An Interview With Bonnie Barker Designer, Teacher & Author Crochet World: Bonnie, tell us a little bit about yourself. When did you learn to crochet? Bonnie Barker: CW: What types of projects did you first like to crochet? BB: CW: Crochet teacher or desig
Recently, I had the change to talk with Bonnie Barker, whose latest book, Cable Crochet Made Easy, features her love of textured cable designs and her unique teaching style. What a joy to get to know Bonnie and catch her enthusiasm for crochet cables!
I’m a retired homeschool educator, a mother of five wonderful young adults and wife to a great guy. I learned to crochet when I was 7 years old after watching my next-door neighbors’ mom crochet a huge granny square afghan—the type that is just one big square. I was mesmerized by watching her hook and yarn move. After many days of watching her progress, she sat down and started a granny square for me. I’ve been crocheting ever since!
At first, I worked on that big granny square afghan, and finally finished it when I was 9. Later, I learned to read crochet patterns with the help of my best friend’s mom. At that point I would make just about anything from any pattern I could get my hands on, including a granny square bikini I found in one of my Crochet World magazines back in the ’70s! ( Well, I did live in south Florida, but this is one design I promise never to model!)
Definitely teacher! I’ve been teaching crochet for decades to folks of all ages. It never entered my mind to design my own until I couldn’t find the patterns I really wanted to crochet.
I’ve always loved the way cables look in knit designs, but I prefer crochet over knitting. I think that’s where it started. One day I found a couple of Leisure Arts leaflets by Annie Ought, published in the late 1970s/early 1980s that created lovely crochet cabled designs. I made all the designs in those leaflets multiple times. I wanted more designs like them, but they just weren’t available. This was before the Internet, so the only patterns available were what you could find in department stores.
It has a lot to do with the county fair. The first time I won “Best of Show” for one of my Aran afghans I received a call from a woman in New Jersey who had seen my afghan on display at the fair. She called me to inquire as to where she could purchase the pattern. I was flabbergasted because it was my own original design and there was not a written pattern available, at least not yet. This prompted me to photograph the afghan, along with four others and send an inquiry to Leisure Arts. To my surprise they were interested in my work!
They both were a LOT of hard work, but I enjoyed it very much. I was so thankful that the editor of my first book allowed me to include some photos I took of the beautiful country of Ireland, which inspired the designs. In the process, I learned a lot too—about yarns, designing, sizing, writing, editing and communicating.
I wanted to have more creative control of this book in a few areas of the publication process. The first was in choosing the models for the designs. I wanted to include some of my friends and family, especially those whose body size was more, dare I say, “normal.” True beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and I wanted my models to reflect that. I was especially blessed that Valerie “Valley” Ennis was able to be one of my models. Valley was born with Down syndrome and has the most contagious, beautiful smile I have ever seen. Her beauty transcends what can be captured with a camera, and she is a joy in every sense of the word. I also wanted more control over how the patterns were written, especially since they needed to correspond to the instructional videos. My two editors, Becky Barker and Christy Barker—both with excellent editing skills as writers and crocheters—did an excellent job helping me to make this possible! This is something I’ve wanted to do from the very beginning. I didn’t want crocheters to be held
back from these fun stitches because of not understanding a written pattern or by the false belief that these stitches are “too hard to crochet.” Also, I find that there are two types of crocheters: those who read patterns and those who primarily crochet using videos because they don’t understand written patterns. You could say that as an educator I am on a quest to help those in the second category to become more comfortable and confident at reading patterns. However, I am finding that there are many excellent crocheters out there who don’t read patterns. They will still be able to crochet every pattern in this book by following the videos.
Every day starts the same, yet every day is different! I take my hubby to his bus stop early in the morning, come home, fix my tea, spend some time reading my Bible and praying. Afterward, I usually spend some time answering email, YouTube and Facebook questions, and working on social media posts. If I am facing a deadline on a design, I may spend some time writing or editing a pattern to get it ready for publication. This may include taking photographs of the design, or perhaps even filming an instructional video. Other days I spend many hours editing the videos and uploading them. So you may be wondering, “Do you ever just sit down and crochet?” Well, yes, but not as much as you would think because of all the other tasks that need to get done in this process. Of course, I have other responsibilities such as caring for my mom, our adult children, meal preparation and caring for the home. Some days I work outside as a substitute teacher at a local school. Life is full, but very, very good! I truly love the variety.
Wow! That’s a tough question. Being a strong generalist (someone who likes to do a lot of different things rather than just one), I truly enjoy the variety of what I do in each of these roles. If I had to pick just one, I believe I enjoy designing the very best. There is something about creating a new design or even a new stitch that is very deeply satisfying. After raising and homeschooling five children, I so appreciate the solitude that designing provides at times.
That’s a great question. Only the Lord truly knows, but I would like to continue to work to build my Bonnie
Bay Crochet YouTube channel and continue developing new crochet cabled designs. I would love to teach and travel on a broader scale as opportunities arise. One dream is to travel to the UK and perhaps even back to Ireland to teach cable crochet!
A few years ago I really enjoyed designing/crocheting a formal tea-length dress, combining a subtle Aran/Celtic design bodice using fine merino/silk yarn, trimmed using pearls and a delicate chiffon fabric (for sleeves and skirt). I would love to do more projects like this, and perhaps even a wedding dress someday.
Beautiful cable designs from Cable Crochet Made Easy