I recently made a châtelaine. Dotty at The Net Loft had a class on pattern darning, and this was the project we worked on. I had never heard of this great little tool, a belt, of sorts that you wear around your neck to keep tools at the ready. Mine has scissors and yarn needles. I think it would be nice to attach a tape measure to it too, if I could find a pretty little one. (Conversely, one could make a châtelaine out of a measuring tape and hang the tools off of it, that would be convenient if perhaps a bit long about the neck).

Châtelaine - 1

Châtelaine’s appear to have been most popular in the 19th century, although their appearance as a low-slung belt has them sometimes confused as a medieval accoutrement. Sometimes the châtelaine was a brooch with the tools hanging off of it like charms and then pinned at the waist. Apparently folks collect the old ones. The word is French, and means, literally, ‘the lady of the house’ (or chateau), because it was she who wore the thing in order to have all of her necessary items close at hand. Earlier forms of châtelaine were called équipage (which is also French and pretty much means ‘gear’ or ‘equipment.’)

The “belt” part of my châtelaine is made using something called “ribband,” which is basically cross stitch fabric in a ribbon shape with a finished edge. It’s sold by the yard, and it could be used to do all sorts of things, like make your own decorated ribbon, or hair bands, or hand towels, etc.

Châtelaine - 2

Pattern darning is a kind of embroidery which is fun to do because it is very fast. It mimics weaving. You work a running stitch in a pattern the entire length (or width) of your project. As the running stitches build, the pattern develops. I used Valdini hand-dyed thread which gives the project a nice, subtle color variation. I splurged on good scissors for my châtelaine, and I’m protecting myself from the tips by putting a knitting needle point protector at the end. (We punched a hole in the point protector so I could attach it to the scissors too). Right now, I’ve put a little Clover Chibi needle holder on the other side, but I may switch it out for a prettier needle case if I discover one. The rings on either side add a bit of weight and help the belt to lay flat around your neck.

Tools right at hand
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