TNNA Summer Show 2018

TNNA is probably one of the most overwhelming experiences of my young fiber enthusiast career. Although it was already more than a week ago, it took me a few days to recover, find enough space to store my acquisition and go through my notes.

Welcomes and farewells

One of the main attraction of the venue was a an assortment of white cubes where you could see the new offerings of most of the vendors there. It was quite exciting to see what some of them came with. Here are a few elements that caught my eyes.

Blue Sky Fibers introduced their line of eco-cashmere and woolstok jumbo. The yarn is as soft as it sounds and the construction of the jumbo is much sturdier than the usual rowing you see in that gauge. The price point is rather high which is unsurprising knowing the fiber content. Shout out for their beautiful look book featuring two simple patterns for men.

Knitter's Pride Ginger

Last year, Lykke needles were all the rage and we unfortunately fell for them (review coming soon!) Knitter’s Pride seemed to have taken a good look at them and came with their interpretation. The kit sets a new standard of completeness: beside coming with 13 pairs of needles, you get the usual assortment of accessories, a pen, stitch markers and the case doubles as a pattern holder. This is the most versatile needle case seen to date and I look forward to see if it will propagate to their other lines of needles.

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Louet advertised their super-superwash (second super from me) yarn that is machine washable and dry-able. Louet gems is a staple of many knitters but in 2018 they addressed the lack of “fun” colors that complements their otherwise placid line-up.

In no particular order, here are a few other to look for at your LYS during the year. I’m especially enamored with the Schacht Easel Loom and the Gleener Swet wet/dry bags.

The TNNA was also where I learned about Classic Elite Yarns and Lantern Moon Needles going out of business. If anything, this is a clear reminder of the importance that we, as customers, have over the survival of the industry.  I hope those two companies will be able to teach valuable lessons to those continuing the journey.

TNNA classes

This year, the association offered quite a wide array of classes, allowing for anybody to find something valuable to learn. I took Introduction to Technical Editing by Kate Atherley. In three packed hours, Kate simplified and brought to life selected passages of her Beginner’s Guide to Writing Knitting Patterns book. Having read the book previously, nothing was groundbreaking in the material, but seeing the reactions of the class was really insightful. Kate has many anecdotes to share about patterns “horror stories” and the reactions were very different depending on the main occupation of the student: designers were keen to argue about the rationale behind the element at fault while tech editors were smiling and nodding of approval. Depending of your way of learning, I recommend anyone interesting in writing, reviewing or even criticizing patterns to either read her book or attend one of her class. She gave me plenty of material to think and write about.

My friend Haley took a few business classes with Patty Lyons and she really appreciated them. While I can’t jump into her head to distill the knowledge she processed, we had many insightful downtime conversations.

 

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The student meets the master: Patty Lyons literally started my knitting journey.

My friend Haley took a few business classes with Patty Lyons and she really appreciated them. While I can’t jump into her head to distill the knowledge she processed, we had many insightful downtime conversations.

  • Owning a yarn store means owning a business. Being an excellent knitter won’t guarantee success.
  • Having someone who went through the motions of having a yarn store (and who understands the perspective of coming from the creative world to the business one) makes it much more relatable and easy to apply to one’s own business
  • As a business owner, you never stop learning. Market changes, your clientele does too. Staying static means slowly decaying.
  • (This ones comes from me) Customers have a tremendous amount of power. Use that power wisely: talk to your favorite yarn store owner about what you’re discovering, what you enjoy, what you didn’t like and where you’re heading on your journey. Most LYS owners simply don’t have the time to learn and know and have an opinion on everything that’s coming on the market. They’ll be as happy to learn from you as you learn from them.

 

Sample It! and role reversal

Sample It! is advertised as the opportunity to purchase new products to test before introducing them in your store or use them in your designs. To me, it is the opportunity for people to move on the other side of the transaction (a person usually selling can finally become a buyer) and become everything they hate as a customer.

Everybody wanting to go had a letter + a number on their card and people had to wait in line to avoid chaos. We were in the back of line #3 and #4, respectively, and while the waiting period was minimal, you had to rub elbows to keep your place in line.

We lasted a little over 25 minutes in that over-crowded, over-excited room. It was enough to see the seller’s faces going down from context switching and assertive customers. Still, we had some good discussions and purchased a few things that will go under scrutiny very soon!

The floor

The exhibition floor is where most of the action is. This is where you can look, touch, try and (hopefully for the exhibitors) buy for your store. Since I don’t own a store, my experience was a little lighter than most people. Seeing the products in action (especially the wheels and looms!) is great and discussing with the actual makers adds another dimension to the overall experience.

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Kromski (and many others) were exhibiting a great selection of wheels and looms that you could try.

One of my favorite moments was at the Erika Knight booth. Erika was one of the first designers I started watching when I wanted to knit for myself, and seeing her line of products was very exciting. I started rambling about how I get inspired by her design before realizing that it was her talking to me. Immediate fan-boy moment. She was extremely approachable and we got a privilege moment to exchange with her.

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Fan moment #2: Erika Knight

Although I was rambling left and right, I still was able to remember a few key points she shared with me:

  • Don’t skimp on quality: when you factor in the number of hours you put in a knitted piece and the time you’ll wear and love it, it’s worth thinking twice about the material.
  • Ask questions about where the yarn comes from and the production process. A good manufacturer is proud of their products and will be happy to talk about it.
  • The beauty of hand-knits is that you can customize it to your liking. Pattern writers can’t account for every body shape, but starting with a good pattern, you can tweak elements that will improve the overall fit.
  • Men are fun to design for 🙂

 

While there was too many vendors to cover them all, the diversity of the different booths was noteworthy. Reywa fibers and Freia fibers were two of my favorite, both for the quality of their product and the friendliness of their staff.

Ending remarks

This edition of the TNNA Summer show was a telltale sign that the industry is transforming. While fiber arts is a very tactile experience and that helped prevent (to a certain extent) an amazonification of the field, everybody in the industry is aware of the changes happening and the importance of creating a healthy and thriving ecosystem. Consumers, sellers, distributors and manufacturers all play an important role and bringing everyone together is always interesting.

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