Report from the Winter 2010 TNNA Trade Show
Long Beach Convention Center
Long Beach, CA
January 9-11, 2010

Twice a year, most people in the knitting industry meet at TNNA to show and see what's new, stock up for the next season, meet and network, and take classes on everything from business practices to technique and even yarn (this time in a class taught by yours truly).

The winter show just took place in Long Beach, California, and it's usually the show where companies preview their summer products—normally less warm wools and more cool cottons. Because summer tends to be a slower time for yarn stores anyway, some companies and stores skip the winter TNNA show altogether—as did a handful of prominent companies this year.

Here's a high-level peek at what they—and you—missed, and what you can hope to see at your LYS in the coming months.

Kraemer Yarns working with mohair and merino
Knitting Local, Going Green, and Staying Sustainable
Yarn companies and spinning mills showed a heightened interest in telling us more about where our yarns came from and what's in them. Kraemer Yarns, a family-owned spinning mill in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, just got its hands on a batch of premium mohair and Merino fibers from two neighboring ranches in the hill country of Texas.

At the show, we saw samples of a 70% mohair with 30% Merino blend in a truly lovely two-ply fingering weight yarn, shown above. (Think Brooks Farm Yarn, only finer and in undyed form.) The yarn provides a perfect blank canvas for the skilled hand-dyer. Kraemer is still playing with weights and percentages for the fiber blend, but know that something is coming.

Meanwhile, in the wake of FTC false-product claims about chemically processed bamboo fiber, Buffalo Gold has just switched from bamboo-based viscose rayon to Tencel for its lustrous and shimmery two-ply lace-weight yarn (changing the yarn's name from Buff Boo to Moon). Tencel is considered far cleaner than the other regenerated cellulose fibers, with a closed-loop manufacturing process in which 99.5% of the waste is recovered. The new yarn will be 75% Tencel, 25% American bison down, with the same sheen and halo as Buff Boo but with a far lower retail price. The yarn is so new that it's still being spun and dyed, but the company hopes to have finished product in stores within the next 45 days.

Another exciting development came from the Wyoming-based Mountain Meadow Mill. The company began just over a year ago and has been constantly improving its processes and products ever since.

The mill offers an extraordinarily soft and spongy yarn in multiple weights. Most is undyed and ideal for hand-dyers seeking a new base, but the company also offers a few hand-dyed options too.

The company wants to help support the local sheep farming industry by paying farmers a higher premium for their fibers—which is why each skein lists the name of the farm where the fibers originated. When they realized they already had to track the source of each skein, they decided to implement a full-scale traceback system, so that customers could look online and follow every single stop that the yarn made between the sheep and your hands. They hope to have that system in place in the coming months.

While Rowan has offered traceback in its Purelife Organic Cotton for some time now, this is the most comprehensive effort to provide traceback by a U.S. mill.

Kozmos from Alchemy Yarns
New Yarns
For some unknown reason, shipping mishaps plagued many people at the show—from missing class materials to books for signings and even yarns. When the new yarn from Alchemy Yarns finally did arrive on the last day of the show, it instantly won my heart as the most exciting new yarn of the season.

Called Kozmos (and shown above), the yarn is a curiously spun blend of silk, mohair, Merino, and cotton. Each fiber absorbs the dye somewhat differently, especially the cotton. In some colorways, the effect is mostly semisolid, but in some colorways you actually see two totally different shades on the skein. The yarn knits into an ethereal, decadent, and faintly earthy fabric you'd want next to your skin every hour of every day.

Meanwhile, Véronik Avery added a lighter, springy two-ply companion to Nordique, the first in her St-Denis yarn line. The finer yarn renders crisp yet appealingly cohesive colorwork and is also great for open lace projects (both of which Avery covers in her pattern support). As with Nordique, this yarn will be available in all 36 colors, spun in the United States and distributed by Classic Elite Yarns.

Pico Accuardi
New Ideas
From the ashes of natural dyer Abundant Yarn and Dyeworks (which shut its doors at the end of the Sock Summit and became an online-only store) has been born Pico Accuardi dyeworks. The name comes from the company's two owners, Stevanie Pico and Deb Accuardi.

Making its official debut at this TNNA, Pico Accuardi displayed its 22 gorgeous naturally dyed colorways in different yarn bases including some that use fibers spun and sourced nearby. (The most intriguing color, called Neon Bible, was another shipping casualty.)

In addition to its yarns, Pico Accuardi was also promoting a great new community-building product for yarn stores, the Made in Oregon sock club. Yarn shops sell subscriptions to their customers, and every other month Pico Accuardi will send the store a big package containing skeins of dyed Pico Accuardi yarn, an exclusive sock pattern from experienced Oregon designers (including Chrissy Gardner, Judy Becker, and Kristen Spurkland), a matching stitch marker for each club member, plus a baked-good mix and coffee or tea to serve the sock club group. (The mix isn't your average Betty Crocker box either—it's a custom blend created by a Portland baker.)

This is the first time I've seen a third party step up and offer this kind of service that yarn stores have, until now, had to create themselves. For those yarn stores that are too busy or not quite comfortable creating clubs on their own, this is a wise way to keep customers and shopkeepers happy.

the Denise crochet kit
Hooking Knitters
The tool with perhaps the most potential for broad-reaching paradigm change was the Denise Interchangeable Crochet Hook set. Normally, crochet doesn't even require a cable or long needle—it is all worked from a single tool with a hook at the end.

But there is a technique called Tunisian crochet (also called Afghan Stitch and the focus of the winter 2009 issue of Interweave Crochet if you're curious) that requires a longer needle or cord where stitches can temporarily reside. Those cords and needles used to be of limited lengths, requiring fabric be worked in strips and seamed together later. By creating crochet hook tips that can be attached to cords of virtually any length, your fabric can now be as wide or narrow as your imagination dictates.

Another reason knitters may find Tunisian crochet interesting is because it creates a more satisfying, "knitterly" fabric that's both dense and squishy with an interesting surface texture.

Interchangeable crochet hooks also come in handy for knitters using the Denise kit because they'll now be able to swap out a knitting needle for a hook when it comes time to work, say, a picot edging. You can even swap back and forth between needle and hook to create more hybrid fabrics. It opens a whole new realm of possibility.

Afghans Updated
Speaking of afghans, Berroco had one precious hand-bound preview copy of its forthcoming book, Comfort Knitting and Crochet: More Than 50 Beautiful, Affordable Designs Featuring Berroco's Comfort Yarn. Published under the editorial eye of Melanie Falick and Stewart, Tabori & Chang, this gorgeous book is filled with lovely creations that respect the afghan tradition while bringing the styling very much into the 21st century. All the patterns are knit in one yarn, Berroco's inexpensive nylon/acrylic yarn Comfort, a sturdy but soft cable-spun yarn that knits up at a gauge of 4.5 to 5 stitches per inch on US 8-9 needles.

If your hands long for natural fibers, you can always substitute other yarns in the Berroco family, although many will not offer the same machine-washability as Comfort. If you don't mind getting your hands wet, you could have great fun working these patterns in Palace with its 50/50 blend of Merino and silk, or the 50/50 alpaca/wool Ultra Alpaca, or even Blackstone Tweed with its nuanced coloring and wool/mohair/angora halo.

And then we have all the comparable yarns from companies other than Berroco, which makes your creative possibilites for this book limitless. But also remember the yarn company lifecycle: the more we support companies whose designs we admire, the more great designs we have for years to come.

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