How To Card A Butterfly Batt

April showers bring May flowers…and butterflies! With so many beautiful species found in the natural world, you’ll never run out of colorful inspiration! Here is the photo we chose to help us select this month’s color palette:

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There are many ways to interpret the unique colors and markings of each species; for instance, if you wanted to use these colors in the same ratios as pictured, you would use dark brown or black fiber as your base, with a few shades of blue, white and grey or silver fiber as your blending colors.

Or, if you would rather have a brighter batt that looks as airy and carefree as a butterfly floating in the breeze, you may wish to flip-flop those ratios so that the brightest and most eye-catching color is dominant, with the darker and more neutral colors used in smaller quantities, as we’ve done here.

Once you have chosen your colors, it’s time to start carding!

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Supplies:

  • A Strauch Drum Carder (we used a Strauch Petite)
  • 1 oz main fiber – here, we used two 1/2 oz colors of bright blue merino wool
  • Approx. 1/4 oz accent colors –  here, we used 1/4 oz dark brown merino wool and a small amount of dyed silvery-grey firestar fiber.

Start with your base fiber(s) to get a good base on your drum (approximately half should be sufficient), concentrating on filling the middle part of the drum.  When you have processed all of your base fiber(s), continue to the next step.

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Begin adding your darkest accent color, concentrating on filling the outer edges of the drum to echo the markings of the butterfly wings. Save a small amount of this fiber to use on the next step.

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Use the remaining dark brown fiber to create a base and top layer (known as a “fiber sandwich”) for your firestar fiber. Process through your carder while still concentrating on filling the outer edges of the drum.

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Next, remove your batt and get ready to spin!

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We can’t wait to see your own unique butterfly-inspired batts – be sure to share your projects with us on Instagram and don’t forget to tag your post with #strauchfiber!

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PLY Away 2019 Recap

The PLY Away retreat is one of our favorite fiber events to kick off the spring season! Held in Kansas City, MO at the 5-star rated Westin Conference center downtown, this delightful venue is a fabulous setting to learn about & share the joy of handspinning yarn. We documented everything from start to finish to give you a behind-the-scenes peek at this popular event!

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With such lush surroundings, you’d almost forget you were in the city!

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There are plenty of spots to sit down and relax.

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The illustrious editor of PLY Magazine, Jacey, is ready with a smile at the welcome table.

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Meanwhile, the vendors start moving into the marketplace.

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This year’s marketplace was in a bigger space, which means that there is even more gorgeous yarn, fiber and equipment to tempt shoppers!

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Here’s a shot of our own booth in the midst of setup:

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We can alway tell when class sessions are done – in comes a wave of excited shoppers!

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What we love about shows like these is the chance to learn from experts – here, Gordon Lendrum is chatting about spinning wheels with a shopper.

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Remember all those cozy spots we mentioned at the top of this post? Now they’re filled with knitters, spinners and all manner of fiber folk!

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As Jacey is so adept at doing, she’s organizing an after-dinner educational talk.

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The keynote speaker, author, and wool whisperer, Ms. Clara Parkes, offers her insight into trends within the fiber industry.

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After a fun-filled event, it’s time to pack everything back up and return home.

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Our job was much easier, as much of what we brought found new homes before the marketplace closed!

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Until next year…..watch for the date!

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Click here to see our full schedule of events for 2019; we look forward to seeing you soon!

 

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Meet Our Makers: Hopkins Fiber Studio

When we attend shows and fiber festivals, we almost always connect with a new maker who uses our products to create their wares. This month’s installment of Meet our Makers is a little different, however: we connected with Hopkins Fiber Studio over social media, where Emonie frequently shares photos of the gorgeous fibers she’s working with to create beautiful batts. We are so pleased to share Emonie’s fibery story with you today!

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Emonie’s drum carder of choice is the Mad Batt’r, which she first tried using in the demo room at the SSK Retreat in June of 2017, along with the Petite. She says: “There was something different about this carder as I had 2 carders at home already but they didn’t seem to card like this! I said..oh! I remember thinking what is going on with this licker in! It’s magic! No adjustments out of the box, no fibers all congregating on the licker in …NOTHING just a smooth batt right off the bat (or batt)!” She went home from the retreat and purchased a Petite, and soon after graduated to the Mad Batt’r to create her bounteous batts and fluffy rolags.

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Although she originally started her business sewing handmade project bags, she’s been selling hand-dyed yarns, fibers and more at shows and in her online store since 2018. Most recently, Hopkins Fiber Studio was spotted at YarnCon, Chicago’s Indie Fiber Festival, and she plans to attend the Northern Illinois Sheep and Fiber Festival and the Berwyn Spring Spin In in June.

