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Friday, 28 June 2013

TNNA 2013 Columbus - Part 1

I must begin this post with a WARNING! If you are adverse to all kinds of shameless, gushing talk about yarn, knitting celebrities, self-flushing toilets and ice cream - then dear reader, look away now . . . but for those of you who are happy to live vicariously through others and have a yearning desire to find out all about the most amazing knitting trade show on earth - READ ON!!!!

For the past few years, I've read many blog posts and listened avidly to podcasts from TNNA attendees to try to get a handle on why this show is touted as THE most well-attended and highly respected of all the international knitting trade shows. I mean, I've been to CHSI in Birmingham and H&H in Cologne and they are both excellent shows with all the major yarn and knitting brands exhibiting and a plethora of eager knitters and yarn store owners walking the halls. But, do your research and you will find that TNNA Summer exhibition in Columbus Ohio is THE show to beat all other shows.
And now that I have actually been, I can tell you why.

Firstly, it isn't easy to get to for those of us across the water. Helena and I took a selection of trains, cabs and 2 flights (it isn't possible to get to Columbus directly from the UK) before finally reaching Columbus late on Thursday 20th. It was evening and the sun was still blazing down - something that neither of us had seen at all in the miserable beginning to our summer here in the UK. In fact, we were super lucky for the duration of our time in Columbus as the sun shone benevolently down on us from early in the day as we took our breakfast and swatched new colours at Cup O Joes until we left the convention centre late in the day.

Set up is always hard work and takes much longer than you think, but there is bustle and busyness everywhere around you, with stall holders working at making their own corner as beautiful and alluring as it is functional. We were located opposite our US distributors, Classic Elite Yarns this year, and it was a delight for me to finally put faces to the names I had heard so much about. Betsy Perry, owner/president and Heather, Meg, Susan, Don and Linda were all so incredibly kind and welcomed me into the CEY family from the get-go.

Our stand in aisle 800 just beginning to take shape, and Helena about to hang the posters

And finally all the samples are on the rails and the posters are up. We're ready for the Show!

The Show floor looked amazing filled with so many different brands - mostly from the US but with others, like us from across the globe, totalling 280 exhibitors. There are far too many to list here, but among the large international brands were Bergere De France, Manos Del Uruguay and Artesano, Malabrigo and Thomas B Ramsden - you can follow this link to see all of the exhibitors. For me, the most exciting stands were those with US yarn brands that I had read about in the UK but never been able to see - and as you knitters will know - there really is nothing like being able to gaze upon a beautiful display of coloured yarn and then actually touch it! I managed to walk a part of the floor on the last day and happened upon Shalimar Yarns, Sincere Sheep, The Fibre Company, Anzula, Swans Island, Madelinetosh, SweetGeorgia Yarns, Lorna's Laces and Knitwhits/Freia Yarn - all wonderful people and so passionate about their craft.

The vast floor filled with every imaginable fibre and yarn company!

Unusually for a trade show there is hugely anticipated opportunity to purchase yarn and samples at TNNA at an event called 'Sample It!' This is primarily a chance for anybody with a little (or lots of!) cash to buy samples of new products from a good selection of the exhibitors. I had taken the time to scan the list released before the Show to see what I would be interested in purchasing, only for me, making a list of what I would NOT be purchasing would take far less time.

The Sample It! event was, ahem, VERY well attended

The queue snaked through the main hall of the convention centre and was filled with supremely organised shoppers, printed and marked lists in hand. There was a buzz of excitement and anticipation, although I was more than a little worried that being near to the back I would arrive in the hall only to find everything snapped up by the yarn-hungry hoards in front of me. I needn't have worried though as the queue began to trot towards the hall at a goodly pace and we were all soon inside 'Sample It!' heaven armed with a TNNA branded carrier bag and a fistful of dollars.

It was hot and a little dark and utterly chaotic. If I'm honest I can't remember much except for the handing over of a lot of dollars and stuffing my bag with all manner of treasure. I do know however, that Helena is the most amazing shopping companion when one is on a yarn-bound mission and has incredibly pointy elbows in a crowd.

In Part 2 - knitting celebrities, new MillaMia products and Jeni's Ice Cream . . . . mmmmm!
(posted by Max)

Friday, 14 June 2013

TREND - stripes

Spring/Summer 2013 is all about stripes. Hot off the catwalk and hitting the high street are a plethora of stripes in such a wide variety of colour, width and form that there is something for every generation and every budget. You may think that horizontal stripes are difficult to wear, or that high contrast black and white is too stark, but rest assured! you can find vertical, chevron, narrow, wide or a mix of widths as well as subtle, tonal colourways alongside a garish but wonderful clash of brights.

And thanks to this super versatile colourwork staple - you can introduce colour and interest very easily into your knitting. It would seem that this season there are no rules when it comes to sporting your stripes - so be bold, or be subtle . . . but be striped!

Try these combinations for subtle two row stripes - think understated, tonal and chic . . .


. . . or more high contrast, yet still classic . . .

. . . perfect for an Emma Boatneck Jumper . . .

. . . or the Nils Stripey Top . . .

If you're feeling brave and want some clashing stripes to brighten up the dismal days that we in the UK are calling 'summer', try some bold combinations that have plenty to shout about! Think vibrant, fun and with a dash of carefree joie de vivre . . .

Your baby can be brave, and bold and beautiful in the Oliver Sleeping Bag . . .

Stand out in the crowd in the Kerstin Striped Kimono . . .

. . . or experiment with wide stripes in the Hannah Cardigan.

