Fri
Feb 18 2011 12:45pm

Knit with Me/Read with Me

Basket of yarn image by Flickr’s the second fiddleWhat is it with the intersection of knitting and fiction? You put the keyword “knitting” into an Amazon book search and get something for just about every genre lover: Romance, chick lit, mystery, even children’s literature.

In Women’s Fiction & Romance by Kwana Jackson

Knitting, though at first glance appearing to be a solitary endeavor, has for years been a way of bringing women together. Didn’t women band together to knit during wars, for example? Well, they did in the movies I watched.

Myself, I’m a mediocre knitter, having taught myself from videos, but years after moving to a new town, I joined up with a small band of other women in my community to form a weekly moms' knitting group. It has quickly become the place not only to knit, but to talk about the happenings of our town, our careers, our children, and, yes, (though we wouldn’t tell them) our husbands. And as long as the coffee is flowing, so are our words—not to mention our needles. We could very easily and with a little imagination come up with a cast for a town knitting story within our little group, but our motto is: “What happens in the knitting vault stays in the vault.” We have a knitting secret society and to make it in is a challenge.

If you've ever been in a knitting group yourself, it's easy to see why a series like Debbie Macomber’s Blossom Street—which starts with The Shop On Blossom Street—has made it to seven consecutive books. The series starts with the perfect ingredients: a group of women at different stages of life coming together to take a knitting class.

Friday Night Knitting Club Kate JacobsThen there is The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs, also part of a series. It has a bit of the same mixture of Debbie Macomber’s ingredients, but Ms. Jacobs puts her women in the urban setting of the upper west side of Manhattan, which gives the stories a completely different spin from Macomber's books' hometown atmosphere.

There’s also The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil, about a young widow with two sons in London who needs a fresh start. And where does she find it? Why, in her Gran’s sleepy town yarn shop, of course, and in the comfort of a group of knitters and the friendships that she desperately needs at that time.

But regardless of the setting, in each of these books you have what makes a great women’s fiction read: Multiple women, different personalities and points of view, lots of life difficulties, and blossoming friendships. I think the last item is the most important aspect of all the popularity of all the knitting novels: the friendships. Because, really, the men and the romances come and go, but the yarn shops and the friendships are a constant—something that can be counted on no matter what.

Now excuse me while I get back to my maddening scarf. Who ever told me I should try lace? I must have been temporarily insane.

***

In Mystery by Laura K. Curtis

While I—unlike Kwana—have never been in a knitting group, I was in a needlepoint group when I was in grad school. We met at someone’s house every couple of weeks, ogled men on television, gossiped, and occasionally worked on our canvases. It didn’t really surprise me, therefore, to find a host of knitting, crocheting, and sewing mysteries when I began to explore the mystery genre. After all, we talked about everything and came from very different backgrounds, so if we’d been faced with a murder, we’d have been able to call upon a wide variety of skill sets.

Not that we ever would, you understand. Because unlike the sleuths in most of the knitting-themed mystery series, we weren’t game for breaking and entering, and none of us was dating a policeman. Unfortunately. After all, if you’re going to solve a series of crimes, you need to have a contact or two in the field, and it helps if he’s sexy and willing to be seduced into giving up a few secrets!

The longest-running needlework mystery series I know of is Monica Ferris’ Needlecraft Mysteries, set in the town of Excelsior, Minnesota. The first of these, Crewel World, goes back more than ten years! Betsy Devonshire is a little older than the standard cozy mystery heroine, and she doesn’t have an ongoing romance in the series, but she does have an exciting and fun cast of secondary characters in her store and in her life.

Betty Hechtman has a crochet-themed mystery series. In this case you get both books and yarn, as her heroine, Molly Pink, works in a bookstore, where her crochet group meets. The first of these titles is Hooked on Murder and it just came out a few years back, so the series is still pretty young. Like most crafting mysteries, Hechtman’s books contain patterns. Patterns, along with recipes, are a major attraction for the readers of crafting cozies.

Sally Goldenbaum Death By CashmereSally Goldenbaum’s Seaside Knitters mystery series is also relatively new. Like other series, it focuses on a store and those who gather in it, but in this case the town is Sea Harbor, Massachusetts. Goldenbaum’s stories have a more “ensemble” feel than many others do, for although the shop owner, Izzy, is always in the lead, the other characters get their turns in the spotlight, too.

The ensemble casts in these books (though always with a lead sleuth) are certainly part of their charm and, as Kwana remarked, part of what makes them work well as series. A slight shift in focus allows readers to delve more deeply into different cast members in each installment.

What do you think? What draws people to books written about knitters, quilters, and stitchers of all kinds over and over again?

