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A design for life

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Marguerite Bardgett still remembers the shock of seeing the mobile phone cover she'd designed spread across the pages of a glossy magazine.

The problem was, it had someone else's name attached to it.

The feisty 90-year-old, whose crocheted toys and accessories have been popular tourist buys for more than 40 years, immediately called the US publishers and complained.

“They said there was nothing they could do about it,” she said. “But it annoyed me. The woman was claiming the design was hers. I've since had to stop people from photographing so they can't take the pictures home to copy.”

Mrs Bardgett was born on September 1, 1926. She grew up on The Glebe Road in Pembroke, the only daughter of George and Amy Munns.

Her aunt, Bernice Munns, who was trained as a British Army schoolteacher in Sri Lanka, showed her how to crochet and knit.

“I was an only child and was alone a lot but my aunt kept me on my toes,” she said. “I learnt [the craft] from her and had a love for it all my life.”

She graduated from Mount Saint Agnes Academy in 1945 and started working at the Bank of Bermuda. She met Cyril Bardgett while there; they married a year later.

“He would take elastic bands and ping paper clips across the room at me,” she said. “I was on one side and he was on the other.”

The couple had two girls, Judy Bardgett and Lynn Ford.

In the 1950s she started knitting Argyle socks for Archie Brown & Son, which was then located on Queen Street. In the early 1960s, she made the local news after a New Zealand woman commissioned her to crochet a full-length wedding dress and hat to match.

Mrs Bardgett's retirement from the bank in 1968 enabled her to give in to her creative spirit.

First, she completed a journalism course with the Newspaper Institute of America, and then studied cosmetics at the Helena Rubinstein Studio in Puerto Rico.

However, it was her crocheting and knitting that she truly loved. In the 1970s she started selling her original designs at Grotto Bay Beach Resort as part of the Department of Tourism-sponsored Rendezvous Season. She got busier in later years, spending Mondays at Pink Beach, Tuesdays at the former Sonesta Beach Hotel, Wednesdays at Grotto Bay and Thursdays at Castle Harbour. She cut back when the economy went “kaput”.

“But people started opening knitting shops with brightly coloured yarns and it was just too tempting,” she said.

In 1978 she opened Which Craft, “an all-local craft shop” on Chancery Lane in Hamilton. The store moved to St George's in 1980. Part of its appeal was that it sold items for left-handed people; Mrs Bardgett being one of them.

She closed the store shortly after her husband's sudden death from an aneurysm in 1989.

In October of that year she was approached by Horizons guesthouse to make 150 crochet angels for the dining room tables. She successfully completed them in time for the Christmas dinner.

Arthritis crippled both hands in the 1990s, at the same time she discovered she had cataracts and macular degeneration. Mrs Bardgett refused surgery but didn't let either disease either stop her. Glasses helped her continue her precious hobbies.

“I suffer from white coat syndrome,” she said, explaining her refusal to see doctors. “I told them at my age, I'm not having anything done.”

At 70, she decided to take up art. She took lessons from Manuel Palacio for five years and held several exhibits of her work but she couldn't stay away from her crotchet designs.

She now spends every day, from 1pm until about 2.30pm, creating original designs with her daughter Judy. They take up their posts on the couch again after dinner, retiring around 9pm.

Mrs Bardgett estimates she's made and sold thousands of her designs. Her “fugly” monkeys, chick peeps and octopuses are popular buys as are the elaborate scarves that take four weeks to make. The various items are priced between $10 and $80.

You can find them at The Reefs on Monday evenings and Grotto Bay on Fridays from 6pm-9pm, but only during Daylight Savings Time.

Mrs Bardgett will also be participating in two craft shows in Paget this year: October 1 at St Michael's Church and December 10 at Home Grown Alternatives at St Paul's church hall.

Lifestyle profiles senior citizens in the community every Tuesday. To suggest an outstanding senior contact Jessie Moniz Hardy: 278-0150 or jmhardy@royalgazette.com. Have on hand the senior's full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them.

Enduring appeal: Marguerite Bardgett estimates that she has sold thousands of her crocheted toys and accessories (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Marguerite Bardgett. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Marguerite Bardgett. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Marguerite Bardgett. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Marguerite Bardgett. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Marguerite Bardgett. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Marguerite Bardgett. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published August 09, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 09, 2016 at 8:44 am)

A design for life

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