As part of the original Around the World in 80 Skeins tour, the 10th stop was to visit Faima Othman, a knitwear and crochet designer living in Egypt.
Hi, Faima! Where are you from originally and where do you live now? What do you miss most about your home country?
I live in Cairo, Egypt, near the Pyramids of Giza, but I am from Bulgaria, a small and beautiful European country. Years ago I found love here and married my Egyptian husband. We have 2 kids, a girl and a baby boy. But my beloved homeland Bulgaria is always in my heart. I miss the white snowy winter, rainy fall, blossoms of spring, green mountains, blue sea, and my friends.
What’s the best thing about where you live?
Egypt is called “Mother of Life” and you really can feel the soul of this land in any small thing. There is an Egyptian proverb: “Once you drink from the Nile, you are destined to return,” and believe me, it’s true. Cairo is the craziest chaotic city, with its own magical smell and the most warm and funny people. It somehow slips under your skin and becomes part of your DNA. There are many places to visit here – of course first to see are the great Pyramids and the Museum with mummies. Then you can go for a Felucca (wooden sailboat) ride on the Nile, shopping at Khan El Khalily market, eating, or smoking shisha in some small old cafe.
How did you get started knitting and crocheting and how did it turn into designing?
I fell in love with knitting when I was 4 years old, watching both my grandma’s knitting and crocheting. My evening routine was to sit on my tiny chair and pretend to knit with needles and ball of yarn. As a student, I was making lots of scarves and pullovers, first for me, then to sell in local shops. After University, I started my own business in fashion, having a boutique and workshop for sewing prom and wedding dresses, clothes, and bags. Knitting was my evening escape and antidepressant pill. I started designing patterns and garments here in Egypt, after discovering Etsy. It’s the perfect way to create and work from home.
Who are your favorite designers?
There are so many and so inspiring! But I like most Dolce & Gabbana, their style is so me. Their inspirations come from things that I love – Italian history, Sicily, Spanish culture, old movies, feminine women… If we talk about real designers, that will be forever in history, professionals of all times – Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Lacroix. I also like Missoni for their knitwear too.
Where is your favorite place to design and what do you eat/drink while working?
So the best place to work for me is my home. I adore to wake up, and still in my PJs to knit with a cup of morning coffee and milk. Also, I like to work while watching/listening to some series or movie. Favorite working snack/beverage: Coffee, chocolate, or a glass of wine in the evening. But I am a good cook 🙂
What is your design process like? Do you plan it all out before you pick up your needles/hook, or do you let the yarn show you where to go?
First I see the yarn and a model comes in my mind. If the finished item doesn’t look okay I leave the yarn to “sleep” until I see it later and the needles make the perfect garment. There is not 3rd attempt. 😀 The whole process should be easy and effortless. Sometimes I start to knit with some idea and finish with a completely different and perfect result.
Do you have a favorite local yarn store?
My favorite yarn store is near my home, owned by great family. You can find such treasures there and lots of yarn you never think even exist.
Is there a big knitting/crochet culture where you live?
Unfortunately Egypt is a country with a hot climate and knitwear is not something you will wear here usually. There are good Egyptian cotton yarns, that they make religious hats and home decoration items.
Do you have a favorite design in your portfolio that was inspired by your culture/environment?
One of my latest designs is a Crochet Sheep Baby Mobile, inspired by one of the biggest feasts here, when it’s a family obligation to sacrifice a sheep or cow and give part to less fortunate people.
Another model, inspired from the place I live is my Africa Crochet Wristlet clutch. The craft yarn I used is really special – each skein is hand colored and there are so many amazing colors.
Thank you, Faima, for sharing your home, designs, and inspirations with us!