Grande Beanies

CliffYears of snowboarding around the world have brought me to one realization….  Beanies are crucial, not only for boarding or fighting off Jack Frost, but crucial for the survival of fashion, swagger, and style.  However, when it came to finding a beanie that would keep my head warm and my style hot, I often ran cold.

That was until I laid eyes on Grande, and honestly, it was love at first sight!  This yarn is bulky, bright, soft, and comes in colors so sweet they hurt my teeth.  Grande truly is a one-ball wonder yarn with more natural abilities than Bo Jackson.  Its 100% wool, chunky two-ply design gives it a soft hand and makes it enjoyable to knit, hold, or even use as a pillow.

The funny thing about all of this is that I first started my quest for the ultimate beanie while living in Switzerland.  A year later I’m using a yarn manufactured by Schulana of Switzerland to make the beanies I have always dreamed about.  This gives me confidence in the yarn being a true performer, because, after having lived there, I realize the Swiss know three things: money, yarn, and snow sports.

So, having found Grande, I grabbed my needles and started to knit … and knit … and knit.  It truly is a pleasure to knit, as big size makes it easy to work with while allowing the stitches to fall into place effortlessly.  I think I was about halfway through my second beanie when the addiction hit.  Now all I can do is knit beanies, Grande beanies.


I have built up my yarn stash with all the awesome colors of Grande and have been making beanies non-stop for the past couple of months.   Never using a pattern I just try new stitches, cast-ons, decreases, etc.  It is fun being able to bring in a half-knit hat to work and getting tons of great ideas on how to finish from all my co-workers at Skacel.

After a couple of beanies I stumbled upon the style that has dominated my new obsession.  It takes me a little over an hour to complete, and it is taking up all my free time.  The hundreds of potential color combinations keep me busy with new ideas and push me to stay up all night knitting.  The feedback I have received from my snowboard and skiing peers is positive and many of them have jumped on the waiting list for a custom-knit masterpiece from me.


Just this last weekend while working our booth at the Northwest Needle Market, I got the honor and privilege of receiving a one-on-one lesson with the knitting goddess herself, Ms. Cat Bordhi.  Cat taught me how to use the Tunisian cast on method to start my beanies from the top and knit down.  A couple of knots, some dropped stitches, and ten minutes later I had learned this killer cast on.  Fully cast on and 30 rows later she introduced me to the yarn over bind off.

Over a 20 minute period I had learned a totally different way to structure my beanies.  This has since resulted in more sleepless nights full of knitting and has introduced a whole new design element into my knitting.  As I continue on my quest to knit the ultimate cocoon of happiness, I look forward to all the people I shall meet and all the lives I shall change.

Stay beautiful, stay fly, cool runnings,



“Because I can” pt 4.

BrianHi there folks!  I just wanted to give you a quick update on the progress of the socks.

This has been a busy week at work (we received lots of our new fall yarns) but I have managed to eek out a bit of time to keep the 14 socks going.

Thank you for all your comments and suggestions; it’s been fun to hear about how other knitters keep their projects organized.  As far as stuffing the yarn into the sock once I’m up far enough, well, managing 10  feet of cable and 14 socks is quite enough.  Add to that the weight of 14 full balls of yarn, and it may be too much.  The shoe tree arrangement has been working out well, and I’m pretty happy with that method, so I think I’ll stick to it.  Thanks for the suggestion though!  I may use that one when I’m back to knitting one pair at a time.

So far I’m finding it’s taking about an hour to knit a full round on all the socks.  For those of you thinking this is a quick and easy way to knock out your Christmas gifts…you may want to reconsider.  We’ll see if my time improves as I continue to trudge along. For those of you that are curious, I’m actually making the socks to fit me, so each sock is being worked on 72 stitches.

My goal right now is to be up to or past the heel when I get to sock summit.  Yes friends, skacel is a sponsor of the Sock Summit, thus we will have a booth to display our products and I will be working on the socks from time to time.  Please stop by and say hi.  We are always excited to see what you are working on.  And if you bring a printed copy of this blog, we’ll even have a special gift for you.  But come early – depending on the crowds, we may run out!

Here some photos of the socks in progress…

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Prince Entrelac, DDS


“Because I can” pt 3.

BrianHello fellow fiber enthusiasts!

Now the work begins.  I have contemplated all kinds of ways to get this project started, but when all else fails, consult an expert.

