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The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater: Essays on Crafting

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  1,500 ratings  ·  290 reviews
The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater is a memoir about life truths learned through crafting.

People who craft know things. They know how to transform piles of yarn into sweaters and scarves. They know that some items, like woolen bikini tops, are better left unknit. They know that making a hat for a newborn baby isn’t just about crafting something small but appreciating the b
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published March 20th 2018 by Flatiron Books
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Average rating 3.71  · 
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 ·  1,500 ratings  ·  290 reviews

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Lisa Silverman
Feb 11, 2018 rated it liked it
Received the ARC in a Goodreads giveaway. Amusing in places, moving in places, but it never really wowed me, even as a knitter. Possibly because it felt more like a memoir than a collection of essays about crafting, though crafting is certainly the overarching theme. And it's the memoir of a millennial (though she claims early on to hate that word) who doesn't have a long or fascinating-enough life yet to fill a memoir. ...more
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: knitting
I received an advanced copy at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival, Miss Okun even inscribed it, "To Christine, Congrat on breaking the curse!" Dan was with me, carrying one of the 4 sweaters I'd knit him before we were married (it was too hot to wear it, but he's that loyal). We've been married 24 years.

The book itself is a collection of essays, lists, and stories. I felt like I'd met her family and friends, mourned over her losses and cheered her successes with her. It was lovely for reading
Olive Fellows (abookolive)
Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites-2018
See my review on Booktube! ...more
Dec 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2018
Unsurprisingly, The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater is very Buzzfeedesque: it's often funny, sometimes thought-provoking, and also a bit all over the place. I liked it but wanted to like it more.

My old roommate and I used to talk about how satisfying it is to just look at your knitting/crocheting. How proud you can feel to make something from nothing all on your own. How happy you can feel imagining its future. My roommate told me stories about learning to knit, advised me on the best yarn for ha
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I started listening to this book last month and somehow managed to not finish it until now and I’m so glad I found this collection of essays.

Listening to the author read I was taken aback at how much I related to her. I shouldn’t have been given that this is a book telling stories about how crafting has been a huge part of her life.

“Each stitch is a step forward” is not quite the final line, but pretty darn close. But it’s incredibly not wrong and in true crafters fashion, I want to embroider
May 10, 2018 rated it liked it
It wasn't as good as I thought it would be. Too much anxiety, not enough knitting. I loved her descriptions of her relationship with her grandmother though. ...more
Regine O
Jul 13, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
DNF. Made it through 1/4 of the book and there is just no substance to any of the stories.

I would have preferred more knitting references and less whining about losing her boyfriends.

Apr 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc, read-in-2018
Alanna loves crafting. Like, she REALLY loves crafting so much that she wrote a book about it, so if you're not up for knitting talk then keep moving right along! I love hearing people talk about what they're passionate about, so I was all in for learning about public acts of crafting and "knitting prom" and why the second sock is the worst. She uses crafting, this common thread (haha) throughout her life, to get to the complicated things: friends, relationships, family, anxiety, graduation, bod ...more
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
Even though I was excited for this book, I was nicely surprised. I seldom enjoy the pop culture memoirs that have proliferated these days (with all the footnotes, exclamation points, unfiltered inner-monologue-to-page transcriptions, and just, I don’t know, mannerisms in place of substance). However, these are thoughtful, well-written essays and it was unexpectedly wonderful to read about being a knitter – I didn’t realize this was an area of representation I was missing. The strongest pieces we ...more
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
::shrug:: This was okay. It didn't particularly amuse me or pull at my hearstrings. It also suffers as do many books or sitcoms with this type of "feel"; unless it's incredibly witty, I'm not drawn to stories about stereotypical affluent neurotic white women in the big city. This is more a memoir collection with each essay themed on a knitting-related metaphor rather than a collection of essays about knitting. My mismanaged expectations likely contributed to my lackluster response.

The essay from
Sep 24, 2018 marked it as dnf
I thought this might be a light, enjoyable listen while on residency focusing on textiles - theme appropriate without being too work-heavy!

But unfortunately, though I’m sure the author is utterly lovely, I was not at all interested in reading lengthy pieces about her ex boyfriends, inability to be single, or her glorious bestest bud (with, of course, the requisite knitting descriptions thrown in at random). I stuck it out as log as I could, but in the end this was a swift return to the Overdrive
Apr 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
Wonderfully put together collection of essays. Alanna is both a riot and harshly serious, simply well written.
I will pretty much always pick up a book if it pertains to knitting. As a fan of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's knitting-centered writing, I was expecting a series of highly identifiable essays where I would see myself or something very similar reflected in the writing. I did find a good deal of that as someone whose crafts also make an apartment a home and who always has at least one project in any given bag.

The thing of it is, though, that Pearl-McPhee has, er, a wider set of life experiences to dra
Dec 30, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: december-2021
I am a keen crafter, and have had my eye on Alanna Okun’s essay collection, The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater, for quite some time. I was grateful to be able to purchase a copy with some Christmas money, and settled down to read about another woman who shares similar enthusiasms to myself. I was in two minds as to whether I should review this essay collection, as it is rather a niche topic, but I do not feel as though Okun’s thoroughly entertaining book has received anywhere near the amount of ...more
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was everything I needed. It was a perfect companion for all the gift knitting I've been doing. So much of this book was #relatable. ...more
Greg Kelley
Mar 10, 2018 marked it as to-read
I'm not going to read this book. But it looked like a fine addition to my new shelf of books that I will "admire from a distance" (and never touch). I like the premise, that building/creating things for your S.O. leads to unintended consequences. I have a feeling this works in mediums other than yarn. ...more
Rachel B
I thought this was going to be a light, humorous read about crafting. One of those books you like just because you can relate.

