An étui is a small case that contains miniature implements used to perform household tasks. Designed primarily for women, they can be quite ornamental. Often étui have a tapered or oval shape rendered in chased gold or silver gilt with painted enamel and rose cut diamond sprays. An étui would contain necessary items that could include scissors, a thimble, a bodkin and needles, a pencil and/or a small knife. Men also sometimes carried slightly larger versions of étuis that would hold a watch, keys or a seal. Women often suspended their étui from châtelaine, usually on the opposite side from the watch to provide balance.
Many étui functioned as bodkin cases for sewing. Bodkins were commonly lacing or threading needles with a very large eye and blunt end, used for lacing corsets, threading ribbon through lace beading, cord through casings or any other time when one might need to ‘carry’ a yarn without the chance of poking holes or sewing through something. Other bodkins in the era had even wider ends shaped like scoops that could be used to clean ears of earwax which could apparently then be used to wax sewing thread!