Our twelfth Castaway: Karen from Kbenco

Hey Fridays!  We’ve been island hopping again.  Every two weeks or so I get itchy feet & love to see who I’m sharing the ocean with.  Today I have had the good fortune to come across another inspirational sewing blogger – none other than Karen from  Kbenco.  I am usually to be found in awe about Karen’s makes.  Not content with making & blogging about her own immaculately sewn (& knitted)  wardrobe which features plenty of tips & good practice for sewing (which I have lapped up)  she creates beautiful & wearable capsule wardrobes for her family, & the MOST amazing special occasion dress with the most fabulous lattice smocking I have ever seen.  And she runs too, & makes her own leggings and wonderful merino-wear.  In two words- sewing envy!  So I have been like a child waiting for Christmas in the anticipation of seeing what Karen’s choices are on her desert island…

Here we are….

You are stranded on a desert island, surrounded by beautiful crystal blue water populated by turtles & tropical fish (no sharks!). You have a comfy cosy shelter, an abundance of food & drinking water & a solar generator. Upon exploring the island you find a container that has fallen off a cargo ship & guess what? It is filled with what seems to be a never ending supply of fabrics of all descriptions, threads & notions!! What chance!

You are allowed to take your sewing machine & sewing box but which would be your 8 desert island patterns?

This is a very interesting exercise. I have really enjoyed reading about other people’s choices, but when asked the questions for myself, I found the whole task rather tricky. Being an insatiable pattern collector may have something to do with the trouble I had in choosing!

First I thought of my tried and true, “Very Useful patterns”. I thought I would need these for practical purposes on this desert island, but then I realised that the question was also about reasons for my interest in sewing, as if I were truly alone on a climatically unrestricting desert island, I would probably revert to the most comfortable clothing available, which is not necessarily what I would like to sew, given unlimited time and resources.

However, having practical tendencies, I cannot ignore fundamental necessities in my 8 patterns, so here is a nice shady hat pattern, that I have never made, although I get it out every summer,

1. Vogue 9207


On the desert island I will need a hat, and I would like to make this pattern eventually instead of my current shameful reliance on RTW hats. I have owned this pattern since it was released in 1995, and my intended versions are  A and B. Fortunately for me on the desert island, the pattern also includes a long sleeved bolero that I am sure will come in handy.


2. Burda Style Magazine 02-2010-106

DSC00091Kbenco’s blogpost here

I will also include a long sleeved shirt to keep me protected from the sun – this shirt I have only made once so far  but  have worn frequently ever since for hiking, gardening and camping, so I will be making  it many times again in real life and it would be very useful on the island. As it is a classic shirt pattern, I can also use this to make  blouse variations for my post island wardrobe, and as the top part of a dress.

3. Burda World of Fashion Magazine 04-2009-118

SAM_1024Kbenco’s blogpost

I usually wear this shirt with trousers – they are shown with the shirt in my hiking trouser version of my TNT Burda 04-2009-118/9 trouser pattern (made at leas t 10 times as everything from denim trousers, to lined wool work trousers, to pyjama pants), so I will take that pattern too, even though I keep thinking that I dislike wearing and sewing trousers.

So that takes care of covering me up in 3 patterns.

Now I need something interesting and technically challenging, and as yet have no  practical underwear for my island.

I have not yet made a successful bra. I am really hoping there is a truly excellent fabric and notion selection in that container, as I strongly suspect these items have a big role in the success of this sort of sewing – also unlimited time for the fitting, and 3 way mirror

4.Kwik Sew3300


I have made one bra from this pattern, but my lack of technical skills in this sort of sewing let me down, and it needs fitting tweaks. I am not giving up on it though.

I am not wasting one of my patterns on knickers. I will trace off whatever I happen to be wearing when I am stranded. These two can also give me options for a swimming costume, which is something else I would like to sew more successfully and will give me a lot of interesting work for my fabulous frivolous lingerie collection that is in my lifetime sewing plan.

Now I can take care of some more of my impractical sewing ambitions, so that I will have an amazing wardrobe back in my real life once I return from the island.

5.Chanel style jacket, Vogue 7975.


