Chatelaines: The Original Multi-App Mobile Device!

My Chatelaine isn’t as pretty as the Victorian ones, but it’s just as handy.

I think it may be time to bring the chatelaine back in style, at least for those of us who craft. All of the tools you need most are right at hand and finally there is no more wondering where the scissors are!

Wikipedia says that a Chatelaine is a “decorative belt hook or clasp worn at the waist with a series of chains suspended from it. Each chain is mounted with useful household appendages such as scissors, thimbles,watches, keys, vinaigrette, and household seals…the name chatelaine derives from the French term châtelaine and was originally used disparagingly, as it referred to a device designed to have all the tools necessary for the woman of the household to sort out any problem she may encounter in her day, like a fraying curtain.”

Clearly, anything that allows someone to “sort out any problem she may encounter in her day” is obviously incredible and should be commonplace again.


Chains with various tools were worn all the way back to Roman times at least,  Ancient Roman women wore chatelaines with ear scoops, nail cleaners, and tweezers. And they really came into their own in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Some of the last chatelaines in common use were nurse’s chatelaines. It makes sense, nurses need their tools right at hand too. This nurses’ chatelaine (right) holds a whistle, measuring cup, scissors, pill container, a note pad with ivory leaves, and a pencil (Source: The Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret, London, England, Photo: Wikimedia Commons. Attribution : Jenny O’Donnell).

Nurse’s Chatelaine.

As fashionable as they were practical

As an article in Collector’s Weekly said, “Like a customized Swiss Army knife, a chatelaine provided its wearer with exactly the tools she needed closest at hand. For an avid seamstress, that might include a needle case, thimble, and tape measure, while for an active nurse it might mean a thermometer and safety pins. Inspired by the complex key rings carried by “la chatelaine,” the female head of a grand French estate, these beautiful, little contraptions were as fashionable as they were practical. In fact, their design was sometimes so trendy that style trumped usefulness.”

My Chatelaine

My Chatelaine is all about usefulness. It’s not that I am opposed to solid silver reproductions, but I mostly just want my tools handy, and I can’t really afford to drop a couple of hundred dollars on an item that I can put together for about three dollars. I keep my tools attached to a kilt pin that I attach to my apron strap. (Below)  After trying various tools, I settled on my three basic necessities. A pair of little stork embroidery scissors, a needle case with a good assortment of needles and my bodkin, and a clover needle threader for stubborn threads. For my needle case  I use a Clover Chibi darning needle case. These lovely cases have a pierced notch on the screw on cap making it perfect for suspension and very secure. They come with great needles, lots of extra room and many colours. A perfect and cheap DIY chatelaine needlecase.

Renata's Chatelaine.jpg
My needlework chatelaine, hanging from my embroidered apron’s strap.

Chatelaines fell out of fashion as women began leaving the home more often and with the development of the handbag. And it’s true, a chatelaine doesn’t replace a bag or pockets. But it’s really nice to not have to dig to the bottom of the bag or worry about losing my precious tiny tools all of the time. And no matter how utilitarian it is, I bet I love my chatelaine as much as any jingling Victorian Miss ever did!

Lots of love,

Baba StringThings


Obsolete Fashion: Would You Hop on the Chatelaine Train?  by ModCloth

The Equipage or Chatelaine by Caroline, from the blog, ‘Dressed In Time’

The Killer Mobile Device for Victorian Women from’Collectors Weekly’

Forget Handbags — Let’s Use Chatelaines! from the blog, ‘Retroette’

Chatelaine (chain) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

My Pinterest Board:  Chatelaine and Etui


Author: Baba StringThings

I am a middle-aged mother of three grown-up sons, a thrifty, creative, and dedicated born-again spinster, and I have a serious string addiction. I teach crochet, knitting, bobbin lacemaking, hand-embroidery, weaving, spinning, kumihimo, darning, mending, and how to upcycle clothing. When I'm not doing that I pretty much play with string. All. The. Time. And I have an unholy love of Pinterest.

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