Beyond repair: Faber-Castell Scribolino

This could be also a #100wears post or no post at all as this is not about garments. But having my favorite pen dying felt much more important than many of my clothing acquisitions or bye-byes, so here we go…

There are a couple of contextual things I have to establish for you to grasp the importance of my pen for me:

(a) I am a writing / doodling / drawing creature. I write my morning pages and to-do lists. I keep a paper agenda. I draw a lot. And I am the person who will be doodling while listening in class, both if the contents are gripping and if I’m bored. This is to say that I use writing implements probably much more than the average millennial.

(b) Writing and drawing tools have been fascinating me for a long time. One of my biggest pleasures as a child above the age of 7 was getting some colorful pens. That was around 1995, they were a new thing in the post-Soviet geography, they weren’t cheap… and I loved them. The sparkly ones, the neon ones, the perfumed markers, the stamp markers. Oh! I was a drawing creature back then too.

(c) I ditched the ballpoint pen long time ago. Exactly as the jelly rollers and Stabilo Point 88 were coming in, I realized that the ubiquitous ballpoint was a torture implement designed to make people allergic to writing. While I have come across one that I liked writing with since then (the Latvian Youth Council branded ones around 2006 that just happened to be comfy), I’ve been writing with no-to-little pressure tools since I was around 12. If I find myself in need to pick up a ballpoint today, it really feels awful and I do not understand how millions around the world can use that thing.

(d) And sometime later I discovered fountain pens. Here a tip of my hat goes to my first visual arts teacher who had us, gnomes between the ages of 7 and 11, working a lot with Indian ink in her weekly classes… and applying it with loose nibs attached to a pencil or brush handle with a string or wire, not even proper pens. It could have been because it was cheap. Again, those were the mid-1990s in Latvia. So I wasn’t afraid of nibs. And the idea of a fountain pen seemed cool. I might have been 15 or so when I bought a very cheap one… and was hooked. No pressure on the paper, felt artsy, could can mix colors by switching the cartridges. I remember that my physics teacher once asked to see with what the hell I was writing with as she couldn’t read a thing from my exam. She blamed the pen, I still think it was just my handwriting.

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One of those cheap fountain pens + Stabilo Point 88. February 2008, Ciudad Real.

So I was playing with fountain pens and using them parallely to other stationery, especially the Stabilo Point 88… but with years it kind of narrowed and when entering in the University in 2009 I had *my pen* and pretty much refused to write with anything else. That pen was a Faber-Castell Scribolino. This one:

October 2009, Brussels. Several Stabilo Point 88 in the background.

I must have stumbled upon it after my n-th cheapest fountain pen had died in a shop in Rīga – Valda Ošiņa rakstāmlietas – that for years has been selling quality stationery, including the Faber-Castell goodies. The price was much more than I had ever paid for a pen but still felt reasonable. It must have been 15€ or so. The brutal design and color amused me… And so did the fact that these are made for children: ‘all features designed to support your child in taking his or her initial steps towards learning to write’. And raises a question why can’t adults have comfy pens…

A throughout scraping of my photo archive has revealed, though, that the green pen didn’t last long. I mostly lost pens instead of breaking them then… and by May 2010 I had replaced it with this nameless blue one:

I still remember my frustration when I realized that I had lost that blue one even sooner than the previous one. But I did it on my way back to Rīga after my first BA year, so I marched right into the same shop and got me another Scribolino, a pink one:

The compositions I deemed to be a good idea in November 2011, Salamanca.

And it lasted exactly a year, as my data suggests that at least between June and November 2012 I was writing with this anonymous Kukuxumusu-themed pen:

And now, only after this double intro of 700+ words comes she, the Scribolino that stayed with me from 2013 till the last week when she was officially pronounced dead by the very helpful people at Casa de la Estilográfica. If you ever want to talk fountain pens in Barcelona, btw, those are your people…

Yes, it is exactly the same Scribolino in pink again. But with the difference that it stayed with me for ~6.5 years being my precious. And was omnipresent throughout the MA and PhD, all the travels, all the random flatlays, including my ‘see the typical contents of my bag’ post of 2018. It has been the little pink ‘where’s Waldo’ that always seemed cheerful. And people asked weird questions and – most often – couldn’t write with it even when trying. I can think of only one person who has ever asked to try my fountain pen and actually been successful at writing with it properly.

