5 Steps to a Better Spinzilla Week

Spinzilla is just a few weeks away, and we know how fast that time slips away. To boost your productivity and enjoyment for the week, follow these 5 easy steps!

1: Prep your fiber ahead of time.

Every minute during the week of Spinzilla is precious, and this is a time for spinning your fiber, not prepping it. We suggest getting your fiber completely ready prior to the start of the competition. Whether your preferred prep is batts, rolags, or roving, our carders are there to help!

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2: Choose your favorite spinning device.

Whether it’s a wheel, drop spindle, or e-spinner, make sure it’s something you’re comfortable with. You’ll be spinning for a few hours over the week, and it’s vital that you are at ease. You’ll be able to spin much longer and without discomfort if you choose well.

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3: Stick with a fiber/spinning style that you love.

While it is tempting to switch up what and how you are spinning, leave that to the Tour de Fleece. If you stick with one fiber and one style, your spinning will stay more consistent. You’ll also get faster as you go through the week since your spinning style will be deep in your muscle memory.

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4: Take frequent breaks.

Though it is tempting to sit for hours straight, you don’t want to sacrifice your knees, wrists, or back for a few extra yards. Try the 20-2 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 2 minute break. Get up, stretch, breathe, grab a drink of water, etc.

Good hand-health is great!

5: Have fun!

You know the phrase “time flies when you’re having fun.” Hang out with friends and other spinners in order to make the spinning process seem less lonely, and the hours will melt away.

Show off your Strauch carded batts/roving that you’ll be spinning during Spinzilla on Instagram by using the hashtag #strauchfiber.

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Locker Hooking with Carded Batts

We’ve recently shared tutorials on how to card batts on your drum carder for spinning and felting. Today, we want to show you another way to use your hand carded batts!

Though Joanne frequently spins her batts, she also does locker hooking. A few years ago, she started a massive rug project – 7 ft. by 9 ft. to be exact!

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First, she picked out her wool and then carded it into batts.

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She has been hooking on this project for years: at home, at shows – it doesn’t matter!

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She’ll be finishing the rug soon, and we can’t wait for the big reveal!

Have you used your batts for rug hooking? Let us know over on Instagram using the hashtag #strauchfiber, we’d love to see your projects.

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How to Blend a Summer Inspired Batt

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Our last post on how to blend a spring inspired batt was pretty popular, so we decided to do another seasonal tutorial to celebrate summer!

Previously, we chose a photo of an iris for our inspiration; this time around, we’re using a freshly cut sunflower!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Strauch Drum Carder (we used a Strauch Petite)
  • 1 ounce of Yellow fiber
  • 1/8 – 1/4 ounce of Red/Scarlet fiber
  • 1/2 ounce of Black fiber

individual fibers and flower

The sunflower in the sample had an orange hue with striations of a rusty red color, so we laid down a 1 ounce base of yellow fiber and approximately 1/8 to 1/4 ounce of the red. This ratio will vary depending on the color of the petals. As with all art, the exact ratio doesn’t matter as long as you get the essence of your inspiration.

Blend these two fibers a total of two times, removing the batt from the carder each time.

After the first pass with yellow and red.

After the first pass with yellow and red.

Then, take the orange fiber and pass it through the drum carder as a base for the next step.

Take approximately 1/2 ounce of black fiber and turn it into skinny strips. Pass them through on one side of the drum carder. This is in order to keep the black and orange slightly separated.

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Remove this batt, and elongate it by gently drafting the batt into something that looks like thick roving. This will create a long strip of fiber that keeps the black stripe on one side, and the orange stripe on the other side.

adding the alpaca

Pass this through the drum carder one more time, taking care to keep the colors aligned as the fiber feeds onto the drum.

This will help mesh the fibers together along the line between the orange and the black. If left as is, the black fiber wouldn’t want to stay part of the batt, and would probably come off in one big chunk while spinning.

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This technique is a great way to have a heathered section and solid color section in one batt. By separating out the steps, you can get more distinct sections in your finished batt.

Like this post? Pin it!

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How to Wet Felt a Hot Pad

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There’s no need to let the summer heat deprive you of the fun of working with wool fibers! We have a fun project to keep your drum carder busy this month – just round up some of your favorite feltable fibers from your stash!

