My Other Life: Karen Marks, sweater designer

Karen Marks, nail technician.  In her other life: sweater designer.


If you have yen to wear one of nail tech Karen Marks’ sumptuous hand-knit sweaters, be prepared to pay upwards of $250 for the privilege. Rich with color and interesting textures, her handiwork isn’t limited to knitting. The Glendale, Ariz.-based tech also does beaded embroidery, whipping up unique beaded bras and bustiers, shawls, even beaded and sequined flip flops. The common ingredient is color. “I just love to play with colors!” says Marks. “Even when I was little and I crocheted, my sister and mother would always ask me why I always used so many different colors. They also asked why I didn’t follow the pattern in the book or magazine. When I look back, I see I always had my own mind and my own way of doing things.”

She learned to knit long before she began doing nails. “I started knitting in 1985 when I worked at the Detroit Police Department’s Fourth Precinct as a typist,” she recalls. “I used to eat lunch with the Commander’s secretary and she knitted beautiful sweaters. I asked her to knit one for me and she told me I could do it myself. My feelings were hurt at first, and I told her I didn’t know how to knit, so she taught me.”

In order to decorate her sweaters, she learned beading at a bridal store in downtown Detroit. “Then, I went to New Jersey and learned more advance techniques from a designer’s designer,” she says. “He created bead embroidery designs for top designers in New York. I learned how to bead shoes and do more elaborate beading stitches.” Since then, her designs have been featured in Crochet Fantasy and Bead and Button magazines.

You can check out Marks’ knitting and beading — along with her handmade jewelry and decorative bird houses made from gourds — at

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