When I started writing SILENCE OF THE LAMB’S WOOL and decided that Casey Feldstein was going to call her upcoming retreat Sheep to Shawl, I knew I was in for some interesting research. The title implied that they were going to start out getting wool from some sheep, spin it into yarn and knit a shawl. I had tried spinning at a yarn show and so had that covered. However I had never see a sheep shorn or knew what you did with the fleece once it was off the sheep. There is always You Tube, but I prefer seeing things in person if at all possible.
That’s why I was thrilled when I saw that the agricultural school at the local community college was having a farm fair and one of the activities was sheep shearing. The community college is on 400 acres of land and a large portion of it is given over to planted fields, grazing land and animal areas. I really felt like I was out on a farm somewhere instead of in the middle of the San Fernando Valley when I walked down the dirt road to the sheep enclosure. The actual sheering was faster than I would have expected and the sheep didn’t seem to mind at all. The shears looked like the kind barbers use, only bigger, much bigger. I talked to the shearer, and got to pet the newly shorn sheep. She was amazingly affectionate and butted against me when I stopped petting her to ask for more attention. The horizontal pupils of her eyes were a little unsettling as it was hard to figure exactly where she was looking.
But it turned out to be only the beginning of my sheep knowledge. A few weeks later on a side trip from the Malice Domestic conference, I went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Wow. I had thought that sheep were all pretty much like the Little Bo Peep variety. Not exactly. They come in all different sizes, colors and fleece types. Some looked they had dreadlocks. The only thing they all had in common is being very sweet animals. I found something else there that I needed. Handspun yarn. The Sheep to Shawl retreat in the book was going to end with my characters knitting shawls out of the yarn they’d spun. I wanted the experience of knitting with handspun yarn before I wrote about it.
There is also a part between the shearing of the sheep and the spinning of the wool. I decided to try that process first hand with the fleece I had accumulated on my various sheep excursions. The fleece has to be washed to remove the lanolin and bits of dirt. It has to be done carefully or you end up with a big clump of wool. Once it’s rinsed and dried, it gets carded. Carding is really brushing the fibers and I actually used some dog brushes to do it with.
I got a little more information at the Stitches Yarn show when a vendor pointed out a pair of sharp and deadly wool combs and suggested I include them in the book. What a good idea. It was great to have had all those real experiences when I sat down to write.
Some research has a bonus. Casey Feldstein is a dessert chef and I always include some of her recipes. Casey and I have something in common. We both would rather bake desserts than do everyday cooking. When I research the recipes i.e. bake them, my family are my tasters. They love the job and keep trying to talk me into putting more recipes in each book.
Dessert chef Casey Feldstein has learned one end of a knitting needle from the other after inheriting her aunt’s yarn retreat business, but a murder threatens to unravel her latest event . . .
Casey’s running a new retreat called “From Sheep to Shawl” at a resort on the atmospheric Monterey Peninsula. Participants will learn about sheepshearing, fixing up the fleece, and spinning, and will eventually knit a lovely shawl.
Nicole Welton has been hired to teach the fleece-to-fiber portion of the retreat. She’s an expert spinner, and her small shop in Cadbury by the Sea houses a beautiful assortment of spinning wheels and drop spindles. But when the new teacher fails to show up for class and is found lying dead on the boardwalk, it leaves everyone’s nerves frayed.
Now Casey has to knit together clues faster than she can count stitches before someone else at the retreat gets dropped . . .
Includes a knitting pattern and a recipe!
Thanks to the publisher, I have one (1) copy of Silence of the Lamb's Wool to give away.
Giveaway open to residents of the US only.
Giveaway ends on July 20th
Winner will have 48 hours, from the time of notification to confirm their win or another winner will be chosen.
I grew up on the south side of Chicago and in a very busy weekend, got married, graduated college and moved to Los Angeles.
Although my degree is in Fine Arts, all I ever wanted to be was a writer and I've been doing it in one form or another for as long as I can remember. My shining moments in elementary and high school always involved stories or poetry I'd written. I wrote news stories and a weekly column in my college newspaper. My first job out of college was working on the newsletter of a finance company. I worked for a public relations firm and wrote press releases and biographies. Later I wrote proposals for video projects and television shows that went through various stages of development.
I tried writing screenplays and wrote three. I sold one and another was a winner in a Writers' Digest contest.
I was lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mom and did all kinds of volunteering at my son's schools including editing and writing several newsletters.
I wrote essays and small pieces that ran in the Los Angeles Times, the Daily News and Woman's Day among others. My short romantic and mystery fiction appeared in Woman's World, and Futures magazine.
From time I was a thirteen-year-old babysitter cooking for the kids I babysat, I dreamed of writing a book about babysitting. It took a little longer than I'd expected, but BLUE SCHWARTZ AND NEFERTITI'S NECKLACE was published in 2006.
My affair with crochet began in Las Vegas. I had always had a fascination with crochet, particularly granny squares, but thought there was some magic involved with making them that was beyond me. And then everything changed that day in Vegas when I saw the kids' kit in FAO Schwartz. If the instructions were easy enough for kids, I thought they might work for me.
My first granny square was missing a corner, but when I tried again, all four corners were there. I was in awe of my own accomplishment. I had found the magic. I went granny square crazy until pretty soon I didn't need directions anymore. Then I learned there were more squares than just basic grannies and I made squares with sunflowers in the middle and other patterns. I moved beyond squares and made flowers, hearts, bookmarks and more.
I was in love with crochet and began to make scarves, purses, afghans, and shawls. I started carrying my hooks everywhere. A plane trip became a pile of granny square wash cloths, or part of a shawl. A vacation in Hawaii turned into a tote bag.
And now I get to write about it…
Yarn Retreat Mysteries
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07/02/14 Thoughts In Progress- Guest Post, Giveaway
07/06/14 Lori’s Reading Corner- Guest Post, Giveaway
07/09/14 Stuff and Nonsense- Guest Post
07/10/14 Books-N-Kisses- Review, Guest Post
07/14/14 Stuff and Nonsense- Review, Giveaway
07/14/14 HEAs Are Us- Guest Post, Giveaway
07/18/14 Debbie’s Book Bag- Review, Guest Post, Giveaway
07/21/14 Open Book Society- Review