I’ve never been a big fan of the stitched-on pen loops that come with many daily planners, pad holders, and upscale notebooks like the Circa Leather Foldover. I find that when the notebook’s open, they get in the way; when the notebook’s closed, they keep the book from closing all the way.
I talked with my wife Mary Jo about this (a creative spouse is the secret weapon in the arsenal of many a good hacker) and she came up with the idea of using a length of cloth elastic braid, the kind used for waist bands and sleeves, which you can find for pennies a foot at any craft store. The only tools you’ll need are a ruler, scissors, a needle, and matching thread. The result is simple, elegant, stylish, and superbly functional — the essential ingredients of a hack that you’ll come to rely on. Here’s how to make one…
Begin by measuring the height of the cover at the middle. Multiply that by two and add two to three inches. That’s how much elastic braid you’ll need. Cut off one to one-and-a-half inches to use as the loop, and set it aside (like they say in the old cookbooks). Then stitch the ends together (since I am incapable of stitching, this is again where the spouse comes in handy) with about an inch of overlap. I recommend beginning with a light stitch so you can test-fit the band over your notebook cover and adjust accordingly. You want the band to stretch a little so that it’s tight enough to stay in place on the cover. Note that on thinner notebooks, too much tension will cause the cover to bow — not good! Once you have the correct dimensions, stitch the heck out of the back (see illustration). It has to hold up to serious use, and under tension at that.
Then take the excess piece you trimmed earlier and lay it perpendicularly across the loop. In other words, the parallel elastic cords on either side should be at the top and bottom, not going in the same direction as the cords on the loop. Trim the piece so that it is the same width as the loop. Position the piece opposite the overlap stitch it to the loop along the sides, leaving the top and bottom open (see illustration).
That’s it! Strap it onto your notebook and your elastic pen loop is ready to go. Not only does it hold a pen tight against the notebook out of the way, you can also use it to hold paper on the inside and outside. For notebooks with small or no pockets, this is a very handy feature. You can also slide in a magazine, book, and other relatively flat odds and ends — even an old 3G iPod! On light business trips when I don’t need to bring the computer, I find that I can get away with just my loop-equipped Circa Foldover. Invariably, a client will load me up with a stack of paper to take home with me — now it’s no problem!
PS: If you’re wondering, the pen is a 1947 Parker “51” Vac-fill with a M nib. Inks of choice: Conway-Stewart Brown for daily writing, Levenger Fireball Red for editing.