June 2013, Salamanca.

May 2014, a train station somewhere in the UK.

July 2015, Barcelona.

April 2016, New York.

August 2017, Barcelona.

June 2018, Brussels.

September 2019, Rīga.

And it was while using this pen that somebody (I really don’t remember who) told me that the an old wisdom says that one should never lend one’s quill, horse or wife because you have them molded to your taste and other person either could not use them or would break them in differently… Well, at least about quills/nibs that is true. The rest of the sexist implications of this piece of wisdom you will have to figure out on your own.

But the deformation is real. And not only of the nib, here you have a comparison between that 2013 Scribolino that has been in active use since then and a new one:


Yes, the innumerable hours of use had sculpted away the grippy part as to make to underlying white plastic visible! And the initial shape has been heavily altered for it being a supposedly solid thing (already ergonomically molded, supposedly). And here is the autopsy pic which explains both this post and why I have a brand new one to make this side-by-side comparison:

The nib is broken and the ink does not flow through it properly. I asked the Casa de la Estilográfica people who recommended just buying new instead of changing the nib. And after going to all the big stationery shops in Barcelona – and unable to wait for more than a month without a pen (read: this pen) until I get to Rīga in December – I just ordered one online (17.55€).

It does not feel the same. It could be that Faber-Castell has started to skimp on materials in the last 6 years: the grippy parts that felt silicone-like on the pink pen feels distinctly plastic on this one. I really hope that it might change with rigorous contact with my greasy hands. The nib is finer, too. And I don’t like it as much for drawing… Here again I hope that I will just wear that iridium tip down to a wider stroke. Funny how I notice all the little differences. We were very close with the pink one, after all. I’m now doubting if I should’ve tried to insist on just changing the nib… Well, as this blue Scribolino will hopefully be my new best friend until at least 2025, we better make it work.

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Do you have similar utensil / stationery / everyday things compulsions? Something that very few people seem to care about but you just cannot use whatever? (I could also write posts on notebooks, agendas, and paper in general, mind you.) Do you have a recommendation for a great pen/marker/notebook I should take a look at? In Barcelona the ‘cheap but reasonable’ end seems to be dominated by basic Lamy fountain pens. I tried one in the Casa de la Estilográfica, and it felt quite dreamy… ♥

Beyond repair: ZIB and Amoralle leggings

I have already complained about the surprising downside of a truly small wardrobe: garments worn frequently do wear out! And don’t come to me with ‘but my grandma’s vintage’, nope, if an old garment has reached you, it hasn’t been worn that much. It is true that the fabrics going around nowadays are worse, but one also has to come to terms with the basic physics of friction and wear. And when enough of that happens, no swap will give your garments a new life, it’s just time to say bye-bye!

So to honor the fallen with one final recognition of all their service, this is my new ‘beyond repair’ section to fare proper goodbye. And today it’s a cautionary tale of obeying care tags and physics! I’ll introduce my poor victims first and then the stupid thing I did I hope you all will learn from.

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Amoralle leggings

These leggings was a gift from my aunt around 2010/2011 when Amoralle were doing mostly hosiery. No info about fabric composition remains but certainly heavily plastic. I have to admit that they have served me exceptionally well, there was some stretching of the waist, piling when the calves rub occasionally, and the threads of the hem ripping… In short, nothing for a stretchy garment worn regularly for almost 10 years.

So, while the sexism of this female-lead company is suffocating, their notion of femininity very restricted, and aesthetics questionable (its impracticality and pricing have become the butt of many Latvian jokes), it is a quality product made in in Rīga, Latvia.



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ZIB leggings

ZIB leggings have been a mainstay in my wardrobe since 2012. A thick vicose/elastane mix and pretty silkscreens! Although they are opaque about the origin of their fibers (and weird about some of material choices – 100% poly body hugging summer dresses, why?), these are designed, printed, and sewed in Latvia. And very pretty. I’ve worn out more than 10 since then. Normally they become beyond repair by the elastane wearing out, like with the blue pair I discarded in October.

This model also tends to rip on the (only mine?) bum: the jersey runs from the seam down. The pair in question (2016, 119 wears) had it already expertly mended by our Latvian seamstress.

And turns out that that made sense because my own attempts at mending a rip I made on my bicycle’s gears lasted very little.

