A woman holding a brown blanket with a white square containing a deer head crocheted in the middle.

Featured Artisan – Barbara Holbrook


 Barbara Holbrook can recall the very first item she ever crocheted. The piece is a round white and red rug, using a single-stitch crochet. It is made from nylon material. As she laughs, she says it is ‘a little puckered.’

Barbara still has that 58-year-old rug that holds a special meaning to her. The bright rug was her first creation as an artisan, but it was also created with her grandmother. Barbara estimates she was around 13, but it would be nearly a decade later before she truly picked up the craft regularly.

Circular red and white crocheted rug

Barbara’s first crochet project, a red and white rug.

She recalls having her tonsils taken out around age 21, a time she describes a stressful. It was during this time, she picked up crocheting a bit more seriously and created a bedspread. This project would lead to her lifelong passion of creating crocheted items.

“I crochet everything that looks like it can be crocheted,” Barbara said.

She continued to pick up projects more regularly at lunch and in between breaks at her job at a factory, and later, a call center.

“Those girls loved scarves and hats,” Barbara said, while laughing and recalling her first sells to her co-workers.

White hat and scarf set on a mannequin

Barbara said she learned how to read patterns during this time from her former mother-in-law. She learned stitches like the triple-crochet and around-the-post to add to her style. These techniques allowed her work to blossom.

In addition to items she sells, Barbara is a routine creator for her family and loved ones. She creates afghans to welcome new additions to families, and her grandchildren are gifted quilts covered with designs of hobbies they love. Barbara says her granddaughter was already stocked with 10-15 afghan blankets before she was even born.

Her hobby has developed so much that she said family members have been known to drop off yarn and other materials in trash bag-sized loads. It is also an activity she can enjoy with other members of her family. Barbara says she and her sister frequent craft shows for fun, and often finding inspiration there.

She says her projects often start by seeing something she believes she can create, through magazines or even just the materials she has on hand.

As a Russell County native, Barbara is often crafting new items to enter in the county fair.

“I win a blue-ribbon every time I put one of those in the fair,” she said, referring to a woven hat with a crocheted ribbon.

A woven hat with an orange crocheted cover and ribbon.

Barbara Holbrook’s award-winning crocheted ribbon hats.

Her hobby that brought her stress relief fifty years ago is still doing the trick. She says her work often allows her to beat the anxieties in life. Just do not expect her to complete any sewing projects soon.

“Crocheting is fun. Sewing is work,” Barbara said. “I also admire anyone who can quilt.”

You can find Barbara Holbrook’s work for sale at the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center in Abingdon.