Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Finger puppets

Here are some photos of finger puppets that we are practising to make right now. The patterns are from etsy designer Raynor Gellatly who designs very cute amigurumi with a finger puppet option for the body. The knitters are very happy to be working up the designs and enjoy watching the little critters slowly come to life in their hands.

The knitters are getting very proficient and confident at reading the patterns. Now we need to work more on improving the finishing, quality and consistency. I still need to find suitable stuffing. I might have mentioned before that basically NOTHING is available in Cambodia and I've had to order in most everything we need. The safety eyes are on their way from the US and I'll need to take a two day trip to Bangkok to find the stuffing and more tapestry needles.

So have a look at the pics, but know that these are just the start...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More pictures

My mother requested more pictures of the knitty knitters knitting. So here they are along with our lovely stash of yarn recently arrived from the USA. A big, big thank you to Ame for lugging it all back with her! Also, a picture of Meow being her usual weird self.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Birds birds birds

We are at the end of the second week of knitting. We've come far and here is a photo of some knitted birds made as part of pattern practice. The pattern comes from Claire Montgomery's book Easy Baby Knits, a wonderful book of simple patterns for 0-3 year-olds that I highly recommend for new or experienced knitters alike. Thyda is hard at work translating more patterns into Khmer so next week, I'll have even more to show you soon.

More exciting is that the yarn from the US arrives on Monday and we can start producing some things for actual sale! This will be very useful as we are a business and selling things contributes significantly to our success ;).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Knitting pattern in Khmer

Its been a long, tiring, but fun week. First of all, I present to you what might possibly be the very first ever knitting pattern in Khmer. I can not confirm that this is indeed the first (and perhaps that is rather unlikely) pattern to ever be written in the Khmer language. It is entirely possible that before the Khmer Rouge period there were books or booklets of patterns available at the markets. The history of knitting and crocheting in Cambodia is murky, but who knows what we'll discover on this journey. Still, none of the women working with me now have ever followed a pattern, let alone seen one.

A big challenge has been teaching them how to read and follow a pattern. An even bigger challenge has been figuring out how to write one! The knitters don't have language for all the terms that come up in knitting (things like garter stitch and moss stitch have no names, and terms for things like KFB, sl1k1psso are unknown). A knit stitch is referred to as stitch up and a purl, as a stitch down. Pretty much everything else we've been making up as we go along. When I say we, I don't actually mean me, except in the role of facilitator, encouraging the women to develop language that they can work with. For example, I explained that seed stitch is called so because it resembles seeds (or moss, if you call it that). In Polish is it referred to as rice stitch, again because of the resemblance. In the end, the knitters decided to refer to it using a Khmer word to describe a certain rice seed!

This is all very challenging, yes, but even more than that, its exciting! Exciting to be a small part in the process of creating a vernacular that can later be shared and passed on. Its possible that in the next few months, as we meet more knitters and hear more stories about how people learned to knit, that we'll come across some old pattern books or rediscover the lost language of Khmer knitting. If we do, we'll revert to using what is already there. Until then, we'll keep being creative and playing with stitches and words.

Monday, July 13, 2009

In the beginning there were four...

Just a quick one to post the photo of the first four knitters, hard at work learning combination style knitting.

Friday, July 10, 2009

it all starts on Monday...

So Monday is the day that we begin to knit, knit, knit. Up until now its been all about trying to find things and people. Now I have sufficient amounts of both to get Cambodia Knits on the road to actual production. The knitters are experienced in knitting but not in reading patterns, so that will on the top of the list of things that need to be learned. The knitting needles and yarn are all from the local markets and of very poor quality. OK enough to practice and play with, but not good enough to make anything for sale. Luckily, a friend has returned to the US for a couple of weeks and I've put in an order for several kilos of yarn that she can bring back. And I finally found a factory supplier in Beijing willing to sell in smaller quantities so the next order can be larger, cheaper and put our importing skills to the test.

It's very exciting to finally be at this stage! I'm looking forward to my living room being full of knitty chatter and experimentation. The apartment is going to be rearranged this weekend to make the space more "work-like" and comfortable for all of us. Finally, the full space of the apartment will be utilized (our flat is spacious to say the least). When we're ready to expand to more knitters and need a bigger office, we can move. For now, Cambodia Knits lives with me.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

a long week...

The search for yarn continues. Thyda contacted all the garment factories in Cambodia that produce knitted products. Of the 16 I found listed, only one was willing to talk to us about buying extra stock of yarn that they might have laying around. I had visions of cones of multiple colours, wool, cotton, bamboo, all of suitable thickness that would be waiting for us to rescue them from the factory waste bins. I imagined getting a great deal on yarn we could practice knitting our products on, getting a feel for different textures before making a decision on what kind of yarn to go with.

There was no such luck... what I did learn and what I perhaps should have/could have figured out beforehand, was that factories that produce knit products do so with the thinest possible yarn, on machines, and that they rarely work with anything above a fingering weight yarn. The manager was very helpful and after looking at the samples I brought along, he called a few other knitting factories and the answer was the same at each: we have no such thing.

So its back to ordering from either US sites like Peaches and Creme or KnitPicks and asking some soon to arrive American visitors to stash as much as their baggage allowance will allow. The idea of importing several kilograms from China is all but dashed since all the factories I got into contact with have minimum orders of several hundreds of kilos... per colour!