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welcome to TNNA

Report from the 2007 National NeedleArts Association Summer Trade Show
Columbus, OH
June 2-4, 2007

It's June already, which means time for another episode of "Tales from TNNA." If you've been reading Knitter's Review for a while, you know the score: TNNA stands for The National NeedleArts Association, and twice a year they host a conference where store owners, manufacturers, designers, publishers, and industry folk come together to learn, schmooze, and sell. Besides the marketplace, TNNA also offers a fantastic array of classes, as well as various other programs and a fashion show.

The summer TNNA conference took place last weekend in Columbus, Ohio. As always, I was there taking notes and collecting samples for you. And as always, photography on the show floor is strictly forbidden, so the photographs you see here were all (with one exception, which I'll explain in a minute) taken outside of the show floor.

Alive and Well
If I had to make one snap judgment about the whole show, it would be that the much-needed market correction is nearly complete. The knitting industry appears to be on a solid path to recovery. The market had the air of a ship that'd been well-prepared to weather a big storm. All the hatches had been closed, ropes tightly tied and secured, and the remaining crew was world-weary but optimistic.

While in previous years people were placing orders with reckless abandon, this year they making making far more focused, intelligent purchasing decisions. I didn't hear as much panic from vendors, either. All in all, a good sign.

Sock Stars

Classic Elite's new sock yarn
This spring, Pam Allen left Interweave Knits to become creative director of Classic Elite Yarns. While it was far too soon to see any of Pam's design influence at the show, we did get to see a new yarn that she's helped develop. Alpaca Sox is composed of 60% alpaca, 20% merino, and 20% nylon. It has a marvelous hand that blends the sleekness of alpaca with the plush elasticity of merino. The market was smitten.

Sox Appeal
Meanwhile, Knit One, Crochet Too previewed its new sock yarn, Soxx Appeal. A truly springy and subtly textured sock yarn, Soxx Appeal is made of 96% Merino, 3% nylon, and 1% elastic, and comes in a host of variegated colors. I can just imagine how it'd feel to slip on a pair of foot-hugging socks made from this yarn.

Hand-Dyed Sources

ShibuiKnits Yarns
Among the numerous new hand-dyers at the show, the level of quality and innovation varied dramatically. The new yarn darling had to be ShibuiKnits, based in Portland, Oregon. They had seven yarns on display, each developed with specific intention and taking into consideration how its weight, fiber content and quality, twist, and ply would work in conjunction with the other yarns.

close-up of the colors
The hand-dyed colors have an intentional tone-on-tone semi-solid effect that knits up into a quiet, subtle state of variegation without any violent stripes or blobs. Pattern support is limited, but each is thoughtfully chosen based on its suitability to the yarn in question and the technical knitting lessons it conveys. I'll tell you more about the ShibuiKnits yarns in the coming weeks.

Chameleon Colorworks
Another newcomer in this category was Chameleon Colorworks, which had a wall of silky Merino skeins (called Evolution) in every conceivable solid and variegated color. I say "silky" because the Merino fibers in this yarn were stretched (using the Optim process) to obtain thinner, smoother fibers that really do have the reflective qualities of silk. This new company is the child of Janel Laidman, the editor and owner of Spindlicity. (Her logo uses the same font as fellow California hand-dyer Alchemy Yarns, but there is no affiliation between the two.)

The Alchemy Yarns tattoo
Speaking of Alchemy Yarns, they were providing much-needed levity in the form of knitting tattoos. Throughout the weekend people kept passing each other and pulling up their sleeves in greeting. I still have one on my right arm. (And if my mother is reading this, don't worry: It's temporary.)

Colinton Angoras
Hand-dyers who are interested in expanding their canvas beyond superwash Merino may want to check out the Colinton Australian Angoras of Salem, Oregon. The Superfine Kid Mohair (at left) is particularly soft, fluid, and lustrous. I suspect this yarn would dye beautifully and be ideally suited for lace.

The Triumph of Texture

Be Sweet yarns
While the trend is definitely shifting toward smoother yarns, I still saw several yarns with unusual textures and handspun effects. As usual, the Be Sweet booth looked like the inside of a candy jar. These yarns are composed of millspun yarns that are then hand-plied together in unusual combinations, and also hand-dyed, by women in South Africa as part of successful job-creation programs.

Pagewood Farm Handspun Yarn
Newcomer Pagewood Farm offered true handspun, hand-dyed yarns. These are generally so resource-intensive that vendors have found it difficult to provide a consistent and reliable supply on the large scale required for successful wholesale—so I look forward to seeing how Pagewood does in this arena.

Bigger Players

The Leigh Radford Silk Gelato ribbon from Lantern Moon
The trend for designers to pair up with manufacturers continued at this show. I was especially intrigued by the new Silk Gelato, a 100% silk ribbon that Leigh Radford developed in collaboration with Lantern Moon. The edges of the ribbon have been intentionally frayed so that, as you knit with it, the ribbon's natural lustrous sheen will be met with an ever-growing halo of fiber ends. Very unusual.

