Crewel and Unusual By Molly MacRae: Review/Giveaway/Guest Post

Jan 26, 2019 | 2019 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy

by Sandra Murphy
& Molly MacRae

This week we have a review of Crewel and Unusual, A Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery by Molly MacRae, and a fun craft guest post by Molly. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Crewel and Unusual, a link to purchase it from Amazon, and an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL.

Crewel and Unusual: A Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery by Molly MacRae
Review by Sandra Murphy

Kath Rutledge is the owner of the Weaver’s Cat, a yarn shop inhabited by Argyle, a yellow tabby cat, and Geneva, a ghost. Only Argyle, Kath, and her employee Ardis, can see and hear Geneva. It makes for some odd conversations as Geneva talks when customers are in the shop.

The Blue Plum Vault is due to open soon. The former bank (hence vault in the name) has been converted to individual shops for crafters to sell their wares. Kath’s boyfriend Joe has the smallest shop for his handmade fly fishing lures. There’s a jeweler, a book store, a vintage linens shop, and an antique space to mention just a few. mystery book cover

It’s not even opening day yet and two of the vendors are sniping at each other. Nervie (Minerva) says Belinda’s best linens are fake and some are stolen. Belinda says the patterns Nervie is selling are not her own. Kath knows fine linens, and she’s sure at least two pieces Belinda has are real. When a tablecloth is vandalized, Belinda blames Nervie, but she has an airtight alibi. Who else would ruin a valuable item?

When a dead body is found on opening day, all the site manager can think about is bad publicity ruining the opening, not that someone died. With crowds of people wandering around the building and vendors checking out each other’s spaces and goods, it’s almost impossible to know who was where and when. With the help of Geneva, who is not too good about recognizing people, Kath hopes to find the killer before the new venture is out of business for good.

This is book six in the popular series. MacRae also writes the Highland Bookshop series about four women who move to Scotland and buy a bookstore. I like the haunted yarn shop series because of the way Kath treats Geneva. For a ghost, Geneva is quite a diva. She is self-important and being well over 100 years old, doesn’t realize what’s an important clue and what’s not. Kath has more patience than could be expected, especially when Geneva implies Kath is lacking in some way. The presence of a ghost seems natural instead of added as a gimmick.

Kath’s relationship with Joe is interesting, too, in that they give each other space to have hobbies and friends of their own but still have a lot to talk about when they’re together. It’s a wonderful relationship to read. Facts and trivia about yarns, fabrics, and more are slipped seamlessly into the storyline, never detracting. For those who love a true cozy, with a good mystery and without fluff, MacRae fills the bill with both of her series.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the Arch in St. Louis Missouri. She writes about eco-friendly topics, pets and wildlife for magazines and reviews mysteries and thrillers for KRL. A collection of her short stories, published by Untreed Reads, From Hay to Eternity: Ten Tales of Crime and Deception can be found at all the usual outlets. Each one is a little weird and all have a twist you won’t see coming.

By Molly MacRae

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.

Yarns and flosses and fabrics call to me, and I’ve dabbled in any number of fiber-related crafts. But due to one thing or another – or two things at once, like a fulltime day job and book deadlines – dabbling and dreaming are about all I have time for. Once upon a time, when I did have time, I did a lot of embroidery, and I sewed everything from baby clothes to backpacks to a bridesmaid dress to a teepee. I made two each of a) fake bear skin rugs, b) six-foot long corduroy anacondas, and c) stegosaurus sleeping bags. I’ve done needle felting and quilting. I also tried my hand at kumihimo braiding because it has a minor role in Knot the Usual Suspects, book five in my Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries.

Kath Rutledge is the main character in that series. She’s a textile conservator who moves to Blue Plum, Tennessee, after losing her museum job and inheriting 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 crafting, but she fixes 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 that I’d like to be doing myself.

Embroidery of various kinds shows up in Crewel and Unusual, the latest installment in the series. The book includes a pattern for an embroidered hankie – a sweet little heart made of French knots. I’m going to make you go find the book to see that pattern, but here’s the pattern from Plagued by Quilt, book four in the series. This pattern has embroidery, too, and if you follow it, you’ll end up with a lovely place to set your tea or coffee cup when you settle in with another good book.

