This Week in History: What Would Miss Marple Knit?

September 15, 1890: Mary Clarissa Agatha Miller, later Agatha Christie, author of the Miss Marple mysteries, is born.

Millions of readers adore Agatha Christie, prolific author and playwright; more than a billion copies of her books have sold. How lovely that knitting plays a role in her Miss Marple mysteries, which debuted in 1930 in Murder at the Vicarage.

For the September/October 2010 issue of PieceWork, Jo Turney wrote a brilliant article on the appearance of knitting in the mystery genre: “Deadly Yarns and Knitted Fictions.” Here’s her material on Miss Marple from that article:

Miss Marple

A plaque for Agatha Christie at Torre Abbey in Torquay, England. Christie was born in Torquay, a place known as the “English Riviera.” Photograph by Peter 2010 and courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

  • Historically, knitting and murder have been linked in literature through the writing of Agatha Christie (1890–1976), in particular the ways in which knitting is portrayed as an innocuous pastime undertaken by clever but nosy old ladies such as Miss Marple.
  • Marple is an ingenious woman, who relies on intuition, gossip, and a faith in her instincts and knowledge of human nature. This clear emphasis on intuition rather than rationality distinguishes the female from the male sleuth. Similarly, Marple is an amateur, and although her crime-solving success rate is possibly greater than that of the police force, she receives no reward for her contribution and has no actual power. . . . In the Miss Marple mysteries, after the hard work and the mystery solved, harmony is restored, and Marple returns to her knitting.
  • In both the Miss Marple books and contemporary knitting mysteries, however, Women’s creative practices, their ability to make something from nothing, become synonymous with women’s struggles with daily life. Knitting becomes both a metaphor for daily life and a tool for making objects and for making friends and communities, activities and ideals otherwise hidden, forgotten, or lost.
Miss Marple

PieceWork’s “Miss Marple shawl” knitted with a 50% wool/50% silk yarn and size 6 needles.

And just what would Miss Marple knit? A shawl, of course! What could be more perfect? In addition to Jo’s fascinating article, the September/October 2010 issue of PieceWork also has the pattern for a knitted “Miss Marple shawl.”

Thank you, Agatha Christie, for creating Miss Marple and making her a knitter!

Jeane Hutchins


Read more about needlework and literature in these PieceWork back issues!

 

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