TNNA Recap

What a great weekend at The National NeedleArts Association trade show! Here's my recap. (I apologize for having so few photos. I'm still getting used to my iPhone.)

My official Designer/Teacher badge

My official Designer/Teacher badge

Friday after registration I attended the Yarn Group fashion show. There were almost 100 pieces and most of them were quite lovely. A lot of shawls and scarves, the usual assortment of sweaters and tops, and also some dresses and skirts. I took notes on the yarns that were especially appealing to me. 

The entrance to Sample It

The entrance to Sample It

"Sample It" was next. I've missed a few shows, and this was different from what it used to be. Formerly there were a lot of products displayed in a hallway, and you could take little pieces of yarn. Nothing was for sale. The new Sample It is a small (but intense!) cash-and-carry area. Folks were selling kits, bags, books, and other items. It was a bit of a madhouse but nice to see that business was brisk.

Quite a scene at Sample It. Love the shawl. Less excited about the hair.

Quite a scene at Sample It. Love the shawl. Less excited about the hair.

I caught up with designers Karen McKenna (website here) and Dora Ohrenstein (website here) in the reception area. Karen gave me a copy of her new book, which I'll review in a subsequent blog. Dora is also working on a new book. Nice to catch up with them, if only for a short time.

After a late dinner with my husband at a Korean restaurant a few blocks from the hotel, I sat down to map out my strategy for Saturday. I wanted to make sure I got to all of the manufacturers whose yarn I used in my upcoming "Crochet Cowls" book so I could show them the finished projects and some sample pages. I also wanted to talk to some publishers, check out the yarn that really appealed to me at the fashion show, and chat with some smaller yarn companies to find out if they would be receptive either to purchasing independent designs or offering yarn support for designs published in books or by the designer.

(An aside--D.C. drivers are crazy! In the span of a few minutes we saw a driver in the right lane turn left by crossing over two other lanes that were going in his direction, and another driver who completely blew through a stop sign to make a right turn. Not to mention the constant sirens. Washington is a wonderfully walkable city as long as you watch out for nutcases behind the wheel, but isn't for drivers who are faint of heart.) 

Saturday was the big day for me. I had my finished samples, some books, and promotional postcards in a rolling suitcase, and the show directory and a notebook in a lightweight tote bag. ("Stuff management" is key to surviving these shows without exhaustion!)

One of the aisles at the show

One of the aisles at the show

I was very pleased that some of the small manufacturers and/or those who are relatively new to TNNA were enthusiastic about the idea of crochet and Tunisian crochet design. It's nice to feel like there are opportunities out there for designers. It was also wonderful to see folks whose products I use regularly, including Plymouth, Blue Heron, Brown Sheep, and Louet North America. I'm delighted to have finally met Stephanie from Space Cadet Creations. The people at Madelinetosh could not have been nicer! I had purchased their yarn for one of the cowls in my book, and they seemed thrilled with the sample and eager to provide yarn for my future projects. I saw designer/author/instructor Mary Beth Temple only for about two minutes but it was better than nothing!

Got a lot of good information!

Got a lot of good information!


Some absences were felt as well. I missed Crystal Palace and Abuelita. I learned from the Westminster Fibers rep that they will no longer be distributing Rowan yarns; I hope the new distributor works out well. All of the designers were working hard, so there wasn't much time to sit and chat. Apparently we are part of "Business and Creative Services" now. There was a BCS meeting from 3-5 p.m., but since I had signed up for a focus group meeting the next morning, I didn't want to sit in yet another meeting so I skipped it. I hope the group will publish a summary of what was discussed.

It was a long but productive day. I've learned to take good notes so it's easier for me to follow up once I'm home. When I emerged at 4 p.m. it was over 90 degrees! Glad I only had to walk a block to get back to the hotel. My husband and son had been at the Nationals-Phillies baseball game. After cooling off and cleaning up, we walked to Chinatown for dinner. My son is in D.C. for the summer, working at a company in Arlington. It was a lucky coincidence that TNNA was in Washington so we could see him.

