What's new in various product categories; monthly
Report I: TNNA/Long Beach
The products, designs, and trends from two
By Janet Perry, Napa Needlepoint (February 7, 2005)
This year's Winter TNNA was the biggest to date. I thought it
would take me forever to get through everything, but I was
pleasantly surprised. Because knitting has been so big, many new
knitting companies were at the show, which made it much easier to
home in on all the lovely needlepoint out there.
Surprisingly for so much knitting, it seemed there weren't that
many new yarn companies. There were many companies with high end
knitting bags (possible needlework project bags) and knitting
patterns. New to knitting last year, I had an intuition that
knitting had hit the top of the crest. This year I felt more certain
of it, as it seemed as if many companies which have traditionally
been needlework companies now had some knitting products or had
repackaged some of their products for knitters. This, I think, is a
good idea because it gives their traditional customers ways to buy
products to expand into knitting and it gives knitters a reason to
come into their shops (and possibly become interested in other
needlearts as well).
A bigger concern I have is with the book market. Publishing
companies are coming out with knitting books seemingly by the dozen.
As a result, the opportunity for publication of books on other
needlecrafts seems to have dried up. I only saw one new needlepoint
book at a major needlework book distributor (last year there were
three or four). Because the possibility of getting needlework books
accepted by big publishers has dried up, there seems to be more
emphasis on self-publishing and, as a result, on needlework
companies distributing self-published books and chart packs.
I think this signals somewhat of a trend towards charted
needlepoint. The cost of hand-painted canvases continues to rise,
largely a result of the handwork and time involved. In order to grow
the needlework business, shopowners need to bring people into the
shops with products which look expensive, but are not expensive to
purchase. If it costs about $10-15 for me to make a fancy scarf
which looks trendy and expensive, then I am unlikely to turn to
needlepoint if the cost is going to be $30 to buy a small canvas and
threads. Shops need to take this into account and need to be looking
for products and classes which will show people needlepoint does not
have to be a "rich woman's hobby."
Looking at the needlepoint companies at TNNA, a number of things
were immediately obvious to me from a business point of view.
Clearly the continued economic difficulties in this market have hit
home for the designers at last. Several companies who have been at
every TNNA since I began attending the California market in 1998
were not there. Many other companies had smaller booths, or had
reduced their exposure by not having space at the Galleria.
On the whole I think this is a good thing. Far too many
needlework companies do not run their companies on good economic
principles. In other words, they may do the same thing year after
year and not decide where their money is used well. So a large
booth, an ad, and Galleria space may only yield $10 per $100 spent,
but spending less money may result in $15 per $100 spent, a better
Another reason why this contraction is good is that contraction
in the market provides opportunities for new companies. Too many
needlepoint companies I saw at TNNA had little new to show. They had
few new designs (and these weren't really highlighted) and the new
designs they had looked like their other designs. So little
It reminds me of car companies in the early 70's. They thought
they had a lock on the market and did not innovate. But
circumstances (oil crisis) caused the market to contract and opened
the door for innovative new companies to bring products to market.
TNNA had some of the first glimmerings that this is happening in
needlepoint. The companies which looked freshest and the most
exciting have brought out designs which speak to several trends.
1. High-end decorating. One designer, Julie Pishke,
had some wonderful shells and corals in colors which work well with
designer palettes. Shorebird Studios had several large
coordinating oriental pieces. Lani Designs had created a
number of oriental pieces which were available in many sizes, often
with the sort of complex borders characteristic of oriental art (and
also of high-end decorator pillows).
2. Brighter color palette. These are not the neon colors of a
few years ago, but saturated colors. A new exhibitor, Bongo,
uses these colors to great effect in painted canvases which are
designed to show off stitches. I like seeing these canvases because
they attract the eye with their colors but do not look difficult to
Although these color combinations are great, they may not appeal
to older stitchers. The playing cards designs from Custom House uses
a simple palette of primary colors with black and white. This is a
great combination of colors which is traditional enough but clear
enough to attract new stitchers.
