Jane Reid grew up in Indiana seeing her grandmother crocheting. When she got married, her grandmother-in-law was an avid crocheter, too. “When we would visit her she would send me home with a suitcase full of yarn,” says Reid. “My husband grew up with strong Texas women. They kept the farm running.” And fiber arts were part of their lives.
But she didn’t learn to crochet until she reached Camas about ten years ago. She learned how to crochet from a local woman, Laurinda Reddig. “She taught a whole bunch of us how to crochet to make baby blankets for babies in the ICU,” she shares.
Reddig is a nationally-known crochet designer. She saw Reid as more than just a student. “She kept asking me to write crochet fiction,” Reid remembers. It would be part of a business plan for Ficstitches Yarns Crochet Kit Club – three times a year the subscriber gets an accessory pattern designed by Laurinda Reddig, hand-dyed yarn, a handmade tool and the first part of a two-part novel. The “kit club” has become a thing in the 21st century. There are kit clubs for hand blended teas, and organic based cleaning, of which Reid is a member in each. “We have not encountered anyone doing anything like what we are doing,” Reid says of her partnership with Reddig and pairing the books with the kits.
At some point Reid agreed to try her hand. The result has been a successful venture, going on four years.
Reid is contracted for 12 novels, she has two publicly available and six available in total. The novels chronical women’s lives and accomplishments, but also their liberation through time. “Each generation they get a little feistier,” says Reid. The first book starts in Pennsylvania in the 1700s and moves across the country so that the final novel will take place in Portland, Oregon. “I wanted to start the story before crochet had been written down and move it to the modern era,” Reid shares.
Reid showed interest in writing in middle school. “I’ve been writing for quite some time,” Reid quips. Her first major writing project was her Master’s thesis in history. She wrote a historical novel focusing on WWI poets. However, that novel has been sitting on her shelf ever since. “It was such a labor of love,” Reid says. Someday she’d like to publish that, too. “I’ve been looking at it for years,” she reflects, but she would need to make changes since her voice and style have changed significantly, as well as her control of the language and characterization. “My writing now has more of a flow to it,” she said, and it must have a speed, too.
She’s currently editing the seventh book in the series, which takes place in San Francisco in 1902. Concurrently she is plotting and researching the 8th novel that will take place in France during World War I. “The main character is a red cross nurse, so she’s over there helping during the war,” Reid says, hinting at her new plot.
And how does fiber enter the story? It varies. “I build my stories organically and around the characters.” So the fiber art may or may not figure into the plot. “It’s not always important to what they are doing.” But it is always present. For example, she shared that in the 8th book there’s a lot of doilies because there were a lot of doilies in that time period.
Reid also does fiber events in the area, where she staffs a table, offers her books for sale and communicates with the community. “I love that one on one,” she shares.
Plus she runs a writers group for students at Liberty Middle school. She knows that to be a writer, you need to write, a lot, and writing is only useful if the story is completed. “I’m always pushing them to finish, get them in the mindset of ‘end your story’,” explains Reid.
She has a supportive husband and two kids, for which she tries to provide balance. “I have a couple of days a week that I take off.” Reid also has a huge circle of friends. “We all had children a little later in life,” she notes. “We do a lot of crafts and what would be considered women’s work.” They crochet, and knit, of course, but also make soaps and other goods that women would have made before industrialization.
It’s art imitating life imitating art, and because in the early days of the country there was very little documentation of this women’s work, the activities she does with her friends help lend authenticity to the processes featured in her books.
“I like my readers to know that I’m essentially a housewife,” she adds. “I do what my characters do.” Of course, she is talking about cooking, crocheting and knitting. You can follow C. Jane Reid’s journeys of creation on her book Facebook page or the Ficstitches Yarns Crochet Kit Club Facebook Page.