Murder She Knit is a gentle, enjoyable cozy. Yes, there’s a murder but it’s offstage, although the dead body is found in the garden of our heroine, Pamela Paterson. Widow Pamela is on her own now that her daughter Penny is off at college, but she has a busy life editing a craft magazine, and knitting and baking fill any time left. Plus there’s a stray cat that keeps appearing and demanding attention.

It’s her turn to host the Knit and Nibble group that meet on Tuesday evenings. At the last minute she invites an old acquaintance she unexpectedly bumps into that day. However, this friend, Amy, never arrives and she’s the body that Pamela subsequently finds, stabbed by a knitting needle.

Pamela, with help from friend and neighbour Bettina, sets about investigating. The mystery she untangles is well constructed, interesting and convincing. The town of Arborville, a small college town, offers plenty of possible needle-wielders. There’s some very special yarn involved, and another victim. The author keeps us all on our toes in guessing who the perp actually is.

The book is well written, with light touches and lots of tension. Pamela is a convincing and likeable heroine, and we’re quickly pulled into her world. We encounter lots of equally fascinating characters. Arborville is described in careful detail and starts to feel like home. And as an extra treat, after the exciting denouement, there’s a recipe and a knitting pattern for us.

An easy, absorbing read, and the first in a series that I look forward to following. And what a lovely cover!

I love knitting and I love birds, so it was impossible for me to resist this book. And if you share those sentiments, then so will you.

It’s a luxurious book. The first two pages fold outwards to give a four-page spread showing all the various birds you’ll be able to knit using this book. Same again at the back. The book is illustrated with full colour photos throughout, and there are very clear and well laid out instructions for making the birds.

Chapter One is an introduction from Arne and Carlos, describing their love of birds and how that gave rise to this book. The next two chapters in Part One outline everything you’ll need to make these fabulous little birds, from yarn and stuffing material, to how to construct their wire legs. (An note here: the book recommends using 1.5mm galvanised wired, but I found that rather stiff to handle so I’ve used 1.1mm wire very successfully.)

Part Two presents the birds. They’re all variations on the same basic pattern, and each one can be knitted up in a couple of hours. There are hats and scarfs to knit for them too, and a couple of tea-cosies to which to attach them. There are spring birds, winter birds, garden birds, embroidered birds, birds in traditional sweaters and rare birds of paradise. These latter are knitted using embroidery yarn rather than the usual fingering yarn from which the others are made, and have sequins and feathers attached. Gorgeous!

It really is a wonderful, inspiring, work-of-art of a book. I’ve already knitted four little birds and just can’t seem to stop. They’re addictive. It’s exactly the book to treat your knitting self to for a special occasion, such as Christmas or birthday or the fact it’s Wednesday. Any excuse will do!

Here to finish are a few of my birds.

 

 

knitted-toys-coverKnitted toys tend to get rather a bad press. People think old fashioned and twee, but they can be every bit as good as any other toy, and often much longer-lasting. More than twenty years on, toys I knitted for my two eldest kids are still going strong, and still get the odd cuddle!

This collection, Knitted Toys: 20 cute and colourful projects, by Jody Long is modern and fun, and illustrates everything that’s good about knitted toys. Namely, they’re child friendly, they’re versatile in that you can use your own or the recipient’s favourite combinations of colours for them, they’re appealing and (mostly) washable, and they’re timeless.

Jody Long gives us a wonderful selection: transport (aeroplane and fire truck), creepy crawlies (caterpillar, ladybug, bee), animals and birds (duck, hedgehog, bear, mouse, rabbit, pig, puppy, snake), sea creatures (octopus, fish, starfish), teddy bears, dolls and some squishy balls. If that isn’t an impressive array of patterns, then I don’t know what is! And you get more than that in that the author gives a range of accessories for many of the patterns. For example, Henry the Hedgehog comes along with a patch of grass and flowers, a toadstool and a ladybug, and Percy the Pig has a bib, a spoon and a cherry-covered cake to eat. There are also food bowls, a bucket of flowers and a hot water bottle, to name but a few more. I think these are a wonderful fun feature.

One of my favourite toys in Knitted Toys is Ruby the Russian Doll. She’s beautiful and unusual, and such a clever idea. I also particularly like Rio the Fish with the very effective scales.

The instructions are clear and easy to follow, and the illustrations are inspiring and helpful. The book comes with all the basic know-how you need to create and put the toys together. This gem of a book will be a great addition to every knitter’s shelf.

yarnfarmingI knew I was going to like this book – Adventures in Yarn Farming by Barbara Parry – from my first glance at the contents list. Someone who can come up with Good Fibrations, Lamb-pedes ad Hay-lelujah is my kind of author – clearly imaginative and with a fine sense of humour. And, as a sheep, alpaca and llama owner myself, the subject matter of these cleverly named chapters fascinated me.

The author Barbara Parry tells us about four seasons on her New England farm. She also tells us how she tends to take “an awfully long and complicated way around most things”, but most definitely not with her writing. The book is succinctly written, full of absorbing detail about the life of a small-scale sheep farmer, and Barbara Parry outlines why she embraces this fascinating but formidable lifestyle. And there’s plenty of humour, as I expected. You pick up lots of interesting facts about the various different breeds of sheep, how and why they differ with regards to their wool type and yield, and the author explains how she made her own choices. Being a llama farmer, I was delighted to see that she added llamas (one of whom shares my daughter’s name!) to her menagerie to act as bodyguards, a role these camelids perform brilliant as I know from experience.

The author shares with us how she processes the fibre, from shearing to spinning; it’s a veritable goldmine of information. There’s hands-on advice, workable tips and hints, not just about yarn processing, using and storing dyes, but also about lambing, stock health maintenance and running a farm. Throughout there are fabulous photos. There are even knitting patterns too and a glossary. This is such a well planned and executed book but most of all it’s so readable. Barbara has a wonderful, welcoming conversational style.

Any yarn lover will surely love this book.

The book is published by Roost Books. Find all the details here.