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Best Practices for Productive Conversations

Posted By TNNA HQ, Thursday, July 13, 2017
Updated: Friday, July 14, 2017

Update From Business and Creative Services: Best Practices for Productive Conversations

By Liz Gipson

The TNNA summer show is a wrap! I witnessed many great elevator pitches, clever vendor outreach and the development of new partnerships. I also saw a number of botched attempts at getting vendor support or missed opportunities for creative collaboration. Here are some tips to get the results you are looking for at future shows.

Creative Services Types


You are a customer, too. Don't be shy about approaching a vendor with your ideas. The most successful interactions I've witnessed, from being on both sides, is to approach the vendor with some version of this MadLib.


Hi, I'm _________________ (name) and I'm a __________________ (blogger, designer, podcaster)

[Hand vendor your card]. I'd love to talk to you about collaborating on a future project. I’m working on _______________________ (elevator pitch for the new project you want to talk to them about) and I think our businesses would be a good fit. Can you tell me what your policies are for product support and what kind of collaborations have been successful for you in the past? What are your marketing goals over the next year?


I've seen the word “collaboration” and “businesses” be successful for many people. You are stating that you are interested in mutual benefit and that you think of yourself as a creative business, with business being the operative word. Trade shows are about creating sales. “The ask” is not about you. It is about them. Asking what their biggest challenges are will give you good information about how you can solve problems for them.


Track records do matter. If you have successfully worked with another company that resulted in sales, use it as an example. It may take a while to build a few wins. If you are new at this, doing more listening and less talking will help.


Don't forget to ask about cash and carry. This new feature of the show has made it easier for Business and Creative Services (BCS) members to buy products at wholesale prices, but that doesn't mean that every product in their booth is cash and carry.


Every product someone gives you is a lost sale for a vendor. It may also represent future sales due to exposure, but that is not a guarantee. However, once a sale is lost, it is lost.


Attitudes toward product support vary widely. Some companies are willing to give out product freely to anyone they meet, while others need to see you at a show a few times before they will commit to a relationship.


Everyone is entitled to run their business as they see fit. Having these conversations with many vendors will help you find your right fit.


Aggressiveness is not the same as assertiveness. Be polite. 


Vendor Types


There are various types of vendors out there. Some folks give out their product to whoever asks, some offer their product at wholesales and others will offer wholesale prices and reimburse after publication. Have written policies or landing pages, stating your policies around product support. Do what works for you and ask your fellow vendors what they do. 


Spend some time thinking about the business and creative sectors before you come to the show. Think about what you would most like from a future partnership. Do you want more product reviews, pattern support in a new yarn, help with your social media, content for your platforms, content that tells the story of your business or help promoting a contest or campaign? Be specific.


Be ready with hashtags. A quick explanation of a hashtag you want to use will already start generating sales.

Have some small samples that you can give to potential creative partners. The more memorable the better. You want people to post your products on Instagram. 


Be sure to ask your contact if they are a member of TNNA— bonus points for being a BCS member. This is also a way to determine the maturity of their business.


If they are a BCS member, give them something extra special, and tell potential collaborators that you did so. That way if they are interested in getting product they know that their chances may increase by joining and attending BCS meetings and gatherings.


Rudeness never pays dividends. Treat all interactions as if they are a potential sale.


About the Author

Smitten by small looms and big plans, Liz Gipson has been coming to TNNA for the past 15 years in search of new ideas and renewed relationships. Liz hosts, a popular site for weaving know-how. Her latest book, Handwoven Home, was released earlier this year and she just launched an online weaving school where she hosts weave-alongs and classes. To contact Liz, email

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Summer Trade Show: After the Show

Posted By TNNA HQ, Thursday, June 29, 2017
Updated: Thursday, June 29, 2017

Summer Trade Show: After the Show

By Stephanie Shiman

The summer market is over, your bags are unpacked, and several new projects are underway. What now?  The TNNA summer show is excellent for discoveries, inspiration, connections, and overall appreciating this awesome industry, we are all a part of.  


Now that you’re home, how can you use what you learned and keep the creative juices flowing?

Whether you’re a shop, designer, or vendor, the following applies to you.

  1. Debrief yourself (and companions, if you took others with you).  Take notes!  You won’t remember this stuff next month!  What inspired you?  What are the new trends you should stay on top of?  What did you see that could set you apart and give you an edge?  What do crafters want to learn?  Which items are vanishing from booths that might be a heads-up that they’ve had their day in the limelight?
  2. Next, deal with all the paperwork you came home with—the flyers, catalogs, and business cards.  Evaluate what you will realistically want to remember later and which things don’t seem as useful.  Write notes on the keepers so when you come across them later you will remember why you kept them.
  3.  What crafty things did you bring back—that special skein from SampleIt or that free pattern you can’t wait to get started with?  Make a special place for these items for future projects so they don’t get lost in your stash.


Shops: When the orders start coming in, how can you be sure they get the best visibility to inspire your customers like they inspired you?  

