featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Monday, March 3, 2014


Award-winning author Molly MacRae spent twenty years in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Upper East Tennessee, where she managed The Book Place, an independent bookstore; may it rest in peace. Before the lure of books hooked her, she was curator of the history museum in Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town. Today Molly live in Illinois, where she connects children with books at the public library and writes her Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery series. Learn more about Molly and her books at her website. She also blogs on the first Monday of each month at Amy Alessio’s vintage food and craft blog  and on the 23rd of each month at Killer Characters.

Today Molly joins us to talk about knitting and her latest mystery.

I’ve learned how to knit – many times! And every time I learn again, I think how cool it is to manipulate a ball of string with a couple of sticks and end up with a scarf or a hat that almost fits someone (although I’m not sure who.)

I love going into yarn shops and being hit with all the colors and textures, all that potential wrapped in skeins and hanks and balls of fibers. My hands itch, not because of the wool, but for needles and patterns. And it’s not just knitting – I’ve dabbled in crochet, macramé, embroidery, dyeing, spinning, weaving, needle felting, and quilting. I haven’t tried lace-making, yet, but someday . . .

Okay, I’ll admit it; I’m a dilettante fiber enthusiast. I don’t keep up my skills. But I’m not a hopeless knitter. A few years ago, I actually knit a ruffled scarf. And for a couple of years, I’ve had the wool to make another one. I haven’t forgotten about the scarf, or that a friend in Maryland is waiting for it with a cold neck, but instead of knitting, I’ve been writing.

In my Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries, Kath Rutledge, a textile preservation specialist, moves to Blue Plum, Tennessee, after losing her museum job and inheriting the Weaver’s Cat, her grandmother’s fiber and fabric shop. Kath isn’t me, but we have a few things in common – the museum background, a grandmother who owned a yarn shop, and a love for small towns in the mountains of eastern Tennessee. Like me, Kath let her life and profession interfere with knitting, but she remedies that with the move to Blue Plum. Lucky Kath! Lucky me, too, because through my writing, I can surround myself with characters who do everything with fibers I’d like to be doing myself.

I do have an advantage over Kath; I have sisters who know how to knit and do it regularly. Here’s one sister’s pattern for very easy spiral baby socks. After reading this pattern thirty-seven times, I know that even I can make a pair of these socks. But that won’t happen anytime soon, because Spinning in Her Grave, the third Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery comes out March 4th, and I’m hard at work on Plagued by Quilt, book four, which comes out in December.

Cam’s Spiral Newborn Baby Socks (tube socks – no heels!)

Self-striping fingering weight yarn (something soft and washable)
Four double-pointed # 2 needles
Tapestry needle

Loosely cast 30 stitches onto one of your needles. Divide the stitches between three needles. Being careful not to twist your stitches, join the ends, and begin to knit around for the cuff.

Cuff pattern: knit 1, purl 1 (k1, p1)
Continue for 2 inches

Spiral pattern:
Rows 1, 2, 3: k3, p3
Rows 4, 5, 6: k2, p3, k3
Rows 7, 8, 9: k1, p3, k3
Rows 10, 11, 12: p3, k3, p3
Rows 13, 14, 15: p2, k3, p3
Rows 16, 17, 18: p1, k3, p3
Continue the spiral pattern until your sock measures ½ inch less than the length you’d like your socks to be. The socks pictured are just about 5 inches long.

Shaping for toe:
Row 1: k4, k2 together
Row 2: k
Row 3: k3, k2 together
Row 4: k
Row 5: k2, k2 together
Row 6: k
Row 7: k1, k2 together

You should have 10 stitches left, and you’re ready to close the toe. Cut the yarn, leaving a 1 foot tail. Thread the tail onto your tapestry needle. Pull the needle and tail through each of your ten remaining stitches, removing the stitches from the knitting needles and gathering the toe of the sock.

Push the tapestry needle through the tip of the toe to the inside of the sock. Now turn the sock inside out, and use the tapestry needle to anchor the stitches firmly. Knot and snip the tail. Turn the sock right side out.

Now make the second sock. Or lots of them!

For larger size socks, cast on more stitches in multiples of 6 (i.e. 36, 42, 48, etc.)

Spinning in Her Grave
Kath Rutledge is settling in as the owner of the Weaver’s Cat, a fiber and fabric shop in Blue Plum, Tennessee. But nothing, not even the ghost haunting her shop, prepares her for the mystery that will leave the whole town spinning....

It’s time for Blue Plum’s annual historical festival, and everyone—including Kath and her fiber and needlework group, TGIF—is getting in on the action. Expert spinners are gathering, and a businessman has approached Kath about using the second-floor windows of her shop for part of a reenactment. But the reenactment ends in real-life bloodshed when local baker Reva Louise Snapp is shot—with a bullet from a modern-day gun.

Kath has her theories about who wanted to end Reva Louise’s life. But there’s also talk of a sniper stalking Blue Plum, and Kath’s shop is suspected to be the murderer’s hideout. Now Kath, her TGIF pals, and the gloomy ghost, Geneva, must unravel the mystery quickly, or someone else might be left hanging by a thread....

Buy Links


Linda Andrews said...

Knitting is something I want to take up one day, alas I have too many other crafting things I like to do now. But I too love the textures of the yarns and their bright colors. How many books do you plan to write in the series?

Angela Adams said...

My grandmother had a talent for knitting. I remember her sitting in her "favorite" chair, knitting, and watching the Phillies on television.

Whalehugger said...

Need to check this series out - I just started knitting last week and love the hobby!

Molly MacRae said...

I know exactly what you mean, Linda. Too many crafts, too little time. How many in the series? At least five, and then it'll depend on how well they're doing and if Penguin wants more. Plenty of stories in my head!

Molly MacRae said...

My grandmother listened to the Cubs, Angela! Knitting and baseball, who knew?

Molly MacRae said...

Good for you, Whalehugger! I hope you have a long and productive relationship with knitting!

Molly said...

Thanks for having me here, today, Lois. I really think I will try knitting those socks. Our first grandchild is due at the end of July. Plenty of time to figure it out!

Lois Winston said...

Good luck with the socks, Molly. The directions definitely seem easy enough to follow.