Karen Allen Fiber Arts Studio was launched as a knitwear design studio in the Spring of 2004 in the countryside of western MA.
Karen’s love of textiles dates back to her childhood. Her maternal grandmother taught her to knit when she was 5 years old and she developed a fascination with textiles and a love of creating them. She began to study the history of textiles and was greatly influenced by Navajo weavings, the design of rugs from Tibet, India, Afghanistan, Morocco and Turkey and the extraordinary knitwear of designer Kaffe Fassett. Karen attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC when she was 17 to study textile and fashion design with a particular focus on knitwear. Several years after completing her studies and working briefly in the fashion world,and traveling for a year in the West Indies and Central and South America, her life took her in another direction professionally and she began to work in the theatre as an actor.
For the next 30 years she continued to develop her approach to design while she was working in the film and theatre world. In 2002 she returned to FIT to study Japanese knitting machines so that she could begin to create a line of knitwear while she was raising her young son, Nicholas, who was then in school in NYC.
After a year of experimentation and discovering unorthodox ways to create unique fabrics, Karen moved with her son to the Berkshires in western, MA and began to produce and show her first scarves and sweaters at galleries and shops in NYC and MA.
While playing with various types of fibers on her knitting machines, and with the inspirational help of her FIT instructor, Marion Grealish, Karen discovered that cashmere yarns not only worked beautifully with her machines and her designs, but found that she could do something with cashmere yarns that she had never seen done before and this finally spurred her on to create her first collection in 2005.
All of her sweaters, scarves, hats, shawls,gaitors and gloves are made from 100% Scottish (Todd and Duncan) and Italian (Loro Piana, Cariaggi) cashmere. They are the finest cashmere yarns in the world. Karen works with up to 12 separate threadings of two colors in each feed, with the collaboration of a binary computer imbedded in her machines, she works with designs and patterns from Japan and her own imagination to make her unique and extraordinary fabrics. The machines are mostly hand manipulated although she does use motor driven machines for some designs.
Encouraged by the response to her work, she opened a small store in 2005 in Great Barrington, MA. It featured Karen’s collection of cashmere knitwear as well as many local clothing, accessories, and jewelry designers, and a hand picked group of designers from around the world that Karen had long admired.
The studio moved into the town of Great Barrington in 2008 where it still remains. Karen presently divides her time between NY and MA and between her work as an actor and director in theatre, television and film, and continuing to create her knitwear line when she finds time between projects.
There are many more designs and color variations of designs in the shop than we can feature on this website. Please stop by or call, and check out what we have in stock.