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Why Yarn Lovers Are Good Mystery Solvers


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Yarn lovers love yarns. After all, storytellers are said to “spin a yarn,” right?

Knitting and reading simply go together. I’ve been knitting for as long as I’ve been writing (and reading). Every yarn lover that I know—be it knitter or crocheter—is also a book lover. And if you walk into any bookstore or book club and ask who knits, you’ll see a lot of raised hands (if they don’t already have hooks or needles in them).

So why is that?

To me, the process of creating a good story is much the same as knitting. You take one thing—a straight piece of yarn in this case—and transform it into another one stitch at a time. Patterns emerge. Transitions take place. Something entirely new emerges out of nowhere. These are all qualities I associate with a good story. I bet the same is true for you.

I sat down—needles in hand, of course—and did my best to think of the reasons why knitting and cozy mystery books go so well together. Here’s what I came up with:

They scratch the same itch (no itchy wool accusations intended).

When I read a cozy mystery and watch my favorite amateur sleuth work his or her way through a tangle of clues, I’m enjoying the same satisfaction I get through knitting. I’m watching patterns emerge and taking in how details appear to transform my theory of how it’ll all play out. And then there’s the marvelous alchemy of creation: watching it come into being before my eyes on the page and on my needles.

Knitters make great sleuths.

A knitter really does have the qualities of a great detective. I’ll let my heroine Libby Becket, who owns the yarn shop Y.A.R.N., tell you why in this quote from On Skein of Death: “After all, I was a knitter, and we knitters are great at sensing patterns. We’re also a highly persistent bunch, known to methodically work our way down a complex piece of lace knitting to find that one dropped stitch that threw everything off. These were characteristics that would serve me well. If I just kept my eyes open to all details and followed where they led, I could unravel this. And I would.”

They’re both cozy—literally and metaphorically.

I suppose you could attribute the traits Libby named above to any sleuth from the Scooby-Doo gang to the gritty professionals on NCIS episodes. But really, it’s cozy mysteries that graft into the knitting world best of all. Knitters are artistic types who glean great satisfaction from creating. For bringing beauty and comfort into the world. Not that dead bodies are warm and fuzzy (just the opposite, in fact), but the world of a cozy mystery is always full of quirky characters who make us laugh, close-knit communities (pun absolutely intended), and relationships that warm our hearts.

They’re both puzzle and entertainment.

A complex knitting pattern and a compelling mystery engage both sides of our brain. The right side appreciates the art, the texture, and beauty, the engagement factor. The left side adores the fact-finding, the logistics, the construction, and twisty path taken from beginning to end.

They’re both solitary and communal.

I’m just as happy knitting in public as I am curled up on my couch. The same is true of reading.  Ask me about my knitting, and you’d better be ready for a good long conversation. Ask me about the book I just read, and you might be in for the same thing. In fact, I’d probably launch into both conversation without any provocation whatsoever from you. I have walked up to total strangers and asked them about their knitting. I have also walked up to total strangers to ask them about the book they were reading (much harder to do now that you can’t see the book cover on a person’s e-reader, but I don’t seem to let that stop me).

It’s mental exercise.

Unless you’re knitting or reading on a treadmill or a stationery bike (which are both quite possible, by the way), neither yarn nor books are going to improve your BMI. And that’s just fine. Mental exercise—puzzles, following complex instructions, figuring things out, making projections, persistence—is as valuable to our minds and spirits as wind sprints and cross training is to our physical fitness. I have knitting projects that are the yarn equivalent of a sit-com; fluffy, no-effort entertainment. But I love digging into a project that expands my skills and challenges me without stressing me out. The same is true of the pleasant mental challenge of a cozy mystery. I love testing my wits against the wily murderer, watching for hidden details and recognizing the decoys in my pursuit of the big reveal.

You (mostly) get a satisfying ending.

Who among us hasn’t offered a smug smile when our theory about the murder is right? Justice is a satisfying conclusion to a great mystery. The cunning deduction has paid off, the murder gets his or her due, and a tiny piece of the world is set to rights. Now, I can’t boast of every knitting project I’ve attempted coming out well (don’t ask me about the recent set of felted slippers that very nearly ended up as two left feet…), but even a botched scarf can keep someone warm.  A simply knit pair of socks feels better than any store-bought hosiery. And when it does come out exactly how you hoped, the satisfaction lasts long after the last stitch has been bound off. Both are instances where the journey really is as valuable as the destination.

So it’s no surprise that I often say, “Knitters are readers and readers are knitters.” There’s so much to love about both. So I hope you’ll join me in watching how they perfectly combine in On Skein of Death and the rest of the Riverbank Knitting Mysteries debuting June 1.

Oh, and if I stop you on the street someday and ask you about either the book you’re reading or the knitting you’re doing, you’ll agree it’s a perfectly normal thing to do. Right?

***

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Michael Neff
Algonkian Producer
New York Pitch Director
Author, Development Exec, Editor

We are the makers of novels, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

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