Lisa’s List: 6 Hot Yarn Trends + Thoughts on the Future of Knitting
Bulky yarns remain on trend in the knitting community, as evidenced by the recent TNNA trade show. Pictured above left to right: Cannoli Yarn in Purple Mix, Encore Mega in Pink, and Funky Chunky Yarn in Cloud
Last weekend, I attended TNNA’s yarn trade show in San Jose, California, where I spent three days talking to manufacturers, shop owners, designers, and petting the new 2017 yarns. I’ll be honest, it was a quiet show. I’ve been attending these biannual shows for the past 15 years, in different capacities with different companies, and this month’s event lacked the energy and crowds that I’ve witnessed many times before. Meanwhile, this was happening.
I’ll talk about “crowd size” and the yarn industry later in this post, but first I want to lay out the biggest trends that I noticed at the show. If you own an LYS or shop at one, look out for these products and see if they fit into your yarnie world this year. I’ve also included some tips for LYS owners who are interested in incorporating these trends into their shops.
6. Neons are still here.
Neons popped up a couple years ago as a yarn trend, and I was happy to see their resurgence at this show—though for a few companies, they’d never left. Mixing a pop of bright with neutrals makes for such a cool look—the Kline Shawl does just that.
LYS TIP : Try working up the Kline Shawl in some neon + neutral combinations and build your own kits in those colors for your store.
5. Rovings and super bulkies.
As I mentioned last week, arm-knitting and huge gauges have been steady trends for some time. I noticed spinning roving in a few booths at the show—roving that was being marketed for both spinning and huge-gauge knitting. Giant jumbo yarns, including a cool new felted one from Loopy Mango, dotted the show floor.
LYS TIP : A 15-minute cowl class with jumbo yarn and an arm-knitting demo is super marketable, and helps move some of these giant yarns. If you’re in an area with foot traffic, put them on display in your window with signage that says “Make this cowl in 15 minutes! We’ll teach you how, just come on in.” The jumbo yarns are so fun and unusual, they’re sure to get attention.
Luxury seems to be doing well for the companies that have gotten into the cashmere end of the pool, and yak showed up in some new yarns, as well (learn about these fiber hotties in one of my recent posts). The presence of cashmere did not escape me or the rest of the editorial staff—and I think this sign from the Lux Adorna booth sums up our feelings about that.
LYS TIP : Design a “treat yourself” corner for your store, with baskets of nice soaps, lotion, candles, inspirational items, and delightfully packaged little cashmere kits. Everyone’s stressed right now; a little comfort fiber can go a long way.
3. Mini-skeins and mini-skein kits (and kits kits kits).
This was a very distinct trend at the show. So many companies were packaging their yarn in smaller, cheaper put-ups, and offering those little skeins together in curated project kits, as well as individually. For colorwork projects, these kits are awesome—you only get as much of each color as you need, and the color selecting is done for you! Throw in a cute and tidy package for the whole thing and these kits make irresistible goodies on a shop’s shelves. Kits in general seem to be having a moment in the yarn world; I’m excited to see if the mini-skein multi-color kit trend creates a colorwork knitting trend, as well.
LYS TIP : Display samples knitted with clever combination of mini-skeins; the Beacon Shawl is a pattern that works very well.
2. Raccoon fur pom-poms.
Lana Grossa and Aalta Yarns had these and they’re just the coolest thing. Faux fur pom-poms have been around for a couple years and have been popular—we topped our Boyd Hat with one and the kit has been really popular. But these raccoon ones are something else—light, bouncy, tipped with darker tones, and dyed in fabulous, deep jewel tones. They’re not cheap, but both companies have been very successful with them. I think they’re another iteration of the luxury trend—top your cashmere hat with a real fur pom-pom and TREAT YO SELF. You have to see them in person, but you get an idea of the pom-poms from Lana Grossa here.
LYS TIP: Get these in every color; they are incredible as a whole range together, perhaps displayed with some appealing yarn pairings.
1. “How do we make more knitters?”
This is not a product trend so much as an existential crisis amongst professional yarnies. In the mid to late aughts, we saw a big influx of new and younger knitters to the industry—mostly independent designers spurred by the birth of Ravelry, as well as younger shop owners and yarn manufacturers who decided to invest in their hobby. Following the early 2000s Stitch n Bitch and eyelash crazes and the post 9-11 reclamation of handcrafts, the industry felt robust. And we just haven’t had another wave since then.
Shops are suffering around the country, and therefore manufacturers are, as well. There was a lot of “how do we make new knitters?” strategizing at this month’s show, and meanwhile one block away, the San Jose Women’s March was taking place, with pink knitted hats all up and down the streets. The turnout for women’s marches all over the country was epic, and I think that kind of fervent participation, and the way a simple knitted hat became iconic of that participation, portends where social and consumer values are heading, and what it means for the knitting biz.
People are worried but passionate, and the simple act of making a hat can link you to your community. People are fired up and they want good things—not a lot of things, but a few good things to make their lives comforting, beautiful, connected. The themes for the next year will likely be: activism, community, and challenging the status quo (including consumerism). Perhaps we will see a prolonged interest in women’s issues and a resulting curiosity about traditionally feminine handcrafts.
The intersectionality of gender, race, and class will be a constant issue among a population dealing with complex social conflicts at micro and macro levels. And hard times bring people back to craft. I think we make more knitters by engaging with these broader issues, rather than shying away from them, and by making community central to our efforts. Teach, connect, get involved with causes you believe in, use yarns that are responsibly produced, support local and small businesses, and simplify. Knitting is functional, but it’s also about treating oneself. People with small homes and limited budgets don’t want a lot of things—so let’s promote quality and authenticity over volume. A single ball of alpaca; a silver arm-knit cowl; a chair to sit in and make something mindfully; a place to form community.
Pussyhats and radical knitting salons might just provide the next wave of knitters. After all, the catalytic book Stitch n’ Bitch succeeded because of its kitschy subversion of domesticity, and was authored by Debbie Stoller, founder and EIC of BUST, a third-wave feminist magazine. Or, maybe it will be knitting “ashrams”—meditative and spa-like spaces and products that put yarn at the center of mindful living, with the minimalist “treat yourself” kind of appeal that yoga retreats have. I don’t know. But trying these approaches could generate some interesting results, to be sure.
Either way, and God love ya, Ma, the knitter with the 400-square-foot yarn studio might just have enough yarn already, so how do we attract the younger and less-yarned-up demographic? People who are living in smaller houses in urban neighborhoods? Minimalism, strong branding, storytelling about origins, quality, and authenticity are also trends I see at these TNNA shows, and the companies who are embracing those values seem to be doing well. Throw in community and I think yarn could actually have a very good year in 2017.
What kind of yarn community would you like to be involved in? I would like to connect with more fiber farmers and start spinning my own yarn; I’d like to be in the mud where my wool comes from, amongst the kind of people who believe in mud. I’d like to have a beer with smart women around a fire somewhere and knit with minimally-processed, single-source yarn that feels like the earth in my hands. I’d like to go camping more, and wear wool socks in the woods more, and listen to nature without highway traffic more. I’d like to care for the environment more, and craft in a way that harmonizes with my values more.
So what kind of yarn community would you like to build? How do you get started? Let’s make more friends, make more time for taking care of ourselves, and make more knitting.
Peace and purls,
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