What 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.
Then 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’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.