I spent last weekend at The National Needlework Association's trade show in Columbus, Ohio. It's called TNNA for short, and there are actually four shows throughout the country during the year. Columbus is, as far as I know, the biggest of them. It's definitely the one located near Jeni's Ice Cream, which is a bonus that I've heard about for years and finally experienced for myself.
This was the first time I'd attended a TNNA show. As a trade show, it is not open to the public. Attendees have to be in the needlework business, as producers of goods (exhibitors, who purchase booth space at the show to publicize their wares), owners of shops (who look at the items in the booths and decide what to stock for the coming seasons), or teachers and designers (who network among the producers, shop owners, and themselves). There are a lot of educational programs on business matters and techniques.
"Needlework" includes everything from spinning to needlepoint, by way of weaving, knitting, crochet, needle-felting, tatting, and any other fibery technique you might think of. Booths overflowed with yarns, needles and accessories, bags, painted canvases, and books. In addition to the fact that the show is limited to people in the trade (all of whom have to have special badges to attend), nothing can be sold directly from a booth. Orders are written for future delivery. Lots of them. That's the purpose of the show. If your local yarn shop is going to carry a new product this fall (say, Juniper Moon Farm's new line of yarns or Nantucket Bagg's versatile project and tool containers), there's a pretty good chance that the owner or buyer ordered the stock this past weekend in Columbus.
I've been a member of TNNA off and on for years. I've wanted to attend the show before, but time and finances have always been barriers. I finally got there for two reasons. Cat Bordhi's group of Visionary authors was having a booth for the first time, which I wanted to support, and with the release of The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook this was a great opportunity to meet shop owners and let them know about the book.
In preparation for the show, a number of the Visionary authors knitted garments (Swirls) from Sandra McIver's new book, knit, Swirl. I had made mine as evening relaxation during one of my working weeks in the mountains. I have a whole post on the process almost finished. In addition to the Swirls we were wearing, Sandra brought a lot of prototypes and samples to the show, and we had a great time helping folks try them on. The booth was busy that way, and while people were looking at the Swirls they also browsed, and placed orders for, the other Visionary books that were featured.
Here's the Visionary Authors' booth:
I took this wide view because the discussions spilled out into the aisle. While the booth is in the background, that group of folks on the right is also talking about Visionary books.
Here's Sandra, wearing a gold Swirl, giving a Swirl tutorial to two visitors. A lot of this went on. The Swirl is a great project for all levels of knitters, and will make a terrific knit-along subject for shops.
The most fun was watching people try on the Swirls from the book. They are easy to wear and extremely flattering to diverse body types.
Behind Sandra is the main Unicorn Books booth complex, specifically the book-signing area. Unicorn, a major industry distributor (run by folks I've known for decades), sponsored the Visionary Authors' booth, which was great for everyone. That meant that we simply educated people about the books and then they placed their orders with Unicorn. It was a great collaboration.
Signings. . . . As at BookExpo (the trade show that serves similar purposes for the book industry), there were book signings. The ones that took place in the Unicorn area are very well established and run like clockwork. There are a certain number of books available. An hour before each signing, tickets become available. Shop owners who want a signed book line up to get a ticket. When the tickets are gone, all the books are committed. Ticket-holders return at the appropriate time and stand in line to meet the author and get the signed book.
JC Briar signed her new Charts Made Simple, about which I also have a post-in-process. Simply put, it's the book on charts for knitting that has been needed for a long time.
(JC is wearing her Swirl, a beautiful and classic combination of grays. Margaret Fisher was assisting, although she was outside the frame of this photo.)
Sandra signed knit, Swirl. Her husband, Bill, helped out. It is hugely useful at a large signing to have someone opening and handing the books to the author. There is also, out of sight, someone from Unicorn helping organize the line of people with tickets.
And I signed The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook.
I'm wearing my Swirl, in blues and greens, that there will be much better views of in another post. Alee Marsh from Storey Publishing helped me out enormously.
Carol Ekarius and I will both be signing the book this Saturday, June 18, 2011, at Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins in Boulder, Colorado. Because of logistics, we aren't doing many signings, so this is worth remarking on.
For me, TNNA was about the people, and I had a lot of great conversations. I wish I'd been able to attend in previous years, and I'm very happy I was able to be there this time.
There was so much to do at the event that I only got to Jeni's Ice Creams twice. Yes, it's as good as people say it is. Finding lunch and dinner in the convention area was easy. (Check out Knead if you're in the area! It's on North High Street, directly across the street from the Greater Columbus Convention Center.) Finding breakfast was very challenging, and I'm a breakfast person. There wasn't even a grocery or convenience store within walking distance. There was great coffee and chai, but for some of us that doesn't constitute breakfast. On Saturday morning, I had Jeni's strawberry buttermilk ice cream for breakfast, after I gave up my hunt for orange juice and for milk to put on the cereal I'd even brought with me in my suitcase (this was the first time I've failed to find o.j. and milk readily available when traveling). I figured the ice cream at least contained some protein. It was delicious.
Then, shortly before the end of the three-day show, I took a break and walked over to North Market for a second flavor that I'd had my eye on: rhubarb lime cardamom. It was divine.
I'll have to go back another time to try the extra-dark chocolate.