Fiber Artist Feature: Nicole Frost – Frostyarn

IMG_20170405_160313This industry is filled with amazing and talented artists from all different backgrounds, and it’s always inspiring to get to know them better.

This week, we have Nicole Frost, fiber artist behind Frostyarn, and avid user of Strauch Drum Carders.

 

What got you started in the fiber arts?

Like many people in 2008, I found myself unemployed and sheepishly moving back home with my Dad. After packing several lifetimes of drunken debauchery into a few short early-20’s years, I was completely rudderless and newly sober at 25. A fellow sober girl gave me two balls of Lion Brand Thick n’ Quick and said “you’re too crazy to meditate but this’ll help your mind slow down.” From that day in November 2008 to today I have had my hands on fiber (be it dyeing/spinning/knitting/crocheting/carding). Like most people with a highly addictive personality, I fell down the rabbit hole with yarn. Within a few months of learning to knit, my Dad bought me a spinning wheel and a few months after that, a Strauch Finest carder. Then I started dyeing my own fiber so I could control the process start to finish (and save money). I feel like it’s my ultimate creative outlet.
 

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Anything space themed! My very first dye batch was based on a nebula and I have been tweaking and refining my technique for nearly 9 years now to get the perfect nebula effect; both when it’s in batt or yarn form AND when it’s worked up. That’s been the real challenge, you have to “think backwards” when you’re dyeing to get something to present beautifully in the batt, in the spun yarn, and in the finished knitted/crocheted/woven item. I have hundreds of failed prototypes and still feel like I haven’t quite got it down yet. I use Pinterest to find great photos of geodes, flowers, beaches etc. to recreate. It’s much easier to design fiber colorways based on a photo references than pull it straight out of my head. I tend to hit the rainbow button if left to my own devices.
 
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How do you translate your inspiration into a batt?

I use a variety of different fibers to create texture and dye a full spectrum of each possible color on each fiber base. My typical batt will contain a wool top, bamboo, silk, silk noil, bombyx silk, firestar, angelina and wool nepps. Less is not more, more is more. I’ll spend a week or two processing down 50+ pounds of fiber and then card until I’m out. It’s a lot like painting, I’ll often use the silk noil or wool nepps like brush strokes and the silk/bamboo roving and sparkle fibers as the highlights. I often use concepts unrelated to pretty pictures as a form of expression, like what bipolar mania feels like (screaming neon rainbow with rainbow sparkle fiber). I live by the beach in Southern California so a lot of my batts are based on Catalina Island kelp forests, Laguna Beach and other sand and sea themes.
 

What’s your favorite fiber to use?

Anything sparkly, I’m like a magpie in that respect. If it’s glittering, my heart is beating faster. Angelina and Firestar are my favorites.
 

Do you have a favorite recent batt that you have made?

I made an art batt set based on Marie Antoinette with pearls, handmade paper flowers, opalescent glass beads and a ton of soft pastel silk. I watched a documentary on her and did some research on her surviving wardrobe, it was like my head was on fire the whole time I was making it. That’s my favorite part of all of this, when ideas come flying at you like fireworks in your face and you can barely keep up.
 
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Why did you choose the Motorized Double Wide Drum Carder?

My right shoulder started to ache after years of daily carding, and it was time for me to invest in a motor to allow me to card for longer stretches of time and have a second free hand to manipulate what I’m putting on the drum.
 

What other fiber artists and makers do you admire?

Esther Rodgers (Jazzturtle), Lexi Boeger (Pluckyfluff), Nicole Mork (Mork Made Fiber Co), Sarah Roberts (Orange Jellyfish Dream), Amber Churchill (Designs by Amber Fibers), Kat (Studio LKH), Leonor (Felt Buddies UK).
If you enjoyed this interview and would like to see more features like this, let us know in the comments! Connect with Frostyarn on Instagram, and while you’re there, be sure to follow us too!
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Fixing “Failed” Fiber

FAIL

It happens: the fiber that dyed didn’t come out exactly how you planned, or perhaps your online purchase has some “surprises” hiding within the braid.

Even if the fiber in question is full of colors that seem to go well with each other, there’s always that one blotch of color that can spoil things – or perhaps there is too much white space, or you might have accidentally compressed the fiber during the dyeing process. You may be tempted to abandon your failed fiber, but as long as you have a drum carder handy, your “fail” can become a “win.”

second pass section

Take small sections of your fiber approximately 4-6″ long, and pass them through your drum carder. Once you’ve done your initial pass, card the batt again.

