make-believe: pencil case.

September 2, 2015

I lost my pencil case on a train three years ago. And I haven’t really recovered.

It was more of a pencil pouch. A thin tube in soft leather that I’d bought for myself in France where such a thing is called a trousse. Over the years I’d filled it with carefully selected treats from my travels: a German pencil sharpener, an eraser from the Czech Republic, pencils from France, a pen from Italy. But all of it was gone without fanfare when I left the poor thing on my seat on the MetroNorth commuter line.

Risk of loss and subsequent heartbreak aside, if you have a soft spot for souvenirs but aren’t sure you need a whole lot of pint glasses or commemorative plates filling your shelves, filling a pencil case is a nice alternative. Picking up a pencil or pen to tote home as a keepsake becomes doubly nice when put to use. (Which is, of course, the point.) There’s something nice about sharpening a pencil picked up from a stationery shop in Paris until there’s nothing left but a tiny nub and then replacing it with another from a tiny shop in Tokyo.

I may not be headed back to school this fall, but that hasn’t stopped me from daydreaming about my ideal pencil case (and travel itinerary). I can practically hear the dull rumble of rifling through the filled pouch. Here’s what I’d put inside:

1. This beautiful Missouri-made pouch.
2. This multi-holed sharpener.
3. This Czech eraser.
4. This extra-shiny pencil.
5. This softer version of a classic.
6. This fountain pen, because why not?
7. The accompanying ink, because of course.
8. A chubby set of colored pencils.
9. This brass ruler.
10. These brass clip numbers. Because, fancy.

More make-believe, HERE.

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  • Reply Danielle September 2, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    I like the idea of a pencil case as a souvenir. It's utilitarian so, you'll be reminded of your trip every time you draw.

  • Reply Jen September 2, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Love everything about this!

  • Reply ariana September 2, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    oh my goodness, I love this idea! I am the biggest fan of useful souvenirs and think something that may not shout "Parisian," for example, but reminds you of your trip to Paris and fits into your everyday life is SO lovely. I've been struggling with paring down my mounds of unnecessary pencily/stationary things, and I definitely plan to use this approach going forward. thanks for writing! (and so sorry you lost your trousse all those years ago! the one downside to sentimental utilitarian souvenirs–the stakes are ever so slightly higher if you lose them ;))

  • Reply Jessica September 2, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    I love this! This is the first fall in forever that I'm not going back to school as a student or teacher…I so miss buying nice school supplies!

  • Reply Caitlin Gath September 2, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    That is my dream pencil case! Do you know of any other options with a vegan leather, though?

    • Reply admin September 2, 2015 at 5:30 pm

      If I was looking for a vegan option, I'd probably try a canvas pouch! There are definitely some great ones out there. I think Appointed (makers of the brass ruler) have one in their shop!

  • Reply Amanda September 2, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    I love this! Along these lines, I very often bring home stationery from my travels. It doesn't take up lots of space, I love to write letters, and it's something I know I'll actually use. Every time I pull it out, I think of my trip, and I get to share it with others.

  • Reply Trish Austin September 2, 2015 at 6:13 pm

    I also love this. My husband and I visited a stationary store in Paris. It was sooo lovely. He picked up a music staff nib and I picked up a stamper. It is these little trinkets and surprise finds that added so much to the trip. Thanks so much for posting.

  • Reply Neurotic Workaholic September 2, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    I like the idea of buying souvenir pens, especially because other types of souvenirs are often too big or bulky to carry home or are breakable and could get damaged during your travels.

  • Reply DesirousOfEverything September 2, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    I was hoping someone reading this would have found your lost pencil case and then mailed it to you! Maybe a long shot though! Love the idea of collecting pencils and pens from abroad. I love writing with fountain pens and have an obsession with ink!

  • Reply Charlotte Deal September 2, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    For stubby colored pencils I also recommend the new ones from IKEA. I use them for drawing and give a pack away for most kids' birthdays. Always a good standby! I am now hankering after a leather pencil case. And a trip to Paris to procure one 🙂

  • Reply Stephanie Dowdell September 3, 2015 at 1:19 am

    What a sweet idea and so useful. I too am not a fan of bringing back too many material items from holidays.

  • Reply Amy @ The American-Made Guide to Life September 3, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    Love it, Erin. And I totally hear on you on the lasting effects of losing something small, but that you feel was just perfect and complete. I just wish Shinola did monogramming for those cases.

  • Reply Rebekah Elaine September 3, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    This is one of the most genius things I've read in a long time, it feeds my desire to travel and find hidden treasures to fill my pencil case. Plus it is a sweet reminder of your adventures. Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply haylie September 4, 2015 at 6:36 pm

    This is the BEST idea. You are a genius.

  • Reply Kim B. September 7, 2015 at 6:35 am

    love this post. I'm so sorry you lost your treasured pencil pouch. If there's some fun stationery-related thing I can get here for you in Paris to refill your new one, please let me know (I won't attempt to think I could find a replacement for the pouch itself, that's so personal). I'm going home for a few weeks next month so can mail it from home for cheap rather than with expensive French postage.

  • Reply Kim B. September 7, 2015 at 6:41 am

    Plus this is just a gorgeous photograph of all these items together. The stationery section was always my favorite part of any store, ever since I was little.

  • Reply Minimalist Pinup September 8, 2015 at 10:02 am

    I second other commenters here: what a GENIUS idea indeed. As a stationery freak, I surprisingly haven´t owned a pencil case for years now. I do not feel like tugging along one because of the space it takes up but it is true that whenever I am in a meeting and see someone pull out a proper, grown-up pencil case, I immediately gain respect for that person. It´s just a whole new level of taking your writing practice seriously. And usually, that grown-up pencil case is followed by a hard-cover notebook (and you can bet they spent ages finding the one with just the right paper thickness). Yes, this post has taken me to my stationery heaven. Thanks for making my day haha.

    PS. Having grown up in Slovakia, I love to see that someone out there has an appreciation for Czech erasers (erasers are a very underrated stationery, I feel). I´ve never thought about it before but these tiny helpers made by our neighbours do a great job indeed.

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