.“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 Nathalie Toriel
I’ve known Nathalie for a while. When we first opened the Knit Cafe she used to come by after Circus School classes (yup, that’s what I said – Circus School) and we would chat about knitting and all manner of other things.
For those of you who haven’t met Nathalie around the Knit Cafe, she is an actor and an acting coach, a voice director, a jewelery designer and crafter, a mom, and a Knit Cafe model!
Here she is modelling the Raspberry Beret and the Sexy Shrug
When reading Nathalie’s responses to some of my questions I realized there is a whole lot I didn’t know and/or forgot about Nathalie.
“Oh my gosh, that knitted corset!” – we had the darnedest time figuring out that pattern! ….but I digress… Let the interview begin.
.How did you learn to knit?
My mom taught me. Twice. She taught me early on, but it didn’t stick. Then again after another move to a new country, when I had no friends yet and nothing to do with my time, and although I remember asking her to help me cast on each and every time I started a project, I had caught the bug for sure.
What first attracted you to knitting?
I’ve always been a crafty and DIY kinda gal. I loved the process. I am an actor, and there is a lot of process there too. I think I like really working at something, seeing it come along, and then having a finished product to share. But, the short answer…doll clothes. I wanted to make my cabbage patch kids some cool clothes.
What keeps you knitting?
I gotta go back to the process thing here. I like coming upon a pattern that attracts me, then finding the perfect yarn for the project. I like the beginning when the cast on row is finished (thanks Mom, I know how to do it now) and I count and recount getting ready to begin the shape. I like counting and the feel of the yarn in my fingers. I like carrying projects with me everywhere I go and adding a few stitches here and a few rows there and knowing the stories of where I knit what and for whom. I like wearing/using what I’ve made, or even better, seeing someone else wear/use what I have made for them.
What has knitting brought to your life?
Friends, peace of mind (it is a helpful way of dealing with stress) money (I used to sell my accessories at craft shows and at a few stores), charity work (I used to knit a corset every year for Eat to the Beat in support of women with breast cancer). Knitting also allows me a creative outlet when my career sometimes does not allow me to be as creative as I’d like. It’s a little something of my own. I can do it in my own time, in my own way.
Do you think that your Swiss background gives you a different perspective on knitting?
I’m not sure how to answer this other than to say that I think knitting is considered more of a craft here in North America, and more of an art or a job in Switzerland. Also, here I think a lot of young people have caught on and it is considered hip, whereas my experience back home is that it is still an “old-school” thing to do.
What are you knitting now?
I would like to be finishing the knit café’s gnome hat project that I started during my labour with Casper, but I literally have not had a minute to get to it.
I have two other long term projects on the go, a very cool multiway-wear wrap with cables from interweave knits in a soft lavender, and a knitscene pattern for a fifties style cap sleeved top in almost neon coral.
Where is your favourite place to knit?
I like knitting while traveling; in the front seat of the car on the way to the cottage, on a train to visit friends in Montreal, on the plane on the way home to Switzerland. I think the yarn carries the travels and accompanying stories with it.
When do find time to knit?
These days, sadly, I have none. But in a few weeks time, I hope to schedule in a few hours every Monday. My hands are quite busy holding and cuddling my sweet 8 week-old son.
Many people in the film business have told me that knitting is a wonderful occupation for them and really helps to pass the time when time needs passing on set. Have you found this to be true?
Absolutely. I have knit extensively on sets. I go in to a peaceful Zen-like state when I knit. Sometimes there are hours to kill before your next scene, or while the crew sets up lights etc. In those wait times, I find it hard to watch TV or read, as I am usually focused on learning my lines and I don’t want to think about another storyline than the one that I am working on. Knitting is the perfect time passer…I can run my lines, it is a quiet activity and I feel as if I am not wasting time, but rather, being paid to do something that I love while waiting to do something that I love.
Do you have any experiences to share about “knitting on the job”?
