Color Inspiration: Wheat Fields Batt

Signs of the seasonal shift are starting to pop up and the first official day of fall will be here before you know it! We often think of the autumn harvest, but did you know that winter wheat is actually planted this time of year to be harvested next summer? Our latest batt project is inspired by this lovely photo of wheat fields awaiting harvest:

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Strauch Drum Carder (we used a Strauch Petite)
  • 1/2 ounce of wheat-colored fiber (we used Kraemer Mauch in Jellybean)
  • 1/4 oz. light green fiber (we used a dyed merino/silk top in Glacial Green)
  • 1/4 oz. grey fiber (we used a multicolored merino roving to add color depth)
  • Optional: small amount of Angelina Sparkle fiber in any of the above colors (we used green)
  • Helpful: Drum Carding 101, our free PDF filled with tips & techniques!

supplies

Start out by dividing your wheat-colored fiber into 2 halves. Use the first half to create a base layer on your carder.

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Next, process your grey fiber through the carder. Reserve a small amount of wheat colored fiber from your second half, and process the remainder through the carder once you are finished processing the grey (note: for a tweedier batt, you can alternate these two colors until the grey is fully processed).

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Finally, process your green fiber, using it to create a fiber sandwich with the Angelina Sparkle fiber if desired.

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Finish by processing the remainder of your wheat-colored fiber. Ta-da!

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Here’s what this batt looks like when spun up into a single ply yarn:

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If you try this tutorial or create your own batt from an inspirational source image, let us know on Instagram by tagging your post with #strauchfiber!

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Routine Maintenance for Strauch Ball Winders & Drum Carders

Most fiber artists rely on our products to save them time, whether it’s through more efficient winding of yarn hanks on a swift and ball winder or speedily processing a large amount of fleece or fiber with a drum carder. Aside from speeding up these processes, each piece of our equipment is built to last with very little maintenance required – leaving you more time to craft without having to fuss or fiddle with your equipment each time.

Today we’ll cover a few key routine maintenance tasks to keep ball winder and drum carder in tip-top shape!
Drum Carders
Drum Carders
In general, you won’t need to oil your drum carder (oiling, and especially over-oiling, attracts
fiber and causes build-up). Should a squeak develop with the handle, apply a drop or two of
light oil (sewing machine or 20-wt. oil will do nicely) at the point where the crank shaft meets the
small end of the black handle. If you have a chain model, NEVER oil the chain.

You will need to periodically clean out any accumulated fiber from each shaft where it enters the
bearings. If this is not done from time to time, you will find that your carder becomes
increasingly hard to crank.

And, of course, you will need to use the Doffer/Cleaner Brush to remove residual fibers from the
carding drum when you are finished with a particular fiber or are ready to change colors. Use
the center portion of the Doffer brush to contact the curve of the large drum. Starting at the
seam, swipe the Doffer brush down the drum in the same direction as the teeth on the drum.
Continue across the width of the drum. Slowly rotate the drum backwards (counterclockwise) as
you use the brush to clean the entire drum of fiber. Do not brush across the drum since the card
cloth may become frayed.
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For more specific instructions for your particular model of drum carder, please refer to your operation manual (click here to download a PDF version from our site if yours has gone missing!). You can also check out these playlists on our YouTube Channel for maintenance tips and trick for each model:

New to drum carding? Click here to receive Drum Carding 101, our free PDF guide to help you get started!

That's a big ball!-1

Ball Winders

With our ball bearing design, NO oiling or adjustments are needed, but we do recommend a few simple tasks to keep your ball winder in working order.

First, a good habit to get into once you’re done winding your yarn is to remove the drive band from the crank disc each time. This prevents it from becoming stretched and loose, causing the winder to slip when winding a ball.

Next, you should occasionally check to make sure that fiber hasn’t become lodged underneath the pulley – if you notice that your yarn balls are getting a bit sloppy, that is the likely cause. The good news is that it’s very easy to fix – we show you how in the video embedded below:

And that’s it! With just a little bit of TLC, you can enjoy your Strauch ball winder or drum carder for years to come.

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How to Card a 4-Color Striped Batt

Striped batts are a great way to transform your fiber stash into unique batts you’ll love to spin. When your fiber stash gets out of hand, this is a wonderful way to put those leftover bits of fiber or orphaned braids of roving to good use. Mix and match any four colors of fiber to create superb stripes, from subtle to surprising!

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Supplies: 

1/4 oz. fiber in 4 colors: we used 100% wool fibers in a dark purple, hand-dyed magenta, lavender, and navy.

1 Strauch Drum Carder (we used the Petite)

If you’re new to drum carding, click here to get our free guide, Drum Carding 101!

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Begin by prepping your fiber into long strips, drafting it out a bit so that it is easier to pass through the carder.

Starting from left to right, place the fibers on the infeed tray in this order: dark purple, hand-dyed magenta, lavender, and navy.

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Pass them through the drum carder once; you may need to use your free hand to gently apply pressure to the fibers so that they feed through your carder more slowly. This will allow the edges between each color to blend together, while also keeping each stripe intact.

