Sep 10 2021. views 90
For many of us, growing up soft toys aka, plush toys were our first friends. The soft cuddly nature of these plushies is perfect for children as it resembles innocence, comfort, safety and assurance. Yet, you’ll not be surprised that adults love these plushies too!
The majority of the adult men and women still have their distinctive soft toy, blanket or pillow with them every night, myself included and I will let you guess what it is! Regardless, if one calls them, soft toy, stuffed toy, plushie, it’s hard to find anyone who wouldn’t love it.
The first step
Amra Hussain is a self-taught creative artist and the founder of Penelope. “My daughter was around 7-8 months old when I made my first ever plushie from a piece of boa material which my mother in law gave me,” says Amra. “I made her a big cloud plushie from it and she loved it, Five years down the line and we still have it with us. As soon as I made it I just posted it on Instagram and many friends and family started encouraging and motivating me to try doing more.”
Amra comes from a family of seamstresses. Her great-grandmother and her mother were all excellent in knowing how to work magic with a sewing machine, but what surprised everyone was Amra learning how to sew; “I was not a patient person to do all the fancy work at first, but I have the passion to create and explore my new found talent and I wanted to master sewing and now I am very good at stitching on my own. When we have full days with packed orders all the sewing machines will be in the hall and everyone will be busy helping me complete orders on time,” Amra states.
Stuffed toys or plushies as we presently call them, are often gifted to us by people we love, they are the ultimate symbol of love. Therefore plushies signify naturally as loving and caring creatures. There is much more beyond just stuffed animals. ‘Penelope’ has a vast range and it goes to say that this brand is a storytelling mechanism. Most of her products have their own unique persona, voice, and role that more than aids the imaginary world of children and yes adults too.
Overcoming postpartum depression
Becoming a new mother is harder than one can imagine and getting diagnosed with PPD is life-changing. Nobody ever understands the gravity of it until it is experienced. The negative thinking, being unable to bond with your newborn, constantly being angry and sulking was all the signs Amra had during her routine check-up. Until then there was no indication that she was battling with PPD.
“I realised something was wrong with me and I was not myself. So after a few visits with the doctor and putting an effort to overcome this I realised that my mind being engaged in something I like to do helped me keep my sanity. That is how I learned embroidery and sewing which requires a lot of patience. And that is how I am still overcoming my PPD because it never goes away. Making plushies and making people happy makes me feel complete,” Amra says.
“I have always loved the name ‘Penelope’, I find it very girly and sophisticated at the same time. I feel it also connects me with the love I have for period movies with open fields and ball gowns and romance. Since everything I make has a whimsical and unique style to it the name made complete sense to me,” Amra further explained.
Bringing custom designs to life.
All Penelope products, be it plushies, ragdolls or play mats and other accessories are 100% custom made. Amra says that, “when a customer tells me exactly what they want with dimensions, colours and what elements I should work with I use that information to create something unique for them.” Whenever a customer doesn’t know how to specify she helps them out by giving reference images that are mostly illustrations of what she can make for them and proceed with the order based on their feedback. Amra has also subscribed to multiple craft blogs and is a passionate user of the Pinterest app. A majority of her designs are inspired by them and she has purchased and used templates from many crafters that she follows.
“When a customer enquires about a certain product I send them a full detail of the product which includes details of price, materials used, size, maintenance, and other details. Once the customer is well informed about what they will receive they get back to me with their requirements to customise it (change of colour, change of any other element in the product etc). Once all the details are given I usually send them a sketch of how it will look, with small notes on them explaining each detail,” says Amra.
Once the sketch is finalised by the customer, only then does Amra begin manufacturing the item. She also sends the customer work in progress images to check with him or her if everything is as expected. Upon receiving a positive response from the client she proceeds to complete the order and hand it over to the happy client.
Amra agrees that choosing the right kind of fabric is such an important part of creating a new toy design, especially when it is for kids. “I mostly work with Boa, Greige cloth, Linens and Twill. There are different qualities of these as well, so I’m very careful when selecting our fabrics for the plushies. For me the fabric quality is a priority, then comes the rest. I personally go to source all my materials because I need to touch and feel them before buying. When I make anything for kids I prefer using boa or linen because they are soft and easy to clean compared to other materials.”
Amra explains that there’s no big difference when making plushies for adults in comparison to kids. However, “I pay attention to small details (if any) because these need to be secured firmly compared to making one for an adult. Also, for adults it is mostly quotes and movie/drama series themed ones whereas for kids it’s different,” she further explains.