Thursday, February 10, 2011

Must-Have Kits

The current issue of Country Living magazine has a great article by Katy McColl about Victorian chatelaines, which can best be described as small tool kits which were designed to be worn like pendants (some were also worn at the waist, like this example from the Grant-Kohrs Ranch collection, which sports a penknife, button hook, perfume, note cards and what looks like a watch case.)

I think it's a shame this charming practice fell out of fashion; I'd love to wear some of the tools I use every day in smaller sizes on a chain. I think the vegetable chopper would be a challenge to downsize, though, and I'd probably get a lot of weird looks.

My version of the chatelaine is my must-have kit, which resides in my purse. I was just restocking the other day for the next quilt show I plan to attend. It's a long, flip-lidded tin that usually serves as my quilting kit whenever I travel, and holds whatever essentials I can't live without away from home:

When I'm being a writer, I stock it with a pen, notepad, hair pick (crowded shows get hot and stuffy, and sometimes I'll put up my hair to feel a little cooler) various paperclips and other bits. When I buy a particular fabric from a vendor I like to paperclip their business card to the piece so I can add them and a snip of the fabric to my source book, in case I want more fabric.

This year I actually have my own business cards, so I added a few of those. I'm not planning to toss them around like confetti, but I think they'll come in handy when I get that blank stare from someone who asks, "Who are you again?" or I need to give someone my phone number (which I'll jot down on the back.) I'll probably add a little bottle of hand sanitizer (I like people well enough, but it's always the sick ones who insist on touching me) and a couple sticks of gum. Having everything in one place is convenient and saves time, especially when you're in a hectic situation.

Making up your own must-have kit is easy; about the toughest part is finding the right-size container to hold all your ephemera. If you can't find one that works and you're handy with a needle or crafts, you can always make one (I've recycled old tins and made up my own kit holders from scratch.) Remember to check TSA's prohibited items list if you're planning to take your kit on a plane so you don't bring anything that will be confiscated at the airport (scissors are now a big no-no.) You can also make up must-have kits for writer friends as gifts; they make great bon-voyage presents if your pal is planning to attend a conference.

Related links:'s Make a Travel-Size Craft Kit

Naomi Szeben's article How to Make Your Own Desk Drawer Emergency Kit has some great ideas on kits you can make up for life's various emergencies.


  1. What a great idea. It would save me loads of time that I spend searching through my bottomless purse for things.

    I was watching an auction show the other day and someone came in with a pretty necklace and pendant. When the pendant popped open, it was also a little pencil. I want one - just not Faberge like that one was. Talk about pricey. Yeouch.

  2. I bought a bunch of zippered mesh pockets at Barnes & Noble. They came in a 3-pack of different sizes and I liked the first set so much I bought a second one. One of them is my purse kit--contains my hairbrush, hand sanitizer, chapstick, ibuprofen--all the little stuff that always I move from purse to purse. One is pencil-case size so its full of pens and pencils. I use two to store different sets of laptop cables. One holds just the power cord and the tether cord for my phone in case I need to use my phone as a modem and the other has the various camera, memory card reader, etc cords (because no two devices ever seem to share the same plug).

    Both pocket-packs came with a tiny pouches that fit credit cards or business cards so I can slip a pared down version of my wallet into a coat pocket.

    Sometimes I just need purse essentials in my laptop bag so that I don't have to juggle so much luggage. I like being able to move things to different bags without having to spend half an hour digging through the old one and sorting out the junk.

  3. I have a kids' pencil box that works well. Also in it is a memory stick with my WIP on it. I'm diligent about backups and always want one with me.

  4. If for some reason you ever leave the book business (or decide to take up another project in your life), I bet you can make a business off of cool ideas for creative people, like this kit or awesome journals or book wubbies (I still want a book wubbie). I love this blog because of all the crafty, creative things I find here.

  5. Anonymous3:34 PM

    Lynn, just a little FYI - the
    Desert Quilters guild in Las Vegas is having their annual quilt show March 4,5 & 6 at the Henderson Convention Center. Not a big show, but we have some very talented ladies in the Las Vegas valley. Thank you for the wonderful books!

  6. Shelley7:59 PM

    I also put together kits for my bag - and I love to see how other people do theirs. I have found that zippered book covers work great for my bag. They are nylon, zip on three sides and usually have an outside pocket. They are long enough to fit pens and crochet or short knitting needles, can hold my music player, cell phone and perscriptions and a small notebook and usally can fit some other goodies as needed. Since any bag or purse I buy can fit two or more paperbacks the book cover organizer fits just fine.

  7. Anonymous3:12 PM

    I just stumbled across your blog - I find I am enjoying reading it almost as much as I enjoy reading your books. What prompted me to post a comment, however, was your mention of quilt shows. My mother and I have decided to attend our first quilt show at the end of the month on Amelia Island, FL. We are combining it with a weekend spent lazing around in a bed and breakfast there. Do you attend many such shows? I am sure they are all different, but do you have any suggestions for newbies on what not to miss at a quilt show?


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