  1.  As soon as you get back, begin sneak previews of items that you will add to your shop’s offerings.  Put a table up front in your store and cover it with samples and cash-and-carry items from the show. Use social media to start a buzz.  Even if you don’t have the items in hand, use photos from the vendor’s website or photos of finished objects (with permission) from Ravelry to get your customers excited.
  2.  Space out orders if possible, even if it means waiting a week to put them on the shelf.  Keeping your shop continually new and fresh is a great way to keep customers coming back. Update your social media outlets with photos from each new shipment along with inspiration for using the new products.  
  3. Unbox orders on Instagram. This hot new trend for social media really gets people excited. Start a live video when you unbox the order, describing the items as you go. Potential customers can then comment if they’d like you to put something aside for them. Just be sure to give a cut-off date for pick-up, and if items aren’t claimed, add them to your shelves.
  4. Show your customers what makes this or that new item unique. Most crafters don’t really need more craft supplies, but we do buy more when we are excited about a new project. Inspiration is the key! Classes, trunk shows, and shop samples are perfect for this.


Designers: What did you see that really inspired you?

  1.  Each year new yarns come out with new qualities. How can you best highlight the hottest new yarns? Staying on trend with the hot yarns will keep your work fresh and appealing.
  2.  What new techniques and construction methods are knitters really into right now?  Garter is out, garter is in. Brioche is hot. Chevron and odd angles are in. Felting is out. Lace is always in. Incorporate currently trending techniques into your work.
  3. Whom did you connect with at market that you would like to work with? Be sure to reach out with design ideas and proposals whenever you have them.  Everyone loves to bounce ideas around when inspired at the show. It’s important to show intent by following up with solid ideas after the market.Vendors: Hopefully you’ve come back with plenty of orders. Now the real work begins.  Besides just filling them, try these tips to keep re-orders coming in.

Vendors: Hopefully you’ve come back with plenty of orders. Now the real work begins.  Besides just filling them, try these tips to keep re-orders coming in.

  1.  Educate your customers on new items. Even a quick and dirty information sheet tucked into orders is helpful. Key phrases about your products are especially useful: “This kit comes with a full-size skein and three mini skeins as well as a shawl pattern behind the label.” The more a shop knows and understands about your product, the easier it is for them to sell it.
  2.  It can be hard to predict before the show what the hot sellers will be. Now you know! Therefore, stock up on those items as soon as you can, and filling re-orders will be a breeze. When something is hot, everyone wants it yesterday.
  3. Do you feel like some products didn’t get as much attention as you thought they deserved? Use your social media outlets to highlight anything that might have slipped through the cracks.
  4. Believe it or not, even though the summer show has just ended, it’s the perfect time to think about what you’d like to launch next season. Often seeing your product line laid out and taking orders face-to-face is a good way to see where your holes are. Prepare now to fill these holes next season.
  5. Pack up your booth items, for storage, in a way that makes it easy to prepare for the next show. January seems a long way off now, but it’ll be here before you know it.  

Overall, use what you’ve learned at market to keep things fresh, inspired, and interesting!


About the Author

Stephanie Shiman (www.frabjousfibers.comstarted frabjous fibers and Wonderland Yarns in 2004 with a box of yarn stashed under her dining room table.  Now, with a team of a dozen or so creative people, FF&WY hand-dyes fabulous yarns and fibers that make their way to LYS all over the world.

Tags:  Business tips  Summer Trade Show  TNNANews 

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Starting a Blog: Find Your Audience

Posted By TNNA HQ, Thursday, June 29, 2017
Updated: Thursday, June 29, 2017

Starting a Blog: Find Your Audience

By Janet M. Perry and Anita M. Wheeless

You’ve decided to join the club and  use a blog as a way to let people know about your needlework business. FANTASTIC! A blog is a great way to build shop, brand, and name recognition. While most articles about blogs concentrate on software, there are many other considerations that go into making your blog successful. Don’t worry; there are easy ways to grow your readership as well as simple methods to implement on social media to promote your blog. 

 The most important decision to make is what you want the focus of your blog to be. Blogs could cover many subjects; however, with so many out there, you won’t get viewers if your blog does not have a focus. . You may want to write about your vacations, your knitting,  or the activities of your local PTA, but you have to ask yourself if all of the same people will want to read about those topics. You don’t have to ignore the rest of your life, but your blog should concentrate on one subject.


Related to this is understanding the purpose of the blog. Do you want to get more people in your classes? Is education your focus? Do you want to drive sales? Do you want to build brand recognition? Pick one main objective and one or more to be secondary. Putting too many topics in one blog dilutes its value and keeps readers away.


Once you know what you want your blog to be about, there are two important things to consider: your platform and your theme. The platform is the basic software that you use to build your blog. It’s what allows you to create this complex edifice without knowing how to program. There are many platforms to choose from, many of which are free. One of the most common platforms is WordPress. There are thousands of themes and tools for it, and there are people you can hire to help you with it if you are unfamiliar


WordPress exists in two forms. The first form is where WordPress itself hosts the website, while the second form is where you run the website on servers from a hosting provider. Both use the same software. There are many books, videos, and websites that will help you set this up. Google also offers popular platforms for blogs. Google's Blogger, a free publishing platform, allows you to publish a blog within your custom website, while Google's Blogspot is an all-in-one free domain service provider. Janet has always used WordPress and she loves it, while Anita uses Blogspot.


The theme is what gives your blog its look. Each platform has a default theme, but there are many others paid and free. You will want to look, test, and learn until you find one you like. Ask your colleagues and friends to look at it.


Another area where blogs can fail is in its accessibility. If your blog isn’t accessible, you won’t have as many people reading it.


