KUWAIT CITY, KUWAIT
The first stop on our tour is to visit Yasmin Gamal, a crochet and knitwear designer living in Kuwait.
Hi, Yasmin! Thank you so much for being the very first designer on the tour! To kick things off, can you tell us where you are from, where you live now, and what brought you to your new home?
I live in Kuwait but I am Egyptian. I was born in Kuwait, moved to Scotland when I was 8 then moved to Egypt again until I got married in 2007 and moved to Kuwait with my husband.
What do you miss most about home?
Mostly, I miss Egyptian weather. It is perfect most of the year, never too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter, with the exception of a couple of weeks.
How did you get started knitting and crocheting? And how did it turn into designing?
Until moving to Kuwait I was a software business analyst, it was a time intensive job and I never had enough free time for hobbies. Suddenly I found myself in a new country, no friends or family and a baby girl. I had learned crocheting at school but never pursued it. I have always loved crafting, so I thought it would be a great way to fill up all the free time. At first I mainly just wanted to crochet amigurumi and afghans and I kept going on. Then I discovered crocheting bags and I fell in love and started designing my own bags. A friend suggested I should publish them, so I did and the rest is history.
How does where you live now and where you have previously lived influence your designs?
Because of the weather, wool is not very practical, so I mostly use cotton, linen or silk. I also gravitate between neutral colors which complement the desert environment and deep rich colors. I also think because I have lived in different and quite contrasting places, I definitely draw on all of them to create different things.
Where is your favorite place to knit/crochet/design?
I usually work on the living room couch. I am pretty mobile, I keep notes in my Bullet Journal, which if you haven’t heard about go ahead and Google. When I am ready to start writing up a pattern, I set up shop on the dining room table. I would love to have a craft room where I could store my stash and have a dedicated place to work, but I am grateful I am pretty flexible and can work anywhere.
Ahhh! I just watched the Bullet Journal video and the organizational nerd in me who loves graph paper is now really itching to make a to-do list! Thank you for sharing that!
Seeing that kind of organization, I have to ask: 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?
I am definitely not a planner. I am more of a “let’s wait and see” or “we’ll cross the bridge when we get to it” kind of girl. I usually have a general direction of where I want to go. Sometimes I sketch or take measurements so I stay on track and other times I just start knitting or crocheting. I also love listening to the yarn. Sometimes I buy yarn because I fall in love with the color or texture and it sits for weeks in my yarn baskets until I figure out what it wants to be.
What is your go to knitting/crocheting/designing snack/beverage?
Definitely coffee. Most of my work is done in the mornings after I have dropped my daughter off to school.
Do you have a favorite design in your portfolio and what makes it special to you?
I have two favorite designs. The first is the Carry Me Away Bag. It was one of my first designs and still is my most popular one. I designed it to be more like a beach bag. The yarn is blue cotton, and the stitch pattern reminds me of waves.
The second, the Tella Dress was a long one in the making. My daughter loves dresses and again cotton was my go to yarn. It works well with solid, self striping or even variegated yarn. It is a simple dress but just works.
The bag is so cool and I love the Tella Dress! I always want my daughter to wear the things I knit for her, but it’s usually too hot. This is the perfect little summer dress knit in cotton! Who are your favorite designers (fiber arts or otherwise) and why?
I have lots of favorites actually, I think most of them have a similar design aesthetic. Simple, minimalistic, practical yet with a touch of flair that makes the finished object interesting. Like Martina Behm, Veera Välimäki, Ysolda Teague, Hannah Fettig and so many more. I think they also design smart knits. Interesting construction that look much more complicated than they really are.
Designing can be a very solitary profession, but there is such a wonderful online community for us – and I know all of those designers are active in helping budding designers with advice or a kind word. How do sites like Ravelry impact your work and your life?
It can get terribly lonely as an expat sometimes but the fiber arts online community is one of the friendliest and most helpful online communities there is. I have made friends from all over the world. I have even managed to meet a few in real life. Non knitters will always say “I don’t have the patience to knit” but we all know that knitting or crocheting teaches you patience and mindfulness. And that mindfulness definitely helps keep our sanity in check.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your process and inspirations. It was so great meeting you!
Thank you again for asking me to do this, it was a lot of fun, can’t wait to see the rest of your designers from all around the world.