Mrs. William (Nellie) Key was the queen of mail-order patterns in her day. This next item from her collection comes from “Pattern Department” of a publication, but we don’t know which one.


The date on the pattern is April 15, 1970. Maybe this is an IRS-kind of sewing project?


If you look back on previous posts, the printing, art, instructions, and pattern pieces look like Anne Adams and The Machinist patterns.


It is cute, complete, and uncomplicated, from instructions to individual pieces.

I’m not sure if I had purchased all of Nellie Key’s patterns when I bought that box at an estate sale a long time ago, but I can tell you that most of Nellie Key’s patterns — more than half, anyway — are mail-order. It made me wonder what it was like for home sewists in Clarksville, Tennessee in the 1960s. A lot of the department stores carried full-service sewing departments back then.

When I was six years old, I lived in Vicksburg Mississippi, and I remember going to the Sears in the Battlefield Mall. They carried everything from sewing machines, to fabric, notions, and what I’d call ‘major label’ patterns (Simplicity, Butterick, and so forth). Vicksburg was a small town, back in the 1960s and 1970s — the demographics of Vicksburg were close to Clarksville, though. It seems that Clarksville would have similar department stores with full-service sewing sections.

But perhaps Nellie Key was a more discerning sewist — she might not have liked the offerings of the main-stream pattern lines available at the stores. She strikes me as a lady who knew exactly what she liked when it came to style and sewing, and so she collected patterns from a variety of other sources.

Or, perhaps Nellie Key didn’t like shopping in department stores. I completely get that — maybe it is because I’ve become spoiled by online shopping — I used to relish spending hours in a shopping mall, handling goods and going from store to store looking for just the right thing. Nowadays, I can’t stand to be in a large department store. If I can’t find what I want in five seconds or less, screw it, I’m outta there and on Amazon-dot-com.

I’d like to know more about Nellie-as-sewist. I’ll bet she could teach me a good sewing trick or three.