Often website templates come with blog pages. You may decide to use one,  but the only problem is that it may not work with the blog-reading software many individuals use. Additionally, it may not give unique URLs to each post, or it may not allow people to subscribe in a simple way.  Any of these problems can wreck your blog. As a new blog, you want to make it easy for people to follow you and to read what you say.


Another part of making the blog accessible is the numerous little things that can make it easier to read. Some of these are:

  • Have titles for every post. People don’t want to read a long URL instead of words they can remember.
  • Use tags and categories so readers can find what they want. These tools make it easier for your readers to find the content they want and for them to see you as the source for authoritative info. As your blog grows, it also helps you find older posts to cross-reference or to give to customers.
  •  Always use dark type on a light background. You may want to be cool and white on black is supposed to be that, but it significantly reduces readability for everyone -- young and old.
  • Use vivid pictures and working links. Both of these make your blog more attractive and will keep people reading.
  • Use subheadings, bold type, captions, and lists. All of these make your blog easier to read and make it more attractive to the hurried reader.
  • Don’t neglect copyright. Image stealing on the Internet is common, but that doesn’t make it right Always give information about the source, even if it’s “unknown” or “public domain.” It sets you up as a good Internet citizen.
  • Remember the mobile user. When you are looking at themes, you may see some labeled “responsive.” This means they adjust so they can be seen on cell phones. As more people search the web on their phones, having this capability is important. Test your theme by looking at it on a phone. If it isn’t responsive, pick a different theme.
  • Add a Call to Action (CTA) subscriber check box. This is one of the first ways to grow your reader base, according to HubSpot.


About the Authors

Janet M. Perry is a needlepoint educator, creating print books, ebooks, on-line classes, stitch guides, and blogs that provide great information for stitchers at all levels. She has 13 books in print currently including Bargello Revisited, the most comprehensive Bargello book in print. Her Nuts about Needlepoint blog,, is the leading needlepoint blog. Her Needlepoint News blog provides news to all stitchers. She welcomes folks to contact her (and contribute news) at 


Anita Mumm Wheeless has been a member of TNNA since 2012 and has been certified as a knitting instructor by the Craft Yarn Council.  A former newspaper writer/editor, she designs knitting patterns for toys and novelties. Leisure Arts published her book, “Storybook Dolls to Knit” in 2011. Her patterns are also featured on, and You can find her on and Love Knitting. She maintains a website: and a blog: Connect with Anita on Twitter @AnitaPatternBox or by email:


Tags:  Business tips  education  Social media  tips  TNNANews 

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Ask Social: To Tweet or Not to Tweet

Posted By TNNA HQ, Thursday, June 29, 2017
Updated: Thursday, June 29, 2017

Ask Social: To Tweet or Not to Tweet

By Vickie Howell and Mari Chiba Luke

Welcome to Ask Social, an advice column for TNNA members aimed to demystify social media practices and strategy. In every issue, we answer questions from store owners, manufacturers, designers, teachers and bloggers about simple and effective ways to use new media to influence their businesses.

Dear Ask Social, 

I signed up for a Twitter account ages ago, and I just never post to it, because what can I say of value in 140 characters or less? Is this a channel I need to be spending time on? I'm just not sure what I should be posting on Twitter, or how important it is, when there are so many things I need to do to promote my business. 

- Clever Name

Dear Clever Name, 

I have good news; you don't need to add Twitter to your task of daily to-dos. The reality is,  our crafty demographic spends more time on other channels. Sure, there are knitters, spinners, and stitchers of all sorts on Twitter, but there might still be a few on Myspace too. As a small business, you need to focus on the channels where you're going to get the best bang for your buck, and  odds are, that isn't on Twitter. Twitter is predominantly male (22 percent of males online use Twitter, while 15 percent of females online use the platform), and the largest segment of Twitter users are 18-29. Furthermore, the average Twitter user spends 2.7 minutes per day on the platform, whereas Facebook users spend 20 minutes or more a day on the platform. 

That being said you could use IFTTT or another automation app that automatically exports your posts from other channels directly to Twitter, so that your feed still has fresh content. We recommend connecting your Instagram feed directly to Twitter, and if you can train yourself to write a short intro, then include a hashtag or two, and then the rest of your caption, you can get a post that also looks great on Twitter without any extra work. Bonus: Since Instagram also clips your captions, they will make more sense on Instagram, too. 

We do recommend that you check in on Twitter regularly (once a week or so) to make sure that people aren't trying to reach you there. Twitter seems to be a favorite platform for people with a complaint, so monitoring the channel for feedback and responding quickly will help you provide the best customer service. 


 Dear Ask Social,

As a relatively new knitwear designer trying to make a name for myself, I’m having a hard time balancing my design work with what I think I should be doing on social media. Other than a blog, how important is it that I have a presence on all of the prominent platforms? I want to be taken seriously by publishers and yarn companies, but I also want to maintain my sanity. Help!



Dear Overwhelmed,

First off, know that you’re not alone. Shop owners, yarn companies, and freelancers alike struggle with keeping all of the plates — involved in both running their businesses and promoting it — spinning.

Secondly, although in the digital age it is very important that you do have some social media visibility, it isn’t crucial that you are on ALL of the major platforms. Social media is the new portfolio, so publishers and yarn companies looking for designers go straight to the web as a source of confirming experience, talent and legitimacy. Because of that, we recommend that rather than spreading yourself thin by having a mediocre presence on several platforms, you instead work towards strong, well-thought-out campaigns on a couple. Digital marketing is a numbers game, and a perspective creative director or editor for company X will be much more impressed if you have 3,000, truly engaged followers on two platforms rather, than only 500 followers on five.

