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!

 How to Make Rolags With a Strauch Drum Carder

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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Meet Our Makers: Hobbledehoy Yarn & Fiber

Earlier this fall at the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival, we had the good fortune to cross paths with Liz Porter of Hobbledehoy Yarn & Fiber.
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Liz, a single mom, has two of our Finest Doublewide Carders that she has used over the years to help support her family by offering several batt formats along with hand-pulled roving, painted top, and various other dyed fibers.

Strauch Fiber Equipment Meet Our Makers: Hobbledehoy Yarn & Fiber

From smooth, luxurious batts to chunky textured batts packed with contrasts, there’s something for everyone. We were particularly drawn to the battlings, which are colorful blends of fibers just begging to be spun up!

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Liz dyes nearly all of her own fibers and also processes several wool and alpaca fleeces each year from small and/or local farms. She takes care to thoroughly wash each fleece before hand processing so that the resulting batts are virtually VM and lanolin-free batts. After dyeing, she plans out each colorway in advance to ensure extreme control over the layers and contrasts throughout each batt. The results are nothing short of stunning!

Strauch Fiber Equipment Meet Our Makers: Hobbledehoy Yarn & Fiber

As our way of supporting the fiber arts community, we’ll be featuring more talented makers here on our blog. If you use Strauch products in your creative business, we’d love to hear from you!

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Color Inspiration: Autumn Leaves Batt Project

Capture the colors of the season with a cornucopia of colorful batts and this simple tutorial! Use your favorite photo of fall foliage to create your palette, or take a long walk and collect a few pretty leaves to inspire your color selection. Try adding in a little something extra to make the colors pop – we used a mix of recycled sari silk, dyed firestar, and copper angelina sparkle fiber to add a subtle sheen to the finished batt!

Autumn Leaves Batt Color Inspiration - Strauch Fiber Equipment Blog

Here’s what you’ll need:

Autumn Leaves Batt Color Inspiration - Strauch Fiber Equipment Blog

Your base fiber should weigh 1/2 oz.

Autumn Leaves Batt Color Inspiration - Strauch Fiber Equipment Blog

All fibers should weigh approximately 1 oz together.

Divide base fiber into half and feed the first half through your carder to create a good base.

Autumn Leaves Batt Color Inspiration - Strauch Fiber Equipment Blog

Begin alternating your autumn color mix with the remaining base fiber. We opted to do this at random to create a more mottled effect, as you would see in nature. If you wish to use add ins, reserve some of your fiber to use for the “fiber sandwich” method for your final layer before removing the batt from your carder.

Autumn Leaves Batt Color Inspiration - Strauch Fiber Equipment Blog

Recycled sari silk, angelina sparkle & dyed firestar with reserved fibers.

Here’s a refresher on this technique:

Autumn Leaves Batt Color Inspiration - Strauch Fiber Equipment Blog

Place add-ins on top of a thin layer of fibers.

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Once your drum is filled, remove from drum carder and enjoy!

Autumn Leaves Batt Color Inspiration - Strauch Fiber Equipment Blog

We’d love to see your autumn-inspired batts – share them with us on Instagram and don’t forget to tag your post with #strauchfiber!

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Fibery Fall Events with Strauch Fiber Equipment

Each fall, we close out the year with several fun fiber festival appearances. Today we’ll share some photos from 3 events we recently attended. We hope you’ll add one, some or all of these to your fiber itinerary for next year!

Shenandoah Fiber Festival – September 29th & 30th, 2018

Now in its 13th year, the Shenandoah Fiber Festival is a two-day event that can’t be beat.

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Thankfully, even hellish floods couldn’t stop the show from happening.

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With the water mostly receded, the tents went up and the fiber folks followed suit.

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And the show barn had plenty of animals to visit and learn about.

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These newly-shorn sheep weren’t too sure about their new look…

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This year’s show featured a lecture by Dr. Phil Sponenberg, a professor at Virginia Tech. He spoke to folks about the genetics of Angora goats.

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After so much learning, it’s time for a little retail therapy.

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…but not on an empty stomach, of course!

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We can’t wait for next year’s event – the dates for the 14th annual Shenandoah Fiber Festival have already been announced!

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Fall Fiber Festival – October 6th & 7th, 2018

Each year on the first weekend in October, fiber folks come together for the Fall Fiber Festival at James Madison’s Montpelier.

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We noticed many new vendors this year with a brilliant array of yarns, fibers, and other goods.

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There was plenty to see and do! From live demos…..

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To local music….

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And, of course, getting up close and personal with fiber producing animals!

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Let’s keep the kids occupied! Who doesn’t like to pet a fluffy Angora rabbit?

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We were also busy giving live demos in our booth.

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And, if you needed a snack, there were plenty of delicious treats.

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So, next year, come join the party!

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Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair (SAFF) – October 26th – 28th, 2018

Our final show for 2018 was SAFF, which is always held at the WNC Agricultural Center, Fletcher, NC (outside of Asheville).

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Even before the doors opened, the anxious crowds were waiting.

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We don’t blame them – just look at all of the amazing booths found in this year’s marketplace! SAFF gets bigger and more heavily attended every year.

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Thank goodness they had ample parking!

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There’s no better place to shop til you drop & stock up on warm fleece, fibers and yarn.

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Plus, you could spend some time with these handsome fellas.

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Or check out a live demo and learn how to spin!

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We look forward to seeing you at next year’s SAFF!

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Our 2018 Fiber Festival circuit is now complete, but we’ll be announcing our 2019 Show Schedule soon. You can always check our site for updates!

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Meet Our Makers: Rock Mills Farm

Back in July, we attended the Fiber Marker sponsored by Fibernate and had the pleasure of meeting Mary, owner of the Rock Mills Farm in Rappahannock County, Virginia. Mary’s booth was filled with beautiful hand-processed fibers sourced locally.

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We fell in love with her concept of  “choose your own spinning treats” – look at all of these beautiful rolags to mix and match! All of them are blended by hand on a Strauch Petite Drum Carder.

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Mary raises a flock of pure Shetland sheep on her farm, which provides her with many beautiful natural colors with which to create her rolags. Dedicated to raising heritage breed sheep and goats while also improving the health of the soil, Rock Mills farm is also home to a herd of purebred Spanish goats and two Gulf Coast Native ewes, Bea and Cora. In addition to sourcing fleece from her own flock, Mary works with fellow shepherds in the area to source other natural fibers from the area to use in her rolags.

Meet our Makers - Rock Mills Farm on the Strauch Fiber Equipment Blog

Emilio is a purebred Spanish Goat from Mary’s herd.

Mary is also involved in the Wool Aid project, which provides the very neediest children in cold climates with wool socks, sweaters, vests, mittens, hats, and blankets.  With an emphasis on sending items where they’re needed most, this community of knitters and crocheters is always accepting donations for some of their most-needed items, with the requirement that each donation is made with yarn containing at least 80% wool in its fiber makeup.

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As our way of supporting the fiber arts community, we’ll be featuring more talented makers here on our blog. If you use Strauch products in your creative business, we’d love to hear from you!

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Meet our Makers - Rock Mills Farm on the Strauch Fiber Equipment Blog

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