Fiber to FO: Sampling & How to Spin From Batts

In our previous post, we showed you how to turn “forgotten” fibers into beautiful batts (click here if you missed it). Today, we’ll talk about how to spin from the batts you’ve created, and also cover why and how you should sample spin before starting your next project.

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Spinning from Batts

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of sample spinning, we want to talk about some of the ways you can spin from batts. Spoiler alert: there is no wrong way! The approach you choose will depend on several factors, most notably personal preference. The fibers in your batt, the type of batt you are spinning from (layered, striped, heathered, etc) and the desired yarn you want to make from it will also guide your spinning! This is where sampling can come in so handy, as you can experiment with each technique on a smaller scale to see which one achieves your desired results.

You can divide each batt into strips, start spinning from one corner and draft sideways, pull off chunks to spin from at random, zigzag across your batt, or even roll it up to spin from it rolag-style. This blog post has some excellent visual representations of each approach (and more!).

If you have a series of batts, you may wish to spin them in a specific sequence to achieve a certain effect. For instance, the batts shown here could be spun to either create a subtle gradient in the finished yarn, or a striping sequence of blue and green, depending on the order in which each batt is used.

Fiber Batts

Why Sample?

If you are new to spinning from batts, working with a new fiber, or have your heart set on creating a specific yarn for a certain type of project, sample spinning is an important step to ensure a successful spin! Sample spinning is really just creating your finished yarn on a smaller scale, taking careful notes throughout the process so that you can reproduce your results on a larger scale later on. It’s a great time to experiment with a new fiber or technique with minimal pressure.

Pro Tip: Make sure you purchase enough fiber or card enough batts to allow for sampling; in general, you should plan on using approximately 1-2 oz. for sampling.

A Sample Spinning Checklist
You will want to produce your sample skein in the same conditions you plan to make your finished project – that is, by using the same wheel, setup, techniques, etc. We’ve created a free Spinning Project Tracker PDF where you can keep track of your notes (click here for a free download with newsletter signup.)
StrauchSpinning

Of course, the information and notes that you find helpful to the process may differ slightly, but these 6 items are a great jumping-off point as you begin your sampling process. If you plan on spinning a yarn with 2 or more plies, make sure to keep careful track of your singles as well as the resulting yarn once they are plied together. In particular, the thickness of your singles will be important to note, and this is something you can easily check throughout the spinning process to ensure consistent results. Shown below is our sample yarn held against a Spinner’s Control Card (find out more about these useful tools here on the PLY Magazine blog).

Sample Spinning: Singles with a Spinner's Control Card & WPI Gauge

Sample Spinning: Singles with a Spinner’s Control Card & WPI Gauge

Finishing Notes

We recommend treating your sample skein as you would the finished yarn. If you usually let your singles rest one day before plying, then make sure to do so when you are spinning the sample. And, of course, you will want to wash and dry the sample skein in the same way you typically do so; whether it’s a quick rinse in the sink with your favorite wool wash or a light steam, ensure you also take care to dry your sample skein as you normally would, either laying flat or hanging in a safe place away from pets and small children. Finally, work up a gauge swatch with your sample yarn and wash it so that you have an idea of how it will behave in a knitted, crocheted or woven piece.

Finishing - Spinning

Stay tuned for our next post in the Fiber to FO series, where we’ll talk about how to spin for a specific project!

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How to Give “Forgotten Fibers” a Batt-Tacular Makeover

Most spinners have a stash of fibers at the ready for when inspiration strikes – and if a new fiber doesn’t make it onto the bobbin right away, it may get pushed to the bottom of that stash. Forgotten fibers run the risk of becoming compressed, which makes them more difficult to process and spin; unfortunately, that can also make them less desirable. In today’s post, we’ll show you how to give these “forgotten fibers” a makeover to create stunning batts you’ll want to spin with!

Blending Fibers

Dig Deep

Begin by digging to the very bottom of that stash! Are there any fibers that haven’t seen the light of day in several months or years? Perhaps you have some rustic fibers that are beautiful in color, but aren’t as exciting to the touch. These “forgotten fibers” are the perfect candidate for your fiber makeover, and will comprise at least half of each 1-oz batt you create – so make sure there is enough of this base fiber for your desired project.

Find the Fluff

Just as there may be forlorn fibers lurking in your stash, there are probably also those random bits and bobs you collected over the years: fiber samples that came in a swap package or online order, leftover bits from a previous project, or those mysterious fibers that seem to show up (and multiply!) all on their own. You don’t have to limit yourself to prepared fibers, either – locks and other add-ins can add sparkle and texture to your resulting batt (click here to read our Guide to Additives from the Strauch blog archives).

