Starting Calligraphy

Previous posts: Handwriting without tears, Cursive (coming soon)

My daughter wanted to try calligraphy. This has been lovely for us to do together and so I thought I would share what we used. I remember wanting to learn copperplate as a teenager. I bought wide, chisel-shaped nibs because that was all that had been in my local stationery shop. It was only last year that I realised my lack of success was having the wrong nibs. To create the fine lines and twirls, you need a pointed dip nib. And actually, they only cost a few euros.

Sometime back, I was lucky to have been invited to a magical time learning the basics with friends at a calligraphy afternoon with the Handmaid Collaborative. This gave me the best start as I then knew what to purchase.

Charlotte Mason advocated including learning handicrafts in a child’s week and calligraphy is one that she has enjoyed. My daughter had already learnt (Irish style) cursive before we started learning calligraphy. Who doesn’t enjoy receiving a pretty hand made card in the post?

Books ~ Supplies ~ Video Tutorial ~ Copperplate and Spencerian ~ History

Modern Calligraphy Books

I recommend the following two books. They are both in the library to try out, but especially the first is so worth having permanently on your bookshelf.

Modern Calligraphy by Molly Suber Thorpe (Amazon UKlibrary) This is an inspiring and detailed book which is a perfect guide for the beginner, with many interesting projects for you to try as you progress. I loved how she devoted a section to left-handed people. She also has a page for each letter of the alphabet giving lots of ideas for different ways to create the letter.

Modern Calligraphy : A Step-by-Step Guide to Mastering the Art of Creativity by Lucy Edmonds (Amazon UKlibrary) This book is designed for complete beginners to modern calligraphy and presents a step-by-step guide to help get you started. It does include a lot of practice pages, but I did not want to practice in the book itself. The author ran Quill London, a calligraphy supplies shop which is now closed.


The Postman’s Knock, who has an amazing website, and some fantastic resources, said in one of her email newsletters: “Your success doesn’t depend on having high-quality calligraphy tools but they are definitely going to help … and will ensure a positive experience and they are not going to cost a pretty penny.”

In her book Modern Calligraphy Lucy Edmonds recommends a Nikko G nib, Higgins Eternal Ink, a straight penholder and a Rhodia dotPad (Amazon) to practise in. A Brause 66EF is a good nib to add to give the option of finer lines. If Higgins is sold out then Winsor & Newton Indian Ink is another recommended ink, and it is easier to obtain in Ireland. Try Evans or Art n Hobby. I already had the recommended thicker paper (Amazon) (which I describe in my post about printing books) so I used that, rather than using the dot pad. I printed some of the lovely calligraphy drills and practice sheets from The Postman’s Knock. She has various freebie ones too. That is everything you will need.

If you are wanting lots of flourishes and long tails on your calligraphy, for a Spencerian Script or Copperplate style, then The Postman’s Knock recommends a very thin ink like Walker’s Copperplate.

I bought the above items from Quill London, which closed at the beginning of 2021 to change direction, so the above links are to Scribblers, one supplier of calligraphy suppliers in the UK. See this fuller list of UK Calligraphy suppliers for alternatives.

I also bought some Dr PH Martin gold ink for fun, and we really enjoyed trying it. It comes in bronze, silver, copper and white too.

Video Tutorial

I bought the Beginner’s Modern Calligraphy Online Course from The Postman’s Knock. Not having done this before, it was enjoyable and easy for my daughter and I to sit down together, watch one of the short videos (5-10 minutes each), and then work on the described step together. It is definitely helpful for us to see some of the steps in action. The course is clearly laid out, attractive and progresses at a good pace for us. As I am so often teaching, it was lovely to just relax and let someone else teach us a beautiful and enjoyable skill for some pleasurable mother-daughter time.

Copperplate and Spencerian

Traditional Copperplate calligraphy, with its very thin strokes, flourishes and swirls, uses the same style of letters that we use in Ireland for the letters g, r, etc. I have not yet ventured into Copperplate, but reliable sources recommend Dr. Joe Vitolo’s Free eBook or purchasing Eleanor Winters’ book. Looking into Spencerian penmanship, you can purchase the theory and copybook set on Amazon (these are used by another Irish home educating family) or search online to find various free copies to print.


The Art of Calligraphy by David Harris (OOP but 2nd hand on Amazon, Library, pdf) is a beautifully illustrated and fascinating DK book describing the history of Western writing, alongside instructions for creating each script. It includes The Book of Kells, and even mentions The Book of Durrow. I particularly love the Copperplate examples and use these capitals for inspiration.

I trust this was helpful and that you enjoy learning calligraphy too!

Photos by Diana Schröder-Bode and Alysha Rosly on Unsplash.

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