Fortunately for me, I have been collecting various instructions from sewing magazines and the internet for about 5 years now in order to make this jacket, and currently all this extra information is stored with this pattern in printed form. Is it cheating to bring extra technical information? I am pretty sure I could also use this pattern to make another leather jacket, because that would be fun too.

6.I also want to make a classic trench coat, just because I do.

I will use a Burda  Magazine pattern for this, I don’t really mind which one, not having tried any of them, maybe 11-2012-118


This leaves me only two patterns, which is just not enough, this is so hard!I decided that straight skirt would give me maximum sewing options.

7. Burda Style 02-2011-103/6/7
SAM_1254I will include my TNT princess line straight skirt, because this is well fitted to me (made dozens of times), and as it has 6 pieces, I can easily use it to make a 6 gore  A line skirt as well, or a straight skirt with waist darts.  (Kbenco’s Blogpost here)

I will also use this to make back darted A line and wrap skirts by converting the princess  lines to darts and angling the side seams, endless possibilities (that I don’t use in real life, because it is much easier to trace out another pattern)

8. Vogue 8648


Last of all, I want a dress pattern. I love sewing and wearing dresses, and have a lot of favourite patterns, that I have made several times, but my choice is a completely new to me pattern, that I own but have not yet made. I chose this because I  really like trying new patterns and cannot do without them on the island. This one has a fitted bodice, fitted waist, sleeve variations and a skirt I can make in different ways. I think it has a lot of possibilities for repeat sewing without terminal boredom, and as I took the Sarah Khaljie Couture Dress  Craftsy class that used this pattern, I have a few ideas about how to make the construction interesting.

You are also allowed to take two books, firstly which sewing related book would you take & why?

My other sewing treasure was equally difficult to choose. My sewing related book in the end came down to Claire B Shaeffer’s Couture Sewing Techniques


I decided that I could live without my standard sewing technique books, having referred to them so many times in my (ulp!) 30 years of sewing, so that an aspirational technique book like this would allow me to improve my sewing whilst on the island and help me use all the unusual and beautiful fabrics and notions that just happen to be in the shipping container as it has so many examples of beautiful garments for inspiration.

Secondly, which non-sewing related book would you take & why?

My non sewing book I decided could not be a novel, as even a favourite novel has limited re- reading possibilities. I though a new hobby might be good on the island and borrowed one of my husband’s books. Boatbuilding, by Howard Irving Chapelle as  endless time to sew, all by myself, with no other responsibilities, might pall after a while, (although this is difficult to imagine at the end of a busy week!) and passively waiting for rescue would be a bit defeatist. Is there a mini-sawmill and woodworking tool chest in the shipping container too?

Next your one luxury.  What would you choose (doesn’t have to be sewing related this time!)

As my non sewing luxury, I am taking an endless supply of Lindt  Dark Chocolate with Ginger.

(Maybe I should have included some patterns for running gear to counterbalance the chocolate?).

And finally if you could only take one disc of music what album would you choose & why?

My one  permitted music disc, is one I find very beautiful,  Hildegard Von Bingen- Canticles of Ecstasy . I have chosen this album as songs can become incredibly annoying if you hear them too many times, but I feel that never hearing another voice on the desert island could be terribly lonesome.

YouTube Preview Image

This  vocal  music was written by a Benedictine abbess, a Christian Mystic of the 12th century, being her interpretation of visions of angels  – I might as well start out with an encouragement to benign and holy craziness to hopefully stave off the other sorts!

What a rich mix of well thought out wardrobe planning (shouldn’t have expected anything less!), and some true inspiration.  It’s interesting that most people feel they can still learn more & master new techniques, no matter what their skill level.  And boy, would being on a desert island enable you to do that!  Thank you Kbenco – I have loved reading about your choices & revisiting some of your classics.  And books/ music choices are always a different kind of treat.  I have already tracked down the wonderful calming music on Spotify


3 thoughts on “Our twelfth Castaway: Karen from Kbenco

  1. Carolyn

    I am enjoying this series so much! and have also always admired Karen’s creations. And it’s nice to see the Burda magazines getting a look in as they are really such a brilliant resource 🙂


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