And this is what it looks like when you drip bleach on this particular dark garment. There are people who turn such clumsiness into textile art (examples 1, 2, 3), I know.

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So, the idiot story?

It goes along the lines of ‘these look dirty, nothing gets stuff as clean as hot water’ falacy. And out they came of that 60ºC bath flipping me off like so:

Those white little threads is elastane that has died, and there is no way of bringing it back.


Exactly, it is me – the ‘try not to wash it at all‘ and ‘make it cold and short if you really need to wash it‘ advocate – melting my elastane because of ignoring the care tags. Let me clear, the only tag I recommend taking with a pinch of salt is ‘dry clean only’, and even those can be fine in that cold and short cycle. For the rest the temperature suggestion is what it was meant to be: the upper margin above which it’s your own responsibility. So washing my 30ºC leggings in cold is great (also for the silkscreen artwork) but 60ºC was a great mistake. Do not repeat!

I think I was actually ruin them in a paradoxical, half-conscious way, though. I was bored, they were not in prime condition anymore, did not spark joy – especially the plasticky Amoralle ones – and I just didn’t have the guts to throw them away in the textile garbage, I had to make them beyond repair… Well, let’s hope that this consciousness and temperature lesson will prevent me (and you!) from similar blunders in the future.

tl;dr: Wash your fibers in as cold water as possible. In no case go over the temperature suggest on the care tag. And be honest about your garments: just let go of what is not beautiful or useful anymore.

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What has been your major laundry mistake? All your whites pale pink because of that one sock? A washing machine clogged by an underwire from a broken bra? Shrinking a vintage wool cardigan? Let’s commiserate…

Beyond repair: sports bra and blue leggings

I have already complained about the surprising downside of a truly small wardrobe: garments worn frequently do wear out! And don’t come to me with ‘but my grandma’s vintage’, nope, if an old garment has reached you, it hasn’t been worn that much. It is true that the fabrics going around nowadays are worse, but one also has to come to terms with the basic physics of friction and wear. And when enough of that happens, no swap will give your garments a new life, it’s just time to say bye-bye!

So to honor the fallen with one final recognition of all their service, this is my new ‘beyond repair’ section to fare proper goodbye. It is also meant to be educational, by the way, as recognizing ‘this just needs a new owner’ from ‘this can be fixed’ from ‘this is textile waste’ is a key task we all need training. You are welcome, my vasilisas separating poppy seeds from sand!

For a contrarian wishing to prove me wrong along the lines of ‘you could still make use of these by creating leg warmers, cutting it up in jersey yarn for chunky knitting, shred it for pillow filling…’ the answer is ‘yes, but only if I would want those recycled objects’. Around the corner there is the DIY falacy. Going back to Nagisa Tatsumi: “the Western custom of making patchwork from old clothes can be helpful [but] on the other hand, if you end up with ten oven mitts in the house, you’re just accumulating something else, so only try idea [of recycling] with clothes that you find very difficult to throw away. You might, for example, like to make a purse or a bag from a kimono or dress your mother used to wear. Changing form and reducing size – it’s another method of disposal”.

I really cannot think of anything I would want out of these discards. I have an upcoming project where I am using this logic of recycling, though, so stay tuned to the Fix it! section.

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The sports bra

Karrimor, bought new in 2015, unknown production place (all tags have washed off by now) but bad enough, unknown fabric mix bu very synthetic, of course, countless wears – this bra should have at least a yoga teacher certificate by now.

This sports bra has been my sports and lounge buddy for more than 3 years because of its fit. On a typical workday I’d take off the underwire bra and change into this one to proceed with errands and home life. Depending on necklines I’d also try to sneak it into work. And travel. Fun fact: I bought a Nike one the same day and gave it away soon after, as that one kept hurting my neck and containing the body parts it was supposed to contain.

So by now it was a trusted friend receiving weekly washes and countless stretches… and it shows. The elastic stops being elastic after a while. And some piling happens. Up till recently I was also going to say that smells accumulate (synthetics + underboob sweat = not cool, who knew?!), but my mother in law washed it while we were visiting her in September and did some magic (I suspect that higher temperatures combined with a fabric softener did the trick), so it actually doesn’t smell anymore.