Once or twice is generally enough to get the fibers mixed enough to dull the bright blotches, This also helps to straighten out the fibers and reintroduce a little bit of air into the mix (especially handy if they’ve been compressed in the dye process).

second pass

As you can see, this batt now has a lovely heathered look, and will give you a dimensional yarn with more subtle color differences. This batt will also be much easier to spin later on down the road.

Do you have a fiber fail that you revived with your Strauch Drum Carder? If you do, share them on Instagram with the hashtag #StrauchFiber, and who knows you may see your post shared on our profile!

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How to Blend Heathered Batts

Creating heathered batts is fun, and spinning them is even more satisfying, but why would you blend your own? If you’re getting bored with your solid color fibers, or you’re looking for an interesting and high-depth neutral, or if you find yourself drowning in your small bits of stash are just a few reasons. Making your own also allows you to dictate the color palette and the proportions of each color.

Let’s get started!

First, gather your color palette. We chose yellow, blue, and purple. You will need at least a total of 1 ounce of fiber in order to have decently sized batt when you’re finished. It doesn’t matter how much of each color you have, all that changes is the finished color.

color palette

These fibers will get blended until a homogeneous mixture is created, so be careful with your selection.

Colors that are opposite of each other on the color wheel (orange and blue) will muddy up the finished batt, while colors that are near each other (blue and green) will be muted, but less muddy.

Color wheel by Ray Trygstad

Color wheel by Ray Trygstad

Take your colors and break them up into smaller chunks, otherwise it will take longer to mix together.

Blend this through your drum carder as many times as it takes until you achieve a mostly homogeneous mixture. With these three colors, it took roughly 12-15 passes through the carder to get it to a mixture we liked. Some fibers/colors may take longer to integrate than others. You’ll notice that after the first pass, the colors start bleeding together at the edges.

pass 1

Because this type of color mixing involves fibers instead of small microscopic pigments, you will see all of the individual colors inside your batt when up close, but they will be more muted when far away.

blended batt

Experiment with this technique and show us your ingredients and finished batts over on Instagram using the hashtag #strauchfiber.

 

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Caring for Your Strauch Drum Carder

Occasionally we receive calls from customers saying that the pins on the large drum are bending or breaking off. This lowers the life expectancy of your drum carder, and can cause difficulties during the carding process. There are two primary causes for this situation, but fear not, we have solutions to keep your carder in good health!

Issue 1: The Drums are Touching

Most of the time it’s that the drums (the infeed drum and the large drum) are touching each other. It’s important that the two drums DO NOT touch. This is often indicated by a “crunching” noise as you card. This inter-meshing of pins causes the “ripping” action, and can break pins off or bend them severely.

The Solution!

Remember the booklet that came with your drum carder? In it, you’ll find instructions on how to adjust the drum spacing, or you can watch the video below featuring our Petite drum carder. Don’t worry if you lost your manual – we have PDF versions for each model here on our website: http://www.strauchfiber.com/help/operation-manuals.php.

If you ignore the noise, here’s what’s going to happen:

Pin damage from drums touching

Yikes! Better set aside a few minutes to do a routine drum check before your next carding session!

Issue 2: Improper use of the Doffer Brush

The second cause of pin loss is improper use of the doffer brush used to clean the large drum – this should ALWAYS be in a downward motion. If you take a closer look at the drum, you will notice that all of the pins curve downward. Hence, so should your movement when using the doffer brush. If it helps, think of this as “going with the grain.”

Correct doffing

Moving the doffer sideways or upwards (or against the grain, if you prefer) will bend the pins and could even result in breakage.

Incorrect doffing Incorrect doffing

We have more videos on YouTube demonstrating how to use your doffer brush, and please subscribe while you’re there!

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How to Felt in a Jar

How to Felt in a Jar

Do you love felting but don’t like getting your hands wet, or you want to conserve water? Try felting in a jar!

We love all things fiber here at Strauch, and people ask us all the time what they can do with the fiber that gets blended on a drum carder that isn’t spinning related. Felting is one of those things you can do whether or not you know how to spin. We thought it would also be fun to come up with a craft that you could do with kids, with relatively low mess and high amounts of fun.

