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I love using my travel watercolor kit to paint on the road, or on a hike, or just out and about in general. I recently concocted a funny little device to help me keep my favorite brushes and a paint rag on hand, so that when I grab the kit, all of the tools I want are ready and waiting. Behold my new "watercolor cozy!"


The blue fabric is the cuff from a sleeve of a lovely wool sweater that I regrettably shrank in the wash. I pulled out the needle and thread and sewed two buttonholes in the fabric, into which I can tuck a pair of good travel brushes. I also sewed on a ponytail holder that snugs around the bundle to keep the brushes from wriggling loose. On the back side of the apparatus is a well-worn cotton handkerchief that makes a lovely absorbent paint rag.


Travel paintbrushes unfurled: one is a wide, mop-like brush, and the other has a finer tip for fussy detail. The watercolor kit itself came with a travel paintbrush that's about the size of a toothpick, but I never found it to be very useful. Gotta have tools that get paint onto the paper efficiently!


The kit itself unfurled. I've been using this rig for about 15 years now! It's about the size of a double-wide deck of playing cards, has lots of palette surfaces, and is generally delightful. (Does Winsor & Newton still make these? Not finding them on a quick scan of their website...)

Anyway, I recently gave it a test run on a rainy, rainy trip to Portland, OR. It was great to not have to dig around in my bag to find the brushes that were hidden among handfuls of pens and pencils. My fingers were able to find the distinct texture of the wool quite quickly in my bag, and to leap in with all the tools at the ready.


I think my one future modification would be that the wool cozy itself just sits around during the process of painting. Packing up, it's a great way to verify that I've got both the brushes back where I need them; but during sketching time, the cozy just lies there on a rock or a ledge, waiting. Maybe I can create a version where the cozy is made from absorbent cotton, and doubles as a paint rag in its own right?


The ponytail holder is pleasantly flexible in terms of tucking other tools into the bundle for the short term. And goodness knows that a spot of pen or pencil can play nicely with watercolors, given a chance. I'm glad to have sewn that sturdy elastic into place, otherwise I can picture many a merry hour spent trying to find it in the tall grass after wrapping up a sketch!


We'll see how long this arrangement holds up, but I'm amused and pleased with the experiment so far.