Tag Archive for: fiberarts

Forgotten Arts

by Linda Rodriguez
my series of Skeet Bannion mystery novels, Skeet’s best friend,
Karen, owns a shop called Forgotten Arts, offering knitting,
spinning, and weaving supplies, as well as a farm with a herd of
sheep. This shop is basically in the book because I love to knit,
spin, and weave, and I’ve always had a little daydream of having
just such a shop of my own.

probably all began with my grandmothers. One of them was an excellent
needlewoman who taught me to sew doll clothes and doll quilts, using
the scraps from her many sewing and quilting projects. This
grandmother even made spring corsages for each granddaughter from old
nylon stockings, cut up and dyed into violets, iris, lilies, and
roses. The other grandmother knit and crocheted afghans, sweaters,
even golf-club covers. Neither of them knew how to spin or weave, as
far as I know.

of my grandmothers were great “makers from scratch,” though,
whether with food, such as bread, butter, cheeses, and such, or with
household items, such as baskets, candles, lotions, soaps,
washcloths, and dish towels. My Cherokee grandmother even made her
own medicines with herbs from her garden and wild-harvested plants.
Most of these medicines, foods, and household items were more
effective or better-tasting than the mass-produced versions available
in stores and pharmacies.

as a childhood apprentice to these two grand old dames, I set off on
a lifelong quest for the forgotten arts. I have a huge library, and
one of the categories within it is that of how-to books. I have books
on how to design and make furniture from cast-off materials, how to
make braided rugs, how to make doll houses and furniture, how to make
canned foods and jellies, how to make your own purses and shoes, and
books on yogurt making and felt making—and I have made all of these
things and more. I seek out books on forgotten arts, such as
spinning, weaving, smocking, rug hooking, tatting, and bobbin-lace
making. (I’ve done the first three, but haven’t tried the last
three yet.) I even have books on how to build your own log cabin or
barn from scratch, how to raise and milk a goat, and how to grow and
use your own natural-dye garden. If all these dystopian novels and
movies come true and we have some kind of societal collapse, I’m
the neighbor you want to have.

course, now that writing has taken over my life, my big floor loom in
one end of the living room has become a cat gymnasium, my sewing
machine sits permanently covered on a table where manuscripts have
replaced fabric pieces, and gorgeous hand-knit projects languish
neglected and unfinished in tote bags hanging from the doorknobs of
my combination office and studio. I still believe these crafts have
great value. I used to make time for them in a busy life, but I’ve
lost that knack somewhere and need to recover it for a sense of
balance, so I wrote into my books a character who has that balance
and that fibercraft store that I used to dream of owning.

I’m downsizing and moving. I am letting go many of the books,
including some of the how-to books (like building log cabins and
raising goats), but most of those and the loom,

spinning wheels, and
sewing machine are making the move with me. I’ve decided that a new
house can also equal a new way of living and am determined to put
more balance into my life. But I still won’t have my own fiberarts
shop or herd of sheep, except in the Skeet books.

your own writing, what aspect of your life finds its way as a part of
your story? Do you give a character some passion or aspect of your
own personality? And when you’re reading, do you like to see these
bits of the author’s personality embodied in the work?

Linda Rodriguez’s Plotting the
Character-Driven Novel,
based on her popular workshop, and The
World Is One Place: Native American Poets Visit the Middle East
an anthology she co-edited, are her newest books. Every Family
, her fourth mystery novel featuring Cherokee campus police
chief, Skeet Bannion, will appear January 17, 2018. Her three earlier
Skeet novels—Every Hidden Fear, Every Broken Trust,
and Every Last Secret—and
her books of poetry—Skin Hunger
and Heart’s Migration—have
received critical recognition and awards, such as St. Martin’s
Press/Malice Domestic Best First Novel, International
Latino Book Award, Latina Book Club Best Book of 2014, Midwest Voices
& Visions, Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, Thorpe Menn Award, and
Ragdale and Macondo fellowships.
Her short story, “The Good
Neighbor,” published in the anthology, Kansas City Noir, has
been optioned for film.
Rodriguez is past chair of the AWP
Indigenous Writer’s Caucus, past president of Border Crimes chapter
of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers
Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of International
Thriller Writers, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and
Storytellers, and Kansas City Cherokee Community. Visit her at