Sunday morning I participated in a cross-disciplinary focus group. You may have heard that the company that has been managing TNNA's trade shows is no longer going to be doing it. As part of the decision process for picking a new management company, TNNA is trying to get a feel for how the shows and the organization can best serve its members. It was interesting to hear the perspective from people in manufacturing, wholesale, and retail, especially because not all of them are in the yarn group. I was able to express my exasperation and that of other designers about the lack of transparency in selecting classes. We would like to know exactly what TNNA is looking for so we don't waste our time writing proposals that have no chance of acceptance. The photo below shows comments from a class I taught at TNNA in January 2008. None of my class proposals have been accepted since then--and nobody has ever given me a reason why. Go figure. 

With comments like these, no wonder I haven't been asked to teach again!

With comments like these, no wonder I haven't been asked to teach again!

All in all, a successful show and a good way to get energized for some new designs and projects. Now it's time to do the necessary follow up and start working with some of the luscious fibers I saw on display.

New winner, Susmita M! And TNNA coming up.

No word from last week's winner of the free "Crochet Ripples Class" from Annie's, Pam W., so I have chosen a new winner at random. Susmita M., you're in luck! Please send me your email and I'll get you the code so you can access your class. (Pam, if you're still out there, send me your email, too, and I'll see what I can do for you.)

TNNA (The National NeedleArts Association) holds its conference in Washington, DC in less than two weeks. For the uninitiated, the conference is referred to as "TNNA," just like the name of the organization. 

So, where was I yesterday and today? Washington! Those of you who know my penchant for thorough planning may assume I was there on a reconnaissance mission so I know exactly where to go for the conference--and while that wouldn't be totally out of character, it would be a bit extreme, even for me. We were there to drop off our son for his summer job. I was reminded how much fun it is to walk around DC. Restaurants, museums, interesting architecture, history, every conceivable language being spoken, more restaurants...very lively. I was also reminded how little I like driving in DC. Streets at crazy angles, lots of one-way streets, traffic circles that require you to be in a certain lane that you don't know about until you miss your turnoff at least once...much better to be on foot or take the Metro (as long as your line isn't under construction). 

I've missed the past few TNNA conferences and am really looking forward to this one. With several books just finished, I'm ready to start some new projects so it's a great time to look at all of the fabulous yarn choices. I'll stop by booths of my perennial favorites, including Blue Heron, Tahki/Stacy Charles, Plymouth, Crystal Palace, Jojoland, Bijou Basin, Brown Sheep, Louet, plus ChiaoGoo Hooks and Denise Interchangeable Hooks; introduce myself to the Madelinetosh folks, since I used some of their yarn in my upcoming Crochet Cowls book; and will look at new products from yarn companies whose fibers I'd love to try out, including Malabrigo and Manos del Uruguay. I'll also stop by publishers' booths--you never know when an opportunity to collaborate could present itself.

Sunday morning I've agreed to participate in a focus group about the organization. One thing I have found maddening is the lack of transparency about the way classes are selected. Several years ago I taught "Beaded Crochet Wrap," a project class, at TNNA in California. Every student gave the class a top rating. One woman wrote in the comments that it was the best class she had ever attended in all her years coming to TNNA. For several years after that, I submitted class proposals...and not one was accepted. Go figure. There was never a reason given. I finally stopped trying. Clearly there is not a big focus on crochet--if I counted right, only four of the classes are crochet topics (and one of those is how to put a zipper into crocheted or knitted garments). So, TNNA, please tell me WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR? Do you want business classes? Project classes? Only classes that will bring in a certain minimum number of students? If so, what is that number? Do teachers have to get a certain number of classes accepted for a single show in order to be considered at all? If I had some parameters, I could decide whether to submit a class proposal or not. Barring that, I'm not willing to waste my time. For years I went to the Designer/Teacher sessions, in which everyone complained about this, but nothing was ever done so I gave up on that, too.

I'm more hopeful this time for two reasons: (1) having a focus group implies that the current Board cares enough to pay someone to get this information and, presumably, make recommendations on it; and (2) Board President Dave van Stralen just announced that a new management company will be taking over the administration of future shows. I'm cautiously optimistic but not expecting too much. We'll see.

