Last Saturday afternoon a group of Siem Reap ladies met to knit, crochet and generally set the world to rights. And, being women*, eat copious amounts of cake. But this wasn’t some octogenarian arts and crafts social – this was part of an unusual craze that’s been sweeping the west and has finally arrived in Siem Reap: the Stitch ‘n’ Bitch.
Baker extraordinaire Sarah Cantero of Upstairs Café started hosting the social stitching events after a customer suggested it.
She explains; “I was asking different clients if they had any ideas about things they would like to do here, and someone gave me the idea about Stitch n’Bitch.”
She laughs remembering that she was a little shocked when she first saw the name. “I got this Facebook page called Stitch n’Bitch, and because I am French, bitch for me, well it’s a very bad word! But I checked and I found a lot of things. It’s organised in a lot of places in the world. It was very funny and I really liked the idea so I started.”
So what exactly is a ‘stitch n bitch’? Originating in the US, it is essentially an alternative knitting group. People meet once a week or month to knit and gossip over a drink or tea and cake.
Sarah feels it is a chance to provide something new in Siem Reap, where the bitching, or socializing, is as important as the stitching.
Sarah explains, “I think the aim of Stitch n’Bitch is to meet new people. We are in a small town and you don’t have a lot of things to do apart from going out for a drink or for dinner. So it’s a very pleasant, informal way to meet new people and maybe to share a passion that you have in common. It’s just something different.”
And it certainly has its fans. The appeal, according to stitcher Rachel Band, lies in the novelty and the tranquility of the café itself. “It’s a peaceful, light place which is perfect for doing something you have to concentrate on. I just have to be careful not to get chocolate cake on my cross-stitch. It's something different which isn't offered in town and it's a creative environment.”
The crafty sessions are not restricted to knitting. Customers have been sewing, cross-stitching – one enterprising client even crocheted a cup carrier out of plastic string to carry her iced coffee around in.
But are the afternoons female-exclusive or can any budding male ‘stitchette’ apply?
Sarah recalls that an unlikely customer joined their first session in the shape of a man working for the Halo Trust, demining on the Thai/Cambodia border. He came to the café every weekend for tea, and when he arrived on Stitch’n’bitch Saturday, he said he’d like to learn to knit.
Sarah says, “He was knitting and we were teaching him and I really found that very nice because people were sharing – sharing a technique, sharing their experience, whatever but it was very inclusive.”
*Author’s note: I hate to generalize but I am one so feel I can.