I was at TNNA when this whole concept started to be formed and while there I had the pleasure of spending a bit of time with Cat Bordhi.  Many of you will know her as the queen of the mobious but many more of you will know her for her innovative sock constructions, which can be found in her book New Pathways for Sock Knitters. I told Cat that I was interested in doing this project toe up since I am planning to knit the socks to fit my feet, and this way I can try them on as I go.  She said I should do smaller socks, but I’m up for the challenge.  Cat generously offered me a toe design and spent a few minutes showing me how to go about it.

I wish I could remember the story … there is ALWAYS a story!

I have to make a confession here … the toes were knit on smaller needles then moved to the larger needle.  I tried to figure out how to cast on with the long needle, but it was more than I could wrap my brain around.  So, as each toe was completed, I moved them to the large needle.  I did it backwards, starting with the Saturday sock and moving to Sunday.  Needless to say, I think I have this toe pattern memorized now.


The fun part (NOT) was when I discovered that one of the toes was moved onto the needles upside down.   It took me 90 minutes to undo that error and have everything in line for knitting in the round.

I really wanted to make the first attempt something special, and our Knit Night proved to be just such an occasion. I was sure I had all my ducks in a row with my 14 skeins of yarn neatly stored in the shoe tree, but alas … disaster soon met my needles and I was in a tangled nightmare.  I discreetly put the project to the side and went back to helping others with their entrelac scarves.


I thought I needed to have a fresh outlook on the problem.  I remembered that when I had the yarn on the table it seemed easier to manage, so I decided I needed to figure out a way to have the yarn above the needles.  After another trip to the market (the name has been generalized to protect the innocent), I soon had a combination of gadgets to make this thing work.  I picked up a basic clothing rack and opted not to put the wheels on the bottom.  I then hung two shoe trees on the clothes rack (one above the other) using shower curtain hooks.  I chose to use two shoe trees because I needed the yarn to hang width wise, not length wise.


This contraption allowed me to have the yarn above me while I was knitting (I couldn’t find 14 friends to each hold a ball of yarn for the duration of the project).  Something else I discovered was that now I had a great way to store the needle when I wasn’t knitting.  I chose to put stitch markers at the two ends of the 14 socks, because nothing frustrates me more than having to re-establish the loop on magic loop.

Now I had my yarn, my needle, and my equipment for attempt #2!  Well folks, we had a winner!  This worked beautifully for knitting the first 14 halves of the socks.  Alas … there are two sides to the socks, so for the first few passes, I would move my chair to the other side of the rack and knit from the back side.  Although this worked, my friend asked me why I didn’t just turn the socks around, so I held my breath and gave it a shot.  Here’s a very brief video that shows how it looks when it is turned.  This was filmed while I was knitting at a city street fair, so I apologize for the extra noise.

It was a lot of fun to have this at the festival, but I sure got some interesting questions.  Some people thought I was making hats for the seven dwarves.  I can’t wait until they are long enough that they look like socks.  Well, I’d better get back to knitting.  I hope to find some more public venues to work on the project, so you can drop by if you are in the area.  I’ll keep you posted.

SDG Prince Entrelac


Knit Night

RachaelOn July 9th we held a knit-night/potluck for all the employees here at skacel.  This is something we’ve done in the past but since it had been a while since the last gathering we thought it would be great to incorporate two of the most popular things around the office.  Knitting is of course at the top of everyone’s list, followed closely by tons of yummy treats.

Our resident pattern expert, Brian graciously volunteered to teach us the entrelac scarf pattern.  Many of us were very excited to learn this pattern which added to the overall anticipation of the evening. Not to mention the opportunity to work with Opus by Zitron, a new fall yarn which is so soft, you can’t help but rub it on your cheek.  Six of us learned the pattern, and just one of us (me) had to have the pattern re-written in layman terms.  What can I say I’m perpetually the problem child.  Sorry Brian!!


Aside from the entrelac class we had several people working on their own projects.  Penny was working on her socks made with Disco yarn. Candice was working on her latest crochet toy made of Bahia. Cat was working on her blanket made of Big Ball.  Sheila was working on an entrelac scarf as well but out of Alpacino. And Carrie was crocheting her first scarf from her personal yarn stash.