Pro Tip: Especially if your Main Fiber is a little rustic or coarse, focus on softer and more luxurious Blending Fibers to add softness and spin-ability to your batt!

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Color Story

The colors you choose will vary based on personal preference, but we would be remiss if we didn’t cover the basics of color theory here. As you can see in the color wheel above, there are three main groups of colors: primary, secondary and tertiary. A primary color can be used to create all other colors (both secondary and tertiary) – think of them as the “building blocks” of color. For the purposes of choosing colors for your batt, a color wheel can be useful to find the hues that are similar in value (that is, the colors on either side of your chosen color) or the color that will “pop” when paired with your main color (usually, this is the color that is opposite your chosen color on the wheel).

Keep in mind that the temperature of each fiber’s color will also play a role as to whether or not they will “clash” when blended together. The right half of the color wheel comprises the warm colors of the spectrum, while the left half comprises the cool. Also remember that there are some combinations of colors known as “complementary colors” which cancel each other out when paired together. In terms of fiber blending, this can be an undesirable effect, as the colors can become a muddled grey or brown.

If you are struggling with choosing your colors, try using an “inspiration photo” as we have done in several previous posts (click here to check them out).

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Weigh Your Options

Once you have chosen your fibers, it’s time to weigh each one so that you can divide them into groupings for each batt. The amount of fiber that your drum carder can comfortably hold will vary by model; in the example here, we are using a Strauch Petite to create a series of four 1-oz batts. Keep in mind that you will have a little bit of waste fiber during the process, so it’s best to have more fiber than you’ll actually need.

If you wish to have each batt made up of the same exact blend of fibers, your math is quite easy: divide each fiber’s total weight by the desired number of batts (in this example, 4) to determine how much of a given fiber should be blended into each batt.

For a more varied set of batts, you can evenly distribute a portion of your fibers across all 4 batts, then choose specific fibers which will only be used here and there. Just make sure that the total weight for each fiber grouping is approximately 1 oz!

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Your Blending Recipe

If you haven’t already, click here to sign up for our newsletter & receive our FREE Batt Planning Worksheet PDF to help you keep track of your project.

Here are the fiber quantities we used for our sample project:

  • Main Fiber (hand-dyed Polypay): 2.5 oz (note: should be at least half of your desired finished TOTAL weight for batts)
  • Blending Fibers:
    • Mixed Bamboo Fibers: .8 oz
    • Mixed Merino Fibers: .9 oz
    • Mohair Locks: .3 oz

TOTAL WEIGHT: 4.5 oz to make 4 1-oz batts

Fiber Distribution across each batt: .65 oz Main Fiber, .5 oz Mixed Fibers (note: only 2 batts had Mohair Locks; Mixed Bamboo and Mixed Merino Fibers were distributed across all 4 batts as you can see in the photo above).

Pro Tip: Be sure to tease out all fibers prior to processing.

When it’s time to start blending, follow this simple recipe for each grouping of fibers:

Divide your Main Fiber in half and blend the first half onto your drum carder to get a good base layer.

Begin processing each of your chosen Blending Fibers in whatever order you like – you may choose to create a gradient pattern or striping pattern across the width of the drum, or you could also blend fibers at random. Anything goes!

When you have processed all of your Blending Fibers, card the remaining portion of Main Fiber.

Remove your batt and repeat for each fiber grouping!

from this...

In our next blog post, we’ll share tips for working with batts to create beautiful handspun yarns as the second installment in our new “Fiber to Finished Object (FO)” Blog series. We hope you’ll share your own Fiber to FO project with us on Instagram using the #strauchfiber hashtag!

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Joanne’s 10-Year Locker Hooked Rug Project

If you’ve seen Joanne at a fiber festival or show over the last ten years, chances are you’ve seen her working on this project. Today, Joanne triumphantly shares her finished project, and how she made it from start to finish.

This epic project started when I couldn’t find a 7 x 9 foot rug for my dining room.  So, I thought I could make one using the Locker Hook method, and all the roving I had made doing demos of our drum carders. I began planning in 2006 with no idea it would take over ten years to complete the project, and take hundreds of hours washing, dying and carding lots more fiber than I processed at our demos.

Matching some dye lots became an issue when the dye just wouldn’t cooperate and I must admit I was discouraged and almost gave up. That meant large stretches of time when no progress was made. When I was inspired to blend my own dyes to get the colors I needed, I was off again on the next stage of the rug journey.  Originally it was to be made in 9 sections, sewn together as each piece was completed.  That changed after just 3 sections.  With all the problems matching colors I decided to finish it with just 2 more sections.  That way I could dye all I needed of particular colors at one time, and not have to worry again about those colors.

