Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Gathering of the Clan

Twice a year, the National Needlework Association (TNNA) puts on a wholesale trade show. Just about everybody in the knitting, crochet, needlepoint and cross stitch business attends, and those who don't wish they did. This past weekend the Summer 2012 show was held in Columbus, Ohio.

Charles Gandy
Fair warning - this is a very name-droppy post. If you don't like that sort of thing, feel free to skip it.

I arrived on Thursday, and started my weekend by having dinner with the charming Charles Gandy. Charles' new book, Embellished Socks, is a feast for the eyes.  His background is in architecture and interior design (he's a past president of the American Society of Interior Designers) and he brings a wonderful eye for proportion and color to his designs. Even if you aren't a sock knitter, you should take a look at Charles' book - his embellishment techniques can easily be adapted to suit projects of all sorts.

Friday was spent with Mark and Susie Moraca from Kollage Yarns and Stacy Mitchell from The Fine Needle, setting up the Kollage Yarns booth on the trade show floor. We finished in record time and rewarded ourselves with food and beer at Barley's Tavern, where we were joined by Anne Hanson and Erica Owens from Knitspot.

Friday evening found me at the Designer Dinner put together by the fabulous Marlaina Bird. Let me tell you, Marly knows how to throw a party! In addition to lovely food and sparkling conversation, she provided each designer with a swag bag filled with yarn and treasures from a variety of sponsors. I won a special prize for being the person present who had attended the most TNNA shows.  To tell the truth, Linda Pratt of Westminster Fibers had me beat, but she wasn't eligible to win because she was there as a sponsor
After dinner, it was back to the bar with Mark and Susie, where we had drinks with Maggie Jackson, and Travis and Sarah Romaine from Paradise Fibers.

Saturday morning, before the show opened, I shared a lovely breakfast with Candi Jensen. I had the good fortune to work with Candi recently, tech editing her new book for Leisure Arts, Knit in a Day for Baby (coming soon to a store near you).

The show officially opened at 10, and we were busy in the Kollage booth all day. Kollage is the inventor of the square knitting needle. They've recently repatriated their manufacturing - the square needles are now entirely made in the USA from materials sourced in the US. Those who know me well know that I'm partial to wooden needles, but I worked with the square aluminum needles all weekend and loved them. They have great point, perfect for lace. The finish on the needles is slick enough to keep your stitches sliding along smoothly, but grabby enough that your double pointed needles won't fall out of your socks. If supporting American manufacturing is important to you, be sure to ask for the Kollage square needles in your local yarn shop.

When the show closed, I caught a cab with Marly Bird, Ragga Eiriksdottir, Tabetha Hendrick and Jill Wright to a cocktail party hosted by the good people of Craftsy at Mouton. Delicious cocktails and snacks were served up to an appreciative hoard of designers and yarn manufacturers.

There was some sort of music festival going on in Columbus - a mid-west version of Mardi Gras. If you ever get into a confrontation with an intoxicated person on the street, Amanda from Lorna's Laces is the person you want to have at your back - I'm just sayin'.
The evening ended with dinner at The Happy Greek with Amanda and her husband, Miriam Felton, Kristi Porter, and the gang from Kollage.

Sunday began with a meeting with Michael delVecchio, the Creative Director for Universal Yarn. We talked about possible design work the for coming season. Then the show opened for a second day of talking about needles and yarns in the Kollage booth.

Remember two weeks ago, when I asked for design ideas for Kollage's new bulky wool? Well, here is the result, all done in Toasty:
Catskills Hat and Cowl
Schuss Mittens
Hearthside Slipper Socks
I made a second hat, too, but somehow didn't manage to get a picture. I need to have a heart to heart with my photographer.
Some of my other designs were also on display -
Here is City Sidewalks and Swagger.
And this is Kenwood.
Kate Lemmers with her new design for Kraemer Yarns
All of these patterns will be available soon through local yarn shops and on Patternfish.

Sunday evening I had dinner at Ted's with the lovely and talented Kate Lemmers. I was shocked to find that Kate had never tasted avocado. To a California girl, it was unimaginable that someone could make it past the age of 5 without ever eating guacamole. This was a situation in need of remediation. I gave her a slice of avocado from my bison burger, which she actually ate.  Not sure she liked it, but now she can say she knows what avocado is all about.
Dinner ended too early, so we went back to the bar at our hotel, where we were joined for margaritas by Julia Farwell-Clay, Amy Herzog, and Caro Sheriden.
Monday was my flight out, but I did find a hour to walk the market floor and have a cup of coffee with the lovely Ilga Leja. My time at TNNA ended on a high note as Elaine Rowley and Rick Mondragon let me know they had accepted one of my designs for an upcoming issue of Knitter's Magazine.  We picked yarns at the Universal Yarn booth. It is going to be great - just wait and see!
I've attended TNNA many times, as a shop owner, a designer-at-large, and a booth worker for various yarn companies. I have to say, this was, for me, the best show ever. Thanks to Susie and Mark at Kollage for bringing me along. I couldn't be happier that I went, and I couldn't be happier to be home with Baxter, back into my routine.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

We Have a Winner!

