TNNA Summer 2018: Cleveland

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!).

Cleveland Rocks

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 Yarn Guys

Jeffrey and Dennis, aka The Yarn Guys. See that wall of color behind them? They are the exclusive distributor in the US and Canada of Rauma, fine quality Norwegian wool.

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.

superwomen

The superwomen I’m lucky enough to have as friends (l. to r.): Sarah Peasley, Kara Gott Warner, Gwen Bortner

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. TrendsetterUniversal Yarn, Skacel, Louet, Malabrigo Yarns, Claudia Hand Painted Yarns, Prism YarnsBerroco—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.

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Me and the Palisade Tank in the Blue Sky Fibers booth at TNNA. Photo credit: Sarah Peasley :-)

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!

Education

Leann Pressly presentation

Leann Pressly of Stitchcraft Marketing presenting “Planning and Executing Your Content Marketing Strategy in Five Easy Steps.”`

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!

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Welcome, 2017

The Kid and me at Carlsbad Caverns

The Kid and me aboveground at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

It’s a new year, and time for something new here on the Beth Whiteside Design Blog. Throughout 2016 I was the Creative Knitting Magazine update editor. Every three weeks I created a newsletter, keeping readers up-to-date on the latest news from the magazine, Annie’s, and around the industry. Each issue contained a tutorial and link to a pattern using the skills or techniques learned in the tutorial. The January 5th update containing a tutorial on short rows was my last.  It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot. And now it is time to bring that energy and knowledge back to my own blog’s content! Here we go!

January 2nd found me driving a new-to-me car from Houston back to San Francisco with my son. We crossed ~2000 miles in four days, making time only for a half day at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico. There is no other word but incredible for the miles and miles of caves, with their delicate spires and formations. HIGHLY recommend a visit! After unpacking at home, it was time to get ready for the next big event in my work life.

The National Needlearts Association

If you don’t know of it, The National Needlearts Association is the trade organization for the needlearts. It is a membership organization composed of wholesalers (those folks who make yarn, tools, canvases, and such), retailers (LYSs and other needlearts stores), and service professionals like myself (aka designers, teachers, editors, social media folks, web site designers, etc). Twice a year there is a trade show where we all gather to see new product, network, take business classes, and do all the other things that industry professionals do at business conferences. This year’s winter show was January 19-23 in San Jose, CA. Just down the road from me, so of course I went!

Teaching: Creating Schematics With Illustrator

class_photo_schematicsOn Saturday I taught one of my professional classes, Creating Schematics With Illustrator. Illustrator is an amazing, powerful tool for creating graphics, and it is easy to get lost in all the possibilities. The class is designed to be an introduction to working comfortably in Illustrator, and learning how to use the tools to produce garment schematics. For anyone who took the class, either in San Jose or when it was offered last year, I am offering a 1-hr follow-up Schematics With Illustrator Lab over Skype on Wednesday, February 15th at 6 pm Pacific/9 pm Eastern. Go over your handout again at home, and try copying a schematic from a magazine or book. Then bring problems and questions to screen share. The class will be limited to 5 students, and cost $20.  For more information and to sign up, send me an email or use the Get in touch form.

New Products, Show Floor

In addition to teaching, I participated in a new event at the show, the Industry Services Showcase. I talked to people wandering by about my editing, graphics, and instruction services. Since it was a new event and I’m not sure the word got out about it, traffic was a little light, but I think it was still worth doing.

The area in front of the entrance at each show there is an area showcasing new products. It is always fascinating to see things that will be appearing next at the LYS. I practiced my walking-and-filming skills as I wandered through the displays, if you want to have a look at what’s new yourself.

Here’s a random sample of booths I visited while on the show floor:

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#KnitWithBeth on the Lace Sampler!

poncho-only copyIn other news, if you didn’t catch it in the slideshow above… I’ll be the host of a Knitalong on the Creative Knitting Facebook page on February 3rd and 10th. Through the technological wonder that is Facebook Live, I’ll guide you through making the Lace Sampler, a rectangular poncho with three lace stitch patterns. Feeling adventurous? I’ll help you design your own version, with info and tips on choosing stitch patterns and combining them successfully. Hope to see you online!

That’s it for now. Till next time!

 

TNNA and me

Beth's Illustrator classes at TNNAIn about a week, I’ll be sharing what I know about creating color charts and schematics in Adobe Illustrator at TNNA in Columbus, OH. While it feels odd preparing a class without sticks and string in my hands, it’s also been exciting since I love playing with software too!

Twice a year, needle arts professionals gather to learn, network and transact business at trade shows sponsored by The National Needlearts Association (TNNA). Store owners meet with companies selling yarn, canvases, bags, books, magazines, tools, and myriad other products, placing orders for their shops. Classes on both technique and business topics help attendees up their game, both in services to their customers and the very way they run their business.

And everywhere, in classrooms, hallways, show floor aisles, and hotel lobbies, there is the opportunity to “network.” To talk to others in this crazy industry, sharing problems, solutions, and ideas. To broaden our horizons, see other perspectives, and make connections with other people, both like and unlike ourselves.

As an instructor/designer/editor/jack-of-all-trades, my profile is not typical of most attendees. Most folks’ business is substantially different from my own. But every time I go, every time I gather my pennies for the airfare and hotel, I remind myself how that investment has paid off: skills added directly through classes taken; borrowed business methods, adapted to my situation; connections, for immediate or future work, both as contractor and contractee; and last but not least, an intangible awareness of the industry gained merely by being around so many others in it. I can’t get that from my home office!

If you’re a needle arts professional, or someone whose business caters to the industry, I’d highly recommend a) attending a show and b) becoming a member. If your business doesn’t fall into the retail or wholesale category, consider becoming an affiliate member. My affiliate membership more than pays for itself, eventually if not immediately!

If you’re going to TNNA, there’s still room in both classes, though you’ll have to register on-site. There’s homework for both classes: just enough to get you familiar with the basics of the program.

Links to homework

Creating Color Charts with Illustator
Creating Schematics with Illustrator

 

 

The 10K Students Project: +86!

10K Student Cards

From left to right: Gwen Bortner, Kellie Nuss, Sarah Peasley, Beth Whiteside. Take a class with one of us, and get your card initialed!

At the beginning of July my teacher friends (Gwen Bortner, Kellie Nuss, Sarah Peasley) and I began a joint venture we’re calling the 10K Student Project. It was a bit of a scramble, but a few weeks later we were ready with a bare-bones website and affinity/loyalty cards, in time for STITCHES Midwest. While we see each other almost every week over Skype, the 4 STITCHES events are where we get to enjoy face time (and knitting time, of course).

So what is it? It’s a just-for-fun aggregate count of students we teach. Not unique students, just total students. As milestones go, 10,000 seemed like a nice number, weighty but achievable in a reasonable amount of time, especially with all 4 of us pitching in toward the total. I’ve gone from 0 students to 86 for August – whoo hoo – and will be scheduling some local classes here in San Francisco to further try to pull my weight!

At the Bean in Chicago

3/4 of us wandered Chicago after Midwest. The final quarter was with us in spirit!

We’re not sure where the project will go, besides the counting. We’ve been thinking it could be a way to share what we learn by teaching, as well as a way for students to share with each other, but we’re really not sure yet. Both concept and website are under development (kinda like mine, here ;), so we’ll just see where it takes us.

Hope to count you in class soon!