Through events like these, Emonie gets to share her passion for fibers with other makers. She says, “What’s great about fiber events is getting the opportunity to introduce makers to new things, and that includes new fiber preparations. Some may not know what to do with batts or rolags, or what makes those preparations different. People often ask how that will affect the finished fabric.”

Exploring sheep breeds, texture and color are what drew her to carding, and when we asked her about her approach to combining fibers and colors, she had a lot to share with us:

“My approach is based on the type of batt I make and that’s where I think the Mad Batt’r shines: creating color! You can create any color you want and leave it as-is, or take color as a base and expand from there. My carder allows me to make smooth and textured batts equally and successfully, with no need for multiple carders or drums with multiple TPI’s.”

“When carding smooth batts, I like to make them into a gradient and watch the colors flow. I like to use the same fiber content or content with similar staple lengths so that drafting will be as smooth as the batt itself and the name implies.”

“For Textured/Art batts, the sky’s the limit! I approach color with a bit of abandon and try not to think too hard. I still consider staple length but this is where the fun begins with all the elements: sparkle, locks, ribbon, silk bits and bobs, threads, nepps, noils, oh my! And the Mad Batt’r can handle all of those ingredients. The longer tines on the cloth allow you to fill it to the brim…or not! It’s your choice, but you have plenty of space for bits and bobs and texture. Ohhh man this batt is full of all the things!”

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Emonie tells us that she has always been a creative person, and while she also knows how to knit, crochet, and sew, spinning is the one thing she would do if she absolutely had to pick just one thing. Through spinning, she began to venture more into fiber prep and breed studies in her quest to make great hand spun yarns which will create gorgeous handknit and crocheted fabrics. You can follow her fiber adventures on Instagram as @HopkinsFiberStudio, on Ravelry as HopkinsStudio, or visit www.hopkinsfiberstudio.com.

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How to Card a Jelly Bean Batt

Spring has sprung! Today we share a fun way to incorporate several bright, cheery colors into a beautiful batt inspired by a beloved seasonal sweet: jelly beans!

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The trick to working with so many colors is to start with a neutral background and build from there. For our sample project, we chose a natural white wool fiber to use as the base, and randomly added a selection of dyed fibers and other additives to create a colorful batt that won’t become muddy when  all of the fibers are spun into a yarn.

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If you wish to use more  dyed fibers and less of your neutral base, keep in mind that any primary color that is mixed with its complement will create brown – and the more colors you have in your batt, the greater the chance that they could blend together during the spinning process. If you want to use these colors in the same batt, just make sure that they are not close to each other: red (a primary color) and green (a complement to red) will create brown, as will yellow and green or blue and orange.

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Once you have chosen your colors, it’s time to start carding!

Supplies:

  • Strauch Drum Carder (we used a Strauch Petite)
  • 3/4 oz neutral wool fiber base
  • Approx. 1/4 oz  mixed dyed fibers and additives: silk noils, cotton nepps, sari silk, cut up ribbons, firestar, rayon, etc.

Start with your neutral-colored fiber to get a good base on your drum (approximately half should be sufficient).

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Begin to add your dyed fibers and additives at random. Use your base color to create a “fiber sandwich” when processing slippery fibers or anything likely to get caught in the infeed drum. Continue until all of your fibers have been processed.

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Next, remove your batt and get ready to spin!

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We hope you are inspired to start a sweet spinning project to celebrate spring! Be sure to share your projects with  us on Instagram and don’t forget to tag your post with #strauchfiber!

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Cleaning & Storing Fleece and Fiber

The spring fiber festival season is just around the corner! For fiber artists who delight in sourcing fleece and fibers straight from the source, these events are the perfect opportunity to replenish your stash with unique fibers you may not find anywhere else. Plus, there are always plenty of tempting prepared fibers from hand-dyers and indie makers, too!

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As a result, you’re likely to purchase more fiber than you can spin or felt right away, which means that you will need to choose some fibers to store away for a rainy day.

Today, we’ll share some of our best tips for properly cleaning and storing fleece and fibers so that they are ready to spin whenever inspiration strikes!

Cleaning

If you purchased any raw fleece or fibers, assessing their level of cleanliness is your first step. Even if fibers “look” clean, they may have some residual grease (this is particularly common in wools). This grease can attract moths and other pests, and it will also damage your fiber processing equipment if it is not removed from your fiber before use.

As a general rule, we recommend washing all fleece and fibers right away.

Cleaning & Storing Spinning Fiber on the Strauch Fiber Equipment Blog

You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to get your fleece and fiber squeaky clean – in fact, you don’t even need a special wool wash, you can just use Dawn dish soap to remove the grease! However, we’ve found that a specialized product can make the process easier and faster – Unicorn Power Scour is a popular choice amongst fiber artists and is worth trying out, especially if you have a LOT of fiber to wash.