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Continue passing fibers through your drum carder in this manner until the drum is filled. Remove and start spinning!

We can’t wait to see what colors you choose for your striped batts – be sure to share your photos with us on Instagram using the #strauchfiber hashtag!

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Meet Our Makers: Bricolage Studios

Our yearly events calendar takes us far and wide, and quite often we meet some of our creative customers along the way. Earlier this year, we spent some time getting to know Emily Wohlscheid, the fiber artist behind Bricolage Studios, while attending the Ply Away Retreat in Kansas City, MO.

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Emily uses both a Strauch Standard 205 and a Finest to make her beautiful batts, which are created from natural, repurposed and upcycled fibers. Each carefully blended batt is highly textural, blending fibers such as BFL, Targhee and farm fleece with silk noils and salvage to create truly unique batts for spinning, felting, or even quilting!

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Some of her batts are wild with color and texture (such as the one shown above), to be spun into one-of-a-kind art yarns. The tonal batts shown below are a smooth blend of hand dyed commercial top in varied tones within a hue, with silk noils and salvage added to create a flecked, tweedy effect.

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Emily admits that she occasionally keeps the batts she makes for herself, and we can certainly understand why!

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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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How to Card a Three-Color Heathered Batt

Each July, the Tour de Fleece has us thinking about fun new ways to combine stashed fibers to make easy-spinning batts. This year’s event is no different, and today we’ll show you how to make a 3-color heathered batt! If you’re new to drum carding, you may want to first brush up on the basics by downloading our free PDF guide, Drum Carding 101.

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Supplies (To Make Four 1-oz. Batts)

A note about choosing colors: Heathered batts are fun way to experiment with color, and some of the prettiest batts we’ve seen were made with unlikely combinations. If you’re struggling with your color choice, check out this blog post for some tips on using basic color theory to create harmonious combinations with a bit of “pop.”

To Card Each Batt

For each batt, we used .4 oz dark purple , .4 oz light purple and .2 oz pale yellow wool. Begin with an equal amount of dark and light purple wool to create a good base layer on the drum.

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Begin adding small amounts of pale yellow wool, alternating between the purples and the yellow until you run out of fiber. You may wish to end with a bit of pale yellow wool to create a more pronounced color contrast for your batt.

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And that’s it! Remove batt from carder and repeat as many times as you wish to create heathered batts you’ll love to spin.

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We’d love to see what you’re carding and spinning over on Instagram – be sure to share your photos using the #strauchfiber hashtag!

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Blue Ridge Fiber Festival Recap

At the start of this month, we attended a brand new event called the Blue Ridge Fiber Festival, which took place in a small mountain town in North Carolina.

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As you know, we have attended many fiber-related events over the years, and this one in particular really knocked our socks off! We can’t say enough great things about this festival, but we’ll give it a try: first, let’s talk about parking. There was ample space for vendors and festival goers alike:

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Visitors were greeted by the friendly folks in the welcome tent…

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Which lead directly into the building where our booth was located! Here we are setting up our booth:

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Ta-da! We’re ready for shoppers!

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We were thoroughly impressed with the variety of goods for shoppers to browse:

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And let’s not forget about the vendors located outdoors!

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We were pleased to provide one of our ball winders and swifts for the complimentary ball winding station.

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Back in the Strauch booth, Joanne was hard at work showing fiber artists how to expand their creativity:

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Getting to meet the animals which grow our favorite fibers is another thing we love about fiber festivals. The barn featured a variety of fiber producing animals, live shearing demonstrations for both sheep and alpacas, and photo opportunities with your favorite fiber farm animal. It was a great opportunity for children of all ages to learn where the fiber comes from and that the animals are not harmed.

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We are already making plans for next year’s event – mark your calendars for June 7 & 8, 2019   and visit blueridgefiberfest.com for more info.

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You can also watch our short video recap below for more fibery fun:

Our next engagement is the Fibernate Farmer’s Market on July 28, 2018 in Falls Church, VA. Click here to see our full event calendar for 2018; we hope to see you soon!

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Drum Carding Tip: Make a Fiber Sandwich

Fluffy, slippery, short and very fine fibers can get stuck in the teeth of the licker-in and drum carding cloth when processing them  all on their own, requiring meticulous cleanup with the doffer brush before moving on to your next project. 

You have probably experienced this issue as well if you like working with sparkly fibers such as angelina and firestar or colorful recycled sari silk threads. Those long, thin fibers can stubbornly hide in the teeth of your carding cloth, only to somehow find their way into to your next project (it’s the Murphy’s Law of drum carding!).

From L-R: Recycled Sari Silk Threads, Angelina Sparkles, and Dyed Firestar Fibers.

From L-R: Recycled Sari Silk Threads, Angelina Sparkles, and Dyed Firestar Fibers.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t use these types of fibers when creating your batts, however – just try the “sandwich” method of feeding them into your drum carder! To avoid this problem, think of the wool as your bread and the fluff & stuff as the meat or cheese. Here’s what we mean:

FiberSandwich

 

As you feed this “sandwich” into the carder, lay your hand flat, palm down, on the fiber “sandwich,” pressing down on the fiber and moving your hand toward the drums at the same speed the fiber is moving. Repeat until all of the fiber is carded onto the drum; this pressure will prevent the middle layer from slipping out of the “sandwich” and will result in all 3 layers transferring to the large drum.

