Who is Karen?

I have always thought I was fortunate to have been born right in the middle of the century – 1950, to be precise. By 1957  (when the world of fashion and culture lost Christian Dior, whose New Look defined and influenced fashion for years to come), I was doing cross-stitch, other simple embroidery, and starting to make clothes (many clothes) for my dolls.  By 1961-‘62, I was beginning to make some simple clothes for myself.  I continued to sew throughout high school and college.  It was during the early ‘70s that I developed an appreciation for designer patterns, produced by the Vogue Pattern Company.  I learned so much by sewing with Vogue patterns and following their couture and fine sewing techniques.  It was also during this time period when  beautiful quality fabrics were available in specialty fabric stores (like Staplers on Walnut Street in Philadelphia and Britex on Geary Street in San Francisco), in high-end department stores (such as Wanamaker’s in Philadelphia and Belk’s in North Carolina, where I grew up), and through some mail-order companies.  This was when I determined that I would only ever sew with the finest silks, linens, cottons, wools (and the occasional synthetics).

By the time our daughter and son were born in the early 1980s, much was changing for the world of the home sewer.  Over the next decade, it became increasingly more difficult to find fine fabrics, as so many good fabric stores were closing.  Concurrently,  fashion and patterns were not nearly as attractive – and the emphasis was more on “quick and easy” instead of fine and complex.  It was during this time that my sewing interests changed to quilting, sewing for my home, and, of course, sewing for my children.  Now I have come full circle, as you can read in the “About” section of this blog.

38 responses to “Who is Karen?

  1. Karen, can you email me? I have an idea to run by you and can’t see a contact page here. the email acct. linked to my wp acct. is fine. thank you!

  2. Pingback: Blogs I love: Fifty Dresses | SEW CRAFTFUL

  3. Carol Yageer

    I am so impressed with your blog. You look so attractive and sophisticated in your clothes. What a pleasure!

  4. Elyne

    Hi Karen, I loved reading about and seeing your beautiful clothes. I have great dreams but little talent. I have some gorgeous Einiger loomed vintage fabric ( stamped on fabric) that was my great aunts. It is a beautiful violet color ( amazing on you) a boucle fabric. I believe there is over 5 yrds all in perfect condition. Also have a really large as big as a blanket piece of grey/tan what I think is cashmere or a cashmere wool blend. I know I would never be able to make anything beautiful out of this beautiful fabric and was wondering if you where interested or knew of a place to sell it?
    Thank you,

    • Hi Elyne! Your fabric sounds lovely. I might be interested in it, but I would have to see photos of it, or even better, swatches. I’ll be sending you an email with my contact information. The other alternative, of course, is to sell it on eBay or to a dealer who specializes in vintage yard goods. In any event, thanks for your comment!

  5. Robin

    Hi, Karen. I just found your blog and really enjoy your comments, and especially the love you put into your creations. I have several yards of vintage (1960’s) Moygashel linen that belonged to my late mother. Any suggestions as to how to sell it to someone who will really appreciate it? I cannot find any prices or buyers online.
    Thanks for any help. Keep up the good work!

    • Hi Robin – Lucky you with your Moygashel linen! My first question is “Can you make something with it?” It is an absolute joy to sew with and it really does resist wrinkling. I would urge you to use it yourself if you can. If you do want to sell it, you could start with ebay. Yardgoods of Moygashel occasionally come up on ebay, although most of a “Moygashel” search will bring up garments or advertisements. You must be sure it is Moygashel – it is not all marked, although some I have found is still in its original packaging! If you can give me a little more information – is your linen plain, figured, or embroidered – plus yardages, I might be of a little more help. Thanks, Robin!

  6. I adore ur sewing i wish u could make. me a dress & teach me to sew!

  7. Margene Yeaton

    Karen, I have just found your site thru Goodbye Valentino. Love your site and the beautiful garments you’ve made. Can you tell me where to get a dress form like the one you use? Thank you

    • Thank you, Margene! I’m so glad you like my blog. I ordered my dress form through Amazon, if you can believe it! It is actually one that Susan Khalje had recommended, and I love it. It is beautifully made, with collapsible shoulders and a sturdy stand. I am actually away from home right at the moment and I can’t remember the brand… I don’t know how I ever functioned before I bought it – I use it all the time. When I figure out the manufacturer, I’ll send another reply!

