Karen Thompson has made, studied, and taught lace since the mid-1970s. From 1998 to present she has been a volunteer curator of the lace collection at the Smithsonian American History Museum. In that capacity she has developed and conducted behind-the-scenes tours of the lace collection, written blogs1 about specific areas or objects in the collection and been instrumental in making part of the Lace Collection available to the public on the Smithsonian website2.
She has developed and published a curriculum for beginning bobbin lace, An Introduction to Bobbin Lace, with Kim Davis and Linda Kay Benning. In 2020 she added virtual teaching of bobbin lace to her repertoire and has taught over 90 virtual classes for beginners and more advanced bobbin lace students, each spanning one to four 3-hour sessions. She enjoys developing new skill-building patterns for continuing students.
In 2017 she published The Lace Samples from Ipswich, Massachusetts 1789-17903 after years of research. The book has a short introductory overview of the late 18th century Ipswich, Massachusetts lace industry, the only known commercial lace industry in the United States. That is followed by reconstructed detailed patterns and working diagrams for the 22 black silk lace samples sent to Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton in 1790 from Ipswich, MA for his Census of Manufactures as evidence of the importance of lacemaking in Ipswich.
She holds Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science in Education degrees from Purdue University.