There is even an option for those who love a riot of colour - Carolta Dress and Rafael Top . . .

. . . or you may prefer not to wear your stripes - Rand and Tivoli Cushions . . .

Whatever your style, there is a stripe and colour combination out there to suit you! Not confident with choosing your own stripe combinations? We have alternative suggested colourways for all patterns but why not try out our colour tool under the 'colour' section to trial your own ideas? All of these patterns can be found in our range of collections for babies, children and adults available at your local yarn shop or from us directly at

Have fun!
(posted by Max)

Friday, 7 June 2013

OUT AND ABOUT - visit to The new-look Knitting Hut

A stunning display with our very own Kerstin Kimono
For a knitter with a serious yarn-habit, I count myself VERY unfortunate that I don't have a local yarn shop in my town. Like many knitters, I rue the 1980's that saw the fast decline in our crafts and the disappearance of the local haberdashers, fabric and wool shops that had been a part of every shopping 'parade' across the UK.

Of course, the huge and splendid craft revival that has been gathering pace over the last decade has happily seen an increase in a new brand of yarn boutique. You know the kind of shop I mean - one where you can lose yourself for a good few hours just stroking the fibre, delighting in the array of beautiful colours and contemplating the plethora of projects that will fly from your needles. And it's this kind of shop that it's worth spending an hour (or two) in the car to visit. Hence, my travelling for the requisite hour last Saturday to take a trip to Woburn Sands and the newly, beautifully revamped Knitting Hut.

Sue Stratford, owner and knitter/designer came to meet me at the shop, and told me that The Knitting Hut has been open now for 7 years. I remember visiting the shop around 5 years ago, on my quest to visit one of the new-wave of yarn shops stocking unusual, luxury yarns. I came home with a lovely Knitting Hut branded shopper stuffed full of Mission Falls 1824 Cotton to make my best friend a blanket - a yarn that is now sadly discontinued.

7 years on, Sue has not only created a destination yarn shop with a lively following of dedicated knitters, but has also transformed herself into a knitting celebrity! You will probably know her best for her super-cute knitted toys - Knitted Meerkats, released in early 2012 which saw her rise to the top five of the Amazon bestsellers chart and swiftly followed this year by Knitted Cats and Kittens. I took the opportunity to ask Sue a few questions whilst I was there, and, ahem . . . making my purchases . . .

1) What have you got on the needles at the moment?
An Eyelet Cardigan in Hemp, just cast off a toy reindeer which I am taking to America with me to promote Merry Christmas Sweaters (due out in time for Christmas this year), just casting on a cardigan in Skein Queen Grandiose based on a sweater design from the book, various socks, a pair of wristies . . . oh, and a knitted dog for my next book . . . that is all I will admit to at the moment!

2) Your Knitted Meerkats and Cats and Kittens books have been incredibly successful. Tell us a bit about how you came to design knitted toys.
I never expected to end up designing, let alone three dimensional toys. I haven't had any formal training, everything I have learned is though experience (lots of knitting) and trial and error. I started designing to promote yarns in the shop that weren't selling too well. I just call it making up patterns. I also love seeing a ball of wool and knowing in my mind what I could do with it. I made up a pattern for some toy mice which I then sold as a kit at The Knitting &Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace and was spotted by Search Press. The Editorial Director approached me and asked if I would be interested in writing a book and it has just gone from there.

3) My next question is linked to the last one - what are the next cute toys destined to make it into a book?
I am really enjoying the next book, it is 'Knitted Dogs and Puppies' and as we have just had a new addition to our family, a Scottish Terrier puppy called Hetty, I have lots of inspiration. I know what I am going to knit for the book but all I have to do now is find the time!

4) What's the best thing about owning a yarn shop?
There are so many good things about owning a yarn shop, not least having access to all that woolly loveliness . . .  I can buy what I want and feel justified, I have made some fantastic friends and the shop is a great network, the support I have from my customers never fails to amaze me - they are fantastic. I suppose the very best thing has to be the opportunities I have had because of the shop. When I opened it I never expected to be going to America to promote knitting pattern books - that's just amazing!

5) What is your favourite MillaMia yarn and pattern?
My favourite Millamia colour has to be Putty, I LOVE IT! As for a favourite pattern, the one I can't wait to do for me is the Kerstin Striped Kimono from Colour Coded. We are lucky enough to have it as a display garment in the shop at the moment and it is stunning. As far as the children's patterns go I love the Emil Babygrow from Bright Young Things - the splash of colour up the front is lovely and of course it uses my favourite colour.

The Kerstin Striped Kimono and the Emil Babygrow and Teddy Blanket

6) Your shop looks so inviting and super suave now that its had its refit - you've been open for 7 years but how has it changed in that time?
Thank you for your lovely comments about the shop. I opened the shop in February 2006 and over the years it has had a number of different layouts. That settee is used to being moved around! I remember when I opened it felt very spacious and then very soon I was making mini shelves to slot in to create more space to wedge even more yarn in. I am hoping we have got the spacious feel back now and made the shop lighter and brighter. The second settee has been a very popular addition and is proving to be great for the workshops and knitting groups.

7) Tell us something unusual about yourself.
Well, when I tell people I have five children it is always a conversation point. It means I have a very hectic life but I wouldn't have it any other way.

The Knitting Hut can be found in a friendly high street amongst some lovely clothes boutiques, and plenty of places to eat (we found the food at The Swan was excellent!) Sue and Heather are always happy to help you out with your knitting supplies and questions - take a trip to see them or you can call them on 01908 586244.

65, High Street
Woburn Sands
MK17 8QY

(posted by Max)