In reality, Okun wrote more of a reflective memoir (or tried to, anyway) than a collection of crafting essays, and her attempts at humor completely missed the mark for me. She went on and on about how she always has to be in a romantic relationship, and I just felt sad for her.

This book also felt very "written," for lack of a better word. It reminded me of essays I wrote
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Boy, I say this with affection, but what a slog. This felt like a love letter to the author's friends and family, as well as her way of processing a breakup. Which is fine, and I'm glad she wrote it, and I hope that said friends and family read it, but really the audience did not need to extend beyond these chosen few. The ties between crafting and her relationships felt forced, and there just wasn't enough going on for me to care. I'll go back to my own knitting, rather than trying to hash out ...more
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
This one was just painful for me to listen to, so I gave up around the halfway mark.

Unlike Stephanie Pearl McPhee’s books, which tend to actually be about crafting, The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater seems to revolve around the author’s former boyfriends and unreasonably awesome friends.

Her life stories are not interesting enough, nor is her writing entertaining enough, to keep me interested.
Jun 05, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I saw this recommended on twitter and I'm crafty too, so why not? It was fine. A typical sort of personal essay collection for the early twenties to early thirties female demographic. I think I've read too many so I've gotten cynical about the formula of it. ...more
Alissa Roy
Oct 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Look at the cover of this book- doesn’t it make you want to read it? It’s so beautiful
Apr 19, 2018 rated it liked it
This is not a light, fun look at knitting like I expected. It delves into knitting as therapy for anxiety and mental illness. It wasn't funny like I expected, but it definitely held my interest. ...more
Vishal Katariya
Apr 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Fun fun book. Lots of vignettes into knitting. Many of these books I've read about particular activities become autobiographies through particular lenses (knitting and crocheting in this case), and while that seems to be natural to make the book readable and likable, it also makes the book an almost uncomfortable personal diary entry. I don't think I wanted to know all about Alanna Okun's boyfriends, not at all. At least she didn't make snarky comments about her ex boyfriends like many other do ...more
Chelsea Craig
Aug 02, 2022 rated it liked it
3.5 rounded down to a 3.
A very unique read - I’ve never read about someone passionate about crafts! I enjoyed the stories, how heartfelt the narration is, and the “not too nerdy” nerdy moments on knitting. Even though I enjoyed it, I don’t know if it will be memorable.
Mar 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in2018
This was truly delightful and I think I want to buy a copy so I can have it forever
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very sweet collection of essays about crafting. I enjoyed how much of herself she shared. I have similar familial ties with the origins of my crafting and was also very close to my grandparents, so I felt a lot of those essays deeply. A lovely, quick read.
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Supremely heartfelt, a case both for examining your life more closely and picking up the ol' knitting needles. ...more
Brent Woo
Mar 31, 2022 rated it it was ok
Man, I'm so disappointed. I want angsty craft memoir and reflections on our solitary/social arts, but there was way too much "boyfriend" and not enough "sweater". Not interested in a chapter long exegesis about how you met your best friend and how kooky and in sync you two are. Not interested in hearing every last sexual exploit of your serial monogamy. Memoir doesn't have to be celebrity. Memoir is fine if you give the reader a reason to care about your stories in the first place, but this neve ...more
Mar 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I am not a knitter. I might start next year. I did once knit a very plain scarf that was too short, but I was flummoxed by connecting a new skein of yarn.

Alanna is a knitter. In fact, she's a KNITTER, all caps. She knits forever and always and in every situation. She is in her twenties and moving to New York City and getting a new job and dating. And in these series of memoir-essays, she covers all of this, and knitting. And a few other crafts. Her mother is also crafty, which they put to good u
Feb 01, 2019 rated it liked it
There were parts of this that were 4-5 stars, then there were parts that were less stars. Overall, she seems too young to be writing about her own life. I just couldn’t stop myself from thinking that her and I are probably around the same age, and it’s a bit egocentric to think of writing my story at this age. Her problems seem so typical of the 20-something lifestyle now that they are almost cliche. Everyone is depressed, everyone is striving for better and more. These things are un-relatable t ...more
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Alanna Okun is a writer, editor, and crafter living in New York. She's currently a senior editor at Racked and worked at BuzzFeed for a while before that. Her work has appeared on NPR, Brooklyn Magazine, Apartment Therapy, Vogue Knitting, The Hairpin, The Billfold, and other places. She's also done segments for The Today Show, Good Morning America, and a whole bunch of local and national televisio ...more

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152 likes · 34 comments
“So often the only thing you can do is give up the idea that you can perfectly visualize a life, and just keep stringing days together one by one; so often a gaping hole in a sleeve just needs a little tug a few stitches back. And sometimes you just have to sit with the hole, to accept that it’s there and it’s uncomfortable and it’s fine.” 3 likes
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