Lastly, as a designer, visuals are key. We recommend putting your efforts into a beautifully curated Instagram feed, including a mixture of your finished designs, styled shots of your works-in-progress, and perhaps some lifestyle or inspirational photos that exude your aesthetic. Most importantly, though is that the photography for your main stream is Instagram-worthy meaning, clear, well-lit, and styled, if appropriate. Fortunately, thanks to the ever-improving smartphone cameras and a plethora of photo editing apps out there, getting a strong snap isn’t difficult. We recommend using the A Color Story App (available in the iTunes App Store or on Google Play) to amp up your images. With over 100 filters, 40 effects, and 20 tools, it’s an invaluable asset at an affordable price (around $10.)

Designers are also often teachers of one form or another, so a place to interact with your community authentically, and in a less calculated manner, is Facebook. The ability to share info, give updates, broadcast live, and upload video tutorials is key to creating a community. Varying content is important, as is not only uploading native content but also sharing other people’s content. To quote marketing guru, Guy Kawasaki, “If you’re not sharing other people’s content, then you’re not following the right people.”

Perspective hirers look to see if you engage with fans of your work, and thusly —in addition to your mad, design skills — bring a dedicated audience to the mix. Your followers then become accessible to that company and therefore increase their promotional reach.

You’ve got this!


Got social media questions? Send them to or leave a comment below!

Ask Social is a collaboration between Vickie Howell (@vickiehowell), executive producer and host of The Knit Show with Vickie Howell (premiered on YouTube, October 2017), and Mari Chiba Luke (@mariknits), business integration manager and design director of Stitchcraft Marketing.

 Vickie Howell      Mari Chiba Luke
    Vickie Howell              Mari Chiba Luke    


Tags:  Ask Social  Business tips  Social media  TNNANews 

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Summer Trade Show: One Attendee's Experience

Posted By TNNA HQ, Thursday, June 15, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Summer Trade Show: One Attendee's Experience

By Joy Macdonell

Stepping foot on a trade show floor is exciting. There is a shared energy as vendors get ready to show off their new products in beautifully curated booths and attendees are prepared to begin a search for new products to introduce to their enthusiastic customers.

Summer is the perfect time of year to gather as a trade organization because fall creative content calendars are being firmed up, retail events are in the planning stages, budgets have been analyzed, and open to buys have been approved!

TNNA returned to Columbus, Ohio for the 2017 NeedleArts Summer Trade Show, where the familiar North Market offers delicious foods and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams can be enjoyed!

#stitchlove by Stitchcraft MarketingOver in the convention center, there were new experiences including Blue Sky Fibers’ booth visitors on Sunday of a llama and two alpacas! The newly conceived TNNA Lounge provided tables and chairs for mini meetups and gatherings. Also located in the lounge area, presented by Stitchcraft Marketing, the #stitchlove wall filled the space with good vibes and warm sentiments from attendees.

The convention kicked off Friday night with the Yarn Group Fashion Show and Sample IT! This year, there were 104 looks presented on the runway from 35 companies and 100 brands. Resourceful, discrete, playful, intense and integral are words used to describe the fashions that hit the catwalk. Silhouettes included dusters, shawls, wraps and ponchos.

This is the year of the sleeve and we were presented a variety, including minimalist sleeves, textured sleeves and, most notably, a garment featuring one long-tapered sleeve and one poncho sleeve. Asymmetry was found in hems and wrap shapes.

Color created movement on the runway. “Let the colors move; let the colors come to life,” the presenter said as solid colors, color gradients and touches of glitter moved in front of our eyes. Sweaters featured yolks with stranded work, cowls, and hoods.

The showstopper was a piece of art named the “Woodland Sweater” by Nicky Epstein. This piece stole the show with a knitted forest scene, appliqued knitted pieces and embroidery. The excitement at the Fashion Show set the mood for the weekend.

There were more than 90 exhibitors on display on the show floor with the majority participating in the “Discover What’s New” area — perfectly placed by registration. If you were early to the show, this was the place to linger and stroll. Each tabletop vignette offered a peek at the newest products on display at the show. This was a must-see destination prior to walking through the show and before leaving — just to make sure you did not miss anything in the show!

An Education Theater, conveniently located on the showroom floor, offered instruction on trend-right topics that included introductions of new tools, explanations of how fleece becomes fiber, and the importance of the fiber value-chain. Instructors included Karin Skacel, Tabbethia Haubold, Trisha Malcolm, Lisa Meyers and Sy Belohlavek. These educational moments were easily accessible by all attendees and provided a great opportunity to rest for a moment while still participating in the show!

The vendors, however, were the stars of the show! Each booth carefully arranged to present an artful display of products. All vendors focused on the attendees and welcomed everyone to touch, feel and explore their goods. Exhibitors provided plenty of literature to share with every type of attendee from the retailer to designers and teachers. The vendors fostered new relationships with open arms. The spirit of the show was led by the exhibitors, and their energy and excitement will continue to contribute to the success and growth of the industry!


