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 a second shop, MisterPenQuin, where you’ll find my handmade books and journals.
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: email@example.com