The idea for this project came from felted stones and hot pads (find some inspirational images here on Pinterest). This tutorial will teach you how to wet felt a faux “stone” hot pad or mat using just one batt from your drum carder.

For this project you will need:

1 ounce of dark base animal fiber – Our sample uses black alpaca.

.25 ounces of colored animal fiber – Our sample uses some heathered tweed fiber we made here.

2-3 locks of white fiber or other feltable add-ins

Drum carder – Our sample was made on a Strauch Petite.

Window Screen – Large enough to house your project and fold over it. You can get this at a hardware store, or from an old window.

Towel – Large enough to house your project.

2 -3 Rubber bands.

Warm, soapy water in a squirt bottle or measuring cup

Waterproof or protected work surface.

Getting Started

Begin by carding your dark base fiber and colored fiber together twice. This will give you a semi-homogeneous blend, much like a natural stone.

Black fiber and colorful fiber.

Black fiber and colorful fiber after the first pass.

After carding the second time, leave the batt on the carder, and take the locks of white fiber (or other feltable add-ins) and add them to the carder. On this sample, we passed one lock on one half of the batt and two on the other half.

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Now, remove the batt from your drum carder:

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With the “white” side of the batt facing up, divide the batt into two equal pieces. They should look roughly like a square.

Then, turn one piece 90 degrees, and flip it white side down. Lay the other piece on top of this piece to create a “fiber sandwich.” It’s important that the direction of the fibers are perpendicular, as this will aid in the felting process.

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To begin felting, take a towel, and lay it on your work surface. Place the window screen on top of the towel.

Take your “fiber sandwich” and place it on top of one half of the screen, and fold the other half of the screen on top.

Wet the fiber down with your soapy water until the fiber is saturated but not soggy. Here’s a great tutorial video to illustrate wet felting.

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Next, use the towel to roll the screen and “fiber sandwich” into a firm log (similar to when you are blocking a finished garment and want to remove excess water by rolling it up into a towel). Place 2 or 3 rubber bands at either end to keep everything secure for the next step.

 

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Roll this log back and forth vigorously for 2-3 minutes.

Next, unroll everything and rotate the “fiber sandwich” 90 degrees, repeating this process a few more times until it is as felted as you would like. For more even felting, you can also flip the “fiber sandwich” over a couple of times during the process, in addition to rotating it.

felting process

Once you are happy with the felted piece, rinse it in cold water to remove the soap and to set the felt in place.

This method results in a slightly wavy organic edge as shown in our finished piece, however you can trim the edges for a more even look.

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Use this as a centerpiece decoration for your table, a trivet for warm dishes, or folded over as a hot pad when handling pots, pans, or tea kettles!

If you use this tutorial to make your own felted stone mat, share it with us on Instagram using the hashtag #strauchfiber!

If you liked this tutorial, Pin it!

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3 Ways to Beat the Heat with Yarn and Fiber

It has been swelteringly hot in the US recently and most fiber lovers want to do something with yarn or fiber – the challenge is finding something that isn’t so toasty.

That’s where we come in! Just because you don’t want to knit or spin with wool on your lap doesn’t mean that you can’t have a little fibery fun this summer. Here are three ways to beat the heat while still having fun with yarn and fiber!

1: Replenish Your Spinning Stash

Break out your Strauch drum carder and start blending beautiful batts to replenish your spinning fiber  stash. You’ve probably used  up a lot of fiber in these first few of weeks of the Tour de Fleece, and don’t forget that Spinzilla is only three short months away – you’ll definitely want some fresh spinning material. Whether you make themed batts or stash-busting batts, we know you’ll have fun!

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2: Reorganize Your Yarn Room

This tip is particularly pleasant if your craft room is air-conditioned. Whether you’re a yarn dyer, or a yarn-acquirer, the stash can get unruly. Take the time this summer to frog, wind, or ball your yarn from abandoned projects.

Leftover bits and bobs can also benefit from being rewound to keep things tidy -a mini-skein winder is a great choice for your clean-up. These skein winders open to a maximum of 1 yard, and are ideal for creating even and tidy mini-skeins. Sorting your full and partial skeins by weight, fiber content, or color adds another level of organization to your stash, making it easy to find what you need for future projects.

