Katrina Carpenter cannot seem to stop moving.
On a recent day in her well-lit Nikiski sewing room, she opens doors and drawers, lifts dresses, moves mannequins and picks invisible threads off of the several brightly colored garments and stacks of fabric on display in her Kat’s Closet workroom. The yoga teacher, dance instructor, business-owner, seamstress and mom happily talks about her business, laughing and moving around the small room to show off a picture of this, a swatch of that and laugh about how long it has taken for her business to grow. Isis, her blue weimaraner, lays in the doorway, watching Carpenter from underneath a blanket.
“She’ll lay there until 3 p.m. when the kids come home,” Carpenter said of the dog. “If I don’t give her that blanket, she’s in here and under my feet the whole day.”
The sheer number of jewel tones are staggering to the eye, a fascination for color that Carpenter readily admits is the one of the reasons she doesn’t often shop for clothes.
“I’ll see something, but I won’t like something about the pattern, or it’s in a dull color,” she said. “I don’t know if they’re trying to keep things more neutral or what but I definitely lean toward more bolder colors, patterns.”
It has been a long, slow process for Carpenter to get Kat’s Closet off the ground, though Carpenter has been designing and sewing for most of her life.
“I opened an Etsy store about four years ago and I finally made my first Etsy sale, like last month,” she said. “She loved it, I got a five-star review which was exciting. So it took some time.”
Etsy, an online retailer that specializes in handmade items, allows business owners to create a digital storefront for their items.
Carpenter’s site, www.etsy.com/shop/KatsClosetBoutique, features dresses, skirts, outerwear, tops and formal attire — most in brilliant colors and flattering, feminine designs.
“I definitely lead toward more vintage, classic (looks),” Carpenter said.
And, though the lace, short skirts and summery dresses may not be the most practical for Alaska, Carpenter said she enjoys creating things that women can feel pretty while wearing.
The self-taught seamstress isn’t always working on her next dress, or line of clothing. She spends a lot of her time doing smaller projects for people in the community.
“Replacing zippers, hemming jeans, patches, buttons, people don’t sew anymore so they’re lost when a button falls off,” she said. “Generally, I tell people, ‘How about you wait until you have a bunch of things.’ I don’t want to charge somebody $15 to do two minutes of work, but I’m also not going to work for free, so it’s kind of hard to price sometimes.”
Carpenter said she had no idea she would end up trying to turn her hobby into a business.
“I really was going to be a mom, just a mom. Then I started teaching dance and I thought, ‘Oh, I’m going to be a dance teacher.’ Then that led to sewing things for costumes, so, I don’t know, it just happened,” she said. “I got tired of not finding what I wanted to wear, so I thought, ‘Fine, if I can’t find it, I’ll make it.’ I guess it just kind of took off.”
Ultimately, she dreams of running her own website and taking custom design orders from all over the world.
“I’d like to do something fun and not so much of the drape projects or the zipper projects. But, I have a hard time saying no, so I’ll probably always be doing those,” she said with a laugh.
Find Kat’s Closet online on Facebook at facebook.com/Kats.ClosetAK
Rashah McChesney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.