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, where she has developed and conducted Behind-the-Scenes tours of the lace collection, written six blogs 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 website.
In 2017 she published The Lace Samples from Ipswich, Massachusetts 1789-1790. The book has a short introductory overview of the history of the Ipswich lace industry in the late 18th century followed by reconstructed detailed patterns and working diagrams for the 22 lace samples sent to Alexander Hamilton in 1790 from Ipswich, MA for his Census of Manufactures as evidence of the importance of lacemaking In Ipswich.
Virtual teaching was added in 2020.