Earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending The National Needlearts Association Spring show, also known as TNNA, which is the main trade show for yarn and needlearts in the US. Vendors included yarn suppliers (large manufacturers, as well as indie dyers), loom companies, notions companies, needlework canvas suppliers, spinning supply companies, knitting and crochet pattern designers, and book and magazine publishers. Attendees were mainly yarn and needlework shop owners and buyers, as well as service providers such a tech editors, photographers, teachers, authors, and more.

TNNA vendors try to draw people into their booths with gorgeous displays of new products. You would think people would run out of ways to show off yarn, but I was impressed with the huge variety of creative exhibits. Everywhere you look are colorful yarns, beautiful handmade products, and both age-old and unique tools for knitting, weaving, spinning, and stitching.

TNNA offers a few dozen classes per day before the show as well as during the show. About 1/3rd of the classes are geared toward retailers, 1/3rd are general business and marketing, and 1/3rd are knitting, crochet, and needlework techniques or projects. I spoke with the education director of TNNA, Alexis Bauer Kolak, who told me the organization has been working hard to expand the classes offered at the show, as well as grow the educational content they offer year-round via webinars, articles, and panel discussions.

In addition to attending classes and the show, I went to a meeting and dinner for the Business and Creative Services Group, which is a subset of TNNA members who are service providers, teachers, and pattern designers. This group is a 200+ person mix of innovative small businesses who serve the yarn industry, yet don’t fit into the vendor or buyer segments. Like many Craft Industry Alliance members at many different trade shows, they are working hard to have their voices heard, make connections, and convince the organization that they hold legitimate space within the yarn industry.

TNNA is held twice a year. The Winter, 2018 show in Las Vegas will be the organization’s first ever “hotel market.” Approximately 150 Vendors will set up their “booths” within hotel suites, and invite attendees to come in, browse, and meet the owners and staff. According to some TNNA members, the intention is to make the show more affordable for members, as well as more intimate and unique for attendees. The Spring show will still be held in rotating convention centers.

My observations:

  • Although I don’t come from a yarn background, it seemed like the weaving presence was strong, on both a very small scale (think woven jewelry) as well as a medium scale. I didn’t see any traditional floor looms that would accommodate a blanket or rug, but it seems like they’re getting there.
  • Shawls, shawls, shawls.
  • Indie dyers were everywhere. (Although it’s hard to know how well they’re doing.)
  • Based on the classes I took, yarn stores face unique problems that fabric and craft stores don’t. Mainly, they are struggling with issues related to making their shops welcoming and open to customers, yet not so open that they become “community centers” without the revenue stream.
  • Nobody buys yellow, but retailers buy it as a contrast to help enhance other colors. (A color to make other colors look better? This made perfect sense to all the yarn people, but as a fabric person I was amazed.)
  • Rainbow sorting, or fiber content sorting–that is the question.
  • Honestly, the whitest (not yarn, but skin) show I’ve ever been to. (How do we welcome more POC into all the craft sectors?)
  • My overall feeling was that trend-setters and innovators have a stronger presence at TNNA than at other shows. This was fabulous.
  • Regarding my previous point, the modern small craft business community may be strong, but they have a limited budget. Is it possible for shows to serve small businesses and stay afloat? TBD







Check out a few more shots from TNNA Spring, 2017.

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