Interview with Ilham 


KARINA: What’s your name, and what country are you from?

ILHAM: My name is Ilham. I’m from Iraq.

KARINA: And how long have you been in Houston?

ILHAM: Eight years.

KARINA: That’s a very long time. How long have you been a part of The Community Cloth?

ILHAM: About seven years.

KARINA: So you probably heard about The Community Cloth soon after getting here?

ILHAM: Yeah, when I arrived, I heard about The Community Cloth.

KARINA: How many children do you have, and what are their ages?

ILHAM: Three children. The oldest one, my son—1979, his age. And my other son, 1981. And my daughter, 1990.

KARINA: So, what would you like to share about your story, about how you arrived in the US?

ILHAM: I arrived from Egypt. I leave my country after the war, and I went to Egypt and stayed six years.

KARINA: Six years, wow.

ILHAM: Yeah, in Egypt, and then I came to the USA in 2010.

KARINA: Was it a long process, to get everything together? And you came straight to Houston?

Ilham. Yeah, straight to Houston.

KARINA: What’s your favorite thing about working with The Community Cloth?

ILHAM: I’m interested because I love knitting. I love it. With The Community Cloth, it’s my family. Yeah, I’m interested with them. It’s very good for me. I like it.

KARINA: How has The Community Cloth helped you or impacted you?

ILHAM: It’s good for me and my depression—I have depression. When I’m knitting, I relax and I feel good.

KARINA: That’s really good. Is there anything new you’ve learned from working with The Community Cloth?

ILHAM: When I came to The Community Cloth, I just know very basic knitting. Very basic things. When I work with them, I like it. I search on the Internet and I bought some books and learned new things. It’s very interesting.

KARINA: That’s so cool. So you’re self-taught.


KARINA: I can’t knit anything. So all of these things in here are just so beautiful to me. My mom knows how, but she never taught me. Have you taught your kids how?

ILHAM: When I learn knitting, I was young. 16 years. And when I come to America, I have more time. I don’t have my family, my sisters in Iraq.

KARINA: And have you shown your kids how, have you taught them?

ILHAM: No, everyone hates the knitting! [laughter]

KARINA: But why?

ILHAM: Because when I’m knitting, I not speak. [laughter] I’m very quiet.

KARINA: My mom is like that, and my grandmother too. She knits and she won’t talk to anyone.

ILHAM: Yes, the knitting is for old women, not young women. Old woman, she have time and she want to relax. It’s a different life.

KARINA: What types of items do you knit? 

ILHAM: Everything. I knit scarf, hat, dresses for girls. I try something new— I can show you. Something for girls, because I like it, knitting.

KARINA: How long does it take you to make everything?

ILHAM: Everything? For the hat, it takes small time. The scarf takes three days. For a full dress it takes three or four days.

KARINA: That’s a lot shorter than I would have expected. That would take me like a year. Which is your favorite item to make?

ILHAM: Everything. Scarf, hat, dress. And the other ones, I don’t remember their name. Pouf? But just knitting, I like it.

KARINA: Now, away from knitting— What’s your favorite food?

ILHAM: Food? [laughter] Everything. Everything is delicious. I like my food, because I spent my life cooking. But I like the food of Houston. Especially Mexican food. We cook Mediterranean food. We use vegetables, and meat, and rice…

KARINA: So do you cook a lot at home?

ILHAM: Yeah, I cook every day. Every day.

KARINA: So you knit and probably cook every day! So next one: what’s been the most challenging thing about moving to a new place?

ILHAM: New place? Everything is different from my home. I like it. The city is beautiful, and the people are very nice. But the language, I found difficult to speak. Everything I feel— It’s difficult to say it.

KARINA: Did you know English before you came?

ILHAM: Yeah. When I came— I learned in my school in Iraq. In Iraq, we learn English in middle school and high school, and in college. I can write and read, and listen and everything. I understand. Difficult to speak.

KARINA: It’s the same for me. My family’s from Mexico, but my Spanish is— I can understand it, but it’s hard to get out what I want to say. And what do you like about living in Houston? We’ve gone over the food, and the people.

ILHAM: Everything. The food and the weather. The weather is— [laughter] I like it because it’s not cold. The same as my country. Everything is beautiful. I like Houston. I go to Los Angeles and to New Jersey and Seattle, and I don’t like the weather. I like Houston. I feel it’s my home, like my country.