Teva Durham's three new yarns for Tahki Stacy Charles
Also unusual, though not unexpectedly so, were the three new yarns developed by Teva Durham for her self-titled yarn line for Tahki Stacy Charles.

All three yarns were developed to work both independently and in conjunction with one another, and they afford knitters the chance to create multiple textures, from soft and fuzzy to complex and strikingly architectural. Teva's supporting designs fittingly reflect her bold and original design aesthetic.

I was also excited to see in person (but alas, not photograph) the fall '07 designs by Norah Gaughan for Berroco. The collection contains 22 decidedly "Gaughanian" patterns—and best of all, Norah's self-titled booklet is labeled "volume 1," which means more will follow. Bravo Norah!

The Big O

two new yarns from O-Wool
Where organic yarns are concerned, the market has quickly progressed from reluctantly skeptic to receptive and eager. Vermont-based organic yarn vendor Vermont Organic Fiber Company had two new yarns on display. Above left is O-Wool Balance, a soft and heathered blend of 50% certified organic Merino and 50% certified organic cotton. And, at right, is a new two-ply organic Merino that would make fantastic (medium-wearing) socks or even baby garb. Although this company is relatively new to the handknitting yarn market, they've been selling organic wool to the textile trade since 2000 and are making impressive inroads.

In Print
This year's summer TNNA happened to fall on the same weekend as BookExpo America, which is the biggest event in the publishing industry. As a result, many publishing folks didn't arrive until Sunday or skipped the show altogether.

the Vogue Knitting party
However, on Saturday night Vogue Knitting held a huge party to celebrate its 25th anniversary. I got to sip a shandy with one of my personal heroes Sally Melville who, with her daughter Caddy, is working on a fantastic project. I forgot to ask their permission to discuss it here, so I'll just say that it will bridge the knitting generation gap beautifully. And as soon as I can share details, I will.

The folks at Vogue Knitting were proudly promoting their new book, The Best of Vogue Knitting Magazine: 25 Years of Articles, Techniques, and Expert Advice. Over its 25-year tenure, Vogue has published articles by some of the sharpest brains in the knitting industry, and this collection brings their work to light once again..

The Best of Interweave Knits
Interweave Press presented a remarkably strong fall line-up including their own best-of collection, The Best of Interweave Knits: Our Favorite Designs from the First Ten Years. I also put in a mental order for Ann Budd's Getting Started Knitting Socks. That woman knows her socks.




my own book
Meanwhile over at Potter Craft something tremendously exciting was happening. My very own baby, The Knitter's Book of Yarn: The Ultimate Guide to Choosing, Using, and Enjoying Yarn, was taking her first steps into the world. That's her on the left. Isn't she pretty? (She actually had minor cosmetic surgery and now looks like this. I think she has my eyes.)

She won't reach the general populace until December 4th, so I'll just say this about her: She is a work of love and dedication that contains everything I've learned about yarn thus far in my journey. I promise more, including an excerpt and other goodies, as we get closer to the publication date.

Romantic Hand Knits
Among the other Potter Craft titles coming out this fall was Annie Modesitt's Romantic Hand Knits: 26 Flirtatious Designs That Flatter Your Figure. This isn't just a book of patterns loosely organized around a cute marketing theme. These are attractive and original designs in velvety, plush, sensual textures and flattering silhouettes. Annie was teaching workshops throughout the show but also took time for a book signing as well.

Beyond the Market

a sign leading to the workshop rooms
Speaking of workshops, I'd be remiss if I talked about TNNA without mentioning the workshops, because they're an integral part of the weekend. The classes ranged in subject from technique (colorful ribbings, the Peruvian purl, stitching with beads, fine shaping in stitch patterning, etc.) to business (choosing shopping cart software, planning the life cycle of your business, making best use of the press, etc.).

Classes were taught by first-rate teachers including Cat Bordhi, Lucy Neatby, Stefanie Japel, Sally Melville, Annie Modesitt, Lily Chin, Laura Bryant, Rick Mondragon, Chris Bylsma, and the list goes on and on. Talented, inspiring people.

Lucy Neatby teaching Intarsia
This year I treated myself to an early-morning intarsia class with Lucy Neatby. (Here she shows us how to darn in all those ends.) I marveled at how, over the course of just three hours, someone could teach me so many ways to be a better knitter. Neatby was also at the show to promote her Knitter's Companion DVDs. In case you aren't yet familiar with these DVDs, they are genuine works of art—every store needs to have a TV with one of her DVDs playing in constant loop.

see you in January 2008!
Perhaps the most amazing thing about this show is how quickly it passed. I'd just barely gotten my bearings when the announcement came over the loudspeakers that the show was officially closed.

I hope this preview gives you enough of a sense of what's coming down the pike to your LYS this fall. I intentionally omitted a few special extras that I'll reveal, in more detail, in the coming weeks. For now, happy daydreaming!

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