More Stitching Mystery Authors:

Barbara Bretton (paranormal knitting mysteries)
Anne Canadeo (Black Sheep Knitting Mysteries)
Elizabeth Lynn Casey (Southern Sewing Circle Mysteries)
Mary Kruger (Knitting Mysteries)
Amanda Lee (Embroidery Mysteries)
Clare O’Donohue (Someday Quilts mysteries)
Maggie Sefton (Knitting Mysteries)
Terri Thayer (quilting mysteries)

More Stitching Romance/Women’s Fiction Authors:

Heidi Betts (Tangled Up In Love, etc.)
Jennifer Chiaverini (Elm Creek Quilts novels)
Christie Ridgeway (Dirty Sexy Knitting, How To Knit A Wild Bikini, etc.)
Lori Wilde (Sweethearts Knitting Club, True Love Quilting Club, etc.)

Basket of yarn image by the second fiddle via Flickr


Kwana Jackson is a writer of Women’s fiction and Young Adult, a former fashion designer, a wife, and a mother of teen twins who have a love of knitting and a strange obsession with “reality” TV.

Laura K Curtis lives in Westchester, NY, with her husband and 3 dogs, who've taught her how easily love can coexist with the desire to kill. She blogs at Women of Mystery and maintains an online store at TorchSongs GlassWorks. She can also be found on Twitter and poking her nose into all sorts of trouble in various spots around the web.

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11 comments
Lisa Hughey
1. LisaHughey
Kwana--
Love the Christie Ridgway series!!

Rachael Herron has a great romance/knitting series, Cypress Hollow, the first is How To Knit a Love Song and the second comes out soon. They are fabulous books set in a quirky lovely coastal CA town. :) I started knitting again after reading her books.
Bonnie Zink
2. Bonnie Zink
I've wondered and pondered the exact same thing and just put up a posting about the question. I researched on the internet via Google, Twitter, Facebook, and email list serves and found I created more questions than answers to this question.

Should Knitting Fiction be considered its own genre? Who knows?

http://saskatoonstitcher.wordpress.com/2011/02/18/knitterly-authors%E2%80%A6/
Liz Maverick
3. lizmaverick
@Bonnie Zink You know that begs the question...has anybody in your knitting group made something in homage to a book? Or perhaps thematically...I loved the mittens they were selling over the winter with the hearts on the tops of the hands!
Charli Mac
4. CharliMac
Books have influenced me to do and try many, many things. To protect the innocent I will say no more.

But I never thought a book would make me want to knit, think about knitting, or the like. Not sure if I will read any of the above. I have a long list of to-reads as it is. The Friday Night Knitting Club caught my eye, it may get added. This post alone has me thinking about knitting.

My friend has an ugly sweater party every year. I bet I'd louse up the knitting experience bad enough and I'd win ugliest sweater! Thanks @Kwana! Either way this post is a winner for me. If I become a good knitter I will have cool footies and if I become a bad knitter I will win the 2012 contest!
Jennifer Savage
5. JenSavage
I'd definitely give knitting a try--it's always appealed to me, the variety of yarn and the different needle sizes (and what a cute weapon!), but I don't think I'd get beyond the scarf stage.
Liz Maverick
6. lizmaverick
I've always wanted to knit. I've tried to learn three times. But I never get past the third row. Too perfectionist. And by the time I unravel it, I can't remember how to cast on. Perhaps better to buy my mittens and read books about knitting. ;)
Kwana Minatee-Jackson
7. kwanawrites
@LisaHughey Thanks on Christie and on the Rachael Herron recommendation.

@BonnieZink I guess it could be its own genre. Debbie could practically fill it herself. LOL. I’m sure crafty romance could be. But then when another trend comes along I’m afraid it would die out a bit.

@lizmaverick The knitting in homage to a book question: There are Harry Potter knitting books. You too can knit a Gryffindor sweater. Also in knitting you have to get over perfectionism. I have so many hot mess scarves. And one truly hot mess sweater. It’s call the “home spun” look. Yikes. Also there is one friend in our group that we always re-teach her how to cast-on each time. It’s ok. Come knit with me .

@CharlieMac thanks so much for your kind words. I say give it a try. So what if it turns out ugly. You’ll be happy just to give it a try.

@JenSavage That is part of the appeal for me too all the pretty yarn and those lovely needles. They are fun :-)
Charli Mac
8. CharliMac
@lauracurtis Oops. This is a co-authored post. I didn't give you props in my comment. You, too, have me wondering about the whole knitting thing. Woot!
Laura K. Curtis
9. LauraKCurtis
The *last* thing any of you want to see is the attempts I made at crochet when I thought I wanted to do that kind of thing. Knitting has to be worse--it requires *two* needles instead of just one hook! I do enjoy reading about what people make and do, though.
Bonnie Zink
10. avoriana
A group on ravelry picks a book each month to read and knits something the correlates with the book.

I knit while listening to audiobooks. Some people on ravelry can read while knitting. Some people turn on the read-to-me feature on their kindle, turn the volume all the way down, and read without having to turn pages while they knit. I've tried and can't do it.
Laura K. Curtis
11. LauraKCurtis
@avoriana Wow. Not a chance. I can't do anything else while I read or I lose track of what I am reading. I don't listen to audiobooks while I drive because I can only pay attention to one thing at a time!
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