A large mesh bag such as one you would use for washing lingerie or a sweater is also  very useful to have, particularly if you’ll be using your washing machine’s spin cycle to remove excess water from the fibers.

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Fiber Drying Hack: If you don’t have easy access to a washing machine, try using a salad spinner instead! It will take a little longer, but it is another easy option for removing excess water without damaging fibers, thus shortening your dry time.

Joanne has shared her fiber-washing tips and tricks here on our site to make this step easy for you!

Storing

Once your fibers are clean and dry, it’s time to store them away if you don’t plan to use them right away! While it may be tempting to display them out in the open in attractive shelves or baskets, this will make fibers vulnerable to moths or other pests. Always remember: an ounce of prevention can save your fiber stash!

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We recommend storing your fibers in air-tight containers; if you have enough storage space, you can even sort your fibers so that all of the prepared rovings, tops and batts are in one container, and clean fleece & fiber are in another. Within those containers, you can use Ziploc or Space Storage bags to keep like fibers together, and add an additional line of defense.

Finally, for added insurance, you can include a cedar or lavender sachet to naturally ward off pests.

Worried About Wool-Loving Pests?

It’s highly unlikely that any fibers you purchase at a fiber festival or show will have moths, but fibers from other sources can sometimes be risky. If you have ANY concerns that fleece or fiber you have purchased might have moths or other pests hitching a ride, the best thing you can do is place those fibers in the freezer for a few days to kill eggs and prevent them from hatching. You can find more info about moth infestations (and how to prevent them!) here on the Knit Darling blog.

 

We hope these tips help you organize your fiber stash and keep it safe & spin-ready. If you liked this post, pin it!

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Resource Round-Up for Fiber Artists

Do you have the urge to clean out your craft room, and need a place to sell some of the tools you no longer use? Have you recently bought a piece of used fiber equipment and need some advice on how to fix up your newfound treasure? Could you use some guidance with a new-to-you technique, or a little inspiration on what to do with all of that yarn you spin?

The internet is full of resources and information, provided you know where to look. Here are some of our favorite resources for fiber artists – we’d love to hear about any websites you’ve come across that aren’t listed here!

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Buying & Selling Equipment

Fixing & Troubleshooting Equipment

Techniques & Tutorials

We’d love to hear about your own favorite resources, especially if it’s something that isn’t listed above – please share them in the the comments!

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How to Card a Sweetheart Batt for Handspun Hearts

Looking to add a handmade touch to your Valentine’s Day? There are lots of free knitting and crochet patterns for making hearts for your sweetheart, and today, we’ll not only show you a quick & easy batt project to whip up for the occasion, we’ll also share some of our favorite patterns and a few fun ideas for decorating with handspun hearts. Let’s get started!

 

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Supplies:

  • Strauch Drum Carder (we used a Strauch Petite)
  • 1/2 oz each of white and red fiber
  • Knitting needles or crochet hook (size will vary based on pattern chosen and the weight of the resulting yarn)
  • WPI Gauge
  • Darning Needle

Start by dividing your white and red fiber in half; you will be processing both colors at the same time, with the white fiber on one side and the red fiber on the opposite side like so:

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Once you have processed half of both fiber colors, flip the placement of colors as you feed the remaining fiber through your drum carder.

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This will ensure that you have a little bit of each color in your yarn as you spin with it.

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Next, remove your batt and get ready to spin! We opted to spin a thick-and-thin single ply yarn because our chosen pattern called for the yarn to be held double. Our yarn was approximately 7 WPI when held double, or bulky weight. We used a size J/6.00mm crochet hook to whip up these simple crocheted hearts using this free crochet pattern and tutorial from Vickie Howell:

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Here are a few more fun, free patterns for making hearts:

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Now that you have lots of handmade hearts, it’s time to decide what to do with them! Here are a few ideas:

  • Attach to lapels or backpacks with safety pins.
  • Use a few drops of fabric glue to add to a Valentine’s card.
  • String together to make an eye-catching garland (shown above).
  • Use twine, ribbon, or yarn to hang up as ornaments.

We hope you have a sweet Valentine’s Day celebration, and would love to see your handspun hearts, too. Share them with us on Instagram and don’t forget to tag your post with #strauchfiber!

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How to Make Rolags With a Drum Carder

Have you ever wanted to spin from rolags? This type of fiber preparation is well suited for production-style handspinning, particularly the long-draw woolen method. Today, we’ll show you how to turn prepared fibers into beautiful rolags with a Strauch drum carder!

How to Make Rolags With a Strauch Drum Carder

Supplies

  • Strauch Drum Carder (we used a Strauch Petite)
  • 1 oz mixed fibers (makes 2 rolags): make sure you have approx. 1/2 oz of a “main” fiber for your base, and then the rest of your fiber mix can add up to 1/2 oz.
  • 2 dowel rods
  • Scale (optional)
  • Knuckle-saving batt lifter

NOTE: You will want to tease out all of your fibers before feeding them into your drum carder.

