11 July 2018

First Trip to TNNA, part 2

And what else did I see at TNNA?

Wholesale yarns:

Aalta Yarn. A vendor out of Pennsylvania. Several good, solid bases for sweaters. And she has nice gradient cakes for shawls.

Alexandra's Crafts. A hand-dyer from Oregon. She also carries spinning fiber and a nice travel lazy kate.

Ancient Arts. I knew this hand-dyer from advertising and patterns in Interweave Knits. They have a wonderful range of beautiful colors upstaged by colorways based on cats and dogs.

Anzula. Hand-dyed yarns in luxury bases. Proof that cashmere goes with everything.

Baa Ram Ewe. Anglophile knitters, rejoice! This vendor proudly "celebrates Yorkshire and its rich woolly heritage." They carry locally-sourced and spun yarn, as well as patterns that will make you look like you belong on BBC America.

Baah Yarn. Hand-dyer from southern California with a nice range — self-striping, speckled, variegated, solids, and kettle-dyed effects. They also have special monthly colors.

Bellatrista. Milk and soy yarns. They also have Menta, a viscose yarn made from peppermint. How's that for the knitter/crocheter who has tried everything?

Black Cat Fibers. Etsy hand-dyers from Wisconsin. Many of their yarns have names from T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. Planning to attend STITCHES United next summer, so opportunity to ogle their wares in person is coming.

Brew City Yarns. Hand-dyed yarn with clever names based on geek culture. For example, the "Galaxy Far, Far Away" mini-skein set includes the colors "Bounty Hunter," "Droids," "Sith Lord," "Do or Do Not," and "Like my Father." Their summer 2018 shawl kit is a house-sorting kit for witches and wizards. Not yet carried by anyone in Georgia.

Delicious Yarns. This hand-dyer deserve credit just for her clever photographs. Talk about taking a theme and running with it! She offers several color stylings including gradient, swirl, or speckles.

Dirty Water DyeWorks. This hand-dyer has big skeins — more than 8 ounces in Targhee, Polwarth-silk blend, or Blue Faced Leicester.

Dragonfly Fibers. Someone I know from Maryland Sheep and Wool, SAFF, and STITCHES. Excellent hand-dying and fabulous gradients.

Emma's Yarn. These indie dyers are two sisters from Florida. From what I can tell, they are relatively new on the scene. Their yarn is beautiful, their bases are good, and they even have a merino-nylon-cashmere blend that is 600 yards per skein. I hope to see them again at SAFF or STITCHES.

Fairy Tale Knits. Indie dyer with geeky colorways. She has semi-solids as well as speckles. And she carries Rambouillet yarn.

Feederbrook Farm. A real working farm just outside Baltimore, Maryland. They have a variety of breeds-specific yarn including Black Welsh, Cormo, Finn, and Teeswater. Their Entropy yarn nicely mimics marled handspun.

The Fiber Seed. Hand-dyer out of Florida with a tremendous range of colors in solids, speckles, and stripes. Her yarn is all grown and spun in the USA and hand-dyed in Florida

A Hundred Ravens. Someone else I know from the wool show circuit. Beautiful hand-dying, fabulous mini-sets, geeky colorways (e.g. "Let the Wookiee Win" or "Angelica Schuyler"). It's all good.

June Cashmere. I had heard of this vendor through Interweave. They are working directly with shepherds in Kyrgyzstan to obtain high-quality cashmere fiber while engaging in fair-trade practices that appropriately compensate the shepherds.

King Cole. British yarn company in business since 1935. They carry a full range of yarns and patterns, from classic workhorse yarns to novelty.

Koigu. I chatted with Taiu Landra's daughters, the granddaughters of Maie Landra, who were sitting on the floor and knitting. When I was learning to knit, this was one of the first hand-dyed yarns I encountered. And every now and then, Vogue Knitting would have a fabulous show-stopping piece all in Koigu. Always beautiful.

Kokomo Yarns. Imports Studio Donegal, perfect for the Anglophile knitter. They also have special small-batch yarns from the flock at Portland Community College.

Lorna's Laces. One of the classic hand-dyed yarns. Fortunately for me, I can get it locally.

Meadowcroft Dyeworks Yarn Rehab. Fabulous intense hand-dyed colors.

Molly Girl. Self-taught indie dyer whose rockin' bases and colorways are all music-themed. She has a range of speckled, striping, and kettle-dyed effects. And she has little stitch-marker tins that would be perfect favors at a knit-themed party.