  8. Hello Karen,

    would you happen to still have a scrap of the original DvF fabric you used for her wrap dress? I have some Chanel fabric, I’ll be listing in the coming week, but when I go to fabric conoisseurs in Paris I might be able to find something that fits the original kind of fabric, so this fabric can be made available again. For it really makes the DvF dresses work.
    from DearVioletFabrics on etsy.com

  9. Debra Coglianese

    Dear Karen,

    Thank you for your wonderful blog. I’m a new reader and, for the moment, have jumped around – loved the pink linen dress with shoulder tabs for a scarf! I have plans to start back at the beginning…and take notes.

    I’m especially appreciative of your list of favorite products and resources. Yesterday, copies of the books you suggest were located and ordered!

    Wishing you happy sewing days.


    Wynnewood, PA

  10. Françoise

    Hello Karen,
    First, sorry for the english wording, I am a french speaking Belgian.
    I must say that I am in awe reading your blog (I began this week, following the chronological order) – full of details, beautifully written and interesting
    As I began to re-sew 2 years ago, discovering Etsy and the fashion of the ‘50-‘60 (I am born in 1960) and also a wonderfull shop in Brussels full of vintage silks, buttons and other treasures, your blog put a happy smile of my face anytimes that I learn something new to try.
    Thank you, and I wish you happy new sewing « adventures » (aventures in French – is the translation correct ?)
    Best regards,

    • How lovely to hear from you, Francoise! Your English is much better than my French! I so appreciate hearing of your interest in and appreciation of my blog. Yes, sewing is an adventure, and I am so happy to hear you have started sewing again, just as I did a number of years ago. I am always amazed at how much there is still to learn – and how much I continue to love the process. The shop in Brussels sounds almost magical! I can just imagine the treasures you can find there. I hope you will comment on my blog every once in a while so i can keep up with you? Best regards to you as well!

      • Françoise

        Hello again Karen,
        I hope you are well.
        I have finished to read your blog and I am quite impressed.
        So I bought some Vogue Pattern Books like those you spoke about, and you know what ? I understood a mystery !
        Some times ago I bought on Etsy a nice wool ensemble from America, and in the coat was what looked like a commercial label « Fashioned by Lela McBee ». As it is a really well sewed suit-and-coat ensemble, I wondered if those pieces came from an american « maison de couture », but I can find nothing on the Internet with this name, only the obituary of a lady described by her loving ones as a skilfull seamstress.
        Then in one of the Vogue pattern books I find an ad for « personal charm woven labels », and that’s it, mystery solved : Mrs McBee used one of such personalised labels to put in her self-made outfits.
        I have the picture of the ad and the label, and now I understand your joy when you find your dress or fabric in a vintage magazine 😉
        Best regards fron Belgium,

      • What a great story! I so enjoy making connections like this, and I’m happy to know you do, too! I am so happy to have you as a reader of my blog!

  11. Jane Crowley

    Dear Karen,
    My mother made that Belinda Belleville Pattern 1828 for my sister when we were in high school. My mother made it in pink organza. The one you made the polka dot dress with. It was a beautiful dress. Do you know where we could get a copy of the pattern or copy the patterns pieces so my sister can make that dress for her granddaughter? Thank you.
    Jane Crowley

    • Hi Jane, I suggest you do a search for this pattern on eBay or Etsy. I purchased my copy on one of those sites (I can’t remember which one.) You might need to be patient! It is a beautifully engineered pattern. I’m sure your mother did it justice!

      • Jane Crowley

        She made one black organza and one pale pink. Both were exquisite. She taught my sister and I to sew when we were very young.
        Thank you.

