Meet Karen LePage, 42, a sewin’ mama from Michigan. I met her through Oh My! Handmade and I instantly swooned over all of her work. She not only sews up a storm, but she also creates patterns, sells custom-made garments and shares tutorials on her website at One Girl Circus! Oh, and she also co-wrote a sewing book for boys, appropriately named Sewing for Boys.
Before she started working for herself, she sang at weddings, sold cars, managed a coffee shop, taught German and worked in Strategic Planning. To say she is well-rounded would be an understatement.
Karen started a blog after she read and loved blogs from other people. Initially, it started as a means for documenting her children’s special moments.
“I guess it’s not surprising that I’m not very consistent with it, however, because I was never a child who could keep a journal beyond “dear diary” for more than a few weeks.”
After her mother bought a sewing machine when Karen was five, she started experimenting and made every project in the booklet that came with the machine. From there, she spent several years making wardrobes for all of her dolls. As a kid, she started watching Sewing with Nancy when it came on PBS, a show she still watches to this day.
“I always say Nancy Zieman taught me to sew…I still watch it. I still love it.”
Karen still remembers her first sewing project – a drawstring bag – and she says there have been plenty of disasters along the way. When she first got started, she would wear her disasters; now, she tucks them away until she’s ready to try again. Her latest creation was a Japanese double-gauze newborn outfit that was in a box for six years because she couldn’t stand to look at it.
“I’m so happy I could rescue it!”
As a mom, Karen says that her children not only inspire her work, but also keep her balanced and admits that if she didn’t have her kids, she would probably just work all the time.
“I love making things, and having humans relying on me for comfort, food, and shelter ensures that I nourish myself with their companionship while meeting their needs, too.”
The creativity bug has definitely hit both of her kids, as her son likes to design the garments she makes for him, and her daughter is a quilter. Her son also shops at thrift and vintage stores, so he has become quite the master at button replacing, and he already has an eye for what can be fixed, and what cannot. Her daughter will often work up a patchwork when she’s in the sewing space.
“She has an amazing eye for color and pattern.”
Karen describes her workspace as chaotic yet comforting. While she is always moving things around in there, she still keeps an open space for her kids to visit while she’s working. She does like to take some time tidying up in between projects.
“But as soon as I have a clean space I’m inspired to start making again – immediately.
Although there’s no such thing as a normal day, there is one consistency in her morning routine – coffee (ain’t that the truth). Her daily activities are determined by deadlines, inspiration and commitments – and she does try to get some sewing in every day.
“I start to get twitchy when I’m away from my sewing machine for too long.”
Karen says that the best and scariest thing about running her own business is that everything – from what get made to what gets published – is all her.
“Sometimes it’s wonderful and sometimes it’s terrifying and sometimes it’s wonderfully terrifying.”
She started teaching classes after someone asked her to do it, and that is one of her favorite things about what she does.
“There’s something super-satisfying about nudging my students toward sewing confidence. I love that it’s a skill they can use forever. I love holding their hands through the tough part and saying “Look how awesome you are!” when they make it through and realize they can make something they didn’t think they could make.”
When Karen is not teaching classes and making clothes - or thinking about new classes and new projects – she loves reading, hiking with her daughter, yoga and cooking.
“Actually, strike that, I like reading cookbooks.”
And of course, she loves all forms of crafting. There isn’t a craft she hasn’t stopped, and thanks to Creative Bug and the craft section in her local bookstore, that won’t be ending anytime soon. She loves making anything from baby clothes to formal gowns – all of it.
“If it goes on a body, someone will wear it and love it, and that’s something that makes me happy and keeps me going. There’s always something new I want to try, whether it’s a technique or material I haven’t yet attempted; I incorporate my latest learning into each new project.”
She gets the majority of her fabric from local fabric stores and loves visiting new stores in any town she visits. When she cannot find a fabric she wants locally, she will shop online.
“I spend my dollars locally whenever possible.”
Karen loves being a part of the handmade community because she has always been just one of a handful of people she knows that love sewing. Of the four high schools she attended, she only found one friend who could sew. ONE! Now that she has a whole community of friends who also love the same kind of things, she counts it as a blessing.
“I feel so energized and inspired when working collaboratively; even when working on my own thing amongst fellow makers. The handmade community is what has made my 30s and 40s the best years of my life.”
She currently has two patterns in the Stitch Magazine Spring issue and there will be another one in the Summer issue. She is also working on a handmade garment line and is hoping to hire some local people to help with the sewing and sales of her products.
“I’m really excited about it, but I’m also thrilled to have a steady stream of consultancy projects.”
Karen hopes to inspire people by being an advocate of all things handmade – whether its making, buying, spreading the word, or all of the above.
“I also hope I can inspire people to try something new every once in a while, and to really enjoy the process of making.”
Thank you to the lovely and wonderful Karen for participating in this series! You can find her blog here, buy her stuff here and read the book she co-wrote here.
If you enjoy this series and would like to be a part of it, or know someone who should, please leave a note in the comments or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and Instagram. Next month, I will be talking with Jane Skoch from Maiden Jane!