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Behind The Stitches: Alanna Okun

Most of you don’t need an introduction to this next maker but if you do then I’m thrilled to be the one to do it. She is the mastermind behind the book ‘The Curse Of The Boyfriend Sweater’. Her newest WIP is a book titled ‘How To Knit A Hat’. If you aren’t familiar with her work I’ll get things kicked off with one of my favorite quotes from her first book. She writes “ 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.”

……….

Sam: Where are you originally from and where are you currently based?

Alanna: I’m from a small town outside of Boston and I’ve lived in Brooklyn for the past 8 years.

Sam: How did you learn to knit and what was your first WIP?

Alanna: My grandma taught me when I was six — I noodled around on like, washcloths and random bits of fabric for a while, and I think my first real project was a scarf or something like that.

Sam: Do you typically work on multiple projects at a time or push through one before starting another? What's on your needles now?

Alanna: I am so guilty of starting new projects in the middle of old ones! I like to have a couple different weights / scales going at the same time to switch between (so like, a pair of socks and a chunky sweater). Right now I’ve got a couple of hats on the needles as well as a simple shawl I’m making because my office is always frigid.


"It’s so meditative and rhythmic, and allows me to be creative in relatively low-stakes ways"

Sam: What is your favorite part of your crafting process?

Alanna: I love buying new yarn! But my wallet does not love that. I also love the moment when a project really takes shape — when you’ve cast on and knitted enough rows that it’s a thing, not just this scraggly bunch of stitches anymore.

Sam: How would you describe your yarn stash?

Alanna: “Prominent” — I live alone in a small, cozy apartment, and my yarn is THE focal point when you walk in. I keep it in rainbow order on a big set of open shelves.


Sam: What has your crafting practice brought to your life?


Alanna: It’s so meditative and rhythmic, and allows me to be creative in relatively low-stakes ways. I’m a writer and editor professionally, and it can be really hard to feel creatively “on” all the time. Crafting is a wonderful mechanism to get that feeling in measured doses, which can translate to the other parts of my life.


"I’d been reading so many fiber-adjacent writers for so long that it was a bit of a struggle to think I could have anything to contribute"


Sam: You often write about projects that you end up gifting to other people in your life. What was the most rewarding project you ever created for someone else?

Alanna: My senior year of college, I made each of my housemates something — two sweaters, a pair of socks, and a wrap. I loved commemorating our year together like that, and I’d run out of things to reasonably make for myself long before!

Sam: Can you tell us the backstory behind your book The Curse of The Boyfriend Sweater? What inspired you to actually sit down and write it?

Alanna: I’d written a pair of essays about knitting at my previous job, and I enjoyed publishing those so much that I figured I could get a whole book out of. I’d been reading so many fiber-adjacent writers for so long that it was a bit of a struggle to think I could have anything to contribute, but I was really gratified to find such a willing audience. It was also, frankly, really helpful to be working in media, where I had friends who had been through the process of selling and writing books and could demystify it for me — I try not to take that for granted and to pay it forward when I can!

"I wrote this book according to a schedule that suited me, in some bursts and some sustained periods, and it honestly felt great"


Sam: Did you learn anything surprising about yourself through the process of writing your first book?


Alanna: I’d always felt vaguely guilty that I wasn’t one of those writers who could wake up every day without fail and churn out a thousand words or whatever; it made me worry that I wasn’t a real or serious enough writer. But I wrote this book according to a schedule that suited me, in some bursts and some sustained periods, and it honestly felt great! It was nice to learn that my metabolism, as it were, wasn’t wrong or a mandate against me; it was just how I was, and I could still end up at the same place.

Sam: With everything that you have going on do you still have time to knit for yourself? How has your relationship to your crafting practice changed over the last few years?

Alanna: It ebbs and flows, but honestly that happened even when I had way less going on. There will be some months where I sprint through projects and others where I barely touch yarn, and that’s something I’ve made peace with just like my writing rhythms.

Sam: What can you tell us about your new book?


Alanna: It’s very different from the first one! That one was purely narrative, with no patterns or technical info about knitting (much to the chagrin of some Goodreads reviewers, which is their right). This one is basically the opposite — it’s going to be called How to Knit a Hat, and that pretty much says it all. It’s still written through in plain English but the idea is that even if you haven’t knitted before, you should be able to come out of this with a hat. I’ve long subscribed to the notion that a scarf is actually not a great first real project, since it’s so long and repetitive and nobody REALLY wants one, so even though a hat is a bit trickier it’s ultimately more useful and satisfying.

Sam: If you were an item of knitting what would you be? What colors, techniques, and patterns would you be made up of?

Alanna: Probably like, a knitted crop top with a big pocket in a shade of mustard or grey.


Sam: What do you like to binge watch or listen to while you craft?

Alanna: Terrace House! It’s in Japanese with English subtitles so I need to have something easy to work on, or else I constantly have to pause, but it’s so soothing and charming that it’s totally worth it.


...........

If you want to see more of Alanna's work you can follow her on Instagram @alannabean, pick up a copy of her book, and through her website alannaokun.xyz. Who should I talk to next? Leave your suggestions in the comments section along with any thoughts you have about Alanna's interview. I’m always on the hunt for inspiring crafters. Also, don't forget to follow along on my Instagram account @bobbleclubhouse for your daily dose of all things knitted and to stay up to date on our upcoming NYC events. Until next week, happy crafting!

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