3. Customization. While having one design in one (or
sometimes two) colorways has always been standard, now some
companies are willing to customize. For example, The Red Thread has
tool totes with initials. Last year each initial had its own color
combination; this year (for a slight fee) any combination can be
painted for any letter. This is good as it allows the customer to
make something unique. You may say that the needlepoint is unique
anyway, but being able to choose a light pink letter on a dark pink
background might be enough to get that lover of pink into
Although in the past few years there has been lots of emphasis on
smaller needlepoint projects, this seemed to be less the case at
this market. While there are still lots of smaller designs, most
needlepoint designers are emphasizing canvases which can be finished
into something practical. This could be as simple as painting
several related designs in sizes to fit the Lee leather
accessories or as complex as creating a set of matching golf club
covers, but the emphasis on making needlepoint useful once it's
finished continues unabated.
Another growing trend is designs which need more complex
finishing. While projects you can finish yourself are still an
important part of the needlepoint market, I saw many companies with
three-dimensional items, houses with several pieces made as
stand-alone objects or as purses, and even 3-D fruits, vegetables,
and flowers. The flowers are for sandals (child and adult sizes) and
are made by Birds of a Feather. The fruits and vegetables are
delightfully realistic and are designed by Ruth Chow and
distributed by Sundance Needleworks.
Tink Boord-Dill has added a new set of designs loosely based
on Japanese family crests. These designs are lovely and come in both
14 and 18 mesh. I think there will be more designs coming out on 14
mesh in the future.
Keri Designs (from Hawaii) has some great Hawaiian shirts,
also available on 14 and 18 mesh canvas. The 14 mesh is a great
place to show off stitches and threads (I saw it done with River
Silk ribbons and it was fantastic), while the 18 mesh has more
Continuing in the tropical theme, several companies, including Associated
Talents, had ornament sized flip-flops, often finished with
ribbon straps and embellishments. Jane Nichols had some great
golf pillows, rugs, and coasters as well as a whole flock of
flamingoes and flip-flop coasters.
Julia's Needleworks had a lovely, delicate gazebo which is
finished in 3-D (with a roof). Ruth Schmuff had an novel
approach to purses with several designs based on bustiers. Changing
Woman Designs has many designs based on great art, including
Monet's Water Lilies and Vermeer's Girl with a Peal Earring. Barrani
Designs has a great series of mosaic vegetables. These can be
done beautifully in long stitch.
Kathy Schenkel has a great series of Round the World Santas,
each with a separate flap to needlepoint. They were finished as bags
and would be a great decoration. Beau Geste has another limited
edition series of canvases based on Christopher Radko ornaments –
this year all nutcrackers. Unlike pervious years, they will all be
made available at the same time.
Although there continues to be great Christmas and Halloween
designs, I saw many new Easter designs. These included Chocolate
Bunnies from The Point of It All and designs based on Muni's
chalkware bunnies from Whimsy & Grace.
Three designers stood out with clever ideas for small
needlepoint. Shelly Trubbey has Tiny Travelers, small designs
which come with mini stitch guides, a color picture, and materials
list. The Princess and Me has an advent calendar of 25
2" ornaments; they are charming. Lund Enterprises has a series
of purse and pump ornaments, available in 12 colors each. These
small canvases are great for trying out stitches and threads. Lund
also has great circular ornaments with geometric patterns as well as
belts in rarely seen geometrics.
River Silks has an entire range of Kits to Go which include
painted canvases from designers such as Keri Designs, Jean
Smith, and Peace on Earth. They come packaged with silk
ribbons, instructions, and the canvas.
Many companies seem to be doing canvases of street scenes and
buildings. TS Designs has several single and multiple
buildings, realistically painted. Renaissance Designs has an
interesting Christmas village as well a different city street
scenes. I was particularly struck by the Paris scenes which included
Montmatre and the Moulin Rouge.
The wonderful Foot Petal sandals from Birds of a Feather are
a fantastic idea. The painted canvas comes with the petals and
centers for two flowers, a button form for the center, backing
fabric, and velcro. The finished flowers are backed with velcro so
they can be removed from the shoes. Because the sandals are made in
the U.S., they come in regular show sizes.
My favorite finishing idea was the self-finishing Dupioni silk
jewelry cases from Chameleon Designs. The colors are bright,
the silk is lovely, and they are so easy to finish that I'm
entranced. In fact, I need to go through my stash to look for pieces
to put in them.