Mountain Colors. Somebody I already know and love from Montana. Thank goodness their beautiful fiber and yarn is available locally. There are literally pounds my stash.

Oink Pigments. A trio of hand-dyers based in both California and Indiana. 12 of their 18 yarn bases are 100% made in the USA, right down to the sheep. They carry Targhee wool in both yarn and fiber form.

PortFiber. They carry handspun cashmere yarns that have pictures of the women who spun the yarn as well as hand-dyed yak-silk spinning fiber.

Remarkable Yarns. This vendor carries Melanie Berg's patterns which so often perfectly walk the line between boring and complex. She also carries Rosy Green Wool (100% organic certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard) and Crave yarn (merino-cashmere-camel-silk blend).

Round Mountain Fibers. Hand-dyer from Vermont with colorways based on birds, insects, and plants. These would be perfect for the nature-lover.

Space Cadet. A hand-dyer out of Pittsburgh, PA. She has yarn and fiber, gradient sweater kits, project bags, yarn bowls and mugs, boxes, and notion tins.

Spincycle Yarns. Another West Coast wholesaler, this time from Bellingham, Washington. These two ladies started as hand spinners. They dye the fiber, then spin, then ply. If you like the look of fractals or combo-spins but aren't a hand spinner, look here.

Toad Hollow. Her lovely colorways remind me of floral Victorian wallpaper. If you like hand-dyed yarn and crave prettiness over neon intensity, check out her colorways.

Toft. This UK company has yarn and patterns for both knit and crochet. They have 12 natural colorways which perfectly complement their pattern specialty — crochet amigurumi. And they have a subscription club that would be perfect for the crochet menagerie lover. If you are thinking about making a huggable toy in natural dye-less yarn, start here.

Trailhead Yarns. Vegan yarns — tencel, cotton, linen. Her colors are vivid, something not always easily achieved on plant fibers. Not yet carried in Georgia or Florida!?

Twisted Owl. Small-batch dyer out of east Texas who has Batman-inspired colorways. Fun!

West Yorkshire Spinners. A British yarn manufacturer, so yet another excellent choice for the Anglophile. They have several breed-specific yarns including Bluefaced Leicester, Falkland, and Shetland.

Yarn Undyed. A purveyor out of the UK with an amazing range of yarn bases. If I were an independent dyer, I would thoroughly explore her offerings. She has some unusual combinations, including an alpaca-silk-linen blend.

In researching this post, I've noticed that several of the most tempting choices are carried by Fuzzy Goat Yarns in Thomasville GA.  That's a four-hour drive from here. If anybody wants to have a full a day trip down to south Georgia to explore, please let me know.

10 July 2018

First Trip to TNNA, part 1

Late last year a took a big step in my professional development and joined The National Needlearts Association by becoming an affiliate member. TNNA is the national-level trade organization. It is best known for hosting a winter trade show and a summer trade show. This is where shop owners often go to see the latest products. It is how they decide whether to carry yarn from Trendsetter or Prism; wheels and looms from Ashford, Schacht, or Kromski; notions from CocoKnits, or patterns from Stitch Sprouts. TNNA also organizes Spinzilla and Local Yarn Store Day.

Membership is $195 per year. And for a designer/teacher like myself, joining also meant acquiring some letters of recommendation and copies of my published designs. It wasn't a five-minute process.

And then I needed to decide how to make the best use of my investment.

Recognizing that I need to write a book (actually, probably more than one) on versa lace, I decided to attend the summer convention in Cleveland, Ohio, to meet directly with potential publishers. Of course, that only took a small amount of my time. I also walked the entire floor, meeting vendors I didn't know. I reminded several vendors that STITCHES United will be in Atlanta next year and that we knitters would really love to see them. It has been five years since we had a major convention in Atlanta. The knitters are going to show up for this. I also reminded the vendors that we have two guilds with over 100 members. Both Atlanta Knitting Guild and North Georgia Knitting Guild meet monthly and both are usually looking for programs. A yarn representative with a trunk show is usually a pretty good program.

Some questions/observations:
Is the market segmented geographically?
I hardly knew any of the vendors from the other side of the Mississippi. There were also some vendors from New Jersey, New York, and up into New England who I didn't know. If I who attend Maryland Sheep and Wool, SAFF, STITCHES South, and read Interweave Knits, PLY, Vogue Knitting and Cast On haven't heard of you, chances are good my 250 guild friends haven't heard of you, either.

Are vendors using guilds to their best advantage?
Guilds are groups of the most devoted crafters. At a meeting, they are gathered in one place. Guilds often need programs. Communicating with guilds could be a way to get new products into the sight of enthusiasts who will then share with friends and pester their friendly local yarn stores.

