Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jean Leinhauser - my friend

Many years ago, when I was living in Chicago, I could have run into Jean L., while she was working there. We shopped at the same big department store/yarn department - Marshall Field's. But I didn't. And even though I had been a designer since the early 70s, when I started designing, crocheting, and selling puppets at craft fairs, and even though I knew the name Jean Leinhauser, because I bought many of the books she wrote and edited, I didn't get to meet her until we both were at the same Chain Link conference about 7 or 8 years ago, I think it was in New Hampshire. She was sitting at a table with her business partner Rita Weiss, and another designer, Tammy Hildebrand. I knew no one at the table, but as I was passing it to go out to the hall (dinner was over), they all stood up to leave. Tammy looked at my name tag, and said something about that she lived in a town that was 1/2 hour from my town. We introduced ourselves - I had heard of Tammy, and was pleased to meet her. It's wonderful to have a designer friend who lives close by! And we became good friends. Tammy also introduced me to Jean and Rita, and I was in awe. First, Tammy got to sit with them - that meant she knew them! And second, Rita took a look at what I was wearing (a poncho - yes, this was the time of the ponchos), grabbed my arm, and shook it while she said to me "Why haven't you submitted this to me?" I stammered something about that I was going to submit the idea for their new book. And Jean said something about it. And this was my first encounter with the 2 legends - the dynamic duo - the doyens of the needle arts. I had a smile on my face for the rest of the conference!
Fast forward a year or so - Jean and Rita published some of my designs in their books. And I looked forward to getting their books, even if my patterns weren't in them. They always had such nice designs, good ideas, and wonderful instructions. One day, I was looking through one of their new books, and stopped at a page where they were explaining how to calculate the yarn needed for a design. I wanted to read what they had to say, and when I did, I knew something didn't make sense. I was a math teacher and a math major in my previous life, and I grew up loving math. I still do love math. So when I saw the calculations I knew that they had made a common error. I read on, looking at some patterns. I saw some more errors in numbers and in directions. Now, when I read books, patterns, etc., I don't look for errors - they just seem to jump out at me (except my own patterns). So, just browsing through the book, I found 4 or so mistakes. I thought I should tell the Legends that there were these errors in their new book, but I wasn't sure how to do it. So I just did it. I wrote Jean an email, telling her what happened. She wrote me back, thanking me, and suggested that I become a tech editor. I really had never thought of that, even though I had edited many papers and articles for my advisors and friends. But when Jean suggested it, I knew she was serious. So - I started tech editing. And the rest is history! This year, I was nominated by the Crochet Liberation Front for a Flamie award as Best Tech Editor for 2010. And I WON!!! Thanks to Jean for getting me started on this branch of my designing career. And thanks to Jean and Rita for their enthusiasm over my first Poncho design for them, and all my future designs for them. I will miss Jean, so much. She was fun to talk to, be with, and always had a positive word for everyone. As her pin that she wore to all the conferences stated: "Old Broads Rule". And she did!

This July, at the CGOA conference in Minneapolis, Jean is going to be the first inductee to the Crochet Hall of Fame. I know she had to be proud of that honor, and I know she'll be with us in spirit. I also know that there won't be a dry eye in the house! Rest in peace, Jean. Know that we love you!

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