Book look: A Head For Trouble, by Julie Turjoman

I mentioned that Julie Turjoman was in our booth in Chicago signing books,and during the show, she was kind enough to give me a copy of her latest, called A Head For Trouble: What To Knit While Catching Crooks, Chasing Clues, and Solving Murders (20 Hats and Adornments Inspired by Lady Detectives of the Roaring Twenties).  Yep, that’s an awfully long title, but it does tell you a couple of important things about the book. First of all, the feel comes from the roaring twenties, time of flappers, suffragettes, swinging ropes of pearls and cute cloche hats, a stylish and evocative time period.  Second, it tells you that the patterns inside are inspired by literary lady detectives — a book genre I personally adore. It also tells you that the patterns are for accessories — lots of hats, but also things like fingerless mitts and scarves.

So let’s dive right in and explore the beautiful patterns and detectives of A Head for Trouble.

turj cover 2


Julie Turjoman was entranced by the cool, sophisticated heroines of roaring twenties detective fiction. So being the self-starter that she is, she assembled a list of her favorite literary detectives from that time period, contacted the authors who created them, and asked for permission to use the characters as inspiration for a book of knitted patterns. Turjoman explains the fascination that this time period has for her:

The period between the World Wars was a watershed moment for women, not least because the suffrage movement galvanized many to engage in politics with a sense of personal urgency. Others sought meaningful employment or were admitted to universities. Many were matured by their wartime experiences as front-line nurses or ambulance drivers in WWI. An unprecedented number of women owned cars and had no intention of giving up the freedom they allowed. After the war, as a result, one thing was certain:  having sampled a heady mix of independence and self-sufficiency, there was no going back to corsets and bustles, fussy coiffures or finishing school.  Fiction’s lady detectives are the embodiment of the early 20th century’s advances in women’s rights and fashion.

By the number of roaring twenties lady detectives out there, it seems that many of us share Turjoman’s fascination with this historical era.

So who are the fictional women and the patterns they inspired?

Two of my literary favorites are included:  Maisie Dobbs is the WWI battlefield nurse turned detective — after the war is over, Maisie Dobbs becomes a private investigator aided by her association with a London psychology expert.  Jacqueline Winspear’s series includes ten books as of this writing. Turjoman was inspired to create the Maisie cloche,

jt maisie

using a colorwork brim and ruching. (There are matching mitts, too!)

Another favorite detective is Georgianna Rannock, star of Rhys Bowen’s “Royal Spyness” series of mysteries. Georgiana is minor royalty but penniless, and gads about to estates all over the US and Europe, solving murders and struggling to keep her finances afloat during the depression. Check out the charming Georgiana scarf

jt georgiana scarf

(there’s a matching cloche). Delightful!

In addition to the lovely patterns (many of which would make perfect holiday gifts), I am delighted to have a chance to learn about some new fictional detectives I haven’t discovered yet. The Daisy Cloche pays homage to the Hon. Daisy Dalrymple, who struck out on her in London, writing magazine articles and sharing a flat in a bohemian neighborhood with a friend.

jt daisy cloche

The Jade fingerless mitts were inspired by character Jade del Cameron, a photojournalist who travels through Africa, seeking adventure and to escape her awful memories of WWI.

jt jade mitts

And I was delighted to see the Verity hat and scarf combo, knit up in Black Bunny Fibers blue-faced leicester dk-weight yarn:

jt jade

Verity Browne is the invention of author David Roberts, and is a radical journalist with a British lord boyfriend and a taste for the finer things in life.

jt verity

Love this combo!

In total, you’ll find ten caps:

jt jasmine

Jasmine Pillbox & Scarf

four scarves/neckwear;

jt scarf

Daisy Collar

two charming bags:

jt bino bag

Dandy Binoculars Bag

and four sets of mitts.

jt mercy cuffs

Mercy Cuffs

The book begins with some helpful tips to speed your knitting along, such as a look at hat architecture and how to get proper fit, then jumps right into the patterns. Each set of patterns is prefaced by a charming description of the detective; patterns are grouped by twos, with each detective inspiring a hat plus one accessory. Patterns are written in easy-to-read type, with charts as necessary, and the photography is wonderful — clear but evocative shots of the designs, with several photos for each pattern, from different angles so you can appreciate the design details. The book is paperback and on high-quality paper; about 122 pages; beautifully laid out with styling that perfectly evokes the feel of the roaring twenties.

You can pick up a copy of the book via Amazon ($19.86 as of the link above) or via Julie’s website, where you can get your copy autographed! You’ll have a hard time deciding whether to knit one of the wonderful patterns first, or explore one of the terrific detective novels first….

Photographs copyright 2014 by Zoe Lonergan; used for review purposes with permission.

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