Are you preparing for a sweater knit as soon as the weather cools down? Break out your Jumbo Ball Winder to create cakes of yarn that can weigh up to a pound! The ball bearings make this task easy breezy. Whether you wind multiple skeins of yarn into one cake, or you’re winding a Jill Draper Empire skein, this winder will take care of you.

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Now is also a great time to wind your handspun yarns from the Tour de Fleeece into skeins so that you can keep those bobbins free for your next spinning project (or Spinzilla, if you prefer to plan further ahead!). Like to spin bulky art yarns? The Jumbo Ball Winder can handle those, too!

3: Take Your Wet Felting Outside

If you feel the urge to make something, try wet felting! While there are many techniques, we like this jar method that we shared on our blog earlier this year. By using a plastic jar and some marbles, you can have a great time outside with your kids, grandkids, or friends with little clean-up needed afterwards!

How to Felt in a Jar

What are some of your favorite fibery ways to keep cool in the summer? Let us know over on Instagram by using the hashtag #strauchfiber.

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Fiber Artist Feature: Esther Rodgers – Jazzturtle Creations

We’re glad that you enjoyed our previous Fiber Artist Feature with Nicole Frost from Frostyarn.

As part of our ongoing series, today’s interview is with Esther Rodgers from Jazzturtle Creations.

Esther is a brilliant fiber artist who spins, weaves, knits, and dyes. Her style can be described as free-spirited and colorful.

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Why do you love fiber so much?
Wow, that’s really hard to pin down. I love that fiber has so many possibilities. What it becomes in my hands is totally different than if it was in the hands of someone else. I love that it’s ageless. I’ve spun with multiple generations in the same workshop. Fiber Art lives because it’s passed down through hands. Techniques are re-invented, but all have been inspired by teachers before. Fiber transcends boundaries and brings people together. In this time, when there’s so much anxiety and division, something that can people can share, when they may not have anything else in common, is important.

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How did you get your start in the fiber arts?
I was always good with color. When I was in massage school, I made quilt tops that I turned into clothes and sold them. I loved scrapbooking- playing with textures and color. Then when Bryan proposed I decided I was going to teach myself to knit, so I could give shawls to my bridesmaids;  but the yarn that I found in the craft stores (since that’s where I went for scrapbooking supplies, I didn’t know about “yarn shops”) wasn’t what I was looking for. I decided that I was also going to teach myself to spin. I took a few classes at my local yarn shop and promptly bought a spinning wheel. Soon after we were married, my husband lost his job in the economy crash. I began selling my yarn, which carried us through the months he was without work. I had no idea that when I started putting yarn in my Etsy shop, that it would become what it has.

What inspires you?
Everything? But really, I find inspiration in everyday things; music, nature, colors I see in the most random things, and textures I come upon. I was even inspired when I was in the hospital. It was somewhere around day 8 or 9, I know I was still on lots of drugs, and I looked up at my very full IV pole- at all the clear tubes and glass tubes and I thought, OH that would be cool woven… I had the nurses start flushing and saving the IV tubing when it was done. Now I have a couple bags of things that will make an interesting wallhanging for my surgeon. Really, there’s inspiration in everything.

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Which other fiber artists do you admire?
Jackie Graff, her natural dyeing blows my mind (and she’s an awesome spinner, too).  I am really interested in natural dyeing, and Jackie does amazing things. I also am constantly astounded by Melissa Nasby, and her felted puppets. I treasure the mask I have of hers; she is supremely talented. I love Nicole Frost and her use of color and inspiration for fiber.  Lexi Boeger has always been an inspiration, she has that insanely irritating ability to be good at most things she touches. She is my ear and my soundboard and without her I would go nuts inside my head. There are so many people that I admire and are inspired by, I could go on and on and on. Stephanie Stratton (A Tangled Yarn) is a master of color. Then of course I’m inspired by my fellow educators, Amy King, Abby Franquemont, Jillian Moreno and Beth Smith, they were very supportive and encouraging throughout my medical trauma and recovery. They really helped keep me together.

