Karen Roark

Karen Roark welcomes you to her Workroom

Childhood summers of making projects for country fairs combined with an interior-architecture degree are reflected in KAREN ROARK’s bright and cheery craft room. Warm country meets contemporary pizazz.

By Janai Velez

No detail is overlooked in Karen Roark’s crafty corner of the world – from the neatly stacked fabrics in crates to the thread-filled jars and the tin buckets packed with craft goodies.

Karen Roark

But along with her interior-designer disciplines, there is evidence of an impulsive touch or two. Her “Oh, my God, I love this book/fabric/yarn so much I’m going to stick it on the shelf so I can look at it all day because it makes me happy!” moments bring her individuality to the scheme.

Learn zentangle-inspired free-motion machine quilting!

Karen dabbles in jewellery-making, woodturning, paper arts, quilting, sewing … “Sometimes it just all runs together – but in a good way,” she says. And she thanks her mum for her inherited the love of all things craft. “One of my first sewing memories was an apron I made for a 4-H [USA youth organisation] project.

Karen Roark

I was five years old, and Mum sat me down in front of a sewing machine. I couldn’t read yet, so she pointed to pictures on the pattern and read the instructions out loud. After explaining what to do, she would leave and I’d sit at the machine pinning my seams and sewing clumsily.

After finishing a step, I’d yell “Maaauuuuumm!”, and she would stop doing the laundry or be getting dinner ready and patiently explain what to do next. I can see now what a special gift that was.”

Karen Roark workroom

That apron project has led to a life filled with art and design. Karen has split her professional career between interior design and running an arts and crafts store in Kansas City, USA.

Create your own desert landscape quilt!

After closing the shop, she re-homed some of its furnishings in her own workroom. “With a store full of fixtures and displays to get rid of, there was no way I wanted to buy something new just for home, so I reused as much as I could. The white furniture from the store is a good background to show off all the bright colours and patterns.”

And a custom-made table simply had to make the transition from store to studio. Karen’s husband created it, using a French door covered with glass for the table surface. “The table is the centre of everything.

Karen Roark workroom

And it most certainly never ever looks like this clean pristine photograph! It’s usually so covered with stuff, I can’t even see the top,” says Karen.

Because of the risk of fading, keeping all her pretty fabrics on the show has to be monitored – a practicality that Karen sometimes chooses to ignore. “I love my sewing room with all of its windows, but I do have to keep the curtains closed when I’m not using the room, in order to prevent fading.

But I love seeing my fabrics too much to hide them away. If the folded edges fade a little bit, I can live with that,” she says.

Karen Roark workroom

Karen’s background in interior architecture combined with her crafty know-how have helped define her own personal aesthetic, but this is constantly changing. “I keep discovering and learning more things about myself and about what I love to do and make.” At least she’s in the perfect setting for all that.

Find out more about Karen Roark, of I Always Pick the Thimble, by visiting the website, www.ialwayspickthethimble.com.

Learn fabric and painted appliqué finished with free-motion machine quilting!


BURKE & JAMES, INC VINTAGE PAPER CUTTER – My husband’s father collected antiques and, as a boy, my husband attended many Saturday auctions with him. This is one of the few items my husband took an interest in and his father bid on for him. My father-in-law has passed away, so we both treasure this piece, not only because it’s fierce but because it has sentimental value.

SCISSORS – Came in my seventh-grade home-economics sewing kit. They still have the little square piece of paper that I typed my name on, cut out and then taped onto the plastic handle. I still use them, and they’re still sharp.

PINK PRESSED-GLASS BOWL – This was my mother-in-law’s, and I use it to display and hold my threads. It’s functional and beautiful.

CUT-GLASS DISH – I keep all my sewing notions handy in this beautiful dish that was my grandmother’s.

Karen Roark workroom

Quilt workshop for beginners by Michelle Marvig


As we go to press, Karen has moved and is starting her craft room afresh. She’s squeezed everything into a spare bedroom in the basement of her new place. “Doesn’t have as many windows, but I still love it!” she says. We’re sure Karen’s creative flair can transform any space into an inspiring hub. Stay tuned! When she’s finished decorating, we might bring you her new studio, too!

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