In honor of I Love Yarn Day on October 11, we took a few minutes to chat with the one and only Rita Weiss. As the co-owner of Creative Partners, LLC and an active member of the Craft Yarn Council, Weiss has accomplished quite a bit in her professional life. In addition to teaching, lecturing, and judging countless needle art events and writing more than 50 books, she and her long-time business partner Jean Leinhauser have been industry leaders for their efforts of raising awareness of crochet.
Just last week, Weiss celebrated a big career milestone as she was indicted into the Jean Leinhauser Crochet Hall of Fame by the Crochet Guild of America. The ceremony took place at the October Knit & Crochet Convention in Concord, North Carolina. Read on to learn a little bit more about Rita, including how she got “hooked” on crochet, what she considers to be her biggest career accomplishment, and what she prefers– knit or crochet. Plus, find out how you can enter to win two of her amazing crochet books!
1. How old were you when you learned to crochet? Who taught you?
I think I must have been born with a crochet hook in my hand because I have no memory of learning to crochet. I’ve just always been able to do it.
I do remember learning to knit from a teacher in elementary school when I was about seven. Did that teacher also teach us some basic crochet stitches? I do remember that we finished every project with a simple crochet border so for the longest time I thought that single crochet was the only crochet stitch in the world.
Then many years ago I was a young editor working for a book publisher when I was handed a crochet book to edit. Looking at the book I realized that there was more to crochet then just a single crochet stitch. I went out and bought myself a little book that promised to teach me the basics of crochet, and it did. I kept that little book, which became my crochet bible, in my book case. Many years later, I had joined Jean Leinhauser in her publishing company, American School of Needlework, which produced many crochet titles. One day, looking at a pattern in a designer’s manuscript, I noticed something that looked odd. I remembered my “bible”, the little book that taught me to crochet. I got the book out and noticed something I hadn’t seen before. The author of that little book was Jean Leinhauser. So if you ask me who taught me to crochet, I’d have to answer in all honesty: Jean Leinhauser.
2. People describe you as being a “household name” in the fields of knitting, crochet quilting and cross stitch. How does it feel to be so legendary in the needle arts world?
I really don’t think I’m a “household name”. I think that was the comment by some enterprising publicity writer for one of the publishers I’ve worked for. When you become a legend, you become old. I like to think of myself as current with what is happening today. While the legends in the needle arts world have helped to make it what it is today, unless we continue to add new things and new ideas, our customers can switch to gardening or horseback riding.
3. You’ve certainly accomplished a lot. In addition to being the author of more than 50 books, teaching, lecturing, and judging, what do you consider your biggest accomplishment? Your biggest challenge?
In the world of crochet, my biggest challenge was really my biggest accomplishment. It was something that I did together with my late friend and business partner, Jean Leinhauser. About 20 years ago, we convinced the members of the Craft Yarn Council—an organization made up of owners of yarn companies—to invite publishers of books and magazines to join them as associate members. We thought that the associate members would help to encourage the use of yarn in knitting and crocheting. Unfortunately for a long time, it seemed that only knitting mattered. Every year the organization held a big event in New York city called “The Great Knit Out.” Crochet just didn’t seem to be something that the big yarn manufacturers were concerned about. So for some time I made a big nuisance of myself at meetings by adding the words “crochet” and “crocheters” everytime the words “knit” and “knitters” were mentioned. Eventually—especially after I reminded them that crochet uses about 1 ½ times as much yarn—we had raised the industry awareness of crochet. The event in New York became known as the “Knit Out; Crochet Too”. And, today, there is as much energy spent on promoting crochet as there is in promoting knitting. That was my hardest challenge, and I now consider it my biggest accomplishment: the spear-heading of industry efforts to raise the awareness of crochet.
By the way, actually someone once told me that they counted almost 100 books with my name on the covers so maybe that’s why I’m so busy.
4. Our readers can’t seem to get enough scarves and afghans. What is your favorite type of pattern to crochet? Where do you find inspiration?
Since I’m both a knitter and a crocheter, I usually save the items that require a lot of shaping and fitting to knitting. Whether you are knitting or crocheting, making something to fit a human body requires paying very strict attention to your work. For sheer joy, I’ll do an afghan—and that’s going to be crocheted. Asking me to pick my favorite pattern is like asking a mother which child she prefers. So long as I have something to work on, I don’t care. As for inspiration, I seem to find it everywhere: in books I read, in magazines I look at, in a TV program.
5. You’ve certainly seen your fair share of designs. What’s the most remarkable item you’ve ever seen (crochet, knit, quilt, or other)?
You’ve asked some hard questions, but this one is easy. My friend and business partner, Jean Leinhauser, collected fabulous thread crochet pieces. One of them is a beautiful thread crochet jacket. Once when she was showing me her collection, I put on the jacket. It was a perfect fit so I “borrowed” it–for life. I now wear it only on special occasions where I know there will be a lot of crocheters to admire it. Several years ago an art historian suggested that the jacket was probably a Victorian wedding jacket. If I were to be crocheting for 100 years, I don’t think I could replicate that jacket.
6. What’s the best crochet tip/advice you’ve ever received?
Nothing is impossible. Keep trying, and you will eventually succeed.
7. And just for fun, if you had to pick….Knit or crochet?
The truth? For fun, I’d actually pick knitting. Because I am so involved in the crochet category, crocheting has, for me, become work. But if I really want to relax, I’ll knit. I can actually knit with my eyes shut; I’ve been known to knit in the movies.
PLUS… Enter to win 2 of Rita’s books! Up for grabs is one copy of All About Crochet and one copy of Everything the Internet Didn’t Teach You About Crochet. Enter to win by simply leaving a comment and answering the question below. The contest ends at 11:59 Tuesday, October 8th. A winner will be chosen randomly from the comments. You must be 18+ to win, US and Canada only.