The problem, of course, was to replace it properly. I knew that I needed such garment. And – after the Nike fail – I knew that it wasn’t necessarily that easy. The fear of failure was so big, I actually shared it as one of my sustainable living decision fatigues. And then some Internet magic happened: a stranger on FB suggested the thing that looked like exactly what I was looking for. I’ve had my People Tree Yoga Crop Top for a week now, so I can let go of the old one. Thank you so much, little sports bra!

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Blue leggings

ZIB, a 2015 gift from my mom, made in Latvia, 92% viscose 8% elastane, 100+ wears.

Ugh, this one is hard. That brilliant blue color! That soft-soft viscose! I love these leggings, and they are worn to bits. And I am so falling for the ‘but they are soooo comfy, I’ll just wear them at home and nobody will know’. They are worn out – check your jersey against light, by the way, if you see streaks of light it means that all that elastane has long said bye-bye! – discolored, and breaking at the waist. I know myself all too well: unless I throw them out, there will be days when I’ll wear them to work. And then feel inadequate. So I needed to make a post about them and to solemnly swear that I am up to no good will deposit them in the textile trash. And I will get a couple of new ones.

Although ZIB people have never expressed wishes to join the sustainability revolution by switching to organic cotton mixes or disclosing where the textiles come from… they actually produce a shitload of summer styles in questionable synthetic mixes, one of the great mysteries of fashion design! But the leggings are cool: high waist, long legs (I usually cut mine a notch shorter), original screen printed patterns, made in Latvia. I’ve had 10+ of them by now and I’m repeating.

The decision to be brave and honest (the amount of drama surrounding one pair of worn-out leggings, really!) about this one is especially sad because I was truly looking forward to getting away with wearing pajamas to work this winter, like so:

But then again, here is an inside look (also, one of the weirdest photos I’ve ever made):

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Are you secretly keeping something too ratty for anybody to see? Do you actually wear it at home? Or have you tossed something of this kind recently: so perfectly worn in that it has to go already?

Beyond repair: white zipper blouse and lyocell shorts

I have already complained about the surprising downside of a truly small wardrobe: garments worn frequently do wear out! And don’t come to me with ‘but my grandma’s vintage’, nope, if an old garment has reached you, it hasn’t been worn that much. It is true that the fabrics going around nowadays are worse, but one also has to come to terms with the basic physics of friction and wear. And when enough of that happens, no swap will give your garments a new life, it’s just time to say bye-bye!

So to honor the fallen with one final recognition of all their service, this is my new ‘beyond repair’ section to fare proper goodbye. And today it’s a double feature!

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The white zipper blouse

2015 hand-me-down from my mother, 100% viscose, 65+ wears.

The white zipper blouse has been my go-to staple for last two summers, before that it was just laying around waiting for its moment to shine. It comes from the epoch when my mother still ordered from catalogues, and I would dare to say that probably no other garment of this model has been through so many wears and washes. I never ironed it, so in many outfit pictures it looks rather crumpled, and my underwear choices under it were always visible, but I didn’t care…  And it dried quickly after a hand wash, combined with everything and was the perfect lightness for Barcelona summers when putting anything on is a struggle.

However, the fabric is now showing visible wear (I’ll repeat: I don’t think that people who designed this little number and picked the material for it ever thought anybody would wear for more than a couple times) and broken threads all over. In my efforts to sharpen my criteria and look more put together, I had already decided that this was going to be its last season. And then it got a hole you can see in the photo above! And I got a dilemma… Because, of course, I could make an effort to patch the hole: put an applique on it, convert the whole back in a lace garden or do a rebellious embroidery. Yet that will do nothing for the wear and tear of the fabric. So I’ve decided to work on acceptance that garments, especially the light and fragile ones, are not forever. And send this one off to textile trash. Thank you, little blouse, you did a great job!

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The HnM ‘conscious denim’ shorts

2015 hand-me-down from my mother, 100% lyocell, 69+ wears.

The ‘denim’ shorts come from the last time my mom got excited about HnM, and then pretty quickly realized that she wouldn’t really wear all that. And the story of the shorts is pretty much the same as that of the little white blouse above: it’s a lightweight fast fashion garment meant to be bought for one night at Primavera Sound and then discarded. Ha! But I insisted, although they were never too comfortable or ‘serious enough’ for work (I tried wearing them to office once and quickly realized that nobody else cared but I truly didn’t feel appropriate).

