All artisans need tools. And there are at least two things to consider about tools – how to keep them organized and accessible and how to keep them in good shape. I wanted to create a chatelaine, an housewife, in which to keep all the essential tools that I need to embroider. I wanted it to be compact enough to take with me when I travel and thorough enough that I wasn’t missing anything I needed. I also wanted it to be of a size and shape that I could put it on my lap and use it as a work surface when there wasn’t another one available.
So here is the story of how I created my chatelaine (which is actually a misuse of the word chatelaine as I don’t really like the word hussif or housewife which is the more accurate term) and how you can create one of your own.
The first thing that you will need is a list of all the tools that you feel to be indispensible. My list included: needles, pins, pin cushion, writing instruments (a pencil and a fabric marker), my clippers, scissors, a needle threader, ruler, my little rubber puller, threads and pockets. Then plan out where you want everything.
I played with the little pieces of paper until I was satisfied. Next, measure everything that is going in (well, not everything). I knew that I wanted a pocket big enough for a 5″ hoop and from that the overall size was determined. I measured the scissors, the clippers and the pen. The pockets for everything else didn’t need to be exact. Using these dimensions, I made the pattern. The hoop pocket has pleated sides and bottom to allow space for the hoop to fit in it (like a cargo pocket). I added spines because I wanted some depth to my book so that things didn’t get squished when it was closed. I determined the depth by measuring my hoop’s depth and adding a bit for extras. You can see in the picture that I made two spines of different depth, which allows one page to fit over the other. My pages were 18 cms wide by 21 cm high (7″ wide by 8 1/4″ high). Yours may be different according to your needs.
Everything is laid out here as it will be in the finished item. You cannot see that there is a pocket on the other side of the right hand page. This pocket opens at the top. There is also a pocket under the needlebook, etc., on the right hand page which opens to the left. I love pockets. Cut out your fabric pieces using the pattern pieces you’ve created. I used a black-on-cream toile for the background and black silk for the pockets, needlebook and pincushion.
Not all of the pieces are in this picture. The large silk pocket and the toile pockets and spines are missing. I chose images from the toile that I wanted on the front cover, back cover and back pocket and made sure that I cut those out first with the pictures centred as these pages wouldn’t be covered with pockets. You could do something similar with a fabric pattern that you love or you could print out a picture onto fabric or quilt a front and back or embroider it. Anything you like. Just make it something that you love.
Next, sewing. First, the pockets. I hemmed my toile pockets. All my silk pockets were made of a layer of silk folded in half, stitched down the sides and then turned. They were then sewn to the appropriate piece of toile. The raw edge along the bottom was turned in and they were stitched down one side, across the bottom and down the other side. If I had stitched up from the bottom, I could have distorted the pockets. I made the pincushion by stitching two circles of silk together, leaving an opening and then turning it right side out and stuffing it. There are many places to find instructions online for this type of pincushion or any other that you prefer. I attached it to the toile page, making sure my stitches were hidden. The needlebook silk cover was made the same as the pockets but four layers of wool felt were tucked underneath it before it was sewn down. The pen pocket and clipper pocket were separated into sections by simply dividing the sections with a row of stitching. I should have added the ribbons for the thread holder before sewing the whole thing together but I forgot and added them later. There are two ribbons of different lengths just tacked down at the top and the bottom.
I joined the outside pieces together, and the inside pieces too, not forgeting the pockets. Then matching seams very carefully, I stitched outside and inside together (right sides together) leaving the far right side open, through which I turned everything right side out. Inside the book are pieces of card which were carefully cut to match the size of each section. Instead of one long piece of card, scored, I used separate pieces and sewed each one in. That is, I first inserted the front piece of card and, using a zipper foot, sewed right along the seam line, thus capturing the card. I added each piece of card separately and stitched it in. The open seam was hand sewn closed. The ribbon closure was added after the book was constructed but could (probably should) have been done before the outside and inside were stitched together.
Now, a problem. I needed to work on a hoop that was larger than 5″! So I made the bag as well to hold my larger oval hoop. I am quite pleased with how it all turned out and now when I want to go somewhere, all I need to do is grab the bag and everything I need is there.
I hope that this inspires you to make a chatelaine, or embroidery kit, or housewife for yourself. Let me know if you do. If there’s enough interest I could put together a thorough tutorial to create one like mine.