Crazy Mug Rug
(Designed by Kate Winkler, Designs from Dove Cottage 2014,
for Molly MacRae’s Plagued by Quilt)

Assorted scraps of felt – bits of felted sweaters work best, but craft felt will also work
Embroidery floss, perle cotton, or needlepoint wool in colors to coordinate with felt
Sewing thread in a neutral color

Crewel or embroidery needle with eye large enough for your thickest embroidery fiber
Pinking shears (optional, but recommended)

1. Cut a circle from one piece of felt: 4 1/2 – 5”. This will be the base.

2. Arrange random scraps of felt on top of the base to cover it — don’t worry if they extend beyond the edges of the base. Do not overlap edges of scraps; rather, butt the edges together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Trimming edges of scraps with pinking shears will facilitate butting them together smoothly.craft

3. It’s helpful to take a digital photo of your final arrangement to refer to during sewing.

4. With sewing thread, whipstitch scraps together, skimming your needle through the felt. You don’t want the sewing thread to show on the other side of the patchwork.

5. Using base as a template, trim patchwork to same size and shape.

6. Turn patchwork over to unstitched side. With embroidery fiber, embellish joins between scraps with whatever color and stitch strikes your fancy, e.g. feather stitch, fly stitch, herringbone, etc. Chain stitch “vines” with lazy daisy “leaves” and flowers/French knots are nice, too. You may add flowers or other figures in the centers of some patches.craft

7. When patchwork is embellished to your satisfaction, pin it to the base and stitch through both layers 1/4” from the edge—a simple running stitch will do, but you could work around in blanket stitch if you prefer (again, trimming the edge with pinking shears can help you evenly space your stitches).

8. If your finished mug rug is wavy, press it with an iron set to “steam” and the appropriate heat setting for your felt.

To enter to win a copy of Crewel and Unusual, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “cruel,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 2, 2019. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Be sure to check out our new mystery podcast too with mystery short stories, and first chapters. Our latest episode features a mystery short story by Lesley Diehl.

Use this link to purchase the book & a portion goes to help support KRL & indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy:

You can also use this link to purchase the book on Amazon. If you have ad blocker on you may not see the link:


The Boston Globe says Molly MacRae writes “murder with a dose of drollery.” She’s the award-winning author of the Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries and the Highland Bookshop Mysteries. As Margaret Welch, she has written two books in the Secrets of Castleton Manor Library mysteries. Molly’s short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine since 1990. After twenty years in northeast Tennessee, Molly lives in Champaign, Illinois.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases using those links. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. So glad I learned about your page – thanks for the contest.

    • Kings River Life is always a good read. I’m glad you found it, too, Taylor. Good luck in the contest

  2. I can’t knit or sew or anything like that but I like reading cozies about it. Thank you so much for this chance. pgenest57(at)aol(dot)com

    • That’s why reading is so wonderful, isn’t it, Paula? It gives us a world of experiences without leaving our pajamas.

  3. Those are really cute! Thanks for the chance! JL_Minter (at) hotmail (dot) com

    • Cute and fun to make! Thanks for stopping by the blog.

  4. It’s been a long time since I’ve done
    any crewel work. Love the
    patchwork. Would enjoy reading
    the book. thanks

    • I’d love to spend more time at crewel. At so many things!

  5. I love this series.

  6. Me ! Pick Me ! Pleeeeeease! 🙂

  7. Thanks, so much, for having me here for a visit. I’m glad to hear readers like the mug rug. My cup of tea is sitting on one right now. Good luck to everyone entering the contest. If you don’t win, consider going to your public library and asking for my books. Everyone’s a winner at the public library!

  8. Sounds like a great book, looking forward to reading.

  9. This series is new to me. I’d love to be the lucky winner of Crewel and Unusual. nschwenkner (at) gmail (dot) com

    • Thanks, Nancy! I’ve had so much fun writing the books. Thanks for stopping by.

  10. Love this series. Geneva always makes me laugh.
    turtle6422 at gmail dot com

  11. I enjoy your books, I’d like to try to make the mug rug.

    • Thank you, Donamae! The mug rug is a fun project. Each one turns out differently and they’re fairly quick. Have fun!

  12. We have a winner!


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