“Why We Knit” is a series of blog posts where I interview knitters and ask them hard hitting and poignant questions about their knit-experiences. In this series we will endeavor to answer the question of “why we knit”, or at least get some pretty interesting stories.
An Interview with Andrea Dorfman
You may know the name Andrea Dorfman already. You may know her from her wonder film making; titles such as Parsley Days, or Love that Boy or from her beautiful documentary Art of Equity. You may have seen some of her animated short films like Big Mouth or Flawed. You probably saw How to Be Alone, the short she made with poet/musician Tanya Davis that grew into a youtube sensation with 5,775,284 views to date. You may have read about her in the Globe and Mail where she was recently chosen as one of 10 “catalysts” defined as “creative Canadians who are involved in extraordinary, innovative pursuits”. You may even know that Andrea is a partner and cofounder of the Knit Cafe.
She is of course also a knitter, and here ↓ are few other things you might not know. Let the interview begin.
How did you learn to knit?
Unfortunately I don’t have a heartwarming story of learning from my grandmother or a crafty aunt…My friend Janet and I taught ourselves how to knit from a book in her basement after school when we were in grade seven. But it wasn’t until second year university, during a long cold Montreal winter, when one of my roommates taught me how to knit a tuque. I wore that hat all winter and have been in love with knitting ever since.
What first attracted or inspired you to pick up knitting?
I have always loved DIY. I loved the idea that you could make something useful with your hands. I am a pioneer at heart. I must’ve been born a hundred and fifty years too late.
What keeps you knitting?
Every time I make something, it feels like magic. Like I materialized something out of thin air. It’s so liberating to be create something that you might have seen somewhere else. There is such freedom in being able to create.
What sort of unique experiences has knitting brought to your life?
I love how knitting brings people together. Every community I’ve lived in, I’ve connected to people through knitting. The Knit Café in Toronto, teaching a knitting class at CAMH across the street, Monday night knitting club with roommates and friends, striking up a conversation with a stranger because you can tell their sweater/hat/mitts/scarf you admire is hand knit… I’ve made many connections through knitting.
What do you tell people about knitting when they are interested in learning?
I used to say, don’t start with a scarf because scarves are long and boring to knit but now I take that back. If you’re interested in learning, knit something you need. Even if it’s something complicated. Wanting to wear it will inspire you to get to the end.
Who or what are your knitting influences?
Always people around me, usually because they’ve created something fabulous. Knitting is a lot like how sharing recipes was in the 50s…
What are you knitting now?
A pair of socks for my boyfriend (shhhh).
Do you have a most memorable knit project or most memorable knit experience to share?
Through university I accumulated a big bag of scrap wool and when I finally had enough to make something, I decided to make one of those complicated Kaffe Fasset sweaters. Woah. Knitting it made my brain hurt and I eventually made the decision to cut the project short by making it into a vest. It was gorgeous – a million different greens and blues, as I remember, it was gorgeous. It’s long been lost. I hope someone, somewhere is loving it.
Where is your favourite place to knit?
That’s a hard one. It depends on my mood. While catching up with a good friend, in the kitchen keeping someone company while they make dinner, while watching a movie or travelling on a train. Cottages are the perfect places to knit.
When do you knit?
Usually in the winter. I am not much of a warm season knitter.
Several of your films feature knitting. The first film I ever saw of yours was s short called “Swerve”. The protagonist is knitting an ever-growing scarf while road tripping with her two friends. When the friends hook up, leaving her with third wheel status and banished to the back of the pick-up truck, she retaliates by attaching her scarf to the vehicle. The scarf unravels as the truck rides on leaving her behind. In your feature film “Parsley Days” one of the characters knits a cover for a bicycle (this predates the popularity of yarn-bombing by many years). In your video-sensation “How to be Alone” Tanya Davis is knitting a fabulously colourful piece while she sits in the park.
Do you know why knitting pops up in your work so often? Is it a conscious decision?
Ha! Yes, I try to put knitting in every film I make (there are also knitting references in Love that Boy and There’s a Flower in My Pedal…). When I was at art school, doing an off campus semester in NYC at Cooper Union, one of my instructors was talking about all of the great artists being painters and sculptors, mostly men and she was really putting down craft. At one point she said, ‘you’ll never see a knitted work as great art’. I took great offense to this. Why not?!? Not that my art is great but I instantly made a committment to raise the profile of knitting through my art.
Mimi Fautley is the knitter.
Back in 2004 when The Knit Café was just an idea, you helped to make it a reality. Do you remember why you were keen to open The Knit Café?
We were all living together, enjoying knitting with friends and roommates on Monday nights and a couple of those nights we must’ve had 20-30 people come over. I think we all felt that if it was this popular an activity, it could really work out as a business. I loved how it functioned so beautifully on different levels- as a way to bring community together, to share crafty ideas, to make new friends, the DIY potential…
Back then you were living with us here in Toronto, but now you live in Halifax. Do you think that this change has also changed your relationship to knitting, ie: what, how, or with whom you knit?
I am definitely not as engaged with the greater knitting community in Halifax… The Loop is a fantastic yarn shop with a great vibe but when it comes to knitting in the Maritimes, I tend to knit on my own. Occasionally I’ll invite people over for an afternoon of knitting and tea but, these days, I knit when I can – which is not often enough!
You will want to look up Andrea up now and watch or re-watch all her gorgeous films. So go to:
and follow her movements on Facebook
and get a copy of How to Be Alone, the book
What a treat! Thanks to Andrea for sharing.