Muddling Through Summer

July 26, 2009

Lately, I have been feeling very blah… My usual happy and positive spirits are at a low point and I have been having sleepless nights.

I knew this whole heritage thing was going to be difficult but I never realized that it would weigh that heavy on me.

I have been reading several reserach papers online, and even had intense e-mail contact with one of the researchers.  I found out things about the Dutch during colonial times, and it is not making me happy.

Still, I need to dig deeper and read some more. It is for my own peace of mind. I have to push through!

Back to knitting

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Have you all seen the new Rowan Magazine #46? I am so tickled by it, and believe me, it has been a while since any of the handknit magazines tickled me.

In this issue, Rowan certainly does not disappoint, I purchased it immediately and this beauty of a stole is my favorite “traditional” piece.

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Made out of Kidsilk Haze and a beauty of geometrical lace, this piece called Chartwell by designer Sarah Hatton just takes my breath away. How classy…

Also very very interesting to me is a section about Rowan Design Awards in which several pieces of designers are showcased. Here are some of my faves:

This piece by designer Dulcie Wanless, made out of Kidsilk Haze is something I covet..

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This bright and ingeniously knitted and braided piece by designer Vibe Lundemark is simply stunning! Rowan Big Wool is used:

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But the one piece that made me buy the magazine without skipping a heartbeat is this delicate gossamer design by Fabienne Gassman. She handknitted this with Kidsilk Haze;

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I wish there were more handknit magazines that would highlight handknitting pieces like these. And if there are ever handknit patterns with designs with this sesnsibility and quality, I will be the very first knitter to purchase it.

Organizing and getting back to knitting

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My yarn room or when I want to sound important my yarn studio has been such a huge mess. It is just atrocious but luckily my husband came to the rescue.

Before shelves in my yarncloset:

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and after shelves in my yarncloset:

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Yay..!

During sorting out my stuff I bumped into some unfinished projects and figured it was time to get on them again!

I finished a cashmere scarf for my father in law. I used my own Tristan Scarf pattern for this one:

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I just love this scarf. I am addicted to its stitch pattern, it has become my staple stitch in many designs!

Remember my Lady Eleanor Stole I made a couple of Summers ago?

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I still needed to do the knotting…ugh…but I finally started one side! I used my ruler to keep it all straight:

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Yikes. No fun. But the results are beautiful. Now if I only can find the will power to do the other side too…sigh.

I hope I am not the only one procrastinating with finishing up certain projects? Right..? Right..?

Okay, that’s it for now. I hope you are all doing well this Summer. Sorry, I haven’t been posting as much lately… hope you understand…

Thanks for keeping coming back here and reading my entries!


A closer look at alpaca fiber

July 15, 2009

Sweet-Alpaca

About two years ago, I visited a darling yarnshop in Hood River, Oregon called Foothills Yarns. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the shop owners keep their own alpacas.

Alpacas are so gentle and sweet, I really like their personality.

Not only is this knitter enamored by their personality, I simply adore their fiber!

Alpaca fiber is very long compared to merino fiber which is short and rather pooffy.

Alpaca’s long fiber gives its knitted yarn several characteristics. I would like to use my two Eco Alpaca Swatches which I wetblocked yesterday and are now dry to be gauged.

Alpaca’s drapey character

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After measuring my two swatches I yield the following stitchcount:

With needle size US7 : 9 stitches per inch row count and 12 stitches per inch column count.

With needle US5: 10 stitches per inch row count and  13 stitches per inch column count.

Now what does this actually mean? Let’s take a look.

Swatch with larger needle US7

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With larger needle US7 I yield less stitches per inch compared to smaller needle US5.

So, the larger your needle, the less stitches per inch you will get. What does this mean?

With less stitches per inch your knitted fabric will have more space in between the stitches. This is also refered to as being a loose knit. For my swatch this means that it will be more drapey, it literally hangs loosely.

A fabric that is made fairly loosely, will have the tendency to “flow” more, to be more “free”.

