Sock monkeys help develop sense of community

Andrew Henderson

For Juannie Kronenberger, sock monkeys are more than classic children’s toys; they bring people together.

The Bowling Green resident is the creator and artist of Spongie’s Whimsicals and Gifts. Spongie’s Whimsicals is a gift shop affiliated with Spongie Acres Bed and Breakfast, where she works as one of the innkeepers. 

Kronenberger said sock monkeys take on the complexity of something attached to her past and a way to offer simplicity to people in modern times. 

“Kids can play with a handmade toy as easily as they can a store-made toy,” she said.

She remembers crafting monkeys with her mother and sister as a little girl. As she got older, the craft evolved into an even deeper emotional tie. 

In 2007, Kronenberger was recovering from her fight with breast cancer. Her sister invited her to participate in the Weekend to End Breast Cancer in British Columbia, Canada. An enrollment fee was required, and that’s when an idea struck. 

“We got creative and decided to make things and sell them,” Kronenberger said. 

Together, with her mother and sister, they started crafting different items to sell, including sock monkeys, to cover the fee. She said that this rekindled her interest in crafting which eventually led to Spongie’s Whimsicals. Last year, she began offering workshops during the winter months on how to create an old-fashioned sock monkey.  

“They get to make a monkey from scratch, from the very beginning to the very end,” she said. 

Bowling Green resident Debbie Modlin took Kronenberger’s class last year. Modlin said she quickly realized that crafting sock monkeys is a very family-oriented activity, with all ages participating. 

“I think it’s an activity any age would enjoy doing,” she said.

In Kronenberger’s workshop, Modlin noted that she guided her and other participants in crafting their sock monkeys with great care. 

“You felt like you could do your own things, but there were enough guidelines to follow,” she said. 

Modlin also shared a childhood connection to sock monkeys.

Modlin said her aunt would make sock monkeys for her, and she always wondered how her aunt made them. Because of this, Modlin thought they would be a fun craft to make. 

“I think monkeys put a smile on people’s face when they see them,” she said. 

Sock monkeys also put a smile on the faces of faculty and students in the Folk Studies program. Folk Studies professor, Erika Brady suggested a sock monkey as the mascot for the program— a departmental alternative to Big Red.

Brady said instead of traditionally hooding their graduating students, the students who graduate from Folk Studies have a miniature sock monkey pinned on them and go through graduation that way. 

“Every year Gary Ransdell says, ‘so, what’s with the sock monkeys?’” she said.

Brady was also familiar with Kronenberger’s work and the class she offers. She said having someone teach this class face-to-face is an important part of traditional crafting. 

“I think it’s fun to learn something that you can really cover the basics of in just a couple of hours,” she said.

Kronenberger will be offering her last workshop for this year on March 24 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Spongie Acres Bed and Breakfast, 610 Matlock Rd. 

“I’m proud I can share this craft with them that not many people are familiar with,” Kronenberger said.