Where's the hype?
When I attended Gen Con last year, the place was pumped. Now, this is not an apples-to-apples comparison to TNNA, as Gen Con is a consumer convention. Tabletop game companies know how to build excitement. They release new games at Gen Con, often with promotional items available nowhere else. If TNNA wants shop owners to attend the winter and summer shows, then the show-only premiums need to have greater prominence, both for the shop owners but also for the customers.

And what did I see?

Tools, gadgets, and assorted items:

Atenti. This wholesalers has a range a bags for every sense of style. Many of these bags are large enough not just for projects, but also to use as overnight bags.

BambooMN. This vendor imports a range of bamboo-related products, many of which are not knit- or crochet-related. That said, they do have a nice Amish-style swift as well as gorgeous lidded round yarn bowls and square lidded yarn boxes in three colors. They also carry wool, bamboo, acrylic, and cotton yarn.

Clothe Zure. These buttons and toggles attach securely yet removably with magnets. They remind me a little of Jūl. These would be good in a holiday gift-exchange. They can be used to jazz up a plain sweater, shawl, bag, or hat. And if you find a favorite, you can keep moving it between garments.

Dill. Based out of Germany, they manufacture a full range of buttons from natural shell to colorful plastic to metal. They also make these lovely spiral closures, perfect for holding a shawl in place.

Dimensions. Raku clay buttons and shawl pins, made in Virginia Beach, Virginia. I am thinking the gentle color shifts of raku would be great with kettle-dyed yarns, such as Malabrigo, or a variety of hand-dyed effects.

Fairy Knitting. This is a new book coming out in September by authors Alice Hoffman and Lisa Hoffman. From the trifold sample and the pictures on Ravelry, it is a combination of fairy tale stories matched with knitting patterns and gorgeous photography.

JaMpdx. A pair of clever Oregon potters are creating beautiful lidded yarn bowls, as well as profane yarn-related mugs. The pottery is hand-thrown on a potter's wheel and then decorated by piping the clay through a pastry bag (as you would decorate a cake with icing). There are no vendors in Georgia or South Carolina carrying their wonderful designs.

Katrinkles. I mentioned them after I won some of their items as a door prize at Unwind. They have a lovely line of buttons and gadgets for knitters, crocheters, and spinners. I very much like the 4-inch/10cm square frame for determining stitch gauge.

Knina. These are swivel bamboo circular knitting needles made in Japan. I must admit bias here, as I find Japanese culture encourages and rewards excellence in craftsmanship. If you like the warmth of wood, consider these. The unbelievably smooth circular join swivels, preventing kinks in spite of a springy cord. Both pleasantly pointy needle tips are marked with the size in US and metric. A quick test drive is making me wonder why do I see Knitter's Pride Dreamz needles in yarn shops but not Tulip Knina? I am guessing it is price point but really, why quibble over a few dollars when the difference in quality is obvious. I love metal, but would gladly use these lightweight circulars. If you are considering wooden or bamboo needles, please test drive these before investing in a whole set.

KnitBaahPurl. If you are looking for mugs, glasses, project bags, shirts, tags, cards, posters, and more, this is the place. Their stemless wine glasses should be required equipment for those who knit and sip. And as you can see from the pin, they have a wry sense of humor.

Prym. These alabaster-colored plastic knitting needles have a triangular cross-section and slightly hooked tips. The straights clip together, both preventing the loss of a needle and preventing stitches from sliding off while stuffing the work-in-progress into a knitting bag. The women distributing these are based in South Carolina. I am hopeful I will see them again at South Carolina Knit Inn. Even if you aren't a fan of straight needles, the double-points and circulars are worthy of a test drive. As a fan of square needles, I do like the shape of these triangular needles.

Reading Glass Co. Apparently, if you live long enough, your eyes work less well. (Ask me how I know.) This vendor out of Marietta, Georgia, carries a nice array of stylish reading glasses. You need never mar your carefully-crafted sartorial message while reading a pattern written in young person's typeface.

Shelli Can. Maker of craft-themed pins, key chains, and stitch markers. I do love the octopus with 8 balls of yarn. She also has a golden stitch pin — a golden snitch remade as a golden yarn ball with wings. Clever!

Travelin Along. The Knitting Memories Along the Danube cruise scheduled for next summer includes hand-dyeing, Bavarian stitches class, a shop hop in Vienna, and a textile museum tour.

Tomorrow: Wholesale yarns.