The best part of the show is always the people! I can't wait to see yarn reps, other designers, publishers, friends...and to meet people with whom I've corresponded but never had the pleasure to see face to face. I'm especially eager to see new books and projects from other designers. There is strong support and camaraderie. We want each other to succeed. 

The timing worked out well, too. My husband will go with me, and he and our son will take in the Phillies-Nationals game while I'm oohing and aahing over yarn. I'm sure we'll get some time for our whole family to be together for a meal or two.  

TNNA then back home to PA

My flight from Philadelphia to Columbus was delayed, but the wait was eased by having JoAnne Turcotte (formerly Plymouth's design director, now the owner of Knitter's Edge in Bethlehem PA) and her daughter and daughter-in-law waiting for the same flight. This was JoAnne's first trip as a buyer instead of a seller. Can't wait to hear what she chose for her beautiful shop!

Finally got where we were going. The festivities at TNNA got off to a wonderful start thanks to Marly Bird, a.k.a. Yarn Thing, who organized the designers' dinner Friday night. She doesn't need that gold mask to be a superhero! Putting together sponsors, getting the invitations out, managing the RSVPs, assembling the goodies for the swag bags...when I talked to Marly afterwards she said it had been as much work as planning a wedding and I believe it. The evening's "Masquerade" theme was the springboard for many introductions.


I guess I am slowly making inroads in the design community, because I have some big names to drop: Robin Chachula, Ellen Gormley, Miriam Felton, Stefanie Japel, Lily Chin, Karen Whooley, Kristin Omdahl, Mary Beth Temple, Doris Chan and many more were in the room--several were at my table. I enjoyed having the opportunity to hear more about their lives as designers and as people! It's a friendly, interesting group.


Yarn companies, accessory purveyors, book publishers, etc. generously gave items for the swag bags that every attendee received. I'm not talking about a tiny plastic bag of stuff, I'm talking about a full-size tote bag stuffed to the gills with wonderful items. Look!

Get a load of all this swag! Knitting needles, tape measures, yarn yarn yarn, books, gauge measurers, crochet hook, books, liquids for name it. It's good exposure for the sellers; I'll definitely try out their products

Didn't get much sleep Friday night due to noise from above and next door. (Changed rooms for the rest of my stay--I think the first room might have been under a wedding party suite, and it was definitely next door to a hospitality suite.

Saturday morning it was off to the show. First task: drop off the samples from Crochet Scarves to the manufacturers with those nice signs Stackpole made. Once that running-around was done, I had more time to go booth by booth, getting a look at new products. Wow, did I see some gorgeous yarns and some amazing garments. Over the years I have learned how to take meaningful notes that make sense when I read them at home. Sure makes follow-up easier

One fun part of TNNA is that most of the attendees on the yarn side (the other part of the show is needlepoint, embroidery, cross-stitch, etc.) is wearing a gorgeous handmade garment. It's perfectly acceptable, even encouraged, to go up to a total stranger and say, "I love what you're wearing!" then get to talking about whether it's an original design, from a published pattern, or was received as a gift. I ran into Patty Lyons from Lion Brand Yarn Studio. I'll be going there for a book-signing in October, and we talked about the possibility of teaching a class sometime later in the fall. The Studio is a wonderful space with spacious classrooms upstairs. I taught a Tunisian crochet class there and enjoyed the experience.

Sunday was the launch of Crochet Scarveswith a signing at the Unicorn book distributors' booth. They do a fine job setting everything up--thank you to everyone at Unicorn! I met so many nice people who got the book for themselves or a gift or prize.

The winning name: Tammy (and Tammie): I signed three books addressed to people with that name. A lot of folks are interested in Tunisian crochet and were happy that seven of the twenty-one patterns are Tunisian. I have to be careful if I'm having a conversation with someone while I'm signing their book--it's easy to write what they're saying instead of signing my name!

