Jean Leinhauser: A Crochet Legend Remembered

If you are a crochet enthusiast like me, and especially if you’ve been crocheting for as long as I have, then you have certainly run across the name of Jean Leinhauser. Jean was one of the pioneers and legends in the crochet industry. If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to tell you a little about Jean.

Jean was born in August, 1933 and passed away one year ago, on June 12, 2011. She worked in the needlework field for 4-5 decades! Back in 1964, she was working as Design Director for the Boye Needle Company in Chicago. She had put together a knitting program that could be used in inner city high schools and was asked to do a crochet program, too. But Jean didn’t know how to crochet! So she spent 4 days at home teaching herself to crochet and came up with the crochet program for Boye. She also wrote the information for their packaged crochet products and started doing leaflets with crochet patterns for them, as well. At that time, the only crochet patterns that were published were by yarn companies.

In 1971, Jean realized how much money Boye was making on the leaflets she was doing, so she decided to start her own company! That was the beginning of Leisure Arts, the first needlework pattern publisher that was not associated with a yarn company. Six years later, Jean sold Leisure Arts and started American School of Needlework (ASN), where she also published needlework leaflets. Sometime in 2002, Jean sold ASN to Dynamic Resource Group (DRG), the owners of Annie’s Attic, the Needlecraft Shop and House of White Birches. Jean stayed with DRG for 2 years as editor of Crochet! magazine. Then in 2004, she left DRG and started producing crochet books with her good friend, Rita Weiss, who worked with her for many years at ASN. Over the past 5 decades,Jean Leinhauser published hundreds, if not thousands, of crochet books and leaflets. I have dozens of Jean’s books in my crochet library to this day. Here is a photo of Rita and Jean at a Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) Conference (Jean is on the left and Rita is on the right):

Jean and Rita

I first met Jean in January, 2002, at a craft trade show (HIA) in Anaheim, CA when Jean still owned ASN. Jean was sitting at a table with Rita Weiss and Bobbie Matela. I was in awe of meeting this crochet legend and a little scared, too! I was a new designer and didn’t have many designs published at the time. Jean looked at photos of some designs I had made and to my surprise, she bought a couple of them!

Fast forward 2 1/2 years to the summer of 2004. I was working on a paper quilling book that God had dumped in my lap (without me even having to submit a proposal for the book). Jean and Rita had just started their new book producing company called Creative Partners and were looking for someone to hire as a technical editor for the crochet patterns in their books. I had never done this type of work before and said I had an interest in being a tech editor. To my total shock, Jean remembered meeting me at the trade show over 2 years before! She gave me their tech editing test and I passed the test, to the surprise of all 3 of us!

Jean was always encouraging, kind, loving, understanding and more. She always encouraged new designers. She loved people and took a genuine interest in everyone she met. She was my biggest and best mentor, teaching me the ropes of tech editing and starting my tech editing career. I will always be indebted to her. We had great fun e-mailing each other for quite a few years about editing and the challenges it poses. Whenever I felt like pulling my hair out, Jean would say something in an e-mail that made me laugh, which eased my frustration. She had a funny sense of humor, or as Marcy Smith, the editor of Interweave Crochet magazine called it, “a wicked sense of humor”. She was always interested in what was going on in my life and always had love and encouragement to share with anyone in need. Jean attended all of the CGOA Conferences, along with Rita Weiss. She was my “class angel” at the 2009 conference where I taught 4 classes with only one hand because I had broken my wrist 2 1/2 weeks before! Here is a photo of Jean and me at that conference:

Jean and me

Jean and Rita were 2 of the 3 members of the “Old Broads” club. The other member of the club was Margaret Hubert. All 3 of them wore sparkly rhinestone pins that said “Old Broads Rule” at the CGOA Conferences. It is a little uncertain to the rules of club membership. Some say members in this exclusive club had to be over a certain age or had to be in the publishing business for as long as Rita and Jean. Others say you had to be a knit/crochet designer still working in the industry and you had to have your first book published before 1968! In any case, the 3 of them wore their pins with pride and we all laughed at this exclusive club!

In July of 2011, at the CGOA Conference in Minneapolis, MN, Jean Leinhauser was the first inductee (posthumously) into the new CGOA Hall of Fame. The CGOA Board of Directors voted to rename the Hall of Fame in Jean’s honor. It is now called the Jean Leinhauser CGOA Hall of Fame. This year, Margaret Hubert will be the second inductee into the Hall of Fame. To read about the Hall of Fame, visit the CGOA website here.

Several years ago, Jean and Rita decided to get “glamour” shots for including in some new books by Leisure Arts. Here is Jean’s glamour shot:

Jean’s glamour shot

She was beautiful to me, with or without makeup!

I will never forget Jean. She impacted so many lives and is deeply missed by many people. She was an inspiration to all designers, many of whom were extremely afraid to meet her (according to the stories I’ve read)! But Jean was humble and approachable, even though she was a “legend” in the needlework industry.

She was a huge blessing to me. I thank God for bringing her into my life and for allowing me to be her friend, as she was mine.

Rest in Peace, Jean, knowing that you are loved and missed by thousands of people worldwide.

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3 Responses to Jean Leinhauser: A Crochet Legend Remembered

  1. OLIVIA says:

    Your tribute was very sweet, and I bet she is smiling down on you, while holding a golden crochet hook to make beautiful angel attire. 🙂

  2. MarieAnge says:

    Jean is one of the ladies who gave me the courage to start designing crochet patterns. I was never fortunate enough to meet his iconic figure in person, but I did communicate with her via email through the CP crochet yahoo group. She was always encouraging and positive which I appreciated so much.
    I miss her dearly.

  3. Bertie says:

    It’s sad when we lose a talented crocheter ! I was born in 1933 and i still love to crochet everyday when possible . I hope i can always crochet.

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