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Chatelaine – a Victorian Swiss army knife

Hello, my darling readers! Several of you have been asking about my chatelaine and I have told you that I’m planning to write a proper post about it, once it is ready. So here it is! This post contains affiliate links.

Firstly, what is a chatelaine? Chatelaine is basically a belt clip (or sometimes a brooch) with chains on which various tools that one might use daily are attached. These could include keys, a knife, a purse, a fan or sewing tools. A pretty set of sewing tools you can wear that double as jewellery! What’s not to like!

The chatelaine is a surprisingly old invention as women wore chatelaines already in ancient Rome. In Finland, the chatelaine was called “vyölliset” and some Finnish national costumes feature it. During Victorian times the chatelaine became a fashion statement and the practical tools became more decorative and ornamental. The use of chatelaines then faded after Edwardian times.

Antique chatelaines are pricey so I decided to combine parts from a reproduction chatelaine, tools that I crafted and a genuine antique silver needlecase. The most important part of the chatelaine is the clip that hooks to a belt or a waistband. I got mine from Desiree Boissier at Etsy. She makes vintage reproduction chatelaines and tools that look gorgeous.

Behind the pretty brooch-thingy, there is a clip:

It hooks onto a waistband pretty tightly and hasn’t ever been even close of coming off.

My chatelaine has five chains with little clips to attach the tools. All of mine are sewing related. In the first clip, I have the embroidery scissors that I also got from Desiree Boissier. This item comes originally as a necklace and the shop owner offers to change it to fit with a chatelaine. However, I decided to order the necklace and I removed the chain by myself. I am very happy with this item as the scissors click firmly in place and they stay there at an easy reach.

I also got this set of a seam ripper and an awl. This pair is pretty similar although the shop doesn’t seem to have a similar item anymore. They were not really meant for a chatelaine but I simply drilled small holes to the ends and attached little metal rings to be able to hang them. I then encountered a problem: The original cap of the seam ripper didn’t stay put. I was in danger of stabbing myself or (what is worse!) damaging my skirts.

After weeks of pondering, I came up with a solution that works. I found decorative cord end-caps in silver colour. I filled the inside with a piece of cork (It was a good reason to open a bottle of wine!) that I glued in. To keep the new cap safe, I then used the chain that I had removed from the embroidery scissors to attach the new cap to the other end.

I have noticed the pewter handle bending in use, so I have to be pretty careful with it. If you are really after a good seam ripper, there are sharper ones out there but generally they are pretty ugly.

The next tool is this little beeswax pendant that I devised. I bought this silver coloured cage pendant here. Then, I took some beeswax and softened it enough to roll it into a neat little ball between my hands. I can now open the cage and wax my thread when I need to. Or I can just stick my needle through the case and do it that way!

My treasure is this antique Edwardian silver needle case that I got through Ebay. As you can see, it is pretty small but it holds plenty of needles for hand sewing. I love the idea of owning at least a little something from the era I admire so.

The last item of the chatelaine is a little purse I made. This is the first framed purse I have made and it shows! However, it still functions.

Inside, I have a tape measure, a thimble and a little pincushion. My thimble is this adjustable Clover thimble that I can’t recommend enough. It’s the only thimble that stays well in place and it allows my longish fingernails, too.

For the pincushion, I got another cage pendant here. I had some wine red velvet and I sewed a tiny little pincushion that goes into the cage. I attached the pincushion to one side of the cage so that it doesn’t fall off. As this pincushion is a pendant it can also be attached to the chatelaine clip if I decide to change the tools on it.

For my tape measure, I tried to make it more vintage-looking by painting it black and by adding a bit imitation gold leaf. I don’t think I did very well as the outcome is pretty messy. I managed to get the foil stuck to places where it shouldn’t and missing places which should have had the foil in them. However, this was my first time using the gold leaf technique, so perhaps some practice would help. For the record, I used Efco Design-Metall imitation gold leaf.

I really think that chatelaines should make a comeback! If you don’t like to jingle every time you move, you might want to adjust the design, though! Perhaps you could sew a little toolbelt that would store a pair of scissors, a tape measure and a pen? Or your phone? As many women’s garments lack proper pockets some extra storage could make your life easier. For my part, I have worn this chatelaine to work and sewing events.

What do you think? Should chatelaines come back?

I hope you liked this post and do come back soon! And subscribe to the blog if you haven’t already done so! Happy sewing!


I am a mother of two. I sew, knit and create and blog about it.


  • tiina52

    Tosi hieno ja kaunis ‘säilytin’. Mulla on tuon tapainen roikotin, missä on neuletarvikkeita (silmukkamerkkejä, minisakset, virkkuukoukun pala yms tarpeellista). Tuollainen saksikotelo saksineenkin mulla on kirjontatarvikkeissani.
    Siis summa summarum: chantelaine ON tarpeellinen kaikille tekeville naisille!

    • Cheryl K Marbury

      I love chatelaines! I have finished making mine and am in the process of collecting different objects to attach to my chatelaine to change the “theme”! So much fun! Cheryl

  • Milja Hahto

    Nätti setti! Ennen vanhaan sitäpaitsi hameissa, tai niiden alla, saattoi olla paljon isommat taskutkin kuin mitä nykyvaatteisiin mahtuu. Vielä 50-luvun kellohameisiinkin mahtuu mahtavat taskut. Voin hyvin unohtaa, kummassa taskussa kännykkä on, vai onko se siellä…

    Niin paljon kuin vyöllisiä ihailenkin, oma valintani arkeen on ennemminkin 30-50-luvun vaatteet. Mutta silloinkin tehtiin nättejä vyölaukkuja. Pienempitaskuisia vaatteita varten sellaiset olisi suunnitelmissa (sitten joskus kun energiaa riittää käytettäväksi niihin).

    • kk

      Mäkin tykkään 40- ja 50-luvuista ja onpa tullut tehtyä muutama 30-luvunkin vaate. Mä olen vain niin palelevainen, että varsinkin talvella nämä pitkät hameet miellyttävät enemmän. Mutta isot taskut teen lähes aina. Ensimmäisen kävelyhameeni taskuihin mahtuu koko käsilaukkuni sisältö ja eväät päälle!

    • Kerry

      Hi, where would you buy a clip form that attaches to the broach. The m heavily into steampunk and the Victorian look, and what to make my own one, but not sure where to bu a clip from.
      Love your one, great inspiration

      • kk

        Hi, Kerry! My chatelaine has a clip that is similar to those used at the end of pocket watch chains. So if you search for a pocket watch clip you’ll find what you are looking for!

  • Dagmar

    Hello Katja,
    I just discovered you blog and the chatelaine and I find it soooo lovely and cute ! I do really admire all the things you sewed… I’m a beginner in Victorian and Edwardian sewing and I discovered your blog because I’m looking for a walking skirt pattern. If you know where to find this, I’d be very thankful…
    Hope you’ll find my post and answer on it.
    By the way: Happy new year!

    • kk

      Hi, Dagmar! Check Truly Victorian 1898 skirt pattern and The Black Snail Patterns on Etsy. Both of those patterns are beginner friendly.

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