About the Author

Joy MacdonellJoy Macdonell (www.craftingwithjoy.comis a Creative Blogger and Fiber Consultant. Her job has provided her with lots of great opportunities to teach, including as the host of a television show on the DIY network (Greetings, from DIY) and one on PBS (Crafting at The Spotted Canary). She has also been the guest representative for Martha Stewart Crafts on the Home Shopping Network and has been the education director for the Martha Stewart Crafts brand since it launched in 2007. Prior to starting her career with EK Success Brands in 2001, she and her sister owned the very popular scrapbook store in Fairfax, VA, My Scrapbook Store.

Tags:  Recap  Summer Trade Show  TNNANews 

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Design Digest: Leaping into the Rabbit Hole of Embroidery

Posted By TNNA HQ, Thursday, June 15, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Design Digest: Leaping into the Rabbit Hole of Embroidery

By Angela Davis

In Design Digest, we highlight a particular favorite technique, type of popular design or share our experiences learning how to do something. Today, I am going to do all three!

Hand embroidery has been enjoying a resurgence in popularity recently, in both the craft and fashion worlds, and this revitalization is inspiring all kinds of crafters and crafters-to-be to join in. Discovering one particular technique has me very excited and planning all kinds of embroidery projects.

According to Wikipedia, the “basic stitches on surviving examples of the earliest embroidery — chain stitch, buttonhole or blanket stitch, running stitch, satin stitch, cross stitch — remain the fundamental techniques of hand embroidery today.” Embroidery is thought to have originated as a natural outgrowth of the practice of tailoring, mending, patching or reinforcing precious fabrics. Inspired, bearers of needle and thread sought to incorporate decorative stitches and colorful threads to embellish their work and enhance its beauty.

Embroidery has also served a functional purpose in marking one’s clothing and household linens for being sent out for laundering. As it has evolved, embroidery has become appreciated for its decorative function as well as for its more practical purposes.

Like many young girls, I began embroidering as a child in elementary school — first stabbing a tapestry needle threaded with yarn through burlap for an art project. After devouring library book stories in which pioneer girls were embroidering samplers, I started trying out various stitches and different weights of cloth and thread.

This was happening in the 1970s, when embroidered jeans and denim shirts were de rigueur, so I picked up various tips and techniques from women in my family and my neighborhood, and from women’s magazines. Along the way, I also learned counted cross-stitch and a bit of needlepoint, too.

Jump ahead to the present: I came across an image online of something called a Dropcloth Sampler — a stamped cotton cloth featuring a charmingly chaotic mix of lines, shapes and lettering that positively begs for embroidery. I found the designer’s etsy shop, ordered my own Dropcloth Sampler, pulled out my box of DMC floss, pearl cotton, and supplies, and got ready to start.

Then panic hit. I didn’t want to ruin the cuteness of the sampler with my awkward stitching. I decided to order the Creativebug class taught by the designer, Rebecca Ringquist, and got started.

Angela Davis' in-progress samplerRight away, I knew that I was onto something here. Rebecca’s teaching style is friendly and clear, and the instruction — it has set me free! I have been doing my own DIY-version of satin stitch for as long as I can remember. When Rebecca said that we should always stitch the outline before filling with satin stitch (even if you plan to remove it after), suddenly, my embroidery looked so much better! For so long I have struggled along, treating the printed or drawn outline of a shape as the guide to fill in. If you fill in a stitched outline, the results are so much better!

As I prepared to write this article, I reached out to Rebecca and she graciously agreed to answer a few questions for me. She is an artist, designer and teacher, who currently lives in Portland, Oregon. She comes from a crafty family. Her parents are both makers; her mother is a weaver and her father is a furniture maker.

As an art major in college, Rebecca became interested in the social history of samplers and their makers. Designing her own sampler patterns then became a logical next step for her. Because her sampler business and her art studio are housed in the same place, she is noticing that her samplers are becoming more painterly. Her drawings are influenced by her embroidery, so both practices are having an effect on one another.

Rebecca says she is excited for there to be more threads on the market and sees the trend toward more hand-dyed and artisanal threads as a hopeful one. Her samplers are available for wholesale, and her book Rebecca Ringquist’s Embroidery Workshops, published by STC Craft/ Melanie Falick Books, released in April 2015, has an exclusive sampler to embroider included.

I can’t say that I have fallen into the rabbit hole of sampler embroidery as much as I have jumped in — all because of stumbling across one really great technique that empowered me and opened up a whole new world! My next plan is to learn how to embroider on hand-knits, so stay tuned for that!

For more information about Rebecca Ringquist and Dropcloth Studios:


Learn: Online Workshops with Rebecca

Follow: Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest

Shop: Dropcloth Samplers


About the Author

Angela Davis

Angela Davis, B.S.B.M., is a fiber artist, Craft Yarn Council of America certified-hand knitting instructor, author, artist and designer. She is passionate about supporting the needlearts, handcrafting, slow-fashion, visible mending, supporting small-batch producers of ethically and ecologically sound fibers, and reducing textile waste. Angela has taught knitting on European and Japanese tour buses, started a knitting-for-charity club at an inner-city high school in Los Angeles, has knitted props for the television show Mad Men, and is a contributing author and designer for publications including Piecework, STUDIOS, Knitting Traditions, and Sockupied magazines.

By day, Angela is director of product development and artist relations for internationally renowned punk, garage, rock and metalcore bands. She lives in Long Beach, California with her three sons. Angela’s Ravelry ID is alittlebird, and you can find her on Instagram as @angelaxdavis and on Twitter as @angelaxxdavis.