  12. OHhhMY

    Dear Karen, Looking forward to your blog throughout 2019. I’ve followed you since 2015. In fact, we exchanged notes on 10/9/15, regarding your dress form. Still haven’t purchased one, but wanted to tell you I’m so excited to be attending Susan Khalje’s French Jacket class this coming October. I’m also in downsizing mode and wondered if you would be interested in any of my Vogue patterns, some might be considered vintage.
    If so, I have quite a few, don’t want to get an Etsy or eBay site to sell them, and am just asking $1.00 per pattern. Also have a lot of McCall’s, Simplicity and Butterick patterns I need to downsize. Can’t wait to see your upcoming French Jacket. Love your results as they are perfection. Thank you.

    • Hi Margene! I’m so excited that you are taking Susan’s jacket class in October. I am quite certain you will find it to be a wonderful experience. As for the Vogue patterns – obviously I would have to see what you have, but I would probably be most interested in any Designer ones from the 1960s and 1970s, if you have any of those. I haven’t been buying too many patterns lately, as I have so many already. But every once in a while, I find one I have to have, and it would be a pleasure to buy from you. Thank you for thinking of me!

      • OHhhMY

        Thanks for your reply. I’ll go through the Vogue pattern box and determine if I have any patterns that fit your interest and get back to you in a day or so. I misspoke about the date for The French Jacket class, it is in June. Very excited. Will be in touch.

  13. OHhhMY

    Hello again. Went through the Vogue pattern box, I have one pattern size 10, it is Vogue Paris Original Pierre Balmain, 2360. I made this pattern once, long ago, and the pattern pieces are all trimmed, but no other changes/alterations so the pattern is intact. All my other designer patterns are size 12 and above. If you are interested in size 12 patterns, please let me know, then I can draw up a longer list. Unable to add the photo here, but if you search on it, the dress has a center front inset that is very interesting. Is there a different way to communicate so I can send photos? Thank you, Margene

    • Hi Margene! I am familiar with that Balmain pattern, but I don’t think I have an interest in it. You may know this already – the sizes of the Vogue patterns (and others too) have changed over the years. I usually buy by bust measurement rather than sizes. I prefer patterns with a 32” bust, but can also use the 34” bust. I’ll send you a quick email so you will have my personal email address and you can send pictures if you like. I am wondering why you don’t want to keep your patterns and use them yourself. I find them to be so much more precise than current patterns, for the most part. Anyway, thank you for this opportunity!

  14. Deb Del Nero

    I’d love to follow you!

  15. Ellen

    Hi Karen,
    I manage http://www.tammiskeefe.com, and appreciate your blog. My question – how do you know Pat Prichard was Tammis Keefe? I have my old comic book collection, including two issues of Junior Classic Illustrated with covers by Pat Prichard. One issue was first published in 1962 and the other in 1969; as you know Keefe died in 1960. I guess it’s conceivable that the publisher just hung on to illustrated completed many years earlier, but I’ve always assumed Pat and Tammis were two separate people, and that Prichard “fell off the radar” perhaps because she married and took her husband’s surname.
    Would love to know more.
    Thank you,

    • Hi Ellen, Thank you so much for this question. I went back to my bill of sale for the hankie, and the seller incorrectly attributed it to Tammis Keefe. No excuse, as I should have done my homework on this. I will correct the info on that post, and I am so grateful that you asked the question. I love the hankie; it could be anonymous and I would still love it! I did not know about your Tammis Keefe website, which I find positively fascinating. I have several Tammis Keefe items, hankies, cards, cocktail napkins, tea towels and I love them all. Mid-century design is in a class by itself, isn’t it? Thanks again!


    I enjoy every single post, but today’s was very precious. Betty

  17. Leslie

    Hi Karen, You seem to know a lot about vintage fabrics. I have a very soft navy fabric with a tag that says “nouveaute couture elegance et qualite”. Wondering if you know anything about this fabric. Thanks, Leslie

    • Hi Leslie, A lot of vintage fabric has a manufacturer’s name on the selvedge and /or an attached tag with the name. It sounds like your tag is just a claim about the quality of the fabric? It sounds lovely, but I am not going to be any help in identifying it for you, other to say it is probably French, which you no doubt already figured out!

  18. Alice Chambers

    Karen I love your blog! I discovered it when I stumbled upon a post from 2014 and thought “oh no, I bet she doesn’t post anymore” but you do! Keep going please, there aren’t many great online resources that I’ve found for the mid-century-inclined home sewist.

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