The “sandwich” method works best if you have already filled your carder with a base layer of wool: by adding sparkles, fluff and stuff as the final (or second-to-last) step, you will minimize the amount of residual fibers to be cleaned out later with the doffer.

This simple technique will save you time and while also ensuring beautiful results every time!

For more great drum carding tips, click here to sign up for our newsletter & receive a PDF download link for Drum Carding 101, our FREE guide to drum carding.

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Help Us Write The Next Chapter of the Strauch Story

You may have heard that Joanne and I are looking for someone to take over Strauch Fiber Equipment. As we are both well past retirement age, it’s time for us to slow down – but not before we find the right person to continue the Strauch legacy. We want to make sure that our customers can still enjoy the level of quality and service they have come to expect from us, well into the future.

With that in mind, we’ve made a list of qualities a suitable successor should have: a passion for making great products, an entrepreneurial spirit, business savvy, problem-solving skills, a “mechanical” mind, and  (of course)  a love of fiber arts!

NewUnicorn

If it sounds like we are looking for a “fiber-loving unicorn” – we are! But having met so many passionate, creative, fiber-loving small business owners over the years, we are certain that the right person (or persons) is out there, just waiting to take the baton.

So, how do you know if you or someone you know is the “fiber-loving unicorn” we seek? Perhaps you can relate to our story, as told in this short video clip:


Joanne’s day-to-day tasks include making sure the office runs smoothly while organizing the hundreds of other things that need attention every day in a small business. She also directs both the advertising programs and, through their marketing group, their social media presence.

My role in the the company is to design the product and oversee the manufacturing operation, which consists of six employees making sure the subassemblies are built to our very high standards.

We work just three days each week and have enjoyed sustainable success by keeping our company small by design. We’re confident that a go-getter who is able to wear both of our hats, or a dynamic partnership who works well together would be able to jump in with both feet – and if you made it this far reading this blog entry, there’s a good chance you have what it takes!

We recommend listening to this episode of the Business of Craft Podcast which interviews Garrick Arnold, an entrepreneur who recently purchased a well-known craft business called Yarn Pop, makers of canvas accessory bags made in the USA. Garrick’s interview provides lots of food for thought for those of you who have a strong desire to be their own boss, but would prefer not to start a business from the ground up.

If you see us at any of our upcoming shows and events, please feel free to spend some time in our booth and ask questions about this opportunity!

You can also click here to request our Introductory Business Prospectus and be added to our list of potential buyers.

Since all of our time is devoted to running this company, we have hired a well respected and knowledgeable business broker to coordinate the search. We will continue to grow our company until a suitable successor is found.

If you know someone who is seriously interested, please have them contact: Mr. Todd Burris of Sunbelt Business Brokers at 540-392-2155 (cell) or tburris@sunbeltnetwork.com.

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Free PDF Guide: Drum Carding 101

Using a drum carder to process your fiber is not difficult by any stretch of the imagination – but it does require a little bit of knowledge and know-how to produce consistently excellent results. Like any new skill, practice makes perfect…but it never hurts to have the “cliff’s notes” to shorten your learning curve!

We’ve created a free PDF guide covering the basics of drum carding, available for free when you sign up for our newsletter. We’ve compiled all of our best tips and tricks into one concise, easy-to-use guide that will have you creating beautiful batts with ease in no time flat!

Click here to get our free guide.

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In Drum Carding 101, we cover the following topics:

  • Choosing the right drum carder for your needs.
  • What fibers you can process with your carder (and the best way to prepare them).
  • Tips for successful carding.
  • How to maintain your investment.

Whether you’re new to drum carding, or just need to brush up on the basics, our free PDF guide is designed with you in mind! Click here to sign up for our monthly newsletter and receive a free PDF download of Drum Carding 101.

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PLY Away 2018 Recap

The third annual PLY Away handspinning retreat took place last month in Kansas City, Missouri at the gorgeous Westin Crown Center. Who doesn’t love a hotel with its own ecosystem?!

The classy Weston

This is our third year for both sponsoring the event and having a booth in the vendor marketplace. Believe it or not, everything that we displayed in our booth arrived on site in these boxes and bins:

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Here’s Joanne waiting for the marketplace shoppers to arrive!

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A lot of people make this event happen, and we’re proud to do our part as sponsors:

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As part of our sponsorship, we made sure that the refreshment station was well stocked with coffee and tea so that marketplace shoppers could stay hydrated and caffeinated while immersing oneself in fibery goodness!

We sponsored refreshments

Refreshment sign

We had a wonderful time at this year’s event – quite honestly, the good people at PLY Magazine outdid themselves! Here’s editor-in-chief Jacey Boggs-Faulker hard at work getting the Silent Auction under way:

Jacey's Silent auction

We are already counting down the months, weeks and days til PLY Away IV. Be sure to keep an eye on the PLY Away website for event updates!

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