Tags:  Design Digest  dropcloth sampler  embroidery  TNNANews 

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How to Market Yourself as a Designer at the TNNA Summer Trade Show

Posted By TNNA HQ, Friday, June 2, 2017
Updated: Thursday, June 1, 2017

TNNA Summer Trade Show: How to Market Yourself as a Designer

By Brenda Bourg

Attending your first TNNA show can be very overwhelming, so I've asked three experienced designers for their best advice to new attendees.


All three designers agreed that setting appointments with the top companies you want to meet with are a top priority. Go through the exhibitor list carefully, and make a must-see list and a secondary must-see list. When you set your appointments, be specific about what you would like to meet with them about, such as a proposal for a jacket, sweater, etc. Be sure to keep your meeting brief, 20-30 minutes at the most, unless your contact says they can give you more time when you schedule the appointment. Wear business casual attire with very comfortable shoes  you will be on your feet a lot!


If you are a new or unknown designer, bring a one-page resume that has thumbnail photos of various projects that are representative of your skills. Or even better, if you have a tablet, create a portfolio of your designs. You are more likely to sell your work if they can see visuals of your capabilities.


For more experienced designers, bring photocopies of book covers or designs from magazines to hand out to contacts. Be sure to bring plenty of business cards and give them out. You will also collect a lot of business cards in return write notes on the business cards while on the floor. This will make it easier to remember what was discussed and help with follow-up organization. You may also want to bring a small notebook, pen, and tape or small stapler. This can help organize the business cards.


Don't forget to stop by and thank companies who have given you support in the past. It is a great chance to introduce yourself and put a face with the name. If you are a published author, check to see if your publisher is there and if they offer to do a book signing. Also, if you have a book and one of the yarn suppliers is there, ask if they will display your book. This is a great opportunity to bring in wholesale orders!


If you continue checking back on a busy booth to introduce yourself to no avail, drop a card off and get a card to follow up later. That said, never, ever interrupt a meeting unless someone calls you over. Often, an official meeting looks like a casual conversation. Business relationships can be quickly ruined over this.

Don't ask for materials from a company you've never worked with before. Instead, ask about their supply support for designers' policy. If they offer it to you, then it's fine to accept it.


You do need to work the floor, but make sure to take some breaks, too. Your feet and sanity will thank you! Your first show can, and probably will, be very overwhelming and your brain can be quickly overstimulated.


One of the three designers said it best: "I guess the bottom line is that if you want to be considered a professional, act like one. I think that sums it up."

About the Author

Brenda BourgBrenda Bourgauthor of Fair Isle Tunisian Crochet, is also an editor, writer, spinner, knit and crochet designer for 10 years and counting. She is co-editor for Annie's Talking Crochet Update newsletter – a job she's enjoyed immensely for almost 4 years. Brenda also loves to blog about crafting, encouragement, finding humor and beauty in everyday life on Encouraged by Design.

Tags:  Business tips  Designer  Summer Trade Show  TNNANews 

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Social Media Corner: 13 Tips for Taking the Perfect Shot for Instagram

Posted By TNNA HQ, Friday, June 2, 2017
Updated: Thursday, June 1, 2017

Social Media Corner: 13 Tips for Taking the Perfect Shot for Instagram

By Joy Macdonell

Whether you're an Instagram newbie or a veteran on the platform, here are 13 tips to bring engaging visual content to your followers. Our industry is colorful, vibrant and creative, so that's what you need to deliver!




 Framing 1 Framing 2 


Instagram finally broke free from the square frame. You can now post landscape (horizontal) or portrait (vertical) photos, too! There is still an emphasis on the square aspect ratio of 1:1:

  • The gallery still uses square thumbnails;
  • The app only shoots photos in square; and
  • If you input photos into the app for posting, the default is the square.

You can choose to preserve the original aspect ratio of your uploaded photo in the upload screen. There is now a small icon in the bottom left of the image where you can toggle between square and not-square. For landscape photos (horizontal), you can use aspect ratios up to 1.91:1. For portrait (vertical) photos, you can use an aspect ratio up to 4:5. And you can still use square, of course. But you can’t use very narrow banners or panoramas. If the square framing did not work for you, now there are more options for presenting your content!




Symmetry creates balance in photography. Look for opportunities to frame the subject of your photo with objects in the scenery: other props, architecture, branches, window sills, etc. Use objects in your environment to create balance and frame your shot.




Lighting is key. Natural light always reads best in photography. Prime times for shooting outdoors are: cloudy days, early morning or late afternoon. The lens of the phone camera absorbs light in a different way compared to traditional cameras. Play with the light coming from above or behind your subject. As you are taking your shots, move around the subject and look to see how the light changes position light in unexpected places to capture an ethereal look.




Look for depth of field. Most smartphones allow you to touch the screen and focus on your subject. Use this tool to bring the objects closest to you into focus and allow the objects further away to blur. The blurry background and the focused foreground creates depth in your photo and guides the viewer’s eye to the focal point of the photo.


Turn On the Grid

Turn On the Grid

Respect the Rule of Thirds. Use the grid on your phone to aid in creating a balanced composition. The grid marks break the frame of your photo into thirds, vertically and horizontally. Position the elements in your frame on the 1/3 marks instead of the center and you will find that your photos are instantly more interesting.


Clean the Lens

Clean the Lens

Get clarity and sharpness in your photos by wiping off the lens of your camera phone. Our phones go in and out of our pockets, sit on tables, and collect dirt and dust. Taking a moment to clean the lens before you shoot will make a big difference in the quality of your photos.



