If you’re a fountain pen collector/hoarder like me, the question of how to keep them safe can become a bit of an issue. One potential solution is the humble pen wrap/roll. Enter the Hemingway from Rickshaw Bagworks.
Is it a wrap? Is it a roll? Both terms seem to get used for objects of this sort. In using the Hemingway, there are elements of both wrapping and rolling. So, like a sightless Cervid, I have no idea. Rickshaw call the Hemingway a pen roll, so that’s good enough for me. Pen roll it is.
The Origin Story
The Hemingway, like Rickshaw’s other products is made at their workshop in San Francisco. It comes in two flavours – Standard and Graphic. The Standard can be had in a range of colours and retails at $39. You can customise the finish for an extra $10. The Graphic also comes in at $49, and you can now have all manner of finishes. The graphic started out as a series of rolls themed around oriental dragon designs, which Mark from Rickshaw posted on Instagram a while back. Inspired by this, I asked whether it would be possible to produce a roll based on the famous Hokusai woodblock print of the Great Wave off Kanagawa.
As it turned out, the answer was – “yes”. Within 2 days of posing the question on Instagram, the fabric had been printed, cut and a prototype stitched. Pretty impressive.
I placed my order and, within a few days, my Hemingway was en route. Not surprisingly, the longest wait was for various postal organisations to get their act together and move it from the West Coast of the US to the UK. Eventually it landed safe and sound in the UK and, once I’d paid over the ransome to the Royal Mail to get my goods released, it was duly delivered.
The cutting and stitching are of high quality and everything is well finished. The printed fabric is described as a polyester canvas. It feels a slightly smoother than regular cordura , but there’s nothing to suggest that it lacks the necessary robustness to look after your precious pens. Rickshaw call their lining material “Royal Plush” and it lives up to the name, being incredibly soft and sumptuous. Mine comes in dark blue, which matches up nicely with the indigo and Prussian Blue used in the Great Wave. As you might hope, the quality of the image itself is also very good.
The Hemingway does all the things you’d expect a pen roll to do. As with many other pen rolls, it holds 6 pens, although you can get versions that hold 8, 10 or 12 pens. I like the idea of a roll that can hold more pens, but I can imagine that this might become a bit bulky and cumbersome. The largest pen I own is a Conklin All American, and the Hemingway swallowed this with room to spare. How much bigger you can go before things get a little too snug – I can’t really say for sure.
Once you’ve finished your wrapping and rolling, the Hemingway is secured by a loop of elastic cord and cord lock which will allow you to cinch the cord up if you need to. Rickshaw claim that the Hemingway is machine washable, which is handy if things go a bit wrong. I’m less certain how colour-fast the fabrics are and what you’d end up with after letting your washing machine loose on this. Still, it’s nice to have as back-up.
If this was “just” a regular Rickshaw Hemingway, I’d be seriously impressed. Whatever the finish, it’s well made, does its job effectively and the plush lining material is truly sumptuous. You could rest assured that your pens were being suitably pampered as you went about your business. That said, I feel a much stronger degree of connection towards this one, because an element of it was my idea. As an acknowledgement of this, Mark was kind enought to include a dragon pen sleeve in the package at no extra cost.
Hats off to Mark and the team at Rickshaw for both a great product and for their responsiveness. One of the things that impresses me about the fountain pen world is that there are so many companies willing to engage with their customers and go that bit further. I definitely put Rickshaw Bagworks in this category. Based on my experience as a customer and with the range of cool designs they now have on offer, I suspect this may not be the last Hemingway Graphic that I buy.