Saturday 18 October 2014

Review of the Gillio Giramondo, plus giveaway and discount

Today I have a review you are going to want to read. Gillio’s new Giramondo notebook cover has been hotly anticipated and I’ve got one. After the review, I’ll give details of a giveaway for one lucky reader (yes, you can own this review Giramondo) and a substantial discount for everyone else.


It looked fairly unprepossessing. A surprisingly heavy, dull-coloured box emerged from its cocoon of careful packaging. It had the kind of gravitas that requires one to take a deep breath before venturing further to lift the lid.

But open it I did, to find a further layer of protection, a brown protective pouch with the famous logo and slogan in gold.
And inside? Well…

Enough teasing. Here it is.

Gillio’s Giramondo (Italian for ‘Golbetrotter’) is a traveller’s-style notebook cover, but it isn’t like any I’ve seen before. I’ll mention the biggest difference first, to get it out of the way. The Giramondo costs €165 That’s about £130 at current rates, or a little over US$200. You can buy three to four traditional-style full-size covers – Midori or similar models – for the same price. So clearly this Globetrotter needs to be something special.

Long story short, it is. There are several details and enhancements that collectively justify Gillio’s price for the Giramondo. While we’re talking about price, let me disclose here that I didn’t pay it. Gillio gave me this product as a review copy. It’s a full production version, identical to the one you will receive if you decide to buy one of your own. This hasn’t influenced my opinion of the product, as far as I can tell. I have also had the opportunity to discuss the Giramondo with Tom Van Haelen of Gillio by phone to clarify a few design and production points. Similarly, I don’t believe this has compromised my independence.

So, what are these details and enhancements? It’s worth spending a moment on the leather. This is what Gillio is known for, of course, and the Giramondo boasts vegetable-tanned Tuscan epoca leather, in a choice of 6 colours (yes, that does include purple.) Delicately stitched and edge-finished, this is a robust but supple leather that is going to enjoy a very long life. Tom tells me that the new production contains a further three choices: burgundy, grey and pink.

Opening it up, my first surprise was the lack of an insert booklet. I have plenty of those, of course, but a user buying this as their first traveller’s notebook would be disappointed to have to source a booklet separately (one isn’t available from Gillio, even as an additional purchase.) Tom knows this might prove an issue for buyers who are not already traveller’s notebook users, and there are plans to provide a booklet in due course and perhaps even market a range of different insert booklets. I put in one of my own full-size (210mm x 110mm) booklets.

Later, I put in more, but that will come later.

Notice the long pocket on the left and the four credit card slots. Together with the secretarial pocket on the inside back cover, this lets the Giramondo double-up as a wallet or at least a travel documents organiser. This nicely solves the problems we all know that arise from the lack of inner pockets in traditional covers.

Another nice detail is the holes, which benefit from the addition of grommet reinforcements. As you can see, the holes are big enough to let you add further elastics and experiment with alternative stringing systems.

It looks from the photograph that there are two independent elastics in use as standard, but that’s not quite the full story. Here’s the inside view of the default stringing.

Notice the big knot in the middle of the longer sections? That knot means you can’t use the two elastics independently. You are going to want to restring this cover as soon as you get it. While you are at it, you’ll probably want to move the bookmark too, which by default is attached to the short elastic parts:

This placement means the bookmark string to be used has to go upwards to the top of the booklet, go over the top and then come back down on the inside. This might work if the bookmark string were long enough to do that and still protrude from the bottom of the booklet. It isn’t. Restringing is no big deal for most of us, but I feel the first-time user might get a little lost. I raised this with Tom and he’s aware that this wasn’t right in the initial production run. This will be fixed for the new production. 

Let’s go back to the use of insert booklets.

Notice that the cover is just a little taller than the standard booklet. What you can’t tell from the picture, though, is that the cover is wider than the norm. How much wider? Well, have a look at this:

That is six booklets very comfortably accommodated without any protrusion from the cover. And notice that there’s plenty of scope for the spine to soften and increase the capacity even further. Gillio score highly here; I know from talking to traveller’s notebook users how much they value this extra capacity. At 27cm wide overall, the cover is quite close to being able to accommodate a large Moleskine cahier:

There is one final feature to examine, and this is perhaps the oddest one of all. This is the rear of the Giramondo when closed:

Notice that Gillio has considered the controversy as to whether the securing band should best emerge from the spine or from the centre rear of the cover and addressed the issue with a compromise! At first glance this is a compromise that will satisfy neither camp, but in use this turns out to be a pretty effective arrangement. The placement nearer to the spine makes opening and closing the cover feel just the same as a spine-anchored band, whilst leaving the spine unblemished by a central hole.