And then they just fell apart. I really have a feeling that just suddenly they were all frayed, especially at waistband. And my response to the ‘fix or ditch’ question was, as above, material related. This is not true denim that I’ve just ‘worn in’. Nope, this is very light (a bit more sustainable) viscose that is not known for aging well. And fixing the waistband wouldn’t improve much the life expectancy of this garment. Oh, well. Thank you so much, and out to textile trash they go.

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Have you had to send things to textile trash recently? Was it due to heavy wear or to inherent weaknesses of the material or cut? Or do you have more creative discarding strategies, like converting the garments in patchwork or embroidery?

Swap VI and the problem with the threadbare

This Saturday is the sixth (!) swap (what’s a swap?) and I’m doing my wardrobe pruning in preparation for it. However, as my wardrobe goes shrinking, there’s another dynamic I’m less comfortable than letting mint condition garments that are not working for me find new owners… the pieces I’ve worn out completely are driving me nuts!

The initial wardrobe editing is about taste, future self and frequency of wear/fit in your life. All very personal and subjective. And if it ever comes down to ‘this is pretty worn out’, most people have replacements already waiting for them right there in the same wardrobe. Yes, there might be pieces that one might want to work hard enough to find or make a copy but those don’t tend to be urgent as there’s an abundance of other garments. However, when I’m down to two bras, one pair of yoga shorts and eight pairs of footwear in total, seeing them wear out is a heart-breaking emergency. It’s as if, once selected as optimal, I’d expected them to last lifetime and they have tricked me by wearing out. Finding exact replacement for secondhand or hand-me-down stuff I’ve worn for years is not easy. And in many cases I would prefer not to buy anything directly from those people anyways.

I already shared my yoga shorts replacement fail and it hasn’t got better since then. The Decathlon shorts I bought second-hand in 2015 are in rag condition, and I have a strong aversion to going to that shop and browsing for new similar ones (as there are no identical ones available). According to their home page, I could get similar ones in organic cotton and elastane mix for f*ing incredible 4.99€ without a word about where the fiber or labour comes from. You tell me how that price is possible!

Looks that the solution of the shorts saga will be to – for a set of other reasons – switch back to home practice, so that showing my privates to people won’t be a concern at all. I still should admit myself the truth and send the old shorts to the orange container (oh, yes, those are well beyond a swap-worthy mint condition).

My parallel struggle with shredded-by-wearing items has been my sneakers. After discovering Veja Taua in early 2015, I though I was set for life. Oh, how naive! After three pairs worn to the point that my left little toe was sneaking out (always the left one!), I am now facing the hard truth that they are not planning to restock them ever again. I did try another of the more modern-looking sneaker models and I’m now breaking in their next best canvas sneaker, but it’s not the same. I want my Taua back! I’m even seriously considering buying the last available Taua in my size, although the color combination – white, very white – is clearly suboptimal for my lifestyle. Or writing them a very heartfelt love letter pleading for a new release of the black ones…

(On a side note, this is one of the big advantages of  heritage brands and styles. If you happen to like a model that the company has been doing for decades already, it’s pretty safe they’ll keep doing it instead of succumbing to demons of innovation and oh-no-that-was-limited-edition-and-we-will-never-do-it-again. I was just assured of this by the lovely Toni Pons salesperson in Born. They’ve been making Montgri since forever, so it’s not going anywhere.)

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According to my archives, that’s what November 2012 looked like in Salamanca, Spain.

It’s the time for the black flower shirt too. It has been patched up in armpits three times and keeps unraveling around them. This little viscose hand-my-down from my mom has seen so much more than #100wears. For years it has been my go-to throw-on for travel, errands and everything in-between. I draped perfectly, covered butt to be worn with leggings, felt amazing and looked lovely. Bye, bye, my love, I hope to find something similar enough one day.

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On a more typical note about garments that will go to the swap looking for new friends (for my outgoing for the previous editions see here, here and here), the only substantive swapped-aways will be garments I thought of as heirlooms until trying to wear them again after years of having them stashed away in my mom’s wardrobe. Both the military field jacket and the pink corduroy skirt date back to 2003 and 2006 respectively, my past self wore them a lot and they are in great condition. But not for my current self! And that’s enough. I hope they have a lot of wears with somebody else ahead of them.

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How do you deal with the conflict of knowing that something is worn out beyond repair and that you cannot replace it? Have you ever made bespoke copies of industrial garments you had loved? Have you crossed oceans, deserts and all the internets combing for a replacement?