Did you ever wonder how your local yarn store owner finds the latest and greatest products for her store? Sets up trunk shows of the latest patterns from a designer or yarn company? Knows which national instructors are available to teach workshops in the store? The National Needlearts Association (TNNA) is the organization through which many local yarn and needlework store owners connect with wholesalers, designers, and teachers. Twice a year (January and June) it holds a conference open to needle arts professionals in which they can discover new products, take business and craft skill classes, and network with others in the industry. I’ve been to most of them in the last few years, and this year was no exception. I spent most of the last six weeks preparing to go, attending, and following up. Here’s a little bit about what I saw and did (click on the photo grid to see them full size!).
I’ve been to Ohio before, but never to Cleveland. The sum total of what I knew was from watching The Drew Carey Show. Right off the bat at the airport I learned that Cleveland was ALSO the home of Duck Tape (check out a little history of duct tape), and the place where Superman was created, though of course not born (that being on Krypton, as we all know). The show was held downtown at the Huntington Convention Center, spitting distance from Lake Erie and walking distance to some charming and fun neighborhoods. It was a great place to “have to go” for work, and is now on the list of places I wouldn’t mind spending a few extra days exploring.
The Show Floor
In front of the event registration desk is an area where vendors can set up displays showcasing their newest offerings. Sometimes the products are used to entice you to the vendor’s booth. In others it is the creativity of the display that makes you want to know more!
The show floor can be overwhelming. Much like a STITCHES event, there are aisles of booths with wondrous things to see and touch, old friends to reconnect with, and new friends to be made. The best strategy can be to do a pass around the entire floor to get a feel f or where everyone is and make meeting plans for later.
I made my round with my friend and show roommate, Kara Gott Warner of Power Purls Podcast. Power Purls is a “yarn crafting podcast for fiber-loving biz makers.” For those in the industry, it’s a great source of information and inspiration; it’s too easy to get in your own head when working from home by yourself. Kara’s advice can help you work around problems and get past your own inner nay-saying voices (ask me how I know ;). Even if you’re not in the biz of fiber crafting, there are many words of wisdom to apply to the routine of running a life in the 21st century, from learning on the go to being consistent.
After a nice lunch with The Usual Suspects, I headed back to the show floor solo. I have a design project in mind, and I needed to consult with some of my favorite vendors on their latest yarns. Trendsetter, Universal Yarn, Skacel, Louet, Malabrigo Yarns, Claudia Hand Painted Yarns, Prism Yarns, Berroco—the folks at these companies all make wonderful yarns, and are in addition wonderful people. They’ve given me a lot of support, yarn and otherwise, over the years. I always look forward to catching up with them as well as using their yarns when I design.
And speaking of designing, let’s talk about the Blue Sky Fibers booth. They were showing new colors for their existing yarn lines and introducing two new yarns, Eco-Cashmere and Woolstok Jumbo. Browse their 2018/19 Lookbook to see the new colors, yarns, and patterns, including a pattern I designed, the Palisade Tank. It’s worked up in Spud & Chloë Fine, a blend of superwash wool and silk available in twenty-three colors. It’s always a kick to see one of my designs published, but this may be the first time I’ve seen one hung up at a wholesale show. Super jazzed!
TNNA offers several professional development opportunities to members, from online webinars to in-person classes at shows to informal networking gatherings. The “Education Theater” was a large area on the show floor set aside for product demos and presentations. Topics ranged from what to look for in a payment processor to needle ergonomics to color and trends. I opted in to Leann Pressly of Stitchcraft Marketing‘s presentation on content marketing. With so many things in a day that compete for time, and some changes coming to my work in the next few months, I wanted to find out if there were faster or more efficient ways to get things done.
She spent quite a bit of time on what are called “user profiles” in software, aka knowing your customer. If your customers are mostly newer crafters, the patterns you design or sell should be written with more detail and explanation in order to help them be successful. If your customers are mostly experienced crafters who quickly grasp instructions, patterns should be written succinctly so the crafter can get on with working their project. After talking about profile, Leann put a nice framework around the process of creating and distributing content. For those looking to really up their game, she let us know about a new online course Stitchcraft Marketing has out called “Magic Wand for Social Media.” Good stuff!
Networking & Beyond
There are opportunities both formal and informal at the show. You run into people in aisles, getting coffee, and the hotel bar. You take breakfast meetings and set up lunches. And you meet new people at cocktail hours on the show floor or at receptions off-site. The Yarn Group held a reception at a local bar close to the convention center, with finger foods on offer and games to play. The magnetic Scrabble board soon displayed the words you’d expect, given the crowd (“fiber” “yarn” “sheep”).
A few snacks and Moscow Mules into the evening, the sound of karaoke filled the air, coming from one of the back rooms. I’m not normally one for singing along but there are just some songs I can’t resist. And this is the one I play over and over (turned up to *11* ;-) whenever a day is particularly difficult or circumstances particularly depressing. I went in, and I sang, with everyone else.
Because no matter what you do, you need to keep believing.
See you next time!