Imagine a very large convention center. Imagine it filled with booths of yarn, every kind of yarn that is made and sold by every big yarn distributor -- and many small ones -- in America. Imagine artful displays of colors, baskets of new yarns to be released this fall, sample garments, sneak peeks of patterns and books, more gadgets than you ever could think of use for. Imagine walking all day and still not seeing all the booths. Imagine not being able to buy any of the tempting yarns you're seeing but having to wait until fall to get your hands on them. Now you're starting to get a feel for what TNNA was like.
TNNA is not only yarn, knitting and crochet. It also includes other kinds of fiber art, and needlepoint and stitchery supplies were everywhere. (Hoo-boy, one look at the canvases depicting sad-eyed Southwestern children and three-dimensional Thanksgiving tableaux and samplers reading "I don't have hot flashes, I have power surges" [I didn't make that slogan up, either] and you quickly realize there's a whole 'nother world of fiber out there.) Even accounting for the fact that many of the booths were exhibiting supplies we don't need to stock, there was still an unbelievable array of items to peruse and fondle.
For this reason, it's hard to generalize about what's coming down the pike: it really depends on what you end up ordering. There did seem to be particular interest in luxury fibers, like cashmere and alpaca and silk, especially in blends; and handdyed yarns were also well-represented; other than that, I suspect that what you see in the fall will vary tremendously depending where you look. The sense I got for fall colors? Muted, rich and tweedy tones. Plums, woodland greens, bronze and brown shades, some tweed and heathers, some rich reds, a little bit of silvery pastels. Ruffles, empire waists, bell sleeves, that whole dandy-fop kind of thing seemed popular, along with styling touches reminiscent (God help us) of the 80s (big collars, modified cowls). Thankfully both the poncho/ponchette/capelet/shrug trend and the excessive use of novelty yarn trends appear to have bitten the dust.
Another bonus for the knit-geek like me was the ubiquitous presence of what I think of as the "kniterati." Famous designers, magazine editors, authors were everywhere. Trisha Malcolm, Adina Kline, Pam Allen, Melanie Falick, Rick Mondragon were some of the publishing folks I saw. Designers? Holy moly. I had real conversations with Debbie Bliss, Louisa Harding, Jo Sharp, Veronique Avery, Kristin Nicholas, Shannon Okey, Amy Singer and chatted with Norah Gaughan, Nicki Epstein, Linda Pratt, Edie Eckman, and probably more whom I'm forgetting. I fear that my gushing was excessive at times.
I gained new appreciation for how difficult it can be to stock one's yarn shop. When faced with the staggering array of temptations that TNNA offers, it's hard to stay focused on your particular shop and its needs. I daresay every shop owner has some sort of budget and figuring out how to avoid blowing it on a cool new, but not very sellable, yarn is really tough. Especially since the yarn-sellers are trying really hard to get you to place orders on the spot. Yarns I personally might find attractive may not be big sellers with a large cross-section of knitters; my willingness to work with, say, an organic yarn with real vegetable matter in it may be atypical, or my love of cool colors may not mesh with the customer base who loves warm tones. And there's always the practical issues. If you have fifteen yarns that knit at 5 stitches to the inch, do you really need the sixteenth? Maybe you really need to find a yarn that's aran weight and superwash, but you have to make sure the palette of colors offered is right (no good guy colors? no good gal colors? no good baby colors? no neutrals?). Maybe you just love that alpaca but your shop is located in Florida where really warm fibers like alpaca just don't do too well. And so on. The next time you're tempted to tell your LYS owner "You really should stock XYZ yarn," think about it a little bit. The decision how to parcel up a knitting shop's yarn-buying budget is not that different from your own personal decision what to spend your yarn budget on -- so many choices! so heartbreakingly impossible to bring them all home! so hard to know what yarns will perform well simply by looking at them in the ball! -- only the LYS owner has to please as many customers as possible, instead of only herself. Ouch.
This made for some serious yarn-shop business to attend to. In addition to fondling yarns and looking for new discoveries, and networking, and scaring all the nice designers, we had a list of things we needed to accomplish. There were certain yarns we wanted to see in person (in skein?), to feel them and see samples knit of them; there were certain palettes we wanted to see dyed up in whole skeins of yarns, instead of in one-inch cuttings on a color card; there were a few items we needed to find, comparison shopping and all. I had a few vendors that I wanted Lisa to see; she had more that she wanted Laura and I to see; and so on. And I keenly felt the pressure of trying to do right by Lisa: being supportive and helpful and worth taking along. I think we did okay, overall. We seemed to hit most of the items on our to-do list, and stumbled over a few pleasant surprises. And, although it is a bit of a cliche, we did have a great time doing it.
The icing on my Tastykake* was my encounter with a well-known designer, one whose designs I've always loved, who came up to me (!) and said that she reads this very blog. She proved it, too, by conversing knowledgeably about various details of my life. We had a wonderful conversation, and I walked away, certain that this was my warped version of Paradise and that seventy (or is it forty?) scantily clad men who were most definitely not virgins were about to escort me through the Pearly Gates and feed me Godiva hazlenut chocolates while I rolled around naked in a bed of Koigu.
*Note for non-Philadelphians: Tastykakes are locally-made cupcakes and snackcakes that are individually packaged. Kind of like Little Debbies, only good.