Supplies:

Roving pulled from your drum carder, or skinny strips pulled off of a batt.

Plastic Jar – think about reusing a clean peanut butter jar.

Marbles – one small bag from the craft store should be sufficient.

Directions:

First, tie a 4″ section of fiber into a knot and tuck in the ends, this will give you a rough ball shape.

Rounded ball of fiber

Fill your jar with your marbles, and pour a couple of ounces of Hot Water (not too hot if you’re working with kiddos) and add a drop of dish soap. It’s important that the water doesn’t cover the marbles, as too much water will make the felting process take longer.

fiber in the jar

Shake vigorously for 5-10 minutes, checking every couple of minutes to see the progress of the felting. You may have to take out the felted ball periodically to encourage the shaping.

Whammo! You have a felted ball.

It may be possible to make up to 3 felted balls at a time, just keep an eye on them as you shake so they do not stick to each other. For projects to make with felted balls try this necklace or mobile!

felted ball

If you liked this tutorial, we’d love for you to pin it on Pinterest! Don’t forget to share your creations with us on Instagram using the hashtag #strauchfiber.

Jar felting Banner for Pinterest

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Fun with Fluff: 3 New Video Tutorials

We love sharing free tutorials with you on our YouTube channel, where we also post behind-the-scenes peeks and other fibery tips, tricks, and maintenance instructions that you can refer back to again and again. We’ve just added 2 new videos to help you explore new ways of processing fiber this year, plus a tutorial to help you manage slippery yarn (you know the ones we’re talking about) on your ball winder.

First up, we have a hand-carding video where Joanne learns Liz’s carding technique using Strauch hand cards.  Liz is one of our awesome team members here at Strauch, and a phenomenal spinner. Hand cards are a great introduction into carding since they are more affordable than drum carders – they are also good for portable projects, as they don’t take up much space and are fairly lightweight.

For anyone who’s wanted to spin with angora fiber but just didn’t know where to start, this next video is for you! This video shows you how quick and easy it is to card angora on the Finest and the Petite drum carders. Angora is an extremely fine fiber, but as you’ll see, that isn’t a problem for our drum carders!

If you’re having trouble with slippery yarns when you’re winding your yarn into a ball, then watch this video on winding a skein of superwash merino yarn on our ball winder.

For more helpful tips like this, subscribe to our channel for notifications when new videos are added. If you have suggestions for videos, we’d love to hear them. Write a note down in the comments below on what you’d like to see!

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4 Ways to Fix a Busted Stash

Often we go through our stash at the end of the year and try to “stash-down,” using as much spinning fiber as we can before the new year. Then at a certain point, the horrifying realization sets in: I have nothing in my stash….

Fear not! Here are a few ways to “stash-up.”

1. Monthly Subscription for Fiber

If you’re looking for base fibers to blend, then a monthly subscription service may be for you.

Companies like Spunky Eclectic Fibers in Maine have a monthly mystery club that you can sign up for in different increments (4oz, 8oz, etc.); in the middle of each month, a little bundle of fiber joy arrives on your doorstep! They also carry handpainted top, roving and bulk undyed fiber, if that is more your speed.

Spinning Box is another subscription service that compiles fiber, batts, rolags and more from many fiber arts into themed boxes each month. You are guaranteed 3/4 lb. fiber total, and from time to time, each month has a mini fiber-focus.

2. Go to Your Local Stock Show or Farm

The start of the year is when many regional shows happen, such as the National Western Stock Show which took place a couple of weekends ago in Denver, CO. There are usually a few high-quality fleeces on display and for sale  at these shows.

Another option is to ask farms that are local to you when their shearing days are – not only will you be  supporting a local business, you might also get to witness the shearing itself!

 

3. Swap Meet

Are you in a guild or a spinning group on Ravelry? There are sometimes chances for you to swap unused fiber lurking in your stash for something that is exciting and new…at least, to you! This kind of swap gives you the opportunity to trade fiber with other spinners.

Every year there is an informal event called FibreShare that pairs people up who sign up for it, and you swap fiber, yarn, notions etc with your partner. This helps build community with other fiber artists, and can introduce you to new brands!

 

4. Don’t Forget the Add-ins

If you’re a batt maker, it’s sometimes easy to forget to stock back up on the additives that you sprinkle in your batts.

