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!

batt layers

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.

feather and batt

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!

fiber choice

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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Fixing “Failed” Fiber

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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.”

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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.

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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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