Posted on July 4, 2012 at 11:58 am

Clara says novelty is back.

#11 Trim Jacket by Robin Melanson, Early Fall 2012 Vogue Knitting

Since returning from TNNA, I have heard many of my friends gloomily quote Clara's assessment of this summer's show. At TNNA, there had indeed been a lot of sparkly things. "Shiny" was afoot; there was glitz and glam enough to make the heart of StevenBe sing (I kinda love this guy). Yarn companies like Berocco and Trendsetter are introducing more trim-style yarns to knit into projects to make frilly edges, and adding sparkle to their standard wool yarns to sexy them up.

Remember that novelty was what made many new knitters about ten years ago when eyelash was the yarn that launched a thousand first scarves. The industry is trying to recapture a little of that magic, and some companies are willing to try anything.

It's true: novelty is back.

But I love wool. When the noise is loud and the lights get flashy, I try to find a quiet corner and look for the clover growing up through the cracks. At TNNA, I did not have to look all that hard to find my own kind of excitement. So never fear! There was lots of good wool.

Imperial Stock Ranch makes 100% Columbia yarn in many weights and pretty colors, and had a beautiful booth full of gorgeous pattern support thanks to creative input from Leigh Radford. I was also really interested in Buffalo Skies, a 50/50 merino/ bison Aran weight yarn in muted colors from The Buffalo Wool Company. Green Mountain Spinnery has a bulky version of their workhorse Mountain Mohair called Capricorn. Swans Island was also set up at the show. I think this was their first TNNA, and I am excited to see them make their yarns available on a national scale.

And way in the back of the show room floor was a dear to me Canadian company called Briggs and Little, hailing from my childhood province of New Brunswick.

Briggs and Little did not have a great show. They had a booth full of good wool, but no one seemed very interested. No designers were buzzing for their color cards or asking for sample skeins because B&L hasn't been on anyone's radar since their yarn was featured in a great sweater coat called Sylvi several years ago (and they did not have that coat with them, for some reason. I know they had one knit up at the time). Much of the problem is they don't have many retail outlets in the United States (Halcyon carries Atlantic), which means that few people seek them out.

Here is a story with about the strength of marketing and image. Briggs & LIttle don't have much in that area to offer, but what they do have is good yarn in a classic package that they've been making for 155 years. There isn't anther yarn anywhere like Atlantic. It's sturdy, light, and a beautiful pure wool. There isn't another 6 ply like Country Roving on the market. Look past the Hunter Orange and see what a lovely muted palatte Heritage comes in.

photo by Sadie Dayton, courtesy of Twist Collective

Briggs & Little yarns to me are the equivalent of heirloom tomatoes or an endangered species. If no one knits with it, the yarn will go away. And once Briggs & Little stops making that yarn, it will be gone. Now understand that I don't know what the state of their books is, they may be doing well enough in spite of a bleak TNNA show result. I do know that when Mari Muinonen's Sylvi was published in 2008 and knitters wanted red Atlantic, they had never had a financial year like they did when they sold that much yarn. I wish things could always be that good for these guys. They deserve as much.

I don't know what I can do for them, besides this. I don't have much more to offer, except to knit a sweater or two. But hopefully, the next time you want a good wool yarn to make a sweater that will honor for years to come the amount of work you put into it, you'll remember there's a little Canadian yarn company that ships to both the States and abroad, and that has exactly what you need.

So in spite of the disco beat, TNNA was not a total wash for folkies like me. I reconnected with what I really love — wool — and resolved to do what I can to spread the love.