Another way I relax is reading crime fiction and in recent years I have sought out crime fiction set in needlework or knitting communities. One of my favourites is Monica Ferris's series set in Betsy Davenshire's Crewel World needlework shop in Minnesota.
Monica Ferris is a pseudonym of Mary Monica Pulver, who also writes as Margaret Frazer, Mary Pulver Kuhfeld and Margaret of Shaftesbury. She has a journalism background and teaches courses in mystery writing to both children and adults.
In the first of the series, Crewel World (1999), Betsy's sister is murdered in her own needlework shop. Betsy inherits the shop and it is through her reasoning and unravelling of motive and opportunity that the murder is solved. As the series rolls out, Betsy's skills in ordering data, understanding human motivation and engagement, building friendships and bringing people into the needleworking community involve her and that community in the investigation of a number of crimes.
The series is 'cosy' crime in the sense that Agatha Christie's Miss Marple stories are cosy crime - small community life and close observation of human interactions combine with local police who don't mind a bit of talented local help from women who knit and sew. There are a set of regular characters who pull back sufficiently from stereotype to keep me reading.
In addition, each book has a stitching pattern of some kind at the end, mostly cross-stitch, but sometimes different. I like the books for the community they create, the positive view of small town life in the USA, as people adapt to changes in roles, the economy and relationships while adhering to their values.
The books following Crewel World are, in order:
Framed in Lace (1999), A Stitch in Time (2000), Unravelled Sleeve (2001), A Murderous Yarn (2002), Hanging by a Thread (2003), Cutwork (2004), Cruel Yule (2005), Embroidered Truths (2005), Sins and Needles (2006), Knitting Bones (2007), Thai Die (2008), Blackwork (2009), Buttons and Bones (2010) and Threadbare, due to be published later this year. They are available in hardback, paperback, Kindle and other eBook forms.
As yet I haven't embroidered any of the patterns at the end of the books but I intend to do so, beginning with the Han Phoenix at the end of Thai Die and getting around to the Tlatolli from Embroidered Truths and the shooting star from Buttons and Bones.