 I started by making a scaled down version so I could choose my colors:

Planning colors

Then came the washing, dyeing, carding, and stitching, over & over again.

Carding

Locker hooking

Oh, the places you can stitch!

2013 Stitching at SAFF 2015 Stitching

In 2010, two pieces were complete:

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Two years later, I finished the third piece:

2012 Three pieces complte

In 2016, four pieces were completed and I began to see the finish line!

2016 Four pieces complete

This was a huge motivator for 2017. Here’s the shot of the fifth piece attached, though not yet complete.

2017 Five pieces, Almost finished

Before the year was up, this project was FINALLY DONE! An estimated 100,000 stitches, weighing over 30 pounds and made up of  Lincoln, Mohair, Shetland, Coopworth, and Border Leicester wool from 7 different farms. We even had a little countdown to the finish line:

 The rug now resides in my living room because no one wanted to step on it under the dining room table.

 

2017 Finally Done

It really ties the room together!

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How to Blend a Winter Inspired Batt

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Winter is here, and we’re closing out our 2017 series of seasonal batt projects with this project inspired by a familiar winter sight: icicles. You can find our previous project tutorials by clicking here.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Strauch Drum Carder (we used a Strauch Petite)
1 ounce of black fiber divided into two equal parts, ours is alpaca
1/2 ounce of a warm white fiber, we used mohair locks
1/4 ounce of white synthetic sparkly fiber
1 ounce of blue silk, ours came from Camaj fiber arts

Fiber

Our source image has very dark blue hues accented by lighter cool tones with a bit of warmth in the background. We chose a variety of fibers to match these colors, and used the white synthetic fiber to create a sparkly icicle effect.

To make your batt, first add 1/2 ounce of your black fiber as a base. Begin adding in each of the additional fibers listed above in the sequence, then finish with the other 1/2 ounce of black fiber.

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Remove your batt off the carder, then split it into four equal parts and blend it again to mix the fibers together more uniformly.

first pass

If you find that your batt is darker than the inspiration photo, don’t worry! As you can see above, we had the same issue, and it was easily fixed by splitting the batt into two equal parts and blending the first half with another 1/4 ounce of white mohair locks, then adding the other portion of the batt to blend everything together.

By leaving this layer of mohair unblended, the spun yarn will have larger spots of white, achieving the balance between the light and dark.

folded batt

If you try this tutorial or create your own winter inspired batt, let us know on Instagram by tagging your post with #strauchfiber.

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Free Printables to Keep Track of Your Fiber Prep & Spinning

Have you ever wanted to keep better track of your fiber prep and handspinning projects? It’s never too late to turn over a new leaf, and we have two new printable PDFs to help you keep track of the details that are easy to lose track of in the excitement of starting a new project.

Free printables for fiber prep and handspinning from Strauch Fiber Equiopment Company.

It may be called the Batt Planning Worksheet, but that doesn’t mean that you have to completely plan your project ahead of time. Spur-of-the-moment inspiration and happy accidents often lead to beautiful batts, but what happens later, when you want to try to re-create that magic? That’s where our free printable comes in handy: keep it nearby your carding station and make note of what fibers you’re adding while you work. Even if you fill it out right after the batt is complete, chances are you’ll remember specific details and techniques much better than, say, 6 months later when you’re racking your brain to remember which fibers were carded in which order.

Free printables for fiber prep and handspinning from Strauch Fiber Equiopment Company.

When it’s time to spin, we’ve got you covered, too! Tell us if this has ever happened to you: a handspun skein of yarn that you were saving for a special occasion has been lurking in your stash so long that you’ve long since forgotten the fiber content or how you spun it. Or perhaps the label you had made for it disappeared mysteriously. Here’s where keeping track of your spinning projects can come in handy: use our free Spinning Project Tracker worksheet to keep track of all the details for your handspinning project (and be sure to add some info that will jog your memory later on, such as a description of the colors or fibers).

We’re offering both of these free PDF printables to our newsletter subscribers for free – click here to sign up and we’ll send them right to your inbox.

Already subscribe to our newsletter? Check your inbox, we’ve sent you download links as a thank-you for being on our list.

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Free printables for fiber prep and handspinning from Strauch Fiber Equiopment Company.

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For the Love of Alpaca Fiber

Alpaca fleece or fiber is a unique option for the handspinner, but how you process it prior to spinning will greatly affect your finished yarn. These soft and supple fibers require a little bit of know-how and TLC to produce beautiful results every time.