I had an improvisational audition once and I decided to bring in my knitting, to make it a part of my role. I got the part and they made my character a knitter, so on that TV show, I was REALLY knitting while working. I loved it. Sometimes for continuity I had to rip out some of my work and do it again though, so I mostly did scarves to keep it simple.
Oh, and Lindsey Lohan took an interest in a hat I was knitting on set one day and consequently bought it (much to the dismay of her handler who thought I should give it to her free of charge because of who she was) and the next day, all of the teenagers on set wanted one too. I must have sold 30 hats in 3 days.
You got on my radar as a potential interviewee when you were telling me about your latest project, the birth of your gorgeous son Casper. Could you please describe how knitting merged with this particular event?
My latest project. I love it. Casper has taken as long to make as many of my knitting projects, so that seems very appropriate as a term to use here.
I had not consciously planned this or even thought about it, but as my labour started on the afternoon of mother’s day, I felt the need to see time pass but not actively start counting contractions yet. What to do with that time?
I found myself wanting to knit. I know some people go for walks, or cook, but as aforementioned, I wanted to be in a Zen like state, and knitting blisses me out a bit. I pulled a pattern for a baby hat, (the gnome hat from The Knit Café), took my time going through my stash to choose a beautiful electric blue yarn that I had been saving for something special, and got to work. As the contractions washed over me, I had a tactile thing to focus on, something to hold on to and to squeeze, something to focus on when the pain was bad, something to look down at and see progress as my body was progressing through the stages of labour. What was really interesting, was that rather than look at a stop watch or my phone, I took to knitting one stitch each second and using that as my counting method to track the length of each contraction as it came. It was amazing.
I felt my pain was being managed, I felt focused, I felt present, but I also felt a near future: I thought about how truly awesome it was that I was working with my hands to make something for someone who would be in those same hands in a matter of hours.
My hospital bag was already packed and I had never thought about packing knitting, but I threw it in to my purse seconds before leaving the house. I wanted knitting to be a part of the process. There I go, back to process again…
The blanket in this picture is Nathalie’s version of the Knit Cafe’s Circle Blanket
Did this experience caused you to reflect on how knitting intersects with your life and what it means to you?
I haven’t had time to think about yet, only as I write this am I thinking about it as a whole. I do seem to remember reading something about knitting and birth before the birth of my first child, Milo. I have a vague recollection of a study about births that happened in rooms where doulas or midwives were knitting. The labours were shorter and there was less need for drugs or medical interventions. I don’t remember where I read it, or what the study was called etc., but as I write this, I feel as if that would totally make sense.
You had your bachelorette party at the Knit Café and your husband’s bachelor party involved a scavenger hunt that brought him to the Knit Café for a lesson. Were these events your idea or did your friends plan them? Why do you think knitting was included in these events?
The bachelorette was so fun! My friends planned it. I had no idea. But it was perfect. Some of my nearest and dearest learned how to knit thanks to you. They were each making squares for me to assemble into a blanket of my wedding colours. It was fantastic. There is no blanket to show for it, as only 4 people got their squares finished, but I cherish those squares and I keep them in a box of wedding memorabilia. My loved ones were doing something with me and for me…it was very representative of my hopes for my marriage: surrounded by loving community, people pulling together to build a strong fabric, something lasting, I could go on and on here…it was perfect for me.
My husband, Brandon, also planned a stop on a bachelor party scavenger hunt at The Knit Café, but it was for his friend Eric. Eric was to learn to knit to make a present for his wife-to-be, Kelly. The idea of including this in a bachelor night came to him because the best gift I ever received was a scarf from him, for our first Christmas together. Because he knew how much I loved knitting, he had gone to The Knit Café to learn to knit, made me a scarf and gave it to me all as a surprise.
We have a lot of history with you guys at The Knit Café!
Thank you Nathalie!!!
I wonder if other folks know any other knit/birthing stories? If so – tell us about it!