I’m typing this as I sit here in the Columbus, OH airport, but won’t be able to post it until we get home, unless by some miracle there is internet access in Boston’s airport. Which I doubt, because you can barely get a cup of coffee there, let alone internet access.
Okay, yesterday.... I got up early, about 4:30, which gave me a chance to look over stuff I brought back from the show on Saturday, figure out what I wanted to do. We had classes at 8; Kristin got educated in inventory control. She said it was a good class; she got pointers on keeping track of stuff and learned some basic retail rules-of-thumb. I took that class a couple years ago and found it very helpful, too.
My class was “Tubular Knitting” with Kathleen Power Johnson. It was an excellent class; I did a tubular bind off, a tubular cast on, and learned a way to encase a raw edge in a sort of tube of knitting (as in, when you pick up stitches along the front edge of a cardigan for the button band or for a collar). This last one is good if you have a collar that is going to lay back, like a lapel, where the inside of the sweater is going to be visible. It is much smoother and less noticeable than just picking up the stitches and knitting the collar as usual, because when the collar lays back, you can see that selvedge edge on the “inside” of the sweater. Usually it just looks crappy and you simply say, oh well, what can you do? Now I know how to make it look better.
So then we hit the show floor, about 11. We began in the Plymouth booth. It was really great to see Jennifer Phillips, my sales rep! She is always fun and we had a good time. She showed us a few products and we had a nice chat, catching up and talking about industry trends, and gossip. She’s coming to the store to show me the whole line a little more in-depth in a few days, so we didn’t really focus on placing an order. But things I noticed are a new novelty yarn called Bobboli, a very soft yarn composed of little bobbles. It was unusual, multicolored, shiny, and it felt good. There was a worsted weight yarn called “Suri Merino” (I think), made of alpaca and merino. Nice and soft. Pretty colors. There was “Royal Cashmere”, 100% cashmere. There is a new kind of Eros that knits up in stripes, a new twist on an old favorite. Plymouth has a new afghan book coming out in the fall; it has about 67 beautiful patterns for every kind of afghan/blanket available, and it will retail for around $29.95. The patterns all use Plymouth yarns.
We visited the Frogtree booth and I had a nice chat with Chet. We mostly talked about the sport weight 100% cotton cone yarn I’m always searching for; it’s my holy grail.
We went to the Cestari (the yarn company previously known as Chester Farms) booth and had a long visit with them. They are located in Virginia. We already carry their cotton/wool blend DK weight yarn; I talked about the possibility of getting the same fiber as a roving for spinners. He seemed unaware that there was a market out there for raw fiber for spinners.
Kristin and I both loved the very cute bags at the Della Q booth; they are of several types, but they all would make both great projects bags or purses for everyday use. Della Q might be able to give that Bradley girl a run for her money. The Della Q bags we liked are striped in a nice variety of great colors, with a round, plastic handle, or embroidered with flowers, with a nifty round metal handle. The bags are made in Vietnam.They are really lovely. They’d probably retail for $40 to $45.
We stopped by the Skacel booth and gave Rob a hard time (not really; because he’s a very, very nice young man). They had a clever scarf knit in one of their self-striping sock yarns, which we admired.
Laurel Hill was a company unfamiliar to me. They have some beautiful needles in palmwood and ebony. The palmwood needles have intricate light-colored inlay around the top of the needle, just under the knob. The tips were lovely. They also had really beautiful crochet hooks in palm wood. These guys had no idea there was a market for stuff like drop spindles and spinning wheels -- I told them to go check out a copy of Spin Off magazine in the Interweave Press booth. I’m sure their drop spindles would be a knock-out, if they ever make them.
Knitwhits makes the neatest kits, hats and bags, felted flower pins, and even bikinis; we sell their kits not only because they are wonderful, but also because I think Tina, the designer, is wonderful: very talented, very modest, and very sweet. The newest kits included a set of felted catnip toys, and an outstanding scarf made nearly entirely of crocheted flowers. We loved them! Kristin has been bitten hard by the crochet bug, ever since she learned to crochet on Friday. She goes to sleep thinking about it. She found every single crochet pattern in the show, I think; we went to the bar to unwind after the show and she crocheted through a couple of drinks (well, I knit through a couple drinks, too). And right now she’s busy crocheting yet another flower. I think she’s hooked. (heh heh, get it -- hooked-- heh heh).