The problem with the Midori configuration, where the band emerges from the middle of the back was always that of writing in a booklet that sits atop a central knot. The Giramondo configuration, though, is much more comfortable. With the knot sitting nearer to the left-hand margin of right-hand pages, its influence doesn’t disturb writing across the whole page but just in a small region and even then only at the very back pages of a booklet. What looked at first like a clumsy compromise is actually a well-considered, innovative and effective feature.


During an afternoon with the Giramondo, I became rather besotted with it. It really is an exquisite piece of luxury leatherwork. But it has little to do with the traditional traveller’s notebook that I know and love. When I reflected on this, it made me think of jeeps and backpacks, travel essentials which have themselves been turned into luxury goods.

The gap-year canvas backpack is utilitarian. It can be thrown around, soaked, abused and will acquire a comfortable, distressed quality. But the chic, black leather backpack that carries your MacBook Pro and gets admiring glances in Starbucks has an entirely different aesthetic. You can drive a khaki Land Rover with its pre-war styling through the muddy valleys of South Wales or you can drive your climate-controlled Mercedes 4x4 along the smooth streets of Canary Wharf. Both have their attractions.

Should you own a Giramondo? Is it worth the money? The answers will depend entirely on your lifestyle and pursuits. For me, though, it’s a ‘yes’ and another ‘yes’.


I am giving away this review Giramondo, with Gillio’s permission. So if you like luxury leather goods and you’re cool with Green, you could be in luck. But time is short.

Here is what you need to do.

1. If you are not already a member, join the Midori Traveler’s Notebook Resources Facebook Group
2. In the group, find the post called “Giramondo Giveaway”
3. Simply add a comment to the post by the end of Tuesday, 21 October (midnight, GMT)

After the draw closes, one commenter will be chosen at random and will be the new owner of this lovely Giramondo. I will throw in a booklet or two as well. The draw is open to all, wherever you are in the world. I will cover the shipping costs.

Special offer

Let’s say you don’t win. Or let’s say you don’t like green very much. Well then, perhaps you want to buy a Gillio Gramondo of your own. Gillio are giving providing us with a 10% discount on all orders made on their website between now and the end of next Sunday, 26 October. Those orders will ship from the new production, which is due to ship on 12 21 November and includes the three new colours.

To take advantage of this offer visit the order page

DIY Fish giveaway winners

Following my interview with Sheng Chen of DIY Fish, many of you will have entered the giveaway contest. To see if you are one of the winners, visit the DIY Fish blog and view the announcement.

Wednesday 8 October 2014

New tutotial video - making insert booklets for the Midori Traveler's Notebook

I get a lot of questions about booklet making, so a video is probably overdue. This one features:

  • folding
  • covering
  • stapling
  • stitching
  • cutting
  • pressing
There are a couple of home-made tools in there, too, that might make your own booklet making easier.

Monday 6 October 2014

Interview and giveaway - Sheng Chen of DIY Fish.

I have watched the phenomenon that is DIY Fish sweep through the planner community in recent months. I'm delighted to have had the opportunity to talk to Sheng Chen, the woman behind it. Here is my interview with Chen. Read to the end for your opportunity to win a free set of inserts.

1. Who is Sheng Chen and what’s the whole Fish thing about? Show us a picture of you with your favourite fish.

I was born in Shanghai and currently live in Singapore for more than 10 years with my husband. We have 2 boys, 3 and 9.  Fish is my cyber name behind my planner related designs which started from 2012.

This is me and my treasured Life Mapping(™) Special Edition 2014 - The Singapore Rare Butterflies Set which I have spent almost a year to prepare, study, and paint these beautiful butterflies and their host plants.

2. Tell me about your DIY Fish Life Mapping(™) Filofax and Midori inserts. What gave you the idea and how did you develop it?

Life Mapping(™) methods includes color coding, time-managing and journal writing.

It is not an idea that came into my mind suddenly but it can be a long story.

I have been using bonded notebooks to write my “little secrets” since I was in primary school. In primary 6, I started to mark the edges of my school books like a dictionary because I have to study so many text books and I need to locate the information efficiently. I realized that this is a useful and beautiful method so I started to decorate and mark the edges of my notebooks too.

Below is an old address book that I used in year 2000 which is remarkable because it’s my last address book before I transferred all my contacts into phone.

In 2011, I joined many Filofax, notebook, scrapbook groups and forums. From there, I start to know Filofax, Davinci, Franklin Covey, Hobonichi, Dodo Pad and many experienced notebook/paper binder users. After I got my first Filofax in 2012, my desire to create my own pages became stronger and stronger. I have read many articles about time management, how to take notes and how to write journals and came across to Peiling Lin* (林珮玲 ) ‘s method of how she marks her notebooks to be searchable. This is a sparkle, which encouraged me to continue my way to mark the notebook edge. But loose leaves are different from bond notebooks which do not have a flattened edge and that’s why I created the Index Page Marker to go with the color coding system.