Describe your creative process
That’s a hard question to answer, because it changes by the day and by the yarn and by the project. I have concept yarns that are in different places; being mapped, having bags where I’m collecting supplies, and some that are just ideas on paper. I do write a lot of things down. I have multiple project journals that have ideas in various stages of planning. I find that the creative brain is one that doesn’t hold onto ideas long, when another arrives it pushes the first one out, so writing things down is important for me. I used to have a gazillion post it notes on things, now I keep my post its are in journals.

Which Strauch product can you not live without?
HA! That’s easy – my Mad Batt’r. I love that carder. I really learned how much I love that carder in the last few months. The medical trauma stole all my core strength (major abdominal surgery will do that) and so when I got my creative vibe back I wanted to spin and weave and create. My Mad Batt’r s chain drive gears are so smooth that I can card batts without the discomfort I have when using other carders because I need a bit more core strength.

Thanks for being part of our Fiber Artist Feature series, Esther!

If you loved this interview, let us know by sharing it with your friends on Facebook!

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PLY Away 2017 Recap

In its second year running, PLY Away has the look and feel of a fully established fiber show. We enjoyed our trip so much that we wanted to share a snippet of our time there with you!

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Show organizers Jacey and Levi have done great work to bring the best teachers, vendors, and students to a classy venue. Jacey, Editor in Chief of PLY Magazine, spearheaded the show, while her husband Levi helped make her dreams a reality. Along with these two fantastic people, there are many more folks helping along the way.

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We loved meeting spinners from around the globe. Joanne particularly enjoyed teaching fiber lovers how to blend fibers on our drum carders.

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The best part of the show? After a long day of setting up, demonstrating, teaching, and learning, everyone can let their hair down and knit for a while.

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From all of us at Strauch, we’d like to thank everyone who made PLY Away possible!

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Get Inspired with 5 Fiber Blending Tutorials

Today we’re sharing some of our favorite fiber blending tutorials. We hope you will be inspired to try something new on your Strauch Drum Carder this summer!

1.  The Great Blending Experiment

Before moving into color management and texture creating, learning what it takes to get a truly blended batt is necessary. This post puts down a foundation of knowledge for your batt-blending experiments.

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2. Blending a Color Palette Batt

Everywhere you look – Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and magazines – you see color palettes. In this post learn how to blend a batt using an inspirational color palette.

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3. How to Blend a Peacock Batt

Explore color inspiration further with this post which uses the colors of a peacock feather (and the feather itself!) to create a stunning batt.

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4. How to Blend Heathered Batts

Learn how to create a heathered batt which uses up little bits of fiber – a convenient and clever way to spring clean your stash.

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5. How to Blend a Spring Inspired Batt

Perhaps you have a favorite photo to inspire your next project. Here, you’ll learn how to use inspirational photos to choose fiber colors to blend into a beautiful batt.

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We hope you enjoyed this round-up of our favorite fiber blending tutorials, and remember, if you try out any of these techniques, please share your photos with us on Instagram using the hashtag #strauchfiber.

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How To Blend a Spring Inspired Batt

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We were so energized by our recent featured fiber artist post about Nicole Frost from Frostyarn, that we decided to card a batt from an inspiration picture!

Our source image came from Pinterest; a picture of purple bearded irises. The purples, greens, and highlights of yellow and white were just begging to be turned into a batt – follow our steps to get similar results at home!

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A Strauch Drum Carder (we used a Strauch Petite)
  • 1 ounce of green fiber
  • 1/2 ounce of purple fiber (we used a combination of two different shades)
  • 1/2 ounce combined weight of yellow fiber, white mohair locks, white “icicle” fiber.

Start by putting down a layer of green fiber, then feed both of the purple fibers into the carder. Then add the “icicle” fiber directly to the large drum. Finally, feed the yellow fiber and mohair locks through the carder.

base of green

If you want more bold colors in your yarn as you spin, stop here.

If you would like a more blended and impressionistic batt, split this batt into fourths lengthwise, and pass them through the drum carder again.

This blends the fibers just a bit more, but not so much that you can’t see the individual colors.

Now that spring has sprung, inspiration is everywhere! We’d love to see what batts you’re creating with inspirational photos from nature. Be sure to share your photos with us on Instagram using the hashtag #strauchfiber so that we can reshare them on our feed!

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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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