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The National NeedleArts Association Winter Trade Show

If you ever wondered how yarn stores find all their products, they likely attend one of the 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.

Although the association hosts several trade shows throughout the year, its winter show in California is the largest. This year I attended and was also an exhibitor. Photography was tightly restricted on the show floor, so I'll walk you through what I saw and what to expect at your local shop this year.

On the Show Floor
The show floor opened on Saturday morning to a great crowd of eager shop owners. The show was officially sold out, with 263 companies occupying 631 booths (most of the major players had at least six booths apiece).

Yarn News
Although all the major yarn companies were represented, the biggest buzz came from Alchemy Yarns, a small company based in Sebastopol, California, that specializes in hand-painted yarns. They offer a tremendous breadth of colorways in 15 yarn types that range from traditional wool blends to silk, mohair, and bamboo. Prepare to hear more about Alchemy soon.

By far the most exquisite, sophisticated, and sculptural yarns were to be found at Habu Textiles. The company offers online ordering to the general public, but much of the true beauty can only be appreciated firsthand.

You can order a 35-page sample kit from Habu for $20, or better yet, now that Habu is also selling to stores, you'll soon be able to see and touch the yarns for yourself first.

Yarns range from silks, cottons, and linens to silk/stainless steel blends, pine, hemp, guanaco, and bamboo.

Continuing on the subject of nontraditional yarns, Rowan unveiled a surprisingly unusual new line of yarns called R2. Aimed squarely at the "knitter nouveau" market, the yarns range from shredded fabric to (what appeared to be) paper, as well as one yarn reminiscent of thin strips of airplane pillow covers. This should be interesting.

Meanwhile Dale of Norway was experimenting with its own technological advancements with Hauk, a new Teflon-coated wool yarn especially well-suited for snow garb. I snatched a sample skein and will review it soon.

Anny Blatt BatikA personal treat for me was to catch up with the folks at Anny Blatt, the venerable French yarn company we don't see nearly enough of here in the U.S. I saw some striking yarns including the new yarn Batik, pictured at left.

Anny Blatt recently acquired its mid-level French counterpart Bouton d'Or, and you can expect to hear much more about both brands in the coming months.

Kit News
SweaterKitsAlthough I saw many kits, Ontario, Canada-based SweaterKits quickly rose above the rest. SweaterKits is a small company owned by husband and wife team Caroline and David McInnis.

They import their own yarn direct from Italy, and Caroline dyes much of it by hand—including a most unusual silk chenille.

I was first drawn to their adorable chenille children's kits, only to be quickly distracted by their strikingly original Tapestry Jacket kits. The kits combine a lined and sewn fabric body with striped sideways-knit sleeves featuring many of Caroline's hand-dyed yarns.

Best of all, they come in a handy clear plastic tote.

Tote News
Speaking of totes, there was no shortage of them at the show. Lantern Moon gathered a crowd with its palm leaf and sea grass totes, plus embroidered bags and rice baskets.

Susan Todd swatchesI instantly fell in love with the colorful fabric bags from Susan Todd Designs. Susan uses gorgeous retro 1940s bark cloth fabric (think Bogart and Bergman in Casablanca) paired with cheerful lining and unusual buttons.

I ordered two new tote designs for the KR boutique and can't wait to share them with you. Note: After nine months of waiting and attempting to contact Susan Todd Designs unsuccessfully, I still haven't received my order. Yarn stores may want to seek an alternative source for bags.

Knitted bags were also popular, especially those in kit form. If the crowds at her booth were any indication, you can expect to see bag kits from the BagSmith at your local yarn shop very soon. The colorful compact kits include a nylon body yarn, a handle or material for a shoulder strap, a closure (buttons were the most prevalent), a base-board bottom, and complete instructions.

From here you're encouraged to accessorize with the novelty yarn of your choice. Some had colorful beads and sequins, others had fur trim.

Having witnessed this sacred place for yarn store owners, would I recommend you sneak inside the show yourself? Not really.

This was a business show, and as such, it lacked the somewhat crazy excitement of many retail shows and festivals. I missed seeing gleeful knitters and spinners hurrying down the aisles, bounty in hand, gushing about their latest find.

Likewise I missed that marvelous camaraderie of perfect strangers talking one another into impromptu purchases. People were kind, but there was no time for glee as shop owners focused on serious buying for the coming year.

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