The Inspiring World of Irish Crochet
Crochet World|February 2021
Traditional Irish crochet, with its beautiful lacy motifs and the intricately cabled fisherman sweaters of the last century, still inspires modern crochet designers today. Recently we asked crochet designers and good friends, Bonnie Barker and Jennifer E. Ryan, to chat about their friendship and Irish-inspired crochet designs. The following is an excerpt from their video chat. Make sure to visit their websites to watch the complete video between these two good friends.
Janice Snyder

Crochet World (CW): Tell us how you met.

Jennifer: We were at the Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) Conference in 2012. It was the first day, and we sat next to each other. Things got started quickly. There was yarn on the table and some free hooks. The class speaker said, “Hey, while you’re listening today, crochet a square.” I remember thinking, “I can’t take notes and crochet.” I took notes because I wanted to absorb everything. Bonnie, however, crocheted a square with this complicated cable, like that (snaps her fingers). From there, we talked, and I remember walking through the hallways talking about how we were both faith-based homeschooling moms, how we both love music, and, of course, how we both love Ireland and Irish style crochet.

Bonnie: I remember seeing Jennifer from a distance even before we met. This tall, young, thin lady was walking in the door with her rolling briefcase, and there was a small, green Celtic knot intricately woven and somehow attached to her bag. I thought, “I’ve never seen that before! That’s interesting; we’ve got to talk.” I don’t know if I purposefully sat next to her or how that all happened, but I am delighted that we had a chance to talk. It was like we had already been friends for years.

CW: When did you both discover you had a love for Irish-inspired crochet designs? When did the Irish culture and your crochet world collide?

Jennifer: I have always loved the Irish culture for as long as I can remember. I went to Ireland with my family before or after my freshman year in high school. Our family loved Irish music, Irish dance and Ireland’s breathtaking scenery. That love collided with crochet when I attended my first professional development day with the CGOA. The speaker recommended doing something with crocheting that was unique to me. I had already purchased some books on how to weave Celtic knots. I always wanted to sit down with them and learn how to create them. “This was my opportunity,” I thought. “I’ll practice with those knots, and then I’ll figure out how to combine them with crochet so that they stand out and are different from what other people have!” I sent some of my ideas off to a magazine, and they purchased one of them. That’s when I started my website Celtic Knot Crochet.

Bonnie: My bond with Ireland came later in life, but in the late ’70s, I found a leaflet by a woman named Annie Ough entitled Fisherman Crochet. When I saw this pattern, I was like eureka! I had been crocheting since I was seven. I was pretty bored by the time I bought this leaflet. I was ready for something different, so when I bought it, I was amazed. As far as the Irish connection goes, it began when I heard the song, Starkindler by Michael Card. On that album, he plays the whistle—an Irish whistle. After that, the music major in me had to get one. I purchased a couple and learned to play them by listening and imitating the music. My love of music and crochet came together and collided when going to Ireland in 2012 with my husband. It was his business trip, and I went along for the ride. I knew that was the inspiration of the Aran, fisherman-style crochet that I had been creating for probably 10 to 15 years. Going to Ireland was inspirational and led to my first book, Contemporary Celtic Crochet.

CW: You both have traveled to Ireland. Tell us about a favorite memory.

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