|Inside the Summer TNNA NeedleArts Market and Trade Show|
June 12-14, 2004
Where do yarn stores find all their products? Chances are, they attend one of National NeedleArts Association's trade shows.
TNNA is the major trade association not only for yarn and knitting supplies but also embroidery, needlepoint, and cross-stitch stores.
The association hosts two major shows each year, one in January (read our review of this event) and one in June.
Photographs are strictly forbidden on the show floor, but we asked designer, teacher, and writer Annie Modesitt—author of Confessions of a Knitting Heretic—to tell us what she saw.
Sign Me Up
I've been established in the knitting world for quite a while, but I'd never attended TNNA/Columbus before this year. Previously I'd made plans to go, but each time something popped up to prevent me. I can't believe what I've missed!
The registration process is intended to weed out casual shoppers—this is a trade show for serious buyers, designers, and instructors. Without proof of business ownership, a folder full of tear sheets, press credentials, or affiliation with an exhibitor it's hard to attend TNNA—credentials are required to stroll into the show.
A display of new products was set up on one side of the entrance, the famous "Wall of Wool" on the other; booklets with information on the yarns presented at the show are stacked at one end of a long display of fibers.
Interested shoppers move down the wall, selecting yarns cafeteria style and snipping off lengths to tape into their booklets next to that yarn's information. It's a good way to create an individualized color card, and a great memory refresher.
The Big Show
The best thing about TNNA Columbus is the size. Practically any type of distributor or vendor could be found in the aisles and booths of the Columbus Convention Center. I was amazed at how little duplication of fibers I found as I wandered from booth to booth, and was happy to see many small yarn companies with distinct personalities and welcoming booths.
It was easy to be overwhelmed by a show of such proportions. The yarn / knitting booths were interspersed between the other needlecraft booths, which at first was a bit confusing.
However, it would be difficult to designate only one specific category for each booth and thus break the hall into identifiable sub-sections. By mixing booth types together along each aisle the experience was more eclectic and enjoyable.
The poured cement floor of the exhibition hall is covered with a thin layer of carpeting—very hard to walk on for extended periods. After several hours my legs were aching and my back was screaming.
It's vital to attend this fiber festival in comfortable shoes with some kind of wheel-able conveyance if you intend to gather samples. Books, color cards, and yarn swatches can get heavy after a few hours.
There seemed to be slightly more needlepoint and cross-stitch vendors than knitting vendors, which were the two largest groups represented at TNNA. There were booths exhibiting quilting supplies, beads, accessories, buttons, frames, design kits, publishing houses, pattern distributors, furniture and shop fixtures—anything required to stock a needlecraft retail establishment is represented at TNNA.
(A side note: I was quite surprised, given the breadth of exhibitors, that Artistic Wire or another similar company wasn't represented in light of the recent interest in the use of wire for knit and crochet.)
My focus was on companies that specialized in knitting products (yarns, patterns, books and accessories). I attended the TNNA show as a non-purchasing (or so I thought) designer/instructor. This is a once-a-year chance for many companies to meet with as many yarn shops as possible in a very short period of time.
The representatives don't waste any opportunity to meet potential customers. I was told by all the vendors I spoke with that they'd had a very good show with lots of sales and lots of interest.
I walked every aisle at least two times, made contact with as many knitting-related vendors and reps as would meet my eye or shake my hand. I was looking for the booths that interested me, not just as a designer but as a knitting enthusiast and retail customer.
My criteria was simple: The booth must have an an amazing product, beautiful booth design, and welcoming and informational booth staff.
The Dandy Dozen
These are my unofficial Dandy Dozen—the booths I liked the most:
Cottage Industry: Owned by Jessica Peterson, CI presented a beautiful arrangement of organic, undyed Pakucho Organic Cotton and alpaca fibers from Peru that were stunning in their simple beauty and high quality.
The colors, which are natural to the animal or plant, were subtle and deep—I loved the green cotton, which was really green! The production of CI's chemical-free fiber supports sustainable development for rural farmers and artisans in Peru.
Mango Moon: Amana Nova presents yarns that aren't just beautiful, but they also create an opportunity for financial independence for the Nepalese women who spin the silk fibers from threads left on Sari looms.
Himalaya Yarn: Anni Kristensen offers Nepalese silks similar to Mango Moon's as well as a magnificent blend of the silk with wool. Her cottons are simply lovely: bright, rich, and deep.
Interlacements: This Colorado company presented yarns with strong, clear, joyful colors, unlike anything else seen at the show. The large put-ups are a selling point for this company, with two skeins being enough for a small garment.
Louet: In addition to two new multicolored Gems Merino yarns, Quartz (sport weight) and Amethyst (worsted weight), Louet has introduced Merlin, a linen/merino blend that's machine washable. Their collection of dyeable fibers is wonderful.
River Silks: The selection of embroidery silks presented by River Silks was stunning! Clear colors and excellent width selection. I wish they had some of their silks available in a larger put up for knitters who'd like to add a touch of silk to a garment.
Red Thread: This wasn't a knitting booth, but I was enchanted by the needlepoint purse kits. They were easily the most stylish and original I saw at the show.
Elizabeth Bradley Embroidery: Once again, not a knitting booth, but when I saw the fish I stopped dead in my tracks. The subtle colorings and sophisticated use of simple pattern motifs would get me to take up needlepoint.
Presencia Embroidery Threads: I was thrilled to see a lovely perle cotton in a large skein put-up. I'm hopeful that more yarn shops will begin carrying this as an alternative to using several smaller skeins of perle cotton for larger knit and crochet lacework projects.
Leah Benjamin Designs: Maybe it was the late hour, maybe it was my exhaustion, but when I saw these glasses at the end of the day I had to laugh! Sparkly reading glasses that make presbyopia look more attractive.
Denise Interchangeable Needles: There is nothing like the Denise Needle system. Every time I walked past the booth I'd see another two or three folks sitting and knitting away. The yarn slipped so smoothly over the tips that even this established straight metal needle knitter is thinking of acquiring a set.
Dancing Cat Tapestry & Fine Fabric Bags: I've never considered myself a "bag person," but I was entranced by the fabric choices, styles, and high quality of these totes. They're intelligently designed and well put together—I found their prices to be in line or slightly below similar bags at the show.
For purposes of full disclosure, I have to say that although I did not intend to purchase any items at TNNA, I was so smitten with Dancing Cat Bags that I've made arrangements to carry these bags at my upcoming teaching engagements and knitting retreats—I was that impressed with these stylish totes.