Today I'm delighted to have Karen, a One Girl Circus, maker, designer and Starship Captain, share her smartness with us. You can find her latest pattern, the Goodship Dress, here. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram, for a sneak peek at what she's sewing.  


You're a full-time maker, teacher, and designer, which sounds like you get to spend all day sewing with beautiful fabrics…what's a typical work day actually like for you?

As your readers doubtless know by now, there is no “typical day” which suits me just fine! My schedule and work location depend on the projects I'm working on, and the materials I need to complete them.

The days I teach Art are the most predictable.  In the morning, while my girlie is getting ready for school, I gather my supplies for the preschool-4th grade classes and pack them into the car.  Once at school, I am fully immersed in facilitating creativity, connecting with kids, and connecting kids to their work and each other.

Studio Days are when I get to play with fabric and sewing patterns.  I spend the day (and night, sometimes) making, making, making. I'm either developing designs, or sewing custom garments from client requests.  Either way, there is fitting and tweaking involved, even if I use my own patterns to begin with, because my clients are paying for something completely individual.

Computer Days are spent entirely in Adobe Creative Cloud.  Once I have designed a garment, or get a spec from a client, I get to work on the digitizing of the pattern, grading into different sizes, and technical writing / technical illustration of instructions for construction and line drawings for packaging. Sometimes I work on the packaging itself (for print or digital delivery).


collage_dress2one of the dresses Karen made for a client, a fabric designer

There are so many ways to make a living as a maker – how are you doing it? What have you combined and how has that changed through the years?

I'm still learning how to “make a living” as a maker.  It's the Making that makes me happy, so as long as I have ideas, I have work.  I teach sewing classes and private lessons at fabric shops and at LilacPop Studio. I make custom garments and show samples for fabric designers.  I also make custom garments for special occasions, for fashion shows, and for sensitive people, because I have a soft spot for sensory-troubled folks of all ages. I make sewing patterns happen for designers with big ideas, and I do technical illustrations.  I'm not a “graphic designer” but I do put together packaging and layouts for print as well.

Goodship dress, by One Girl CircusKaren's pattern, the Goodship Dress

What's surprised you most about what full-time making?

I am a person who thrives on variety. I guess I'm surprised at the many ways I can earn money while helping dreams come true for other people. I'm most surprised at how happy it makes me to support the dreams and businesses of my clients.  I feel like a sewing fairy godmother.


What new thing are you exploring (in your business)?

I'm exploring the cyclical nature of my work, and working on getting ahead of the shifts, instead of working like crazy to catch up. (planning ahead for my clients' big shows, etc.)

Pack in COLLAGEAnother project for the Collage fabric launch

What's your definition of success for your business? 

My definition of success in all of my life is the same.  Was I generous?  Was I competent? Was I kind?  Did I do my best work?  If the answer to all of those is Yes, then my business is successful, and feeds itself.  I am grateful that my largest source of income is referral-based.

What's the next destination you're working towards?

I'm working toward paying attention to the joy I find in my work, and sharing that part of it.  I used to think of all my “jobs” as separate, but I really work along one theme: “making your favorite clothes or teaching you how”  Every bit of my work falls under this theme, even the technical illustration.  Your clothes are an extension of your personality, and are a second skin. They can protect you from the elements, and attract connection.  Clothing can be an expression of how you feel, and how you want to be.  I will continue working toward creating the happiness that comes from feeling beautiful, unique and comfortable.


Thanks Karen!

I love Karen's focus on paying attention to what's working. What's working for you, right now? 





10 Comments on Adventures in business, with Karen of One Girl Circus

  1. Molly Freibott
    June 4, 2013 at 12:24 pm (10 years ago)

    I really enjoyed this peek into your work and your business. I was especially struck by your definition of success…it was quite profound. I look forward to following your work!

  2. Tara Swiger
    June 4, 2013 at 2:59 pm (10 years ago)

    I’m so glad you enjoyed meeting Karen! It’s fun to see how another maker puts together a career, isn’t it?

  3. Jenelle Montilone
    June 5, 2013 at 8:52 pm (10 years ago)

    I’m tickled to see Karen here hanging out with you Tara! She’s not only an amazing maker, mom, teacher, but also a mentor to many. I’m not surprised to read her definition for success- because she is genuine and authentic with living her life the same way she runs her business.

    As long as I have ideas, I have work. I love that!

  4. Citlalli
    June 5, 2013 at 8:59 pm (10 years ago)

    This was great! I loved her definition of success + the “sewing fairy godmother” part made me smile!

  5. Tanith
    June 7, 2013 at 4:36 am (10 years ago)

    Those questions for success are brilliant. Lots of lovely positive messages for someone looking forward to this kind of life.

  6. Heather Ordover
    June 7, 2013 at 7:23 am (10 years ago)

    I got to watch Karen work during a CraftLit Jane Eyre Hangout. Aside from being smart, funny, and gorgeous (with one of the most beautiful smiles I’ve ever seen) she also showed us her stitching she was working on while she chatted.
    Getting to talk to her I’m not surprised by her definition of success, I’m just made happy by it. It just confirms her innate awesomeness to me.

  7. Mary McCartney-LePage
    June 7, 2013 at 9:20 am (10 years ago)

    It is clear that you are very happy with your work and that is a real blessing! You are also incredibly good at what you do. Keep up the good work!

  8. Sara LePage Satterfield
    June 7, 2013 at 12:18 pm (10 years ago)

    I might be biased because Karen is my awesome sister, but she’s truly one of the most amazing people I know! Her creativity knows no bounds, she’s been this way for as long as I can remember. She never shared her homemade Barbie clothes with me or anything, but I still think she’s pretty cool. When my kids wear her creations, we always get the best compliments! I’m tempted to take credit for them myself, but I don’t (usually). I wish you all could know her like I do!

  9. Doris Reed
    June 7, 2013 at 1:39 pm (10 years ago)

    Like Sara, I may biased about my daughter-in-law, but I think her creavitiy and talent, and numerous skills are awesome. She a wonderful person as well!!

  10. Jen Markey
    June 14, 2013 at 10:04 pm (9 years ago)

    Karen, you and your creations are amazing! I love reading about your continued success! K.I.T. and L.Y.L.A.S.