Call me a very silly old romantic, but I do feel when I hold this exquisite piece of antiquity that there must have been a powerful woman wearing it once upon a time. I suppose I have read too many Cadfael stories by Ellis Peters, where the matriarch or chatelaine of a manor would be a force to be reckoned with.
A chatelaine like this was historically worn by the senior woman in the house. The Cambridge Dictionary defines a chatelaine as “a woman who lives in and is in charge of a large house”. In our context a chatelaine is a decorative belt hook or clasp worn at the waist with a series of chains suspended from it. Each chain holds useful household appendages such as scissors, thimbles, watches, purse, aide memoir, keys, vinaigrette, and household seals. For those of you who had read Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, I am sure that the sinister Mrs Danvers would have worn one on her long black skirt.
My antique version is made of steel and includes sheathed scissors, aide memoire with ivory insert, tape measure, purse and pin wheel. I imagine that it might also have held storeroom keys too.
So many of the items are the things we stitchers would find useful in our workboxes. Some time ago, I came up with the modern version as a discouragement to stitchers who would add needles to their sweaters. Perhaps it was the nurse in me that could foresee the accidents that could happen! This time it was a fabric chatelaine, made from crisp linen band. Worn around the neck, it suits sitting to sew and has some ingenious little pockets as well as places to attach scissors and so on. (This is one of the simple Hardanger projects included in my Little Book of Hardanger.)