Swatch with smaller needle US5

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With smaller needle US5 I yield more stitches per inch compared to bigger needle US7.

So, the smaller your needle, the more stitches per inch you will get. What does this mean?

With more stitches per inch your knitted fabric will have less space in between the stitches. This is also refered to as being a close knit. For my swatch this means that it will be more stiff, it  as no room to breath, so to speak.

A fabric that is made fairly closely knit, will have the tendency to be quite stern.

So knowing all this, what to make with this fiber?

For my swatch with looser knit the following comes to mind:

  • Flowy triangular scarf
  • Baby Blanket
  • Long fingerless gloves
  • Medium length cardi that has lots of drape
  • Lace shawl

For my swatch with a closer knit the following comes to mind:

  • Jacket for baby
  • More substantial and thicker scarf
  • Thicker and warmer blanket
  • A hat
  • Medium length cardi or pullover

All in all I think alpaca is such a wonderful fiber. It is elegant, soft and so very warm. Alpaca is also a quite heavy fiber. I therefore would vote against a very long cardi or very long pullover because it might pull down and stretch because of its weight.

Thank you for your comments

I would like to thank each and every one of you for leaving me comments especially with regard to my last few posts.

At the moment I am doing research regarding my family’s history and have come accross several books and interesting articles.

One article that really encaptured me is an article I found on the website InsideIndonesia.org : Seeking Soeparno – a man who left his home to work in a plantation half way around the world.

Besides the written history, I am also interested in oral history. I want to view this topic from every angle possible, as objective as possible.

This winter I will be traveling to the Netherlands and am planning on getting my hands on all kinds of books and articles at several institutes. I also would like to open up conversation with my family and hear their stories.

As thoroughly as I studied knitting in the past three years, just as thoroughly I want to do research in my family’s history.

Thanks again everybody for reading and until the next entry…




Days Gone By

July 14, 2009

Puget Soud

Last Friday, I traveled to Edmonds, Washington, a sweet little town only 35 minutes by train from Seattle. I was invited to come to Edmonds by a woman from Indonesian descent. Her name is Bianca and we were both linked together by that tall man wearing a batik button down shirt who stepped into the yarnshop several months ago and held in front of me a mirror of Javanese Heritage.

Before I write about my Edmonds adventure I would like to talk a bit about knitting. I haven’t done that in a while and it is about time.

Gauging Eco Alpaca by Cascade Yarns

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Lately, I haven’t really been captured by a particular yarn…In days gone by, I would be tickled by yarns continuously, but it seems that nowadays it is harder to please this knitter.

Several months ago, I went to a yarnshop over at Sellwood in Portland with my friends and co-workers Adrienne and Jenni. I was scoping the yarnshop for some yarn that would tickle my fancy and when I almost gave up, my eye fell on this beautiful natural colored alpaca yarn.

It is called Eco Alpaca by Cascade Yarns, and let me tell ya… it is delicous!

More than anything I am so very taken by the fact that this Eco Alpaca is not dyed at all. All these natural colors… I am so incredibly drawn to it.

Making my swatch

Regular readers of this blog know by now that I am an avid swatch knitter. See, when you knit, and especially when you design your own, it is very important to make a swatch.

A swatch will give you so much information about how the yarn will behave once knitted up. What you are doing when you knit, is you make a fabric. When you knit, you make a fabric AND you  construct a garment both at the same time.

Once you realize that, you must understand that making a gauge swatch is very important. Without my gauge swatch I am utterly lost. I don’t know how many stitches per inch I have and this is crucial for making calculation in order to design a garment.

Having this said, I just made two gauge swatches with my Eco Alpaca. I used two different needles: US5 and US7. Not only do I make swatches, I wetblock my swatches too before measuring my gauge.

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I give them a 5 minute soak in cold water, then gently squeeze all the excess water out and roll them in a towel. Once rolled up in towel I press firmly on the towel to get even more excess water out.

Finally, I lay my swatches flat to dry.