The food was fit for a king or for a queen as it may be.  The aromas coming from the kitchen that day were sensational. We had everything from spinach and artichoke dip cups and lumpia to lemon-sour cream pie and homemade brownies.  Mmmm… my tummy is growling at the memories of it.  It’s a good thing that it’s only an occasional event or I’d have to buy bigger pants.

Altogether it was a fun-filled evening which was enjoyed by all.  We’re already looking forward to the next one!



“Because I can” pt 2.

BrianHello again my virtual friends!   I wanted to tell you all about the wonderful yarns that I’m using for this project. It was suggested that the yarns should have a theme of some kind, and so I decided to tell the story of the week of socks.   Now, I don’t know what your calendar week looks like, but for giggles, I choose to start my week with Sunday (actually that’s the way my calendar is set up on my computer).  So sit back and enjoy the tales of the week of socks.

trekkingmaxima905Sunday:  I choose to recognize this day not only as a day of rest, but also as a day of meditation and reflection.  For that reason I chose a more “formal” colorway, but it does have a twist of personality to it.  I chose to use Trekking Maxima by Zitron.  Each ply of the yarn is dyed separately, then twisted together into the 4 ply strand.  This strand is then dyed again to create the gradual color changes.  While I chose a more conservative option (color #905), there are many wonderful color choices available.

pronatura1613Monday:  Monday is the start of the work week, so this is the day to be practical.  Practical is not really a word in my personal vocabulary, but for the sake of the project, I’m going with it.  Monday’s yarn of choice is Trekking Pro Natura by Zitron in color #1613.  Pro Natura sock yarn is made with the actual bamboo fiber, not bamboo pulp. This prevents the yarn from “peeling” and breaking down.  It’s good for you and good for Mother Earth with 75% Wool and 25% unprocessed Bamboo.  Since the Bamboo is unprocessed, it maintains its antimicrobial properties, and it’s four times more absorbent than cotton!  See how practical it is?

step18Tuesday:  Okay folks, it’s time to buckle down and get into the thick of the work week today.  Time to get organized and put everything in its proper place.  How about a striping yarn!  A great choice is Step by Austermann.  I chose color #18, which is called Vulcan, because I love red and I thought the name was fun.  Step is infused with Aloe Vera and Jojoba oils, making it a treat to knit with, and good for the hands, as well.

stepd55Wednesday:  Can you believe we made it to the middle of the week already?  I think it’s time for a little bit of fun, so I chose Step Duett by Austermann. Color #55 is called Mardi Gras Stripe.  What makes Duett different from regular Step is that it has a partner!  Each color way is done in two patterns, a fair isle and a stripe.  Those of you who enjoy thinking outside the box might enjoy combining these into a new and funky design.  For the really adventurous, check out the Step Trio!  Who knows what will be next … Step Barbershop Quartet?

mexikostretch24Thursday:  I don’t know about you, but on Thursday I’m already thinking about the weekend.  I love my job, but I get most of my knitting done on the weekends!  The choice for today is Fortissima Socka Mexico Cotton Stretch by Schoeller & Stahl (now where were they when I had to write 3000 word essays?).  This striping yarn helps to remind me to stick to my guns and stay focused on the work week, but the fun colors and this great blend make for a great sock for active wear.  The blend is 41% Wool, 39% Cotton, 13% Nylon, and 7% Elastic.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this sock feels when I’m wearing it.

1564Friday:  Can you believe we made it?  Well at the office, Fridays can be a bit CRAZY.  Actually any day of the week can be CRAZY, especially when you are knitting with the latest yarn from Schoppel Wolle called Crazy Zauberball! I’ve really been looking forward to playing around with this fun yarn.  This 75% Wool, 25% Nylon yarn is similar to Zauberball, but the two plies twisted together add a whole new dimension and make it fun for the knitter to watch as it evolves.

nation1776Saturday:  We come to the end of the week and this is a day I often choose to make a difference in my community.  For this reason I have chosen to use a Fortissima Socka Colori, Color # 1776 by Schoeller & Stahl.  My mom gets a kick out of the color number.  Saturday is also a great day to go to your local yarn shop.  Skacel collection, Inc. is an avid supporter of the local yarn shop.  This is the best place to find quality yarns with top notch service and instruction.  Save your local economy and help out your small businesses by frequenting them.  It’s PATRIOTIC.

You can purchase any of these yarns at any shop that carries skacel collection, Inc products including yarn, needles and artfelt®.  Check out our website store locator to find a store near you.