Camaj Fiber Arts (a Strauch Drum Carder user) has lots of silk fibers that are beautifully dyed, just waiting to be used in a batt.

 

There a many more options out there to bulk up your stash, what are a few of your favorite ways? Share in the comments below! Why don’t you flash your stash with your drum carder over on Instagram and tag it with #StrauchFiber and we’ll share it on our page in the coming weeks!

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Peacock Batt – Blending Tutorial

Inspiration is everywhere, and today we want to show how to turn your ideas into reality.

The jumping off point for this tutorial is a peacock feather. It can be notoriously difficult to capture their beauty and shine, and all of the stunning jewel tones. Here’s how you can create your own stunning version by blending multiple fibers together into a batt.

Here’s what you’ll need for a 1 ounce batt:

1/2 ounce black fiber, divided into thirds

1/4 ounce bright green

1/8 ounce bright blue

1/8 ounce purple

dash of auburn

1 peacock feather cut into individual pieces

Drum Carder – This tutorial used a Petite

supplies

First start with a base of black, about 1/3 of your black fiber. This helps the eye see the intense colors better later.

Once that is on the carder, layer your bright blue and purple fiber. Feed them on slowly until you’ve added all of the color.

Cover that with another thin layer of black fiber (about 1/3 of your black fiber).

Next, take the bright green fiber (this particular blend has some sparkle that really helps the shimmer effect) and feed it onto the carder.

Finish with another layer of black (your final 1/3 of fiber).

blue and purple

Pull this batt off of your drum carder and split it in fourths lengthwise.

quarters

Take one fourth and pass it through the drum carder while adding some small bits of auburn.

When you’ve gotten that onto the drum, start adding the small peacock feather cuttings while blending the other 3 sections, one at a time. It’s best to sandwich the feather bits in between two thin layers of fiber (much like our yarn-bit-tweed tutorial). This prevents the carder from rejecting them.

Once you’ve passed all the fiber through, you’re done!

square feather and yarn

Why not take inspiration from something lying around your studio? Share it with us on Instagram with the hashtag #strauchfiber, and we may share your colorful project!

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Artist Profile: Sara Renzulli – Sarafina Fiber Art

We recently came across the Sarafina Fiber Art website, and have fallen in love with her work. Sara Renzulli, owner and operator of Sarafina Fiber Art, works with wool roving to create felted creatures from fanciful to very realistic. Sara’s vivaciousness and joy for life is seen in all of her work. The detail in each piece is striking, and shows her love for everything she makes.

Gnome with Forest Friends

Photo credit: Sarafina Fiber Art

Sara uses Strauch drum carders to blend her wool for needle-felting kits that she sells on her website. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced needle-felter, you can find anything that you need.

Sara specializes in creating animals, and brings them to life with humor, wit, and an immense amount of talent. Her skills elevate her felted figurines to a life-like state, complete with a sparkle in their eyes.

Felted Hare from Sarafina Fiber Art

Photo credit: Sarafina Fiber Art

Sara and her team also produce tutorial videos on her YouTube channel. With over 100 tutorial videos, there is a ton of content for for felters to watch and try out! These videos are very well done, and with the skills that you can learn, there is nothing you can’t create! You can find digital downloads of these tutorials on her website.

If you are new to needle felting, you can start with this intro video from her YouTube channel!

Give Sarafina Fiber Art some love over on her Facebook and Instagram, and tell her that Strauch sent you!

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Color Palette Blending

If you’ve been following our Pinterest boards, you’ll know that we have a board dedicated to color palettes. Today’s post will show you how to use these color palettes to blend fibers on your Strauch drum carder.

Here we have started with a warm-tone color palette, taken from this picture of a cord of wood.

This technique is great for stashbusting, taking small amounts of fiber and mixing them together to create a larger batt.

First, take some colors that are represented in the photo. You can use the swatches on the bottom of the color palette as a reference, but feel free to mix and match depending what you have in stash.

fiber palette

Then, start by blending each color in layers.

blending

Remove this batt, split it in half lengthwise, save one half as is, then take the other half and split it into thirds lengthwise, and run them through the carder with the edge facing up, being sure to line up the colors as you blend.

reblending

This technique will give you a long gradient that you can spin one single from, and then a more variegated single from the other batt.

batt layers

If you try out this technique, please share your pictures on Instagram with the hashtag #Strauchfiber.

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