Throughout the weekend I met with yarn company reps, publishing industry luminaries, and other designers to talk about what's up-and-coming. In the next days and weeks I will work on my business plan to figure out what's next for me. Stackpole Books has published all five of my crochet titles, and we'd like to do another book together. It has to be the right project, though, and the right timing. Leaflets and magazines are another option. I could do those in parallel with a book, or perhaps to fill the gap while I figure out what my next big project should be. I have some ideas, but anything I work on can't be just for fun, it has to make sense from a business perspective also.
I came away feeling very energized about the possibilities!

T(NNA)-minus three days and counting!

What a long checklist I have before departing for The National NeedleArts Association trade show in Columbus, OH on Friday! (Everyone just calls the show "TNNA," as in, "Are you going to TNNA?") Here are a few items:

  • Block scarves, then attach labels/business cards to each;
  • Pack the display signs to give each yarn company with the display scarves (beautiful but heavy);
  • Pack two copies of Crochet Scarves, one copy of Tunisian Crochet and one copy of Crochet Pillows (ditto), plus some of my other patterns;
  • Assemble all relevant paperwork, including passport, airplane reservation, hotel reservation, frequent flyer/stayer numbers, party invitation, all TNNA literature (badge, show floor map, events listing), business cards, background information/resume ;
  • Learn how to use iPad, at least on a rudimentary level;
  • Buy new pair of light brown huaraches or hope that nobody notices that my current pair is falling apart;
  • Make mask for designers' masquerade party;
  • Confirming appointments with yarn companies and other TNNA folks;
  • Decide which projects to bring to work on.

Those are only the show-related items. Also on the list are the "stuff of life" things I have to do here before I depart, like watering the plants, doing the laundry and deciding which clothes to pack, fixing a leak in the frog pond tomorrow so we can run the stream without draining it, trying not to ruin my nails while working on said pond, mailing cards for occasions I'll miss while gone, writing a newsletter for the Brandywine Museums and Gardens Alliance, and doing some last-minute shopping.

I think this is my fourth time attending TNNA, and this time I really feel prepared. I'll be doing a book-signing for Crochet Scarves, which is so new that I just received my copies today! (If you'll be at TNNA, my signing is at the Unicorn Booth, #109, on Sunday at 12:15. Please stop by their booth earlier in the weekend to pick up your free ticket.) I have pored over the exhibitor list and found all of the booths where I need to drop off scarves and signs. I also set up several appointments with yarn company reps and other fiber folks. I think it will be a very productive show from many standpoints.

Friday night is the designers' party hosted by Marly Bird, aka Yarn Thing. It will be wonderful to connect with some of the people I've met before, and to meet others whose names I know but whom I haven't had the chance to see in person. Interestingly, the fashion show that is usually in the evening is scheduled for Saturday morning. There are always some really incredible garments. I probably won't have enough time between the show opening (10 a.m.) and the start of the fashion show (10:15) to drop off my items for display, so I'll have to wait until the fashion show ends at 11:15.

I haven't decided whether to attend the designer/teacher meeting Saturday evening. I went several times in the past, and found that the same issues kept being raised with no resolution. I think I get more from my informal conversations with other designers than from the structured meeting. Maybe I'll just see how exhausted I am at 6 p.m. Saturday before I decide!

Even though I'm in "administrative mode" getting ready for the trip, I did take time today to enjoy the wonderful experience of opening a box full of copies of my new book. I can hardly believe that this is my fifth crochet title, and my fourteenth book overall. (I must be getting old!) It was a fun project to work on. Loved having the shots of the finished items taken at the Art Association of Harrisburg and the riverfront across from there. So happy with photographer Alan Wycheck's pictures, as usual! This is the first time I've included symbol charts with my patterns. It was a lot of work back and forth with Stackpole Books to create the charts, but worth it to accommodate those who like charts. Tammy Hildebrand, Board Member and Professional Development Chairperson for the Crochet Guild of America, wrote a lovely endorsement for the back cover. I hope crocheters will enjoy the projects--all 21 of 'em, including 7 Tunisian crochet patterns and 1 broomstick lace--and will post pictures of their finished scarves.

Now I can check one item off my list: update blog!