There are two varieties of alpaca, which belong to the camelid family. 90% of alpacas are huacaya, a breed of alpaca known for its fluffy, crimpy fleece with an average staple length of 2-6 inches. The rarer suri alpaca  are known for their long, silky locks which can measure up to 11 inches! For both varieties, guard hair is rare in their fleece; both are known for softness, with most fibers classified in the fine or superfine range (between 20-26 microns). Alpacas are similar in appearance to llamas, but much smaller. They also belong to the camelid family, but as you can see in the infographic below, there are some distinct differences between alpacas and their relatives:

Learn all about processing alpaca fiber on the strauch fiber blog!

When it comes to working with alpaca fiber, be aware that improper processing of these fibers can result in damage or waste – and it would be a shame to let any of these precious fibers go unused! Even those “thirds” can be made into felted pads or dryer balls, so be sure to gather them together once you remove them from your fleece.

We recommend either the Strauch Finest drum carder or our Motorized Doublewide to efficiently process these exceptional fibers. As you’ll see in the video below, there is no waste during this process due to the unique design of our drum carders: the smooth blades of the infeed drum open and transfer the fibers completely to the large drum – even when carding suri (you didn’t hear it from us, but other brands simply can’t handle those long, lustrous suri fibers).

Newer spinners may wish to blend their alpaca fiber with wool to make it easier to spin; in fact, alpaca blends well with a variety of fibers, including mohair, silk, angora and more. Each one brings a unique characteristic to the table; in particular, the springiness of wool will help balance the “heaviness” of the alpaca fiber. Our universal design also makes blending fibers easier: the combination of the fine carding cloth on the large drum, our “slicker licker” on the infeed drum, and the brush attachment guarantees that you can process any fiber on our carders. It doesn’t get any simpler than that!

Since you don’t have to change drums or fiddle with your Strauch carder to make it work (did we mention it’s maintenance-free, too?), that gives you more time to enjoy processing, spinning, and working with your fiber – and isn’t that what it’s all about?

We’d love to see what you’ve been carding, spinning, and making with your fleece and fibers, share a photo on Instagram using the #strauchfiber hashtag in your post!

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Fantastic Fibers and How to Blend Them: Your Guide to Art Batt Additives

Art batts are fun to make, and the magical yarns they create are one of a kind. In this post, we’ll introduce you to a few add ins, and how to best integrate them into your batts.

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Fiber and Yarn “Bits”

As fiber artists, we all have bits of yarn and fiber left over from other projects. Waste not, want not! Some of those things that you’d normally throw away can create a wonderful tweed effect when added to your batt.

The best way to integrate fiber and yarn bits into your batt is to “sandwich” them between two layers of fiber. To do this, simply divide your base fiber into two equal portions; lay the first half down, add your fiber or yarn bits, and then place the rest of the fiber on top. Send it through the carder and VOILA! A beautiful tweedy batt for your next project!

layered

Firestar/Synthetic Shimmer

Who doesn’t love a little glitz and glamour in their batts? Synthetic shimmery fibers such as firestar, angelina, or even recycled sari silk can add sparkle and pizzaz to your project.

A little can go a long way for this grouping of fibers – it’s best if you add in small bits directly to the large drum as you’re carding the other fibers for your batt.

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Locks

Much like synthetic fibers, wool or mohair locks love being added to the drum directly, as passing them through the carder may separate those beautiful fibers more than desired.  By adding them to your base fibers as you card, you can p reserve their wavy texture and crimp to add interest to your finished project.

Silk Noil

Silk noil, the short fibers left over from spinning silk, is another option for adding texture to your batts. Because the in-feed drum of the carder is meant to help pick out small bits during the carding process, this is another additive that is best sandwiched between your base fibers to maximize the integration. These “reclaimed” fibers are perfect for adding texture to your batts, creating a delightful tweed-like effect.

noil

Non-Fiber Additions

Ribbon, sequins, beads feathers, and silk flowers are just a few ideas for non-fiber add-ins to enhance your art batt. However, not all of these items are easy to add in during the carding phase. In particular, ribbons and sequins are best added after you finish carding your batt, as the teeth on the carder will rip the ribbons, and sequins or beads just won’t stick.

To add ribbons to your batt, it’s best to roll them into your finished batt just before you spin. You can also try this technique with beads or sequins, although we find it’s best to string thread, yarn bits or fiber through them before doing so. This will make it easier to keep them secure as you spin, and also ensure that they don’t fall out of your resulting yarn later on.

Items such as feathers and silk flowers are a little easier to add during the blending stage of your batt: we share a tutorial on adding feathers to a batt here in our blog archive, and this same technique can be applied when adding silk flowers to a batt project.

feather and batt

These fun and funky ingredients can add a huge visual impact to your finished project, so don’t be afraid to experiment and let your imagination run wild!