Top Instagram Editing Apps

With a little editing, every photo can be Instagram-worthy. My favorite editing apps are: A Color Story (in-app purchases), Snapseed, VSCO, Facetune ($3.99), Darkroom (in-app purchases) and TouchRetouch ($1.99). Each app provides a unique experience. To find your favorites, you need to play. You do not need to be a photographer to use these apps; you simply need to have the desire to try them out. These apps have great YouTube support. Download the apps, watch a few tutorials, and you will learn to produce Insta-awesomeness!


Tell A Story

Tell A Story

Find a clear point of interest. Shoot photos that tell a story about the product, person or place of interest. Remove clutter from the photo and lead the viewer’s eye right to the heart of your content.


Colors, Shapes and Lines

Colors, Shapes, and Lines

A powerful Instagram photo has strong colors, defined shapes and lines. These elements can frame your content and draw the viewer into the photograph. Train your eye to use these pieces of content to create emotion in your frame.


Shoot from Different Angles

Shoot from Different Angles

 Change your position and look at the objects in your photo from an unusual perspective. Try shooting from directly above or very low to get an interesting view.


Less Is More

Less Is More

Use white space to your advantage and give your content room to breathe, but also think about context. Give the viewer an understanding of the size of product you are filming or the use of an interesting object. Use your photo to engage your followers and invite them to investigate further.


Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice, Practice, Practice

Take tons of photos. Release yourself from perfection. If you see something interesting, take a photo. Through practice, you will learn more about your style, your aesthetic, and, in time, you will capture your brand.



Keep Your Feed Consistent

Keep a consistent look to your photos. When they tile together in your feed, you can see a story unfold. There are many approaches to consistency; it could be color, framing, lighting, content or the use of white space. Also remember to remain consistent with feeding Instagram: The more consistent you are, the more present you will be on the platform. A good Instagrammer considers how each photo looks within the whole feed. Planning is a big part of telling your visual story.

Instagram does not allow for automatic programming; each photo must be uploaded in real-time. How do you stay ahead and keep your feed cohesive? Check out Plann  a scheduling, planning app that makes curating your Instagram gallery quick and easy. The app notifications will keep you on schedule so that you never forget to post!

About the Author

Joy MacdonellJoy Macdonell is the education director at Simplicity Creative Group. Her job has provided her with lots of great opportunities to teach, including as the host of a television show on the DIY network (Greetings, from DIY) and one on PBS (Crafting at The Spotted Canary). She has also been the guest representative for Martha Stewart Crafts on the Home Shopping Network and has been the education director for the Martha Stewart Crafts brand since it launched in 2007. Prior to starting her career with EK Success Brands in 2001, she and her sister owned the very popular scrapbook store in Fairfax, VA, My Scrapbook Store.

Tags:  Instagram  Social Media  Tips  TNNANews 

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Ask Social: Facebook Live and Hashtags

Posted By TNNA HQ, Friday, June 2, 2017
Updated: Friday, June 2, 2017

Ask Social: Facebook Live and Hashtags

By Vickie Howell and Mari Chiba Luke

Welcome to Ask Social, an advice column for TNNA members aimed to demystify social media practices and strategy. In TNNANews, we’ll answer questions from store owners, manufacturers, designers, teachers and bloggers about simple and effective ways to use new media to influence their businesses.

Dear Social,

I’ve been seeing more and more live videos pop up in my Facebook stream. Should I be working on a lifestream strategy for my business?

Yours truly,
Fiber Company Owner

Dear Fiber Company Owner,

The short answer is, yes.

The longer answer is that live stream video is where current marketing is at right now. It offers a way to reach out to both a global (key, if you also have a e-commerce aspect to your biz) and local customers at once, while also enriching your consumer community. Because Facebook Live videos are interactive (meaning that those watching live can post questions during the stream, which you’ll see and can react to in real time), they give your followers the feeling of being a part of something — it’s the virtual equivalent to getting to talk to you in your shop, or chat via an old-school help line.

Conversely, the live videos are also recorded so that they can be viewed at a later time via your Facebook page, which means you can build a playlist of videos to act as a living resource library. As a bonus, currently (and I use that term literally, like right this very minute, because who knows how long this will be the case), the Facebook algorithm allows for more of your audience to see these than even natively uploaded video. This number increases if you also spend a few bucks to boost the post after you’re done recording.

Here are my top three tips for Facebook Live video success:

1. Be consistent. Pick a day (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.) that your videos will go live, and stick to it. You’ll be surprised how many people will fold you into their life schedules, if they know what to expect.

2. Have a plan. Pick a topic or topics ahead of time, so that you're clear on what’s happening once that on-camera countdown begins. Producing a relatively tight, 10-minute video is way better than a 40-minute ramble session. Also, if your followers know the topic to expect (I recommend promoting ahead of time), they’re more likely to be invested in seeking the video out.

3. Be yourself. Although I I just recommended going into your video with a general plan, feel free to treat the situation as if you’re having these viewers into your home. Talk to them as if they’re friends, which means not being concerned about staying too on-script.

Have fun!


Dear Social,

I see everyone using hashtags on Instagram, but I'm not sure which ones I should be using?


