Monday, February 15, 2010

Madrona 2010

I headed down to Tacoma this past weekend to check out Madrona. I'm thinking about selling there at some future date. The booth is on the expensive side ($600+ for an 8' x 10' space), so I wanted to do a little market research before committing.

After parking at the Tacoma Dome Station, I took Link light rail into downtown. I have a particular fondness for this system, since in a previous life, I was on the consultant team that worked on the alignment and design of the line. It's been operational for a few years now, and I'm seeing a bit of revitalization starting to bloom near the stations. Though I was a bit surprised to see that Freighthouse Square is actually looking a bit emptier than it used to; perhaps it's more commuter-oriented and busier on weekdays now.

The Madrona marketplace was a nice mix of hand-dyed yarns (which were not nearly as high a percentage of the vendors as they were at Sock Summit), yarn shops with commercial yarns and accessories, and standalone accessories. I did one walk through just as a shopper, then another to consider booth setup. Then I did another one to look at what yarn weights vendors were carrying and what people were picking up and looking at.

There were a lot of spinners here, and a lot of fiber. More people were wearing handmade sweaters rather than shawls, although there was still a fair-sized shawl contingent, including me and my new Laminaria. The most popular patterns I saw were February Lady Sweater and Shalom.

I let my eye wander to see which booths naturally caught my attention. An attractive backdrop was far and away the biggest factor, rather than the products themselves, which was surprising. Black Water Abbey (so many beautiful cabled patterns!) and the Artful Ewe were my two favorite booths, with large solid and semi-solid samples above eye level.

I looked in particular at how people were hanging samples. My favorite were the ones who displayed them on horizontal poles (in one case they used a decorative ladder), with items either draped directly on the pole or hung from hangers. One booth suspended hangers from cords that were attached to the cloth walls separating the booths.

A lot of the booths were uncomfortably crowded, as they are only 8 x 10, and most vendors had tables at the front of their booths, which impeded circulation. There were a lot more shoppers than I expected; on Saturday afternoon, there were over 100 sitting in the rotunda (let alone the other areas), spinning, knitting, and even weaving. I didn't feel like there was a particular trend in terms of what people were making or what colors they were using; there was a wide variety of projects, depths of shade, and solid vs. variegated colorways.

Hardly any vendors are carrying laceweight. Somewhat to my surprise, I felt like the yarns that were on display were slanted toward worsted weight.

I picked up some goodies, of course. I've never been much interested in circular shawls, till I saw a woman working at the Acorn Street Shop booth wearing Circle of Life. This is a brand new pattern from Fiber Trends--so new that it's not even in Ravelry's database yet. So I got a copy of that and a lovely wooden shawl pin to go with my other new shawl, Clothilde.

I also got a bone shawl pin from Gita Maria (I already have one of her lovely glass-enameled pins) and some 9" Hiya Hiya circular needles from Carolina Homespun. I am slowly coming to admit the ultimate heresy for a dyer who sells sock yarn--I don't really like knitting socks. I love the amazing construction ideas out there, love all the beautiful yarn and stunning patterns--but I just loathe knitting at a small circumference. All the needle techniques, whether DPNs, two circulars, or magic loop, just require too much fiddling and adjusting of stitches and tweaking of needle position. The best that I've tried are the 9" circs, but they're a little uncomfortable, especially with my tendonitis issues. Still, I need to be able to test out new base yarns and experiment with how my colorways knit up, so 9" circs it is.
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