For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed working with my hands. When I was very young, I recall twisting and looping string with my fingers in such a way that it formed a chain. I guess that was my earliest experience with crochet, although I didn’t recognize it as such. Less inspiring, but definitely a lesson in patience, was darning the holes in my father’s and brother’s socks over a darning egg. Does anybody do that anymore?! That led to crewel kit embroidery in the 70s, and lots of cross-stitching. Following a 7th grade home economics class where everyone sewed what would now be called a retro-style yellow-and-white checked gingham apron and a gray kettle cloth jumper, as well as a summer sewing class at a Gimbels department store, I began tackling more interesting and ambitious projects. A limited college student budget encouraged me to sew the long gowns I wore to my eventual husband’s Navy ROTC balls, and later—my wedding dress, our toddler’s play outfits, and a matching pink satin tie and cummerbund for our son’s high school prom.
After graduating from college with a degree in English and communication, I took a crochet class that got me hooked. A long string of scarves and afghans followed, along with a few award-winning items at the Iowa State Fair. My husband encouraged me to begin selling my work, so I opened a shop on Etsy called JN Originals in late 2007. I sold my first hand-crafted item, a set of crocheted and felted wool coasters, in the Etsy marketplace on New Year’s Day in 2008, and have since expanded to multiple shops. You’ll also find my hand-crafted items on Etsy at Mister PenQuin, and recycled craft supplies at 2nd Chance Treasures. In 2012 I offered my first crochet pattern for sale on Etsy and Craftsy under the JN Originals label, with plans to add new patterns in the future.
The paper crafting bug probably goes back to kindergarten, when my classmates and I raced to be the first among the limited spots at the finger painting tables. Miss Sinkular dropped a glob of paint on each child’s sheet of paper, inviting us to smear and swirl color in fantastical designs. My brother and I papered our LEGO® worlds with original paper dolls long before LEGO® invented DUPLO people and Minifigures. In sixth grade, I learned how to assemble my first handmade book, and today you’ll see variations of that first book, as well as other paper-crafted items, in Mister PenQuin. The history behind that shop name goes back to the days when my husband was stationed as a weapons officer aboard the 7th fleet’s flagship, the USS Blue Ridge. In those days e-mail didn’t exist, so we sent long letters back and forth. He signed each of his letters with a little doodle, a penguin wearing a top hat that he named Mister PenQuin.
I am inspired by color, texture, pattern and story—and by the prospect of possibilities. Every day I ask, “How can I?” or “Why not?
You can read about my family life at my blog, Word Walks.
You may e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org