We stopped by Swedish Yarns and talked to Per and waved to Elisabeth, who was busy with a customer. Kristin spent quite a while with Hanne Falkenberg, who was helping Kristin try on all her designs. Hanne is very much like her designs: very clever, straightforward, honest and a joy to be around. I am so glad we got to meet her.
At K1C2’s booth we found adorable water bottles adorned with sheep and some cute sheepy sayings which I can’t remember right now. And, we found a yarn I’ve been looking for. It’s a new yarn from K1C2 that will be shipping in the fall, and I think my customers are going to love it. It is a 100% wool worsted weight that experiences a variety of color changes that blend into each other within the skein. It is reminiscent of another yarn by a company well known for its color change yarn, distributed by a company whom I no longer do business with. :) I love ordering from K1C2 because it is not only a Maine company, but it is Helene Rush! One of my favorite designers!! I love her work.
Man oh man, one of the funnest booths we ran across was AnastasiaKnits -- their booth was set up like a bar, and they sell a line of patterns called “Yarn Cocktails” for small accessory items, such as jewelry and scarves. Each design is named for a drink; so there are Mudslide, Sloe Gin Fizz, Cosmopolitan, Scotch and Soda, and so on. The two girls were really cute and fun, and the designs were clever. I never was a fan of knitted jewelry but, I’d really wear their necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. Their logo is a martini glass with needles sticking into an olive green ball of yarn, and their motto is something like “Yarn Over, Not Hung Over.”
At lunch we ran over to North Market and had excellent pad thai. The place where we got it also had the biggest selection of Hello Kitty stuff and Japanese gifts, candy, and snacks I’ve ever seen.
Okay, now we’re on the plane, somewhere between Columbus and Boston.
During the day we took the opportunity to play a little game I devised over dinner the night before. Everyone at these conventions and in airports walks around trailing little wheelie carts behind them -- they are ubiquitous. So I came up with the wheelie cart game: you get one point if you spot a black or navy blue wheelie cart (they are the most common by far); you get 5 points if you see a red one; you get 10 points if you spot one that is any other color at all; if you spot one that glows in the dark, you automatically win the game. If you find someone wheeling around a milk crate strapped to wheels and handles, three points are deducted from your score (we did actually see someone wheeling one of these around). Lily Chin’s wheelie was a 10-pointer: it was neon lime green translucent plastic, and it matched her hand-crocheted lime green skirt and top. What can I say, the girl has style!
We stopped by the Bryson Distributing booth and said hi to Bev Galseskas (Fiber Trends), Annie Dempsey (Oat Couture) and Diane Soucy (Knitting Pure & Simple). I told them each how much I and my customers loved their designs. They are all wonderful ladies.
We also stopped by Brown Sheep. They are working so hard to get new spinning equipment installed so they can increase production. They ordered new spinning equipment from France last September, which the French company built and tested to make sure it ran right. Then it was disassembled and packed into three 40-foot containers and shipped to Nebraska. I think that’s where it is now, in transit. The French company is sending a technician to put the equipment back together and make sure it runs right; it will take 6 weeks to re-assemble it. They are going to have to sell a LOT of skeins of yarn to pay for it, I am sure.
There was a booth that was selling a variety of knitting-themed tee shirts, all very cute. They had cute pictures and/or clever sayings and words, like “Knit Happens”, “Got Yarn?” and “Knitphomaniac”. They were kind of expensive, I thought. But they did have fun packaging; the tee shirts had “ball bands” wrapped around the middle of the folded-up tee; the size was given as “gauge” and it said any size needles could be used while wearing the shirt.
We went back to the The Fibre Company’s booth and ordered some luscious yarn that comes in about 15 beautiful rich, earthy colors and feels soft and yummy, because it is made of alpaca and merino. I think. My brain is so fried right now I can’t really truly remember. But I do know it is a DK weight and I was thinking “socks” when I ordered it. But most of all, it is a Maine company and I do so, so love to support Maine companies when I can. We also ordered another yarn from the Fiber Co., a fine-gauge yarn made from an exotic American beast. You’ll be able to read about it in the next Unique One newsletter.