Dear LYSO,
Yes, you should definitely be using hashtags! Before we get into which hashtags to use, let's talk for a moment about which ones not to use.
I see many fiber related accounts promoting sales with #discount and #sale. Before you use a hashtag, I'd encourage you to first look it up! If you search either of those hashtags you'll find a lot of images that are totally unrelated to our fiber niche. The beauty of the hashtag is that it helps people interested in your content find you and your channel. What are the odds a yarn shopper is going to be searching Instagram for #discount? Not great. And what are the odds that someone searching #discount is a crafter? Also, not great.
Some of my favorite hashtags for knitting related accounts on Instagram are #knitttersofinstagram #knitstagram and #instaknit. But to get a fuller picture of the hashtags your brand should be utilizing, look at the hashtags your customers, the companies you admire, and your competitors are using. There are also some great tools (both free and paid) that will tell you related hashtags and the popularity of specific hashtags. is a free option that shows you related hashtags and their frequency; offers a variety of in depth tracking and analysis for hashtag usage.
And one more thing while we're on the topic of hashtags: Consider starting one for your own brand. This will be a way for others to share your products on their own feeds, and for others new to your brand to find related content quickly and easily. Make sure to search a few options that include your company name before you finalize your brand hashtag, and then put it in your profile so that it's easy for others to follow suit.
Have fun and start tagging!


Got social media questions? Send them to or leave a comment below!

Ask Social is a collaboration between Vickie Howell (@vickiehowell), executive producer and host of The Knit Show with Vickie Howell (premieres on YouTube, October 2017), and Mari Chiba Luke (@mariknits), business integration manager and design director of Stitchcraft Marketing.

 Vickie Howell      Mari Chiba Luke
    Vickie Howell              Mari Chiba Luke    


Tags:  Ask Social  Social media  tips  TNNANews 

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TNNA 2017 Summer Trade Show Class Previews: Tara Swiger

Posted By TNNA HQ, Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Updated: Thursday, May 18, 2017

WTS17 Banner

TNNA 2017 Summer Trade Show Class Previews 

Spotlight on Tara Swiger

Tara Swiger

The TNNA 2017 NeedleArts Summer Trade Show, taking place June 10-12, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio, is the perfect place for needlearts professionals to learn about the newest products and techniques in the industry!

Register today and choose from more than 40 classes taught by 20 industry experts, including several new to TNNA shows! Learn techniques and strategies to help you run your business and exchange ideas and best practices you can implement when you return to your shop. But hurry, once a class is sold out, it will no longer be available for selection.

Today's spotlight is on classes being taught by Tara Swiger. Read on below for a teaser of Tara's classes and her thoughts on the importance of education for needlearts professionals.

Tara is teaching the following classes at the 2017 Summer Trade Show:

  • YouTube for Shops | Saturday, June 10 | 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
  • Fill Your Classes | Sunday, June 11 | 8:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.



We asked Tara to share her insights on needlearts and business education, as well as its value to members of our industry.

Have you taught classes at previous TNNA trade shows?

Tara:  Yes! I love teaching at TNNA because, as a knitter, I love yarn shops and the community they create. My full-time job is helping creatives build sustainable businesses around their passion, usually online, so I love bringing those online business skills to in-person communities.

Why should attendees consider registering for your classes at the TNNA Summer Trade Show?

TaraIf you're frustrated that you have to keep cancelling classes because no one shows up, come to Fill Your Classes to learn how to make classes people want and then get them in the seats. 

YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world and so few shops are using it - you can become a trusted resource for your customers without too much technical knowhow and a lot of enthusiasm. Learn how in YouTube for Yarn Shops!  

Why do you think education is an important part of attending the Summer Trade Show?

TaraRunning your own business can be lonely and isolating. Very few people in your local community know what you're going through or can understand the challenges. Coming to a business class at TNNA allows you to enter a space in which everyone knows what you're going through.

I always say that you're going to learn more from the other shops than you will from any teacher, so I make my classes a space where you can talk frankly and share ideas and not feel so alone. 

When preparing for your trip to the Summer Trade Show, what's the one item you can't forget to pack?

Tara: Knitting that I can do while talking. (The designers may not be impressed, but a garter stitch shawl or stockinette stitch sock is usually my go-to). Also lots of water, comfy shoes, and lavender essential oils for calming down after all the excitement and orange for focusing to teach.  


Tara Swiger is the author of Market Yourself, a workbook for makers who need a marketing plan. She began her entrepreneurial journey as a yarn-maker and transitioned into teaching and writing about marketing for handmade businesses. Her superpower is translating complex business principles into the language of artists and makers while creating doable Action Plans. She's taught traditional artists in rural North Carolina, yarn shop owners at TNNA, and to designers and makers around the world at conferences, conventions and workshops.

TNNA classes are categorized by objectives to help you select the class that best matches your education needs. See the objectives and listing below. Sign into Attendee Registration for the complete class presenter information, fees, and materials needed.

Business Data Made Simple Learn to effectively manage cash flow, plan your marketing, and invest in your future using data you already have.
Expanding Your Expertise Develop new skills and techniques to grow your business and increase profits.
The Two-Way Conversation Learn how to effectively engage with customers and vendors through various communications channels.
Leveraging New Tools & Technology Gain insight into the latest tools and technology, including social media, photography, software, and mobile devices.

 Discover all the exciting education opportunities at the 2017 Summer Trade Show!

View Classes and View Teachers.

Tags:  classes  education  preview  Summer Trade Show 

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