Knitting in Indonesia

I remember something that prompted me to write this piece, a question from an American knitter in Ravelry who was about to move to Indonesia : “Are there knitters in Indonesia?”

The answer is yes, there are. Not too many, though.

You see, knitting is not, and has yet to become, a popular activity in Indonesia. It is far less popular than crocheting. I believe for every thousand of Indonesians who know how to crochet and do it as a hobby or a job, maybe less than a hundred who knit.

Why? First of all, I personally think it’s because there’s a misconception about how knitting works. Most Indonesian people think that knitting is only done with wool, to make sweaters, hats, scarves, or socks. And because Indonesia is a tropical country, where the average temperature is about 80 degrees Fahrenheit, there’s little need for all those cold weather clothings.

While crocheting, which can creates lacy and airy fabrics with fine cotton yarns (which is thought cannot be done in knitting), is assumed to be more suitable for warm weather. Both situations bring about this fact : little need and availability of knitting supplies (especially needles), and abundant crocheting supplies.

Most English – Indonesian dictionaries translate ‘knitting’ to ‘merajut‘, and ‘crocheting’ to ‘merenda‘, but most people only use one word “merajut” (me-rah-joot) to represent both knitting and crocheting, (like the Japanese use the word “amu“). And because crocheting is far more popular in Indonesia, ‘merajut‘ is then usually associated only with crocheting, not knitting (most people don’t even know this technique exists!*sigh*).

That is why, when you go to a needlework shop and ask for ‘merajut’ tools, you’ll probably get some crochet hooks and threads, not knitting needles and yarns.

Lately I even see a tendency to use the English word “knitting” for BOTH knitting and crocheting. I frequently see people’s blogs which said “I knit this and that” while what they were doing was actually crochet.

This was what brought me (and my knitting friend Frida) to write a knitting book, and set up a knitting (and crocheting) community online through mailing list and a website : to give and share information about knitting and crocheting, to differentiate between the two, and to spread the love of them. Our dream was that if there are more knitters, there would be more knitting supplies readily available on the market.

It seems that our dream is coming true. Following a knitting boom from the western hemisphere, boosted by the spread of internet, now knitting is gaining popularity in Indonesia. Demand for knitting needles and yarns is up, so is their availability. Free tutorials from the internet help people, especially young women (college girls, working women, stay at home moms), to learn knitting and spread the knitting virus. Knit and crochet communities blossoming everywhere, online and offline. Since 2007, knitting and crochet books (…well…mostly crochet books….) being published every year.

It’s good to know that when I go back to Indonesia someday, it won’t be hard to find knitting supplies, unlike the last time I was there.


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