We visited the Ribbon Knits booth -- they make pink scarf kits that raise money to help fund breast cancer research, a very, very worthy cause. Think how many of us, ladies, have succumbed to this killer over the years. We have to fight back. I ordered a few of their new kits, a pink cashmere scarf in a pretty diamond-shaped lace pattern. It is gorgeous, and yes, it costs a lot. It’s cashmere! But remember, the more it costs, the more the sale of it contributes to fight breast cancer.
Let me take a moment to discuss my gauge of the quality of cashmere. There are a lot of cashmere yarns out there, but they are not all of the same quality; some are definitely better than others, and you can’t always tell what is the best one by the price. I employ the “Kristin Meter”. Kristin has this odd behavior (well, don’t tell her I said “odd”; actually it is very useful): when she handles cashmere, it makes her cry. The more she wants to cry, the better the cashmere is. For example, at the NETA SPA, when she touched the hand-dyed cashmere from Gaspereau Valley Fibres in Nova Scotia, she cried right away. At the Alchemy Yarns booth on Saturday, when we touched their cashmere/silk blend (remember? the one I couldn’t let go of?) tears welled right up. So I knew it was all right to order the cashmere scarf kits from Ribbon Knits because it scored very high on the Krist-O-Meter. She’s going to kill me if she reads this.
Kristin went to Lantern Moon’s booth and ordered some sweet little seagrass bags/baskets that have very pretty sage green cloth trim, as well as some silk needle cases.
I ordered a variety of hip ‘n trendy patterns from the Stitch Diva, knit and crocheted flower patterns, a lovely little capelet; a fuffly scarf a couple of hat collections, for both knit and crochet (including the “newsboy” cap style that’s been so popular on the runways and in the glam mags lately).
Then, we were done. Done, done, done. A word that never sounded so sweet. We dropped stuff in our room and went to have a celebratory libation.
The owner of Interlacements and Dark Horse Yarns joined us for a drink; somehow I had overlooked both of his booths at the show. We had a long conversation about marketing and the yarn business. The Interlacements yarns are hand dyed by the owner; and the Dark Horse yarns are a collection of mostly novelty yarns, from Turkey.
Kristin and I then were very pleased to once again join Tricia and Chet from FrogTree, and we were extremely lucky and pleased to meet Jim, their son. He is such a nice person, as are his parents. He spends about half his time at home with his family in California and half of his time in Mexico, where he runs a non-profit service/education organization called CommLinks. What a great family. We spent quite a bit of time with them, because they are so nice and so interesting, and I got to meet the man from South America who might be able to help me pursue that cotton yarn holy grail I’ve been after. He was in a hurry between meetings, so I didn’t get to chat with him, but he is very pleasant.
Kristin and I managed to finally get to bed after midnight. It was a long day. As a whole, the TNNA show was overwhelming and overstimulating. But not only did we get to see so much great new STUFF, we also got to make some personal connections to the real people behind all the patterns and designs and books that we all love to kniit and admire. We got to see the real faces of the people who are Brown Sheep Company, Plymouth Yarns, Alchemy Yarns, FrogTree. Even though it might seem to the customer that all this yarn and all these books and patterns magically appear on their LYS’ shelves, remember, behind it all are real people who care passionately about knitting, crocheting, and fiber in general. I am always impressed by the dedication, the kindness and helpfulness of the companies I choose to do business with. As the lady at the Crystal Palace booth said, it’s like one big family, and she’s right. If I don’t feel some kind of friendliness or personal connection with a particular company or designer or author, I generally don’t do business with them. But one of the benefits of this business practice is, I am always happy with whom I do business, and I get a lot of hugs as I go through the show!
The plane is making it’s final approach and I am done my post; perfect timing. My brain is pretty fried. But we’ll be home soon and back into the daily routine. Hope everyone had a great time at the Fiber Frolic, if you were in Maine over the weekend! I really regretted not being there. It’s something I look forward to so much each year, and it’s such a bummer I didn’t get to go. Oh well, maybe next year....