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How to Blend a Candy Corn Batt

A Halloween favorite, candy corn has been an iconic October snack for decades. In this post, we’re sharing a sweet tutorial with you so that you can make your very own candy corn batt for spinning this fall!

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Supplies:

Strauch Drum Carder -The Petite was used in this tutorial.

Equal amounts of yellow, orange, and white fibers. For the sample ,we used about 1/3 ounce of each color.

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Here’s how to blend this batt:

First, prep your fiber into long strips.

Starting from the left to the right, place the colors in this order: white, orange, yellow.

lined up

Pass them through the drum carder once; by doing so at the same time, the edges between each color will blend more. Remove your batt, and arrange it into a candy corn shape if you like (or, just start spinning!).

candy corn

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Fabulous Fall Fiber Events with Strauch

When the air turns crisp and there’s pumpkin spice everything, you know it’s time to start playing with fluff and fiber! Some of our favorite events happen in the fall, and they’re a great place to find new inspiration to keep your creative juices flowing all season long.

Last month, we were at the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival, held at the Clark County Ruritan Fair Grounds in Berryville, VA from Sept 24-25, 2017.

Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival

The Welcoming Tent was ready to help vendors and attendees, and there were plenty of enticing booths filled with fibers, yarns and other wonderful things.

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The fleece judging competition is always worth checking out:

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And visiting the animals whose fleece & fiber we enjoy so much also tops the list!

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Don’t forget to take a lunch break!
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We managed to snap this photo of Joanne in our booth, ready to show visitors how to use our products before the gates opened for the day:

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Our next event was the Fall Fiber Festival, which is held every year on the first weekend in October at James Madison Montpelier in Virginia.

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There’s a bit of nostalgia near the entrance to the fair grounds – does anyone recognize this sign? Any guesses on what the name of this company is today?

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This time, were were fortunate to have a dry, grassy field for lots of vendor tents…and lots of fiber enthusiasts, too!

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Of course, there’s plenty of eye-catching yarns and fibers to be found:

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…but there’s also animals:

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…and fiber tools:

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…and general crafts:

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We are also ready!

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Folks want to see how beautifully our tools operate, and we are always delighted to comply.

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We have two more fiber shows for 2017, the New York Sheep & Wool Festival (also known as Rhinebeck) and the Southeastern Animal Fiber Fair (SAFF) – click here for more details on our site. We hope to see you there – be sure to stop by our booth to say hello or ask for a free demo. Feel free to also share a photo on Instagram using the #strauchfiber hashtag in your post!

There’s one more recent event that we’d like to highlight: each year, we sponsor a Spinzilla Team called Team Strauch’s Knotty Ladies, and this lovely group of fiber enthusiasts spends the week of Spinzilla spinning beautiful yarns! While the results of this year’s event have yet to be announced, here are the photos submitted by each team member to show off their handiwork from another successful week of spinning. Congratulations are also in order for crossing the finish line, we appreciate all of their hard work!

Spinzilla 2017 Strauch's Team Knotty Ladies

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How to Blend a “Fade” Batt

Fades are all the craze in the knitting community, and the number of patterns popping up on Ravelry is astounding. Spinners who love working with multiple colors can also “fade” – just grab some colorful fibers and follow these easy steps to blend a fade batt on your Strauch drum carder!

supplies

Supplies:

Strauch Drum Carder -The Petite was used in this tutorial. Note: The wider your drum carder, the more colors you can have in your fade!

1/3 ounce each of fiber in 3 different colors, preferably in a coordinating color scheme.

How to make your Fade Batt: 

First, take strips of your first color and feed them through the drum carder on the left side (leaving the other 2/3 of the drum carder free).

first color

Then, take your second color and repeat the same process, feeding the strips through the center third of the drum carder.

second color

Finally, take your third color and feed it through the final third of the drum card, on the right side.

third color

Notice that this first pass isn’t meshed together well, so the colors may have a tendency to pull apart when removing your batt off the carder.

first pass

To fix this issue, begin drafting your batt out taking care that the colors stay in order. Then, pass the batt through your carder again, making sure to arrange your colors in the same way as the first pass (the first color should be on the left, the second color in the middle, and the third color on the right).

second pass

Now the colors should be blended together along the lines where they touch! Remove your batt from the carder; if you prefer, you can repeat this process a second time to blend the colors a little bit more.

finished batt

Now you’re ready to spin your own fade-worthy yarn! We’d love to see your own “fade” batt – tag us on Instagram with the hashtag #strauchfiber to share your creation.

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