With the popularity of needlepoint sandals, there is a wider
variety of shapes available. One finisher I saw has three shapes of
sandals and 11 colors of leather. And better yet, the cost is low
enough to make these sandals a possibility for many customers. In
fact, one of the shoe shapes uses belts, making these popular
canvases useful in other ways, too.
Voila C'est Fini has added a complete shoe canvas to its
line. The same canvas (they showed them made up in plaids) can be
finished with a kitten heel or as flats, and with a rounded or
pointed toe. I hope I'll see more shoes in the next year; they are a
Lee has added a new tote to their leather line, the City
Tote, which has a shape like popular "Shopper" bags. They
have also added new colors for ID tags and a great daytime clutch.
There were lots of cool new threads at TNNA and I have been
having a wonderful time trying them out.
YLI will be introducing heathered colors of ribbon floss this
spring. The heathered colors are soft matte colors, but not as fuzzy
as wool. Matte threads are something we need more of in needlepoint.
They also have a cool thin metallic thread which is new to me called
Candlelight. I'll let you know more about it once I've tried it out.
Rainbow Gallery introduced two new threads. Mandarin Floss is
made from 100% bamboo and has six strands. This is the first bamboo
thread for needlepoint and it stitches beautifully. It is more matte
than floss but still has a gentle sheen. There are 33 colors.
Sparkle! Braid is a thin, very bright metallic which is designed to
be combined with another thread. One feature is that it's easier to
use for blending than filament, which is nice. There are 30 colors.
There are six new colors of Water N'Ice, including two "wet
look" colors which are quite dark. A yummy bubble gum pink is
now available in Very Velvet (both sizes) as well as new colors in
Splendor, Petite Sparkle Rays, Flair, Frosty Rays, and lots more.
Needle Necessities has seven new colors of overdyed floss.
These colors include some great blues, a bright yellow/orange
combination, a bright light blue, and a good green. They also have
six additional colors of #8 braid and five of #12 braid in the
overdyed metallics. These are not new colors, but only new to the
Kreinik has six new metallic colors available in Fine,
Tapestry, and Medium (8, 12, 16) braid. Called "natural
colors," these are great soft shades. They will also debut Red
Ember, a wonderful combination of red and gold. These will be
available in March.
Anchor has introduced a pearl/metallic combination in #5.
These are solid or multi-colored threads with a gold or silver
metallic wrap. There are three multi-colors and six solid colors,
including red, three dark blues and green.
In April DMC will be introducing their six-strand linen
floss, which is already available in Europe. There are 12 natural
and pastel shades. Suggested retail price is $1.29 for an 8-meter
Stitch Elegance, the distributors of the glass laying tool,
have a wonderful new thread called Snipits. This is a Mercerized
cotton, which is one of the softest threads I've ever used. It comes
in 22 soft variegated shades. The retail cost is about $3 for
Caron Collection has come out with new solid colors in
Impressions and Soie Cristal. There are three green color families
as well as a family of red-violets. Finally, JL Walsh has 10
new colors of Silk Perle, milky pastels which look like sherbet.
Books & Tools.
Ruth Dilts has written a great book for beginning
needlepointers, called Needlepoint 101. It talks about all
the basics beginners need for stitching painted canvases, has 20
stitches diagrammed, and includes before and after pictures, so that
it's apparent how stitching decisions were made. Best of all, it
should be generally available for less than $20.
Charland Designs has come out with the Little Clipper, a
scissors fob clip which can be attached to your scissors. Rainbow
Gallery has made a new version of the LoRan needle threader which
will be available in bulk for local shops. (It's inexpensive enough
to make a good giveaway.)
Colonial Needle has a few new needles, Chenille needles in
size 28 (for very fine embroidery) and the Tapestry Tweenie, which
has a larger eye and is a slimmer needle.
Romancing the Past had a fantastic tool tote, which is the
size of a glasses case. They are covered in oriental brocades and
have short handles. Inside is a mirror and two Rare Earth Magnets.
It's a great size to pop into a stitching bag and is elegant enough
to be an evening bag.
(Note: Janet's company is Napa Needlepoint. Contact her at
or visit www.napaneedlepoint.com.)
