Hi, my name is Keren Ruth Osapir. I am a final year architect student at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), a designer, DIY enthusiast, music lover and a born-again Christian. I am the founder of Ogfra Knits, a Kenyan-based design company that provides yarn garments and house accessories. We bring joy, warmth and colour around you. Every piece is handmade with love.
First things first.
My mother is a knitter. She was a high school teacher by profession so she didn’t knit that much but when she did, she produced masterpieces. When I was younger, she decided to teach our house help, Caro, how to knit and crochet so that she could make couch covers during her free time. I was so amazed by the art! I couldn’t stop nagging Caro to give me some yarn and allow me to use her hook when she was doing house chores. It was quite a long time before she agreed to it because she was afraid of a class five kid with dirty hands touching her pure white yarn. So she made a yarn ball for me and gave me her hook. That was the happiest day for me.
My friends came looking for me because I wasn’t present for the daily games at our usual spot. I had found a new love that was better than games. That is how and when my journey and love for this art began.
The journey continues.
From there it was uphill. In primary school, I mainly just familiarized myself with yarn and hook. In high school, I started making scarfs and beanies for friends during their birthdays. My mom financed everything, including the delivery. The smiles on their faces and joy in their voices after receiving the packages was enough for me.
When I joined campus in 2015, I realized the need to have an income stream because my mother was raising us single handedly. My older brother was in Kenyatta University doing a parallel programme and I was in JKUAT pursuing architecture, a course that required a lot of money in terms of learning material and project equipment. Money was tight. That’s when I looked at this love, yarn design, in a whole new light. A business venture. I started simple since I knew nothing about business and in 2015, the people around me didn’t really know what yarn design was all about.
With time, I got to learn more and that is when Ogfra Knits was born. The name Ogfra is from my late father’s initials. He had a business with a similar name. To honour him and ensure his legacy lives on, my brother and I have named our businesses Ogfra.
Favourite crafting memory.
Wow. I have several but it’s currently something that happened in 2020; when the covid 19 pandemic hit. Before the lockdown announcement in Kenya, my brother and I had travelled home for a funeral. We had lost our aunt a few weeks earlier and went home for the burial.
After the burial, the announcement was made and we couldn’t travel back to Nairobi so we stayed home. I personally was home for eight whole months! There was a period where I went through a design sprout I would say. I got yarn and started to crochet. I couldn’t stop. That was my best crafting memory because I got to learn more about my skills, made a whole garment line and found out more about what these hands could do. Each time I’d post my work, I’d get a lot of positive comments of how awesome the pieces were. I was surprised each time I looked at the pictures. I out did myself. That was the new beginning during a crisis. I will always remember those months. That was also when my YouTube channel was born. I thank God for that period.
Inspiration- who & what?
My mom is definitely the who. She is the most supportive pillar in my life. She is the kind of person who will be your everything. Mentor, best friend, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, a financial advisor and wow the list is endless.
What inspires me is the dream I have for my brand. I have a dream that Ogfra Knits will become a legacy and a safe space for everyone who is looking for an anchor. This inspires me to keep on doing what I do.
Plans for Ogfra Knits.
I have a lot of plans set in place for Ogfra Knits this year! They include:
- growing my brand and spread the yarn gospel and its therapeutic qualities
- grow my YouTube channel
- ensure I have an online shop up and running before the year ends
- start an official yarn school before the year ends
I am most excited about sharing my new pieces with the world because I love seeing people smile. If I can play a small part in making that happen then I will do it.
Apart from the goals, I also create event outfits. What is different about Ogfra Fashions is that I don’t just design garments, I design garment that have stories behind them. I curate garments specifically for my clients. Furthermore, I am also a content creator on YouTube where I post tutorial and inspirational videos that are based on yarn life. Similarly, on Instagram I share my hair journey, daily outfits that I piece together and DIY projects on décor and plants. I am also in the construction industry. As I mentioned before, I am an architecture student so I offer consultation on building design and interior design. That’s under Ogfra Consultancy.
Influence of tribe/ culture.
I like calling myself a hybrid. I am born of a Luo father and a Teso mother; a River-Lake Nilote and a Plain Nilote. Both worlds couldn’t be more different. I got a piece of each side and both have played a huge part in who I am today and mainly what I do.
The Luo are said to be proud and flashy, hehe. I wouldn’t use those exact words but I always find myself trying my best to present my work in the best possible manner. I do not settle for less because I know my works worth.
The Teso are known to be very polite and industrious. I know I took a little bit of that because I tend to create from what I have. Creativity is an endless journey for me since I look at it as a learning circle that is continuous and endless. I think that is what culture has injected into my craftsmanship. There has not been a negative end from my culture.
I have not directly experienced racism or tribalism but I am well aware of their existence. Discrimination on the other hand, I am familiar with. I faced discrimination mainly in high school. Being different was not received well in the high school I attended. My behaviour and speech was different, influenced by the school I had transfered from; it came off as being prideful and bossy. So I received a little bashing from the girls but I somehow came out victorious after talks with my brother and my mother. They assured me not to change who I am just because others find it strange. From then on I stood firm and my self-esteem shot up greatly. I learnt that it is okay to be different. That’s what makes the world exciting.
….it is okay to be different. That’s what makes the world exciting.Keren Ruth Osapir of Ogfra Knits
Ogfra Knits huddles.
When I ventured into yarn design, the people did not get what I was doing. Crochet and Knit garments were especially frowned upon because it was new. People were used to winter wear: scarfs, sweaters, beanies, and they had not really wrapped their heads around yarn dresses, skirts and tops. I am glad that is changing.
A word from the wise.
Crafting is a very refreshing way to calm oneself down. It can take different shapes and forms, a hobby, an income stream or therapy. Identify what you like and start working on it because it is never too late to be right.
Keren is very active on her Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and TikTok. You can follow her to see her latest work and keep up to date with new releases. She also has a YouTube Channel where she shares crochet tutorials.
Disclaimer: All photos provided for the purposes of graphics & illustrations for this article, are from Keren Ruth Osapir of Ogfra Knits