This week I’m taking a break from my usual list of 1970s crochet designers to explore someone who wasn’t on the list but that I just had to learn more about Rosey Grier was a professional football player who was also known for publishing a book in the 1970s called Needlepoint for Men.
Who Was Rosey Grier?
Roosevelt Grier, also known as Rosey, is an African American football player who was born in Georgia in the 1930s as one of twelve children in the family. He played football in high school and college and then made a name for himself in the 1950s and 1960s as an NFL player for the New York Giants and then the Los Angeles Rams. As a Rams player he was one of what was called “The Fearsome Foursome”, considered to be one of the best defensive lines in pro football history. This big burly football player was also someone who enjoyed crochet, knitting and needlepoint, activities he took up (as a joke at first) in the late 1960s after retiring from football. Post-retirement he also wrote an an autobiography (and several other books including a novel), did acting in both movies and TV, co-founded non-profit organizations for urban youth and adults and has worked as an inspirational speaker.
Needlepoint For Men
In 1973 Rosey Grier came out with a book called Needlepoint for Men. One online article says: “His passion and enjoyment of crochet, needlepoint and knitting became a trademark signature in the early days of breaking traditional barriers between the sexes.” The book is about needlepoint and that seems to be the specific yarn craft that he is most known for (although there are references to just about every fiber art of the era including macrame). I didn’t know about the book since I don’t research needlepoint specifically, but I’ve got a call out to my library to save me a copy as soon as one comes in (apparently it’s popular and checked out!) so I’ll make sure to see if it has any crochet in it at all and will update this post accordingly if it does!
1970s Crafting Timeline
In trying to find photos for this post I came across a timeline that the Craft Council has put together showing major things that happened in the history of crafting, including pop culture and crafting, during this great decade. So worth checking out even though it doesn’t specifically mention crochet. Some of the other things it mentions:
- 1971: Carole King’s introspective Tapestry is one of the year’s top-selling albums, its title song a paean to a textile of wondrous woven magic.
- 1972: Jim Melchert performs his conceptual work Changes: A Performance with Drying Slip, in which he and art and design colleagues dip their heads in liquid clay and sit in a studio cooled at one end, heated at the other, to experience the effects of slip drying.
- 1973/74: Helen Williams Drutt develops the first college-level course on modern craft history. The Helen Drutt Gallery opens as one of the first U.S. showcases devoted to contemporary craft.
How I Learned About Rosey Grier
I want to give a little shoutout to a male crocheter named Richard Newville because he does some great charity crochet and is also the reason I learned about Rosey Grier in the first place. There was a news article about Newville lately that shared how he “sits in the lobby of Touchmark at Coffee Creek Retirement Center and crochets baby hats like they’re going out of style”; he’s crocheted more than 11o0 of them to date, which he donates to children in need through Oklahoma’s Infant Crisis Centers. I want to add, too, that he mentions the health benefits of crochet, citing as both a stress reliever and something that maintains his hand dexterity as he ages.
Newville is quoted in the article as saying:
“At first I was nervous, imagining what people would think of a grown man crocheting. I thought people would think I was a sissy. But then I remembered Roosevelt Grier, and some of my fear was taken away,” Newville said, referring to the former NFL defensive tackle. “I thought if this giant of a man could do it, so could I.”
Upon reading this, I immediately had to know: who is Rosey Grier?! Of course, he’s just one of many men who crochet.
Other Crocheters Inspired by Rosey Grier
In doing my research about this guy, I was touched by how many boys and men were inspired to crochet or at least felt more comfortable about their crochet because of the fact that this football player unashamedly shared his love of it. Some examples:
- 6’8″ Grover House, an award-winning crocheter profiled in the news in 2002 for his work crafting baby’s clothes. He says that the craft gave him “a new lease on life”, once again emphasizing the curative benefits of crochet!
- Young boys in a crochet club who were getting teased by their dad that it’s a girl’s craft (ugh, no comment, right?!) but who cited to him what their teacher told them about Rosey Grier.
- John Forsythe and Arte Johnson are two men who were frequently mentioned as crocheters in 1970s news reports, almost always after a mention of Rosey who seemed to pave the way to make it okay.
- A newspaper (paid article) about British inmates crocheting references Rosey Grier and I can’t help but think that the various crochet programs in men’s prisons do have to have some inmates who are more comfortable with the craft knowing that someone “manly” has done it.