Behind the Beanie

December 6, 2017

Many of us have heard of Krochet Kids International, the amazing brand known for its comfy, quality knitwear. Just in time for winter, CAUSEBOX collaborated with KKI on an exclusive beanie design. We also sat down with co-founder Kohl Crecelius to hear more of the Krochet Kids story and how it led to the beanie in the Winter CAUSEBOX.

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“Our story began in Spokane, Washington, where two good friends and I learned how to crochet. My older brother taught me—and everyone thinks that’s really weird!—but we all got into it. We immediately started making wintertime headwear for the outdoor activities we all loved.” At that time, the three friends had no intention of creating a business or doing social good, they just wanted to make some cash with a fun craft. Kohl laughs, “We made a little money, took a ‘business trip’ to Lake Tahoe, had an epic senior prom, and that was that.”

The three friends finished high school and went their own ways, off to college across the States, where they each started traveling internationally. Kohl says, “We each got to see different parts of the world, meet different cultures, get exposed to different needs—and we started to develop a growing interest in social issues and what it meant to live as a global citizen and love and care for people who are in tough circumstances.”

“It was always on our heart, we didn’t really know what to do with it, but it finally came to a head when we had a unique opportunity to combine our old lives crocheting in high school and our new experiences in college. My co-founder Stewart took a trip to Uganda and said, ‘People are sick of handouts and international aid. They want to work and provide for themselves.’ In wrestling with that, we saw a way to combine the two, and after college we all moved to Southern California to surround ourselves with other apparel brands and people with global vision.”

In Uganda, people had been living in IDP (internally displaced person) camps for twenty years. They were refugees in their own country and there were entire generations growing up without education or access to traditional economic skills. They were living at the mercy of aid organizations and surviving week-to-week off of basic sustenance.

The old friends decided to ‘get the band back together’ and head to Uganda for the summer. “We literally got a group of ten of us college students, bought and gathered yarn donations, and brought it in our checked luggage all the way to Northern Uganda and sat in a room with a group of women who were selected with the help of a local organization and taught them how to crochet. It was a very cathartic experience, physically passing on a skill and knowledge for them to learn.”

I mentioned to Crecelius that winter headwear was a surprising product coming from Uganda. He laughed. “It totally is, and it speaks to the intention of our work. We were going to a community with products and skills and teaching them something that they didn’t know how to do and building a good that they didn’t really need, but it was something that we knew and a market that we saw. In fact, that brings me to a big message—use what you have! Don’t despair about the skills or resources that you lack, just look at the things that you already know or ideas that you already have, and think about them in new ways. That was the case with us and crocheting!”

I agreed with him and wanted to hear more about the idea of taking an unlikely skill to an unexpected place and creating a successful international brand without of it. “We all get stopped before we even get started. We all think we don’t have what it takes, we’re not smart enough, we don’t have enough money, and we all come up with reasons why it won’t work.” I feel so fortunate that I was surrounded by a group of people that were committed and enjoyed being up against the odds.

Asked about the wild ride from crocheting in high school to employing hundreds of women in Uganda and Peru, Kohl shares plenty of details with me. And sums it up, “Looking at it 10 years later, it was a slow build with a few lucky breaks throughout.”

Then we shifted to the amazing beanie inside your Winter CAUSEBOX. I wanted to know more about the design process, and Crecelius explains, “It was a very collaborative design. In the past, we’ve drawn from existing stock or styles, whereas this time we all wanted to make something a little more unique. We had a few silhouettes or ideas—we got a sketch—literally a drawing!—with some stripes, a pom, and some color ideas, and we put that through our framework to imagine styles and yarns. It was a collaborative approach that’s exclusively CAUSEBOX. You’re not going to see it anywhere else, which is also really cool.” There are only a handful of KKI products that are made in both Uganda and Peru. “70% of our products are only made in one location or the other. All of our apparel is only made in Peru. All of our crocheted headwear is only made in Uganda. Our knitwear is made in both locations—so long story short, these hats are coming from both locations. So as a supporter of CAUSEBOX, you could have a hat from either place and you really need to look at the signature inside and go look it up online to find out who made it and where they are!”

John is the managing editor at CAUSEBOX and a traveling writer who lives on the road with his dog, Hank.