Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Etsy Crush: The Humble Penguin

Twitter is where I always find new thingsstores, blogs, funny cat videos, funny one linersso when I first heard about the Etsy shop The Humble Penguin it was no different. One of the (many) bloggers I follow via twitter mentioned something about the shop or an order arriving and that's when I fell down the rabbit hole. It was a quick few clicks and I was browsing through Ashley's Etsy shop, reading back through her blog and laughing at some of her tweets.

Ashley is one of the friendliest folks on twitter and her sense of humour had me chuckling out loud enough times that it would have been silly of me not to reach out and tweet hello.

What started on twitter spread to blogland and ended up in our respective inboxes. Ashley was looking for other Etsy shop owners or bloggers to network with and I was looking for any excuse to spoil myself with a small online splurge.

A few of you may recognize Ashley's signature bow clutch from around the interwebz, instagram or maybe you have one of these beauties of your own, but they are only a glimpse of what Ashley has to offer at The Humble Penguin.

{Bow Clutch Purse via The Humble Penguin}
{mini wallets |  photo courtesy of The Humble Penguin}

I've personally been looking for a simple but not super tiny clutch for a while now. Sure a lot of you are probably thinking "but clutches are so easy to find." not so in the Great White Nowhere my friends. When my local shopping options are limited to The Bargain Shop, even a teenaged version of myself would not be satisfied with their selection and have turned hopefully to the internet.  I'm going to admit right now that I'm a picky shopper and clutches are in no way exempt from my particular nature.

 I was looking for something preferably grey or black (so that it would match multiple outfits and shoulder bags) with a natural or washable fibre because imma be honest: clutches go with me to the bar/pub, where things are bound to get spilled or jostled and sticky and gross as the night goes on so being able to clean said clutch was a huge must.

Enter the fateful tweet (which ironically I can't remember) that led me to Ashley's store and this beauty:

{Buy it here!}
While less fancy-pants than her bow clutches, this simple clutch is just as functional and stylish for ladies who are either not totally gungho on bows and frills or have enough of those in the wardrobe already. It's the perfect size for my snapcase (wallet), phone, keys and the few bits and bobs that keep me sane while out on the town.

Ashley was such a sweetheart she even sent me a mini wallet! Perfect for carrying ID & a bank card while out for drinks or a way to keep business cards tidy & handy for the day-to-day or while at conferences or meetings.

As a sewing fan myself and a lover of handmade I always feel extra special when I have something that came from an individual and not an assembly line. I feel like there's just so much love and care put into handmade goods -- like each item has a story, a personality -- so it's always a treat when I get to learn a little more about the person who made it, or their process and Ashley was kind enough to agree to doing a little Q&A.

{Ash from The Humble Penguin }

First off, can you tell us a little about yourself?

I'm Ash. I'm a 29 year old kid who refuses to grow up, and luckily found myself a husband with the same plan! We live in the Chicago suburbs with our cat, Eve, who has us both completely wrapped around her little finger (paw?). We're in trouble if and when we decide to have kids!
I work full-time at an educational toy store that my dad owns. He's a total slave driver, but I love it there. Retail is very unpredictable and I love that there's no monotony.
I'm a total nerd I would much rather spend a weekend in my pjs reading a book or playing video games rather than heading out to concerts or bars. I'm starting to get into card and board games a little more, which is good since they're a little more social than my computer ;)

1): When did you start sewing/learn to sew? What do you love about it?

A1 :   Like pretty much everyone else, my first time sewing was in Home Ec. class in junior high. I made a pillow with this hideous cat fabric. [..] I basically didn't touch a sewing machine again until a few years ago. At which point my mom gave me a quick lesson on her 35 year old Kenmore machine. That thing was a BEAST and it was so LOUD! She showed me how to thread the machine and told me to remember to back-stitch when I start and end [seams]. That was pretty much it. As for why I love sewing—it's mostly because I absolutely LOVE mixing all the colors, styles and patterns of fabrics. I adore color. I usually dress like a rainbow, so it's no surprise that the items in my shop are so colorful too! I also love the transformation of sewing; what starts as a simple piece of fabric can become a purse, a wallet or anything really! Sewing is also really calming since its so repetitive. it's easy to get lost in a project.