Life Mapping(™) Inserts version 1 are traditional inserts which I have concentrated more on the color and illustrations. But very fast I realized that they can not satisfy me. Base on my own needs and after many rounds of redesign, I launched my Life Mapping(™) Inserts version 2 series which have monthly calendar, weekly calendar and daily pages all in one glance.

Now, Life Mapping(™) System has more than 6 series which include 2 kinds of Midori style notebooks that base on the need of different users. And there are more coming soon.
LM MTN v2.2
LM MTN Classic

*Peiling Lin is a famous author/speaker in Taiwan who has published many books about note taking.

3. You are very visible on the planning-related social media. How did that come about?
A big thank you to Carie Harling who 1st reviewed my Life Mapping(™) Small Projects Management Inserts. She translated my complicated and techie thoughts into a very professional but easy understood language. Because of her, people started to know me and understand my Life Mapping(™) System. .

Another big thank you to Danielle Paulson who set up the Life Mapping(™) Community FB Group. This group has successfully attracted many great souls from all over the world to share and exchange their knowledge and experiences of using planners and Life Mapping(™) System.

Last but not least is to thank the Philofaxy community. Without that community’s knowledge, guide, help and support, I wouldn’t be here.

4. You take a lot of time and care to provide detailed support for people as they start to use your system. How do you find the time?

Squeeze. Less sleep and play with my kids but work.I am adjusting myself recently to have more time to rest and stay with my family.

5. The Life Mapping(™) system works brilliantly and looks beautiful. Which of those two objectives do you have to work hardest on?

The flow. Once the structure and the flow is right, the beauty of the system will come out naturally with the user’s personality.  

6. Where do the ideas for new features come from? How about some hints on what we can expect in coming releases?

The ideas are from my everyday using experience, all kind of Filofax, notebook, time management, scrapbooking related videos and blog posts, and the most important from the feedbacks of my users.

I am planning to convert Life Mapping(™) Version 3 style into MTN style booklets for users who prefer weekly pages. There will be 2-3 styles.  

There’s another exciting development under way too. I’m working with another designer to bring a new time visualisation tool to Life Mapping(™). It’s going to change the way people think about their days.

7. At the moment Life Mapping(™) exists as inserts people download and print at home. What plans do you have for changing that model? Will there be a standalone DIY Fish planner book in the stores one day soon?

I have been thinking about this and searching for good quality paper. I am not sure yet if they will appear in stores but they will be available to purchase online one day.

8. What are some of the things you use your own planner for? What do people say when they see you using it?

Work schedule, family members schedules, journaling, doodling etc.

In office, many times, when people see I have a big book to write in, they will borrow paper and sometime even my pen. In public places, unless it's in a library or cafe where I will have my own table, I don't normally take out my binder.

9. How can people reading this get on board and try the system for themselves?  What are the main options?

People can visit my Etsy store. Here is an overview of what’s available there.

Life Mapping(™) is a kind of color coding,  time-managing and/or journal writing method. All Life Mapping Inserts have side index bar for color coding and searching.  Life Mapping Inserts/notebooks use grids and it’s quite well known that you can use smaller size binder to achieve bigger writing space.

The most popular Life Mapping(™) Inserts (LMI) is LMI v2.2 which you can have month, week, day all in one glance. This is good for people who like to put everything, combine work and life into one binder.


LM MTN v2.2 is similar as above but has month, week and/or month, daily page at one glance.

LMI MTN Classic is an on the go Midori style booklet. It has horizontal format with month at a glance, monthly checklist, week at a glance, to do pages, note pages.

LMI version 3
is for users who prefer their binder to be light and stick to weekly pages to write and plan. Monthly calendar pages can be unfolded to work with weekly pages.


There are 4 kind of weekly pages, 

Life Mapping(™) Planner is for small projects management. Warning: Please do not purchase unless you tried and know how to use it.

Life Mapping(™) system has tradition inserts too. And I am still expanding the designs

You can always check the Product Catalogue for more information and new products.

10. And finally, Chen, please tell us about your special giveaway offer.

THREE readers will get the Life Mapping(™) inserts or booklets of their choice FREE. Here’s what you have to do to be in with a chance.

Join the Life Mapping(™) Community Group on Facebook if you’re not there already; like the DIYFish Facebook page and answer one or more of these questions in a post:
  • What inserts/booklets are you using now (whether DIYFish or not)?
  • What do you like and dislike about your current using inserts/booklets?
  • Why would you like to try Life Mapping(™) Inserts/booklets?
  • Which Life Mapping(™) Inserts/booklet would you like to win and why?
  • How do you plan to use it?
If you want your post to qualify for the giveaway, start it with the letters “GA” and then type your answer. Make sure you post it on the DIYFish Facebook page. You can answer more than one question if you like, but you’ll only qualify for one entry in the giveaway draw. The draw will be made after one week, so make sure you post by the end of next Monday, 13 October.


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