HMISM Prince Entrelac aka Brian


TNNA Fashion Show

KarinFor many knitters, the term TNNA is one that has been heard here and there.  Yet, what exactly is TNNA?  TNNA stands for THE NATIONAL NEEDLEARTS ASSOCIATION.  This association for professionals in the needlearts industry is really the heart of the industry.  Of the many things the TNNA does, supports and sponsors (see, putting on the main trade shows in the USA for vendors such as skacel, to present their goods to the local yarn shops, is what they are most commonly known for.

At the TNNA trade shows there are many events, but one of the most popular is the fashion show.  Held at the two main shows (January for spring yarns, June for fall yarns), the fashion show usually boasts 100 or more garments from a vast array of vendors.  There are a few crochet and felted garments, but for the most part, the garments are knitted.  For the longest time, the fashion show was only seen by the eyes of the members of TNNA, but since the show in June of 2008, they have allowed the public to see a video-taped version of the show.

The video above is the past June’s show. We are the third group on stage.

The shows are quite lengthy, but if knitting is your thing – the show will fly by!   Enjoy!



16″ addi Lace

robI am typically one of the most upbeat individuals I know.  In fact, there are very few things in life that actually get me down.  Not having the right tool for an important project…well that just flutters my tuba.  Ok, I’ll admit that I’ve driven a few nails into the wall with the handle of a screwdriver.  However, it’s not the most efficient or tidy way to hang a picture.  Then there was that time that I went camping and used a river rock to open a can of baked beans…  My point is, there are certain tools for certain tasks…and over the years, I’ve realized that they have been made available for a reason.

This is why I was so excited to hear of the addition of 16” addi Lace circular needles to our inventory!  Yes, it’s true…the highly anticipated 16” addi Lace circulars can now be found at your LYS.  The combination of the Lace needle’s design (a more pronounced tapered tip, non-coated all-brass construction) and the shorter tip length (the 16” tips had to be shortened in order to yield a usable needle), is the perfect balance for smaller circumference knitting!  No more wishing on a star, no more ‘making due’ with another length.  The wait is over!

These new 16” beauties are available in 1.5mm, 1.75mm, 2.00mm, 2.25mm, 2.50mm, 2.75mm, 3.00mm, 3.25mm, 3.50mm, 3.75mm, 4.00mm, 4.50mm, 5.00mm, 5.50mm, 6.00mm, 6.50mm, 7.00mm, and 8.00mm.

If you do not have a shop in your area that stocks addi needles, you can use our website’s ‘Find a Store’ feature to locate one!

So while you all run out to procure your new addi Lace 16” circulars, I’m going to hang some pictures…now where did I put that can of beans…

Happy Knitting!



Turtles of the Ninja Variety!

candiceI used to knit. I remember knitting fondly and I even have finished projects that I have knitted but the instant I learned how to crochet my knitting needles found new homes in their respective pouches. Pretty soon they will start singing to me like the Swiffer commercials begging to come back into my life. My crochet hooks laugh at them at night, I just know it.

What I like so much about crochet is the ability to make….Japanese toys! When I was in college (okay so I am a young ‘un, college was only 5 years ago) I stumbled across a book in a Japanese book store. I can’t exactly remember the title even though I can read Japanese but part of the title I distinctly remember had the name Amigurumi in it. According to Wikipedia “Amigurumi (編み包み) is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals and anthropomorphic creatures.” I was hooked….if only I knew how to crochet… I put it off as something I couldn’t do and moved my attention elsewhere.

Then about 4 months ago my co-worker Rita taught me how to crochet. The instant I grasped the concept I couldn’t be stopped. I LOVED this craft! I looked at some patterns but most of them didn’t do what I wanted something to look like so I started to just do my own thing. And one of the first things I wanted to make was turtles of the ninja variety. I would love to say I made these for a nephew or another kid I knew but no, these were all for me. My guilty pleasure is I still wake up at 7am every Saturday morning, grab a bowl of cereal, and watch Saturday morning cartoons.


I made my turtles out of Noblesse by Zitron. The slight variegation in color was perfect in making the toys because then every turtle has a slightly different skin color. Add in the fact that the yarn is wool and silk, these boys are so soft too. I hate itchy wool, can not stand it.


Of course, like most crafters, I couldn’t stop at just the finished turtles, I had to make their weapons too and I am so very happy I did.

I love making toys. I love Amigurumi. I love crochet.