the Long Beach Convention Center

Report from the 2008 National NeedleArts Association Winter Trade Show
Long Beach, CA
January 11-13, 2008

We all hope the worst of the market correction is behind us, but the needlearts industry is definitely not yet singing "Happy days are here again." Supply continues to outpace demand, and the weakening U.S. dollar is wreaking havoc with international trade—causing costs to go up all the way along the production chain. But, as they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And in this case, we went to the winter National NeedleArts Association trade show.

TNNA is the event for the knitting and needlearts industry, taking place twice a year in January and June. The event is strictly for the trade only, and photography on the marketplace floor is strictly forbidden. All the photographs you see here were either taken outside the show floor or by the booth owner.

The One-Paragraph Wrap-Up
The heightened competition in our market has clearly fueled greater introspection and innovation among vendors. For the most part, companies are making smarter tactical decisions about their products. While I saw no real earth-shattering innovations at the show, I did see much smarter, more prudent business overall.

Personal Picks

Alchemy's new book
I first saw Alchemy Yarns at TNNA four years ago when the company was still in its infancy. The focus then was on the yarns, with pattern support still lingering in the future. Since then, Gina Wilde has built a substantial collection of attractive patterns for her yarns.

This weekend she pushed her pattern support one step further with the release of a new Alchemy Yarns book, Destination Alchemy. It contains 20 original designs for Alchemy's signature silk and mohair yarns. Not only are the designs gorgeous, but the book itself is a splendid testament to the power of self-publishing. Alchemy also released a new multi-stranded merino that I'll be reviewing in the near future.

Classic Elite's new pattern books from Pam Allen
In the Classic Elite booth we were finally treated to the long-awaited fruits of Pam Allen's labor as creative director. All three of her new collections (Summer Book 1, Summer Book 2, and Make it Modern) reflect a fresh, calm, and clean aesthetic similar to the one she demonstrated while at Interweave Knits.

New Arrivals

marianne isager's designs
One newcomer also provided a particularly refreshing oasis of fresh, calm, and clean: Marianne Isager. In addition to her own designs and books, the Danish designer also offers a limited line of tantalizing yarns both in kits and sold separately.

Gardiner Yarn Works
Another designer making her debut at the show was Chrissy Gardiner of Gardiner Yarn Works. We've seen her individual designs in major magazines, but now she's building a cohesive body of patterns for stores.

Dream in Color
Just a handful of new yarn companies exhibited at the show, perhaps the most notable being Dream in Color (Tulip Cardigan anyone?). What a treat to see a whole wall of their distinctly semisolid yarns on display—including their newest addition, a plump laceweight merino called Baby.

Bijou Basin
Also making its TNNA debut was Bijou Basin Ranch, a small yak ranch based in Colorado. They offered a pure yak yarn (shown at left) plus two undyed wool blends I'll talk about more in future issues.

Old Faces, New Innovations

Buffalo Gold's bamboo blend
You can't talk about large beasts and intriguing blends without mentioning our friends at Buffalo Gold, who introduced a new yarn that blends 25% American bison down and 75% bamboo. This silky yarn with a fuzzy halo is a striking example of what happens when you properly blend two very dissimilar fibers.

Lorna's Laces and Mountain Colors combined kits
What if you blend not only fibers but companies too? That's exactly what Lorna's Laces and Mountain Colors did with new kits that use complementary yarns from each company. It's especially useful for knitters whose LYS carries only one of the two brands because you get to try both styles of hand-dyed yarn in one project. The custom designs are lovely and well-suited to the yarn pairings, too.

Eucalan's new packaging
The big news in the accessory world was that Eucalan unveiled its streamlined packaging and other fragrances—dare I confess I'll miss the old white and pink bottles?

the new Denise packaging
Meanwhile, a welcome change came from the folks at Denise Interchangeable Needles who presented a much softer, more flexible and portable fabric carrying case for their needle sets as well as more flexible purchasing options.

Kraemer Sterling in multiple colors
I was excited to finally see dyed versions of Kraemer Sterling yarn, having reviewed the white yarn back in August. The fine sparkling strands of silver were particularly striking in the black yarn.

Brown Sheep goes multicolored
And even within the dyed yarn world, established players were making some changes. Brown Sheep finally stepped away from the solids and introduced some lovely "monochromatic variegated" colors (their words, not mine) with a distinctly kettle-dyed Malabrigo look to them.

Author, Author!

chatting with a lovely reader while signing books
As with previous TNNAs, you couldn't swing a hank of Koigu without (gently) hitting an author or member of the so-called knitterati. People like Debbie Stoller, Kaffe Fassett, Brandon Mably, Nicky Epstein, Cat Bordhi, Annie Modesitt, Susan B. Anderson, Norah Gaughan, Judith Durant, Kristin Nicholas, Louisa Harding, Erika Knight, Shannon Okey, Melissa Morgan-Oakes, and Mags Kandis (and a host of others whose names I'm now forgetting, for which I apologize); editors Eunny Jang, Adina Klein, and Rick Mondragon; Candi Jensen, who was interviewing authors for her show, Knit and Crochet Today; and Ravelry's Jess and Casey, who need no introduction.

This was the show where I finally crossed the line and became one of the authors signing books at the Unicorn Books booth. It was an honor to meet so many knitters who love yarn as much as I do.

TNNA has a strange way of starting slowly and then finishing abruptly before you have time to see and experience everything you'd come to see and experience. Before I knew it, Sunday afternoon arrived and a voice over the PA system announced that the show was closed.

sunset on Sunday
Much of what you've just seen is so new that it's not even on the manufacturers' Web sites yet, much less available on the shelves of your LYS. But I hope it shows you a broader picture of where the industry is now and where it hopes to go next, weather permitting. As for those cloudy skies, may I recommend a knitted umbrella?

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