The National Needlework Association (aka, TNNA)

The National Needlearts Association (aka, TNNA)


I just got back from a 6-day fiber fiesta lovingly called The National Needlearts Association’s summer trade show. This was my second year … and it was even more fibery-fun than my maiden-voyage last year.

My LYS (that’s “local yarn shop”) owner, her husband and I piled into the van on Wednesday, 6/19 at 4-ish and headed to Columbus, OH. Yeah, I know, Columbus is not necessarily a vacation-wonderland, but for fiber folks, it is definitely “mecca” for the week. We arrived about 1 a.m. on Thursday, exhausted but happy to have arrived safely … and since we didn’t have any classes until noon, we could sleep late.

To give you a bit of background — TNNA gathers together the wholesalers, retailers and designer/teachers and others involved in keeping the needlearts industry alive and well even in this poor economy. The trade show includes education, socialization and a “teaser” glance at all the newest products coming in Fall and Winter. There is lots of time for networking with others (designers, retailers, yarn producers, publishers, teachers … …) and for rejuvenating a love of all things creative.

Now, back to the trip-report:

I took a total of six classes over the weekend:

  1. Barry Klein, president of Trendsetter Yarns, taught “From Picture to Reality” … a class on taking the customer’s idea of what they WANT to make and translating that into a coherent pattern-design. Barry did a phenomenal job of making us “see” the knitted design within a high fashion garment (not necessarily knitted) and how to make that our own design.
  2. Michelle Hunter, also known as KnitPurlHunter, taught a class on developing and organizing knit-alongs (KALs) in the yarn shop. She had great ideas for types of KALs and even had us break into groups, handed us an item, and had us build a complete KAL around the item — very cool! We were given the Gone With the Wind dvd … and since all in our group were southerners, it was quite fun to devise a KAL (which of course included barbeque, lace and movie-watching)
  3. Sally Melville, consummate knitting author (who recently released the neo-classic Knitting Pattern Essentials) showed us how to fix knitting mistakes without having to rip the entire item out. She showed us how to shorten, lengthen, widen, narrow, and generally revamp either old favorites or newly (and incorrectly) knitted garments. I don’t agree with all that Sally professes (for instance, she doesn’t like knitting-in-the-round …) but she had lots of good tips and techniques to use.
  4. Trisha Malcolm, editor of Vogue Knitting, gave a fascinating presentation on upcoming trends which included colors, patterning, and garments that will be “THE” things to make and use this fall/winter season. [I’ll do a separate post on this presentation as I want to make sure I remember what she forecast]
  5. My favorite class (as a designer), which I took on Saturday morning, was taught by knit-fashion designer Josh Bennett, whose website is titled Boy Meets Purl. He gave us a brief overview of the design process and than had us sketch out at least five garments that we would design for our LYS customers. We had 30 minutes to sketch and then each of us gave a 2-minute presentation. Now THAT was cool … and I now have five designs I MUST make!
  6. My final class, taken on Sunday morning at 0800 (!), was with one of my favorite designer-teachers: Martin Storey. Martin is a designer for Rowan and has written four amazing books – Knitting for Him, Aran Knits, Nordic Knits, and the recently published Scottish Knits. Martin taught us three cool techniques for knitted-in embellishments … techniques he labeled “twist, knot and swing”. These are wonderful techniques that you might just see in some of my upcoming design work!

I spent much of my time with my LYS owner, helping her pick out the latest yarns and colors for bringing into the shop. It was great fun thinking about our customers and matching fibers, colors and weights to what our customers would enjoy — and adding a few that will tease them into becoming better knitters, pushing the barriers back for some and showing others that certain fibers are VERY workable.

In the process of walking about with my boss, I was also able to network … meeting other designers and yarn manufacturers. This networking is key to growth in this industry – both growth for me, for the yarn shops and for all other “support staff”. I met yarn folks who can supply yarns for me to work up into unique designs for them to show (and for me to sell) … a win-win. I met big name designers and “young” designers who have amazing ideas and all willingly share their ideas and thoughts and design-philosophies with each other.

There is much to do at TNNA’s annual summer show — taking classes, seeing all the new yarns and tools and books coming down the pike, and understanding our needlearts industry a little bit more. TNNA’s Yarn Group hosts a fashion show that shows what the yarn-producers believe will be the new “hot” items next season — some were a tad outre, some were amazing … but all got my creative juices flowing!

All in all, the 6 days away from home and hearth were well spent; time for me to revel in fiber, in the fact that I’m a designer, and that I’m also a yarn-shop employee who wants to turn folks on to the fun of knitting!

Bottom line: it was a blast!

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