Report II: TNNA, A Second Opinion
(Note: The following was written by a veteran needlework
designer/business person, who asked that her name be withheld.)
The good news is that most folks seemed to be having a good show,
but the question remains: is that based on lowered expectations due
to poor sales in 2004?
The bad news is that there just wasn't anything show stopping –
not at TNNA, Quilt Market, Stitches-East or CATS in Hershey. Lots of
good standards and variations on standards, but nothing
At TNNA, all the big guys seem to be doing their best to copy
each other, although Trendsetters managed to offer a yarn or
two of the type that offered some interest, and certainly the
Gedifra line is one of the strongest ever offered. Berroco, Euro,
Kertzer, Knitting Fever, and Plymouth continue
to offer interesting novelties at good price points. Cascade seems
to be working at building on its solid basics and will be "the
most ready" when the new knitter turns to more traditional
yarns to use in their projects.
There were a few new yarn companies who seemed hungry to compete,
but again, not really offering much outside of possibly slightly
discounted pricing for a large enough order. Although, Dark Horse
Yarns offered a small line of interesting textured yarns that
will be attractive to the dyers – a small but always growing
segment of the fiber arts market.
Politically, TNNA's two new Special Interest Groups seeming to be
moving forward, The "Reps" group had its second meeting
and is looking forward to meeting again in June.
The Counted Thread & Embroidery group leadership was handed
over from Designer Tink Boord-Dill to retailer & mythbuster
Cathe Ray of Needle In A Haystack. The CT&E group hopes to learn
from the Yarn group as they work together to rebuild their segment.
The Yarn Group held a meeting late in 2004 and created several
task forces to help them develop strategies on how to go forward.
Each group set reasonably "doable" goals for itself and
several had implications for more than just the Yarn group members.
Certainly there is a recognition of the need for more business
oriented education and a better understanding by retailers of the
No one seems sure what the hot colors will be, so there were
variations on existing themes such as the lodge look, mixed up with
today's versions of the Acid Greens, Bright Yellows and Hot Pinks
from the late 60's & early 70's. Seems they got the part of
Color Trends lecture on Rustic & Urban Sheen, but missed the
middle ground of refreshed basics.
Missing or at least not obvious, was any recognition by yarn of
home dec as a viable market niche; most exhibitors featured basic
scarves – with bits of novelty clinging almost as afterthoughts
– or ponchos. At least they offered basic and beyond knit and
crochet, but one has to wonder, "What's next?"
Felt seemed a big stronger, but still not taking anyone's
imagination by storm; maybe we can convince Jennifer Garner that she
can practice kick boxing and felt a new purse all at the same time
– or combine a wine pressing with dying and felting.
Free Form Knit & Crochet continues to build a following.
Interesting Phenomena: TNNA once again offered its "needlework
bee" with a free intro to counted thread, knit, and crochet.
Apparently crochet is on the upswing as retailers realize that it
sells 25-33% more yarn and that yes, there really are consumers out
there who will pay for "good yarn" if they are treated
nicely in the "fancy yarn stores."
Miniature Punch Needle seems to maintaining its own, although
many retailers are not yet sure this will continue.
Amazing Needle teachers showed off a prototype of a metal
version that should be offered later this year.
Among those offering glamorous, added-value sales were Geddes
Glass Studio (constantly busy), and new exhibitor Gita Maria was
also getting well deserved recognition of her wonderful enamel
charms and buttons.
If there was any trend at all, it was Embellishment and Elegance.
It will be interesting to see what the Yarn Group does to take that
next step in moving new knitters from "craft of hour" to
lifelong hobbyists and in further encouraging the "next
In keeping with the Embellishment - both extreme and elegant –
there seemed to be more embroidery-type products than has been
obvious is recent years, and some retailers indicated a growing call
for surface stitchery.
The interesting question to ponder: What will happen when as the
chains start rolling out their private label products at very
competitive pricing? Will the independent shops be ready to compete?
For now at least, overall, retailers seem to sense a loosening of
consumer wallets and were ready to begin to prepare their stores for
the buying season.
And that is the news all the suppliers have been waiting to hear.
Here's hoping this optimistic view point carries over to CHA &
(Note: To read previous Category Reports, click on the
titles in the right-hand column.)