Ten years ago, in August 2008, Laurinda Reddig was sitting in a wheelchair in Legacy Emanuel Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit.
Her newborn daughter, Rowan, had died for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to her.
“All we know is maybe there was a kink in her (umbilical) cord,” Reddig said. “It seemed like after she was born, she never breathed on her own.”
Umbilical cord complications were the fourth leading cause of infant deaths in Washington in 2015, according to a 2017 report by the state Department of Health.
Reddig’s family surrounded her to say goodbye, including her son, who was 3 years old at the time. Then she was wheeled into a room that she said was “filled” with handmade blankets and quilts.
Despite the unfathomable grief that she was experiencing at that moment, those blankets and quilts sparked an idea that would help channel her grief into a business centered around her crochet designs. The vice president of the MOMS Club of Camas at the time, Reddig started a project called The Remembering Rowan Project. She was crocheting blankets and teaching others to crochet, and blogging online simultaneously. The group donated the blankets to local hospitals.
These days, she’s still remembering Rowan, but her focus has shifted. Working with her Camas neighbor and friend Carissa Reid, the two hopped on the subscription box business bandwagon two years ago. But the subscription box isn’t makeup or clothes. It’s a kit that uniquely pairs Reddig’s crochet designs with works of fiction that Reid writes.
“There are a lot of yarn subscription boxes now — there are more for knitters than crocheters,” Reddig said. “But so far, none of them have included a story. So a lot of people are like, this combines my two favorite hobbies: crochet and reading.”
How it works
They put together the kits quarterly, carefully timing them around when their children are off to school.
“We have timed it perfectly so we ship kits out in June, right before the kids get out and in September, right when they’ve gone back to school. And then ideally in December before they get out of school,” Reddig said.
They’re just about to ship out the next kit, which will include a World War I-themed book penned by Reid to go with Reddig’s design. Reid, who received her master’s degree in literature at West Texas A&M University and also studied history there, enjoys writing historical fiction the most.
She writes full-length novels for the kits, penning two a year that she splits in half to spread over the year. This quarter’s kit will be a story about a Red Cross nurse and an ambulance driver. The crochet design is for a pair of gloves, but they’re gloves like nurses out on the battlefield would actually use; they extend about a quarter way up the arm and don’t confine the fingers, since nurses would need them to do their work.
They keep the designs relatively easy.
“We can’t get overly extravagant with the designs, so we don’t have to change the cost of the kit based on the yarn,” Reid said. Right now, they cost $65, up from $55 when they originally started. They use custom-dyed yarn from local crafters.
Upping the ante
The Ficstitches Yarns business is up to more than 80 subscribers across the United States, and they’re working to add more. Reid said that she bumped her hours up to 30 a week between writing for the kit club, researching and plotting for the next story and trying to work on previous books to have them released publicly.
“Plus, coming up with new series and taking lots of notes, because my brain won’t stop. I filled up two notebooks last month,” Reid said.
They said the business doesn’t provide a living wage right now, but what they do bring in from the subscriptions helps contribute to their households.
“Ideally, we can just keep increasing the numbers,” said Reddig, who also spends time running a crochet club at the Camas Public Library.
They know crochet and writing aren’t exactly thought of as lucrative careers. Some of the most successful crafters get professional sponsorships because they’ve cultivated a large following online and produce how-to videos, which are hugely popular on YouTube.
“It’s just that online YouTube blogger generation. There’s so much online now. And that’s where I’m like, I know I should do videos … because the (crafters) who are successful put themselves out there,” Reddig said. She will occasionally get small royalties from magazines that publish her crochet designs.
But it’s not all about the money.
Though Reddig endured the tragedy of losing her daughter, both she and Reid are thankful for their newfound paths in life.
“It’s like these gifts that she gave me … it was finding this whole new career that I didn’t expect,” Reddig said.
Reid added, “We owe a lot to Rowan.”