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Tomorrow, my swatches will be dry and ready to be measured. Why do I make two swatches with two different needles you might wonder?

Here’s the answer:

Again, I am aware that I am actually making a fabric. I want to see what kind of knitted fabric I produce against two different needles.

I want to know how this Eco Alpaca yarn behaves and hangs, gauged against two different needlesizes. Once I see how my little knitted fabric behaves, I can determine what type of garment I will design with it.

The Dutch Indies – Photos of Days Gone By

Bianca and me met during a dinner party organized by Mike (the tall man wearing a batik button down shirt and who walked into the yarnstore). After this dinner party we staid in contact and last weekend I visited her.

Reason for my visit was to talk about the Dutch Indies and colonialism. See, me and Bianca have one thing in common: both our families have lineage to Indonesia. And allthough under very different circumstances, both our families left Indonesia against their will.

The Dutch-Indies, what was to become modern Indonesia, were occupied  by the Dutch for about 350 years roughly between the 16th and middle of the 20th century. The Dutch also colonized a little country in South-America called Suriname.

From 1863 to 1930, the Dutch shipped 33.000 Javanese people to Suriname to work on the plantations. Among them were my great grandparents. According to history, these Javanese people were “contract workers”.

I don’t want to go into further details about this period in this post. All I want to show you are some pictures I found in a book at Bianca’s place. These pictures were taken during 1870-1920 in the Dutch East Indies and are of value to me with regard to painting a picture how things looked like right about the time my great grandparents were shipped.

No words…just pictures.

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Thank you for reading and until the next entry.


A Journey into the Past

July 10, 2009

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Today I am traveling to Edmonds, Washington to visit a woman from Dutch-Indonesian descent. We were both linked together by that tall man who stepped into the yarnshop and held  in front of me the mirror of my Javanese heritage.

I have no idea where this visit will lead to in the end. All I know is that I am going to make a journey into the past of Indonesia involving Portugese, English and Dutch colonialism.

Against this backdrop, I will try to place my family’s history…

First draft of my knitting patterns

Portland based Graphic Designers Patrick and Holly have been helping me with several of my knitting patterns. Last week I have received their first draft to be screened by me.

I will travel to Edmonds by train so I will have 4 hours to screen the first drafts thoroughly. Hopefully, I will be done in just a couple of hours and then I can knit for a little bit.

Thinking about starting a new blog

I am thinking about starting a new blog… A blog in which I will write about my Javanese-Surinamese heritage. A blog in which I will write about my family’s history.

And who knows… making the journey into the past will influence my knitting patterns…

A big thank you to all of you for listening to this knitter’s family history and cultural identity struggle. I have received several comments on my previous post which helped me tremendously.

Thank you so much for extending your Sisterly Love…

Thanks for reading and until the next entry.


Struggling with my cultural identity…

July 8, 2009

Several months ago, during busy season at the yarnshop, this tall guy stepped into the store. He immediately caught my eye because he was wearing a button down shirt made out of beautiful traditional Javanese batik fabric.

When he stepped towards our desk to inquire about gift certificates, I immediately asked him about his shirt. He told me that he regularly travels to Indonesia and that his wife’s family is from Java, Indonesia.

After our brief encounter in the yarnshop that day, I hadn’t seen this man anymore until very recently. He invited me to have dinner with his family, his wife was going to prepare a traditional Javanese meal.

I could not have foreseen that accepting his invitation would entail entering into a part of my life I hadn’t touched for a very long time: my Javanese Heritage..

A story untold…

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When people ask me where I am from, I reply: “I am from Amsterdam, the Netherlands”.

When I detect in their eyes that they are a little bit puzzled by my answer, I quickly add to it: “But I was born in Suriname, South America.”

Finally, I will add: “However, my ancestors are from Java, Indonesia.”

My nationality is Dutch, my heritage is Javanese-Surinamese, and I have been living in the United States of America since 2005.