To Make Rolags:

Begin with a layer of your base fiber – you’ll want to use just enough to give good coverage on your drum carder, while still leaving room for all of your accent colors and add-ins.

How to Make Rolags With a Strauch Drum Carder

Here’s where things get fun! Begin adding the remaining fibers at random for a painterly approach, or you can be more methodical with your color placement if you wish to have more “repeatable” results. Either way, work through all of your fibers, making sure to save add-ins for the final layer (this will ensure that they don’t get stuck in the teeth of your drum carder).

How to Make Rolags With a Strauch Drum Carder

Once you have processed all of your fiber, use the knuckle-saving batt-picker to begin removing the fiber from your fiber drum. Once you have worked all the way across the drum, STOP!

How to Make Rolags With a Strauch Drum Carder

Now it’s time to get out both of your dowel rods, which you will use to roll your fiber into rolags. Begin by placing one dowel on either side of the fiber like so, and draft the fiber up just a tiny bit by pressing the dowels together and pulling the fibers towards you, away from the drum carder.

How to Make Rolags With a Strauch Drum Carder

How to Make Rolags With a Strauch Drum Carder

Begin rolling the fibers around the dowel rods, drafting occasionally as you work your way around the drum carder. Once you have removed approximately half of the fiber from the drum, pull dowels away from drum carder to break fiber. Remove rolag by sliding one dowel rod out, and then the other one will come free easily. Repeat this process to remove the remaining fiber from the drum carder.

This time-lapse video shows the process of removing rolags from your drum carder:

We also have another fabulous tutorial video showcasing a slightly different technique for creating rolags with one of our drum carders. In the video below, Esther Rogers from Jazzturtle demonstrates her special technique:

Ta-da! You now have beautiful rolags to spin!

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We’d love to see what you’re making with Strauch products – share them with us on Instagram and don’t forget to tag your post with #strauchfiber!

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 How to Make Rolags With a Strauch Drum Carder

 

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Free Guide: 10 Colorful Drum Carding Projects for Fiber Artists

Add some color to the long, dark days of winter with our new PDF guide, Color Exploration: Recipes For Beautiful Batts!

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We’ve collected some of our most popular blog tutorials into one handy PDF for easy reference. Also included are some of our best tips on choosing colors for any project!

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Play around with color placement, celebrate the seasons, or just have fun with whatever inspires you – we’ll show you how to translate your creative vision into beautiful batts you can’t wait to spin.

Make 2019 your most colorful year yet! Color Exploration is available as a FREE download when you sign up for our monthly newsletter. Already get our emails? Check your inbox, you should have received a complimentary download link last month.

Click here to sign up & get your free guide!

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Giving Back During the Holiday Season

The holiday season is a wonderful time to help those in need, and we recently learned of an organization called Growing Peace in Afghanistan, which provides technical advice and start-up financial support to Afzenda, an Afghan non-governmental organization that is assisting women weavers in Bamiyan province with the production and marketing of items of clothing made of barak, a traditional wool fabric, in Afghanistan, in neighboring countries, and eventually in international markets. With the income from these products the women can provide substantial support to their families. Afzenda helps them develop their skills and improve their literacy.

It was our distinct pleasure to ship a Finest Manual Doublewide to Afghanistan via an order from The Woolery. When it arrived safely (despite being sent to a literal war zone), we all breathed a sigh of relief, and we were beyond pleased to see photos of these women weavers carding fiber with our machine.

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This got us thinking about the many other ways fiber can make a difference in the world. One of the organizations we are proud to sponsor each year is Heifer International, a global charity dedicated to ending hunger and poverty through sustainable, values-based holistic community development. For example, the gift of a single goat can provide a family in need with milk, cheese and butter for nourishment and a source of income through sales of extra milk and fiber, all while encouraging better crop yields by creating fertilizer and clearing land. Some of our other favorite fiber producing animals such as alpacas, llamas, rabbits, and sheep can also make a huge difference!

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We also hear countless stories about the ways in which knitters, crocheters, and fiber artists throughout the globe use their gifts to help others. Here are just a few well-respected organizations to which you can donate your time and talent this holiday season, or any time of year:

There are many more wonderful organizations out there – you just have to know where to look! Start by asking your Local Yarn Store or Knitting/Fiber Arts guild to point you in the right direction, or check out the Charity Knitting Ravelry Group to see what organizations currently need handmade donations.

We hope you’ll share this post with a friend to spread the word and inspire more good deeds within our wonderful fiber community. And of course, if you happen to use a Strauch product for your charitable efforts, please let us know by tagging @strauchfiber and using #strauchfiber in your post.

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