Beside being my ultimate destination for "fancy" snacks, undergarments and socks/tights (just picked up several pairs each for 1-3 dollars!) Marshall/T-J Maxx (aren't the same thing?) are also an unexpected source of cute notebook and stationery. Just look at what I found two months ago, a cute Orla Kiely pocket sized notebook for only $1.99 !
A quick Google search told me that Orla Kiely is an Irish fashion/textile designer who is known for the whimsical print, geometrical plant-flower motifs and neutral color palette (with bright accent). Beside the TJ Maxx where I found this notebook, her products are also sold allover the globe in places like Sears and Anthropologie (I wouldn't mind having some of her dresses).
The Lattice Flower notebook I picked up is roughly 4 by 6 inches, sewn-bound and comes with 128 pages (each lays flat!). The cover is a thicker paper back with a smooth (semi-waterproof) layer that withstand some wear and tear . However, (given it's not a true hard cover), the part around the hinges would get bent and rubbed after it has been opened/closed for a month or so. I didn't mind that part since the wear kind of goes well with the (slight purply) taupe-brown color and gives it a sort of warm vintage feel.
The cotton book mark ribbon is such a nice touch to the whole book: not only it's solid (Hello Moleskine, whose polyester ribbon started to fray like crazy the day I got it) and firm, there is also that signature fern (?) pattern, which also reappear in the inner cover and at the bottom of each notebook page.
I forgot to take picture of the front cover, which is dusty coral with white graph print and the other side has a big white fern logo, but I will do that for my next review (yes, I went back for another one). The second inner cover/page before the note part is a slightly harder, somewhat thick paper that is perfectly fountain pen friendly (here it's Pilot 78G medium with Noodler's black), but it's just not too absorbent that the ink takes quiet a while to completely dry (more than a few minute).
The inner pages are ivory-colored, a little more brownish than Moleskine paper and ruled with gray line. The ruling is light enough that you can still use it as a sketch book. Even though each inner page is still thick and smooth, there seem to be a bit of coating so it's not as fountain-pen friendly. I can use extra-fine (this side is done with Pilot Penmanship with Noodler's black) to medium nib on it alright (with a lighter color pay-off) but very wet/broad nib would look blotchy and bleed to the other side. I would just categorize as a fountain pen doable paper.
Overall: The paper quality and overall construction is rather good for the price and even it's not as fountain pen friendly as the Clairefontaine, I can still get a lot of use out of it as a idea/sketch/draft book.
A few weeks later I went back to the TJ maxx and found three bigger ones with hard covers (I didn't rip that packaging) for 4 bucks. I think now I need to keep an eye on TJ Maxx's paper section!
In case you wonder what the first drawing was about. It's Esmeralda Pas de Deux (with one of my biggest girl crushes, Yuan Yuan Tan). Of course, the best part (Yuan Yuan's solo) starts at 8:00 mark