks. In the instance of this cover there are two, one small circled star logo on the inside of the front cover and then the larger One Star Leather Goods "seal" in the back which is about 2" in diameter.
As a final personalized touch, he also stamped my initials on the front cover.
From a price standpoint, One Star Leather Goods tend to run slightly higher than some, but the quality is impeccable and he uses only the finest materials. And, the brand reputation stands to reason that the goods produced are worth the price. They certainly are in my opinion and I've been happy to spend money with them.
If you are looking for a special gift this holiday season, definitely give One Star Leather Goods your consideration. I'm certain that the recipient of a custom leather notebook cover (or if you are the recipient!) would be sure to see it at the top of their favorite and most meaningful gifts.
Special thanks again to Keegan and One Star Leather Goods for sending the cover for review.