Has a book ever serendipitously entered your life? You read the title and are instantly sure that not only do you have to read it, but it’s going to stick with you for a while? And even after just a few pages you are already sure that it is going to be everything you hoped for?
I found The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater by Alanna Okun in a little free library in my neighborhood. I’m pretty sure I audibly squealed at finding this book of personal essays (arguably my favorite genre) about crafting (my for–sure favorite activity.) And I found myself loving the book so much that even after I returned the neighborhood copy back to the little free library, I missed having it around so much I purchased my own copy.
In each essay Okun explores her personal connection to craft – largely, but not exclusively, knitting or other fiber arts. She explores her connection with the art form and why she returns to it time and time again, to handle her anxiety, to feel as though she has something that she is in control of in an otherwise chaotic world, and to feel connection to the women who came before her.
Perhaps that’s why I chose to reread it now, in these chaotic and out-of-control times. To hear in another author’s voice and be reaffirmed as to the reasons I return to craft, and that I’m not alone in doing so. The current pandemic that the world is facing is inescapable, frightening, and has taken over control of so many aspects of our lives that we otherwise took for granted. To stay safe, and to keep at-risk populations safe, we need to control our movement as much as possible, staying home at all costs to protect the most lives as possible.
So even as this virus controls so many aspects of our lives – disrupting work, travel, family gatherings, celebrations – I can turn to any one of my current works-in-progress and decide how to move forward. Color and stitch choices, frogging the whole thing to do something different with the materials I have on hand, making something huge or tiny, something that can be useful, or just intended to beautify a space. I am in control.
The hashtag #CoronaCrafting gained some traction early on as many people sought to make use of this newfound “free time” to learn a new skill, or pick up an old one. And I imagine it is for the same reasons. We need to stay busy, we need to be able to express ourselves in a healthy way, and to work through our own anxieties about the current situation we all find ourselves in.
Okun is a beautiful writer, and each essay is self-encapsulated and thoughtfully constructed. I’m sure I’m not the only crafter who will find themselves smiling and nodding along with her experiences and observations about the love of the craft, of the process, of the result. Of frogging and starting again, of the beauty of the process along with the final product.
I found myself, especially this second time through, savoring each essay and lingering over them. Though it could be just as easy to speed through the book, it felt better to take my time, to be deliberate.
That I recommend this book is an understatement. It’s resonance with the crafting lifestyle I love is an added bonus to a great book. I imagine it would just as beautifully give a non-crafter an inside view to the world that is so deeply meaningful to those of us who inhabit it.
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