2):  Are you a self taught sewer, or did you have a mentor/take classes?

A2 : For the most part, I taught myself... kind of? Like I said,[above] my mom pointed out the basics to me. Then everything else I've picked up from reading sewing tutorials online. So I guess Google and Pinterest are my teachers! I have been thinking about signing up for a sewing class, though, just to make sure that I'm not doing something completely wrong without knowing it!

3): What would you say is key to a successful sewing project?

A3 : Having the right materials. I used really, really cheap fabric for my first few projects and they just didn't come out great. Plus I didn't understand the importance of ironing at each step. Ironing/pressing is the WORST part of sewing, but it makes a world of difference.

4): What materials should beginner sewers have on hand?

A4: Well, needle and thread is a good place to start ;) haha. I kid I kid.You really don't need much more than fabric, thread and a sewing machine to start though. Find a simple tutorial online and just follow the steps!

5): What is a good first project to learn the ins-and-outs [mechanics] of sewing?

A5: Probably a pillow. It's not exciting, but you can practice sewing straight lines and turning your project after stitching. Or just search Pinterest for a simple tutorial, something with straight lines and just a couple pieces to put together. Sewing a straight line is the key to every project probably. Hmm, that should have been my answer to what makes a successful sewing project!

6):What advice would you give others who want to learn to sew and create?

A6: Just do it. If you already have a sewing machine (or access to one), learning to sew is NOT a big investment. Just pick up some fabric remnants from the fabric store (usually they're 50% off, so it's even cheaper!) and try out a few projects. Also, don't be scared of zippers. It took me a few years of sewing to finally attempt one and they are not as bad as everyone makes them out to be!

7): What is the most challenging moment/point in your creative process and why?

A7: The math. Oh, the math. It haunts me. I'll come up with this great style of purse or wallet in my head (usually while showering, where all the best ideas come from), and then I try to map it out on graph paper. My graph paper notebook is full of scribbled out rectangles and designs. Once you decide on a completed size for a product, you need to calculate your fabric pieces and account for seams, top stitching, etc. The first tablet sleeve I attempted a couple years ago came out SO tiny. I still don't even know how that happened!

8): What websites or stores would you recommend for buying fabric

A8: I usually buy all my fabric from other Etsy sellers. I've found that they actually have the best prices for designer fabrics, and I like that I can get any quantities I like. Most times I just get half yards, so that I can try out a lot of different fabrics. A quick search for a certain color, pattern or style gives you TONS of options!  Definitely be careful of chain craft stores. Usually the big craft stores use lesser quality fabrics to print their designs on. Sometimes the patterns are printed crooked. And the associates almost ALWAYS cut the fabric crooked, which leads to waste.

9): What do you like to do when you're not sewing up a storm?

A9: When I'm not sewing, I'm usually playing video games or working. Or just running my Etsy shop. A lot of people think that once you list your items on Etsy you are done. But I have to photograph each item, write up descriptions for them, then get word out about my shop via social media and stuff. It's pretty time consuming. I'm always casually looking for new fabrics to add to my collection, too. Which is why my husband calls me a hoarder ;)

10): Tell me about some of the people you've met through Etsy/ via blogging that you look up to and why?

A10: I've met some fabulous people through Etsy and blogging! I kind of look up to all of them for different reasons. Some of the women selling on Etsy are there just for fun, but others are providing for their families by doing something they love. I think that's just amazing. Anyone who is passionate about their craft to put themselves out there and sell (be it online or at craft shows, etc) deserves a pat on the back. Because it's scary and there's a lot of self-doubt that you need to overcome.
Thanks so much for "stopping by" Ashley! If any of you want to learn more about Ashley, head over to her blog and catch up or if you just want to know where to get your own clutch or mini wallet click on over to her store.