Thanks for all the suggestions, both here and on Facebook.  The winner of the Simply Socks Yarn Company Simply Sock Yarn is KarenAZ!  Karen, please let me know how to get hold of you so I can send you your prize. Congratulations!

Cowls were far and away the most popular answer to the question of what to make with Kollage Yarn's new  bulky wool.  Mittens were next. So far, I've made a cowl and 2 hats. A pair of mittens is next in line. If I still have time, I might crank out a pair of slipper/socks.

Oh, you want a peek, do you? Well, here is the Catskill Cowl...
It will have a matching hat. Look for the pattern in yarn stores and on Patternfish this fall.

This yarn now has a name: Toasty!  A perfect description of how this fiber and these colors make you feel. I believe the color I used is called Golden Mist (it was sent to me before labels were printed). One of the exciting things about heathered yarns is seeing the colors of the individual fibers come together to make something rich and delicious.

  Look at that pink, and the jade green, and the bright yellow. I would never have guessed that this glorious autumnal gold would result from mixing these shades.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Mission Improbable

I was talking about the upcoming wholesale trade show with Susie at Kollage Yarns earlier this week...
Susie: We just got a new yarn in to bring to the show. Of course, its too late to get any designs to go with it.
Me: Tell me about it.
Susie: I'ts a single ply bulky wool in pretty heathered colors.
Me: Put some in the mail to me. We've got two weeks. That's plenty of time to do a couple of accessory pieces. I'll come up with something.

So. I'm expecting a package in today's mail with 2 skeins each of 4 different colors of this yet-to-be-named yarn. I'll need to apply my needles and my skills to turn out three or four samples that can be displayed at the show starting 2 weeks from tomorrow.
Here's the thing - I live in California. We have no more than a couple of days each winter when bulky wool accessories are a good idea.  I don't even own a winter coat. And it's June. We're expecting temperatures in the 90's this weekend.
This is the perpetual designer's dilemma. We are always working out of season. Winter designs are knit in early summer; spring pieces are due in December.
I've decided to try some crowdsourcing.  I need fresh ideas for accessories made from bulky wool.  Other than a hat, what sorts of patterns would you like to see in this yarn?
Will you help? Please leave a comment here on the blog with your ideas. And to show my appreciation, here's what I'll do.  I'll use the random number generator to pick one of the comments. The winner will get this...
4 skeins (700 yds total) of Simply Socks Yarn Company's Simply Sock Yarn in a lovely handpainted semi-solid pale blue called Icicle. Be sure to include your e-mail address with the comment so I can let you know if you win. I won't use it for anything else - knitter's honor. You have until midnight Monday to get into the drawing for the prize, but if you are reading this entry after that time, it's not too late to add your ideas.

Watch for pictures of the final results. And thanks!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Swatch It!

The semi-annual trade show for the needlework industry is coming up at the end of the month. Columbus, Ohio will be overrun with needlework shop owners, yarn manufacturers, publishers, designers and anyone else you can think of who is involved in this business.

One of the features at this show is The Great Wall of Yarn. This is a huge expanse of grid wall filled with samples of new yarns. Each yarn is shown with a swatch, and shop owners are encouraged to take a strand of yarn for reference as they shop the market.

Those of us who teach at Stitches were invited to make the swatches this year.  This is a wonderful opportunity to play with new yarns before they are generally available, and I jumped at the chance.

Here are the swatches I made:

Creating these swatches brought me back to the time when I owned a yarn shop. In my shop, there was a swatch or sample made with every yarn on offer. These samples hung on hooks near where the yarn was shelved.

I know that not every yarn store displays samples.  Creating these swatches is an investment - after all, a ball of yarn you've used for a swatch is a ball of yarn no longer available to sell. As a shop owner, I was willing to make this investment for 2 reasons. First, I think it is important to give the customer an idea of how the yarn will look knitted up. When you can see and feel a knitted sample, it is easier to imagine how the yarn will work in your project, and you are more likely to be satisfied with your purchase. Second, I think is important that a shop owner really know the product she is selling. I personally knit with every yarn in my shop, so I was able to speak from experience when discussing the pros and cons of each yarn.

I'm always surprised to hear someone say they hate making swatches. I love them. A swatch is an experiment, an investigation, a learning opportunity. As a designer, I often use swatches to test ideas and see how stitch patterns will combine. In the swatches for the Great Wall of Yarn, as in the shop samples I used to make, the objective was to show off the yarn. Several of these swatches were knit more than once, as initial efforts revealed that a different needle size would improve the hand of the sample, or a different stitch pattern would best display the yarn's special qualities.

Learning to enjoy the swatch process will make anyone a better knitter.