No, I am not in Southeast Asia. I wish I was in Southeast Asia. Instead, I am in Lassen National Park, likely being attacked by mosquitoes. It’s probably great there too, although less exotic for my tastes. I would venture to guess the food in Southeast Asia is better than whatever I decide to
whip up burn while camping.
Since I am currently groaning about all the rocks under my sleeping pad (a sure bet), I have a guest post lined up for you today. Susanne is a woman after my own heart. She is backpacking through Southeast Asia, with her knitting no less. Seriously. I swoon with envy. Susanne has a beautiful blog over at Wooly Ventures. Please do take the time to visit her lovely site. If you are like me and likely not able to embark on anything quite so adventurous at present, we can live vicariously through Susanne together.
Hello! I’m Susanne, and I’ve been knitting my way through Southeast Asia for the last four months.
Southeast Asia has an incredibly rich history of fiber arts, with batik dyeing in Indonesia, silk weavers in Thailand, and so much more. But knitting? It’s a bit harder to come by. Despite this, every so often while browsing through a souvenir filled stall, I’ll spot a hand knit sweater or hat, evidence that there are indeed knitters in this tropical corner of the world.
But where do we find these mysterious knitters? Here are a few of my favorite ways to discover the knitting underworld of Southeast Asia.
I’ll be honest, it’s not as easy to find knitting related stores as you might find in North America or Europe. Nevertheless, craft stores do exist. They tend to stock less wool and more cotton and linen or acrylic yarns (which makes sense as it is mostly too hot for wool anyways).
Go to craft shops and any knitting related stores you can find. This can sometimes be difficult, especially if you are not in the bigger cities such as Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok.
Some knitting stores to start with include:
- Cotton House Store(Penang, Malaysia),
- The Hand Crafter (Jakarta, Indonesia), and
- Big Knit Café (Bangkok, Thailand).
Side note: Packing your yarn stash
When I packed my bags for Southeast Asia, I brought about 500 g of yarn, so as not to over pack (trust me, I wanted to bring more). Fast forward a few months later, and I am nearing the end of said stash. It’s not that it’s impossible to find yarn while traveling in Southeast Asia, but it does require some determination to do so. The larger capital cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, and Jakarta will almost certainly have at least one knitting store or two.
The tricky part lies in finding the type of yarn that you need for your project. I found yarns with cotton, acrylics, and linen to be relatively easy to find in the larger cities. Luxury yarns however, such as alpaca and yak wool can be harder to find.
To avoid disappointment, make sure to bring more than enough yarn to finish any projects you are working on.
Show off your knitting as much as possible
Knit whenever, and wherever you can. Most often, locals will be curious and interested about what you are making. I met more than a few locals in Bali who approached me simply to ask what I was doing! They had never seen knitting before but were very interested all the same.
Some of my favorite spots to knit are:
- On top of mountains, where the temperatures are nice and cool,
- Anywhere with air conditioning (i.e. buses, trains, shopping malls, cafés, etc.), and
- On the beach (ideally in a shady spot and with a small project, because knitting a wool scarf is very unpleasant at 35 degrees Celsius.
Participate in events such as WWKIP
Attending the World Wide Knit in Public (WWKIP) day can be a great way to meet other knitters in the area. If you don’t find an event in your area, you can simply set one up of your own. I did this during my stay in Penang, Malaysia and made a new knitting friend in the process! Another great option is using Meet Up, a website created to connect people with similar interests. It’s worth checking out to see if there’s a knitting group in your area.
Keep an Open Mind
Traveling can often bring about a total shift in perspective in the way you see the world around you. Yes, it can even alter your perspective on knitting. For example, take a look at this article.
Prior to this, I would never have considered using knitting as a political tool, but it’s empowering to realize that we, as knitters, can use our skills to create positive change around the world.
Another inspiring Indonesian knitter I’ve come across on Instagram is @knitcrocweaver, who can be found knitting in buses and other public places in the city of Jakarta while proudly donning his beautiful handmade brioche beanies.
Do you like to knit and travel? What’s the most interesting experience you’ve had as a knitter in a foreign country?
Susanne is currently knitting away in Malaysia. You can read more of her stories of traveling through Asia while knitting on her blog at www.woolyventures.com.