Usually, this is all the information you get from me. However, there is a whole history behind me being from a Javanese-Surinamese background. A history that traces back to as far as 1512. A history that involves colonialism, spice trade and human trafficking.

A history that has affected my family deeply…

Let us not talk about the past. Let us focus on the future.

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When I was a little girl, I remember my Uncle and Mother talking about my great grandmother. I was busy playing with my toys, but caught bits and pieces of the conversation about my great grandmother:

“She was shipped from Java to Suriname…hard labor on sugar cane plantation…she had to leave behind a baby daughter… never saw her family in Java again”

On another occasion I remember hearing my Father talk about Suriname:

“Not going back to Suriname…political situation unstable…staying in the Netherlands with my family…let’s make sure our children integrate seamlessly into Dutch society.”

In another conversation I overheard my Uncles and Aunties saying:

“What has happened in the past is in the past. Let us not talk about it anymore. It is the fate of our people. Let us focus on the future…”

And thus, dear reader, this knitter carries a story untold. A story that I have carefully put away in a room in my being. I have locked the door to this room firmly and lost the key…

Integrating into western society

For as long as I remember I have been trying so hard to fit into western society.

I have done my utmost and more to fit into Dutch society and ever since I moved to the United States of America, I have done my utmost and more to fit into American society.

But the thing is… I am undeniably Asian…at least my looks say so…

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Dear reader, this knitter is struggling with her identity right now  in so many ways. It is a layer in my existence which I find difficult.

Who am I? With which culture do I resonate the most? Dutch? Javanese? Surinamese? American?

As I raise these questions, even more questions arise. Questions about my family’s past… and I realize that I have a deep yearn to tell the story untold.

I have the feeling that a tidal wave of my complex heritage story is hitting me hard…I think I am ready to go more deep into this layer.

OMG. Somebody please hold my hand.

Thank you for reading and until the next entry…


Exploring My Layers

July 5, 2009

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Lately, I have been exploring multiple layers in my existence…

Most of the times, I have a lot of fun doing this exploration. I dive into an adventure without hesitation and totally submerge into it.

A good example for that is my knitting.

Let’s say my knitting is a layer in which I feel comfortable, and in which I have achieved a lot in only three years. One can conclude that I have been very passionate about my knitting.

At some point, one can even say I have been obsessed by knitting. This obsession, however, has been slowly but surely wearing off over the past 2 months. And because of this, room for other “layers” in my life have been presenting themselves to me.

The layers in my life in which I find infinite joy

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One of my passions which give me infinite joy is dancing! I am particularly drawn towards a music genre called “deep house”.

Whenever I hear this deep house genre music, I feel free and dance. How I love being in this layer!

And oh, how lucky am I that my husband is a passionate deep house DJ. When he drops the deep house beats, dear reader, I just cannot sit still and dance to the break of dawn. No kidding.

And guess what… lately, my husband has been dropping the beats big time in a nightclub in downtown Portland. So I have been occupied with a lot of dancing over the past months or so. Sweeeeeet!

On the dancefloor, this knitter feels so incredibly free. I can absorb the music freely, and let go of stuff that is bothering me. I dance, feel free and am oh so happy.

The layers in my life in which I find difficulties

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There are areas in my being I don’t like to touch. I keep the doors to these areas closed and do not give it much thought.

Giving these areas thought, means I have to plough through certain layers in my existence that may cause sadness and hurt. And who wants to plough through that? Not this knitter.

However, when one least expect it, a long lost key to a door that has been locked firmly, might be presented to you.

Or, to make it even more mysterious, when one least expect it, a mirror in which you haven’t looked in for a long time, might be presented to you.

I never would have thought, that this long lost key, and this mysterious mirror would present themselves in the very yarnshop that I work at…

This key and mirror, have kept me from writing for so long on this blog. It is until today, that I have struggled to get behind my laptop and write a blogpost already!

Have I tickled your curiosity? Good. Come back in a couple of days. There will be an interesting blogpost. I promise.

Thank you for reading and see you back here in a couple of days…