Blue Ridge Fiber Festival Recap

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

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

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

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

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Ta-da! We’re ready for shoppers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Drum Carding Tip: Make a Fiber Sandwich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Help Us Write The Next Chapter of the Strauch Story

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Free PDF Guide: Drum Carding 101

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

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

Click here to get our free guide.

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In Drum Carding 101, we cover the following topics:

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

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

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PLY Away 2018 Recap

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

The classy Weston

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

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

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

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

We sponsored refreshments

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

Jacey's Silent auction

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

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Meet Our Makers: Colorful Flock

Last month, we attended the Fibernate festival in Falls Church, VA (click here to see where we’ll be next!). Here’s Otto hard at work in our booth:

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It was a delight to meet so many passionate fiber folk at this event – just look at this lively spinning circle from the event!

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Occaisonally at these events, we come a cross a vendor who uses our equipment – at Fibernate, we had the pleasure of meeting Michele from The Colorful Flock, whose booth was filled with beautiful batts, rolags and other brightly-colored fluff and fiber for spinners.

Michele from the Colorful Flock

Michele uses our Doublewide Motorized Finest to make the most beautiful batts! Her blends include wool, silk, bamboo, tencel, linen, or shiny bits to create complex layers of spinning fibers. Her focus is on pairing bright, juicy colors with smooth fibers to create irresistible batts. As you spin, the texture is found in colors!

Batts from The Colorful Flock are created on a doublewide motorized Strauch Finest drum carder.

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As our way of supporting the fiber arts community, we’ll be featuring more talented makers here on our blog. If you use Strauch products in your creative business, we’d love to hear from you!

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Fiber to FO: Our Finished Project & Pattern Ideas for Handspun Yarns

If you’ve been following our Fiber to FO Blog series, you may be wondering what we would be making with our example project.  Today, we’re pleased to reveal our Finished Object, a pair of handspun mittens!

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We used The World’s Simplest Mittens pattern from Tincan Knits, a free knitting pattern available on Ravelry. What makes it ideal for handspun yarn is that this pattern is written for any weight of yarn, which means that you only have to choose the instructions that correspond with the weight of yarn you created.

Notice that our finished project are “fraternal” twins – that is, they don’t exactly match in how they knit up as one mitten has a more pronounced green-to-turquoise gradation that the other. These natural variations are what make your project unique: because you carded, spun and knitted or crocheted it from start to finish, there will never be another item exactly like what you made! However, if you want to achieve more uniform results with your handspun yarn, we recommend alternating rows or rounds, just as you would when working with hand-dyed yarns (find an excellent tutorial on this technique here).

There are a lot of great patterns that are designed especially for handspun yarns, and just as many which would look great with a handspun yarn substituted in. Below, we share some of our tips for spotting ideal patterns for your handspun yarn and also share a few of our favorites (free!) designs to add to your queue.

Patterns: What To Look For

Written for multiple gauges. There are a lot of patterns which include instructions for multiple weights of yarn and/or gauges – these offer a lot more flexibility when you are trying to match up a handspun yarn with a knit or crochet pattern.

Simple stitches and construction. Especially for multicolored yarns, simpler stitch motifs and construction elements will let your handspun take the spotlight. That’s not to say that you couldn’t make a project with cables, lace or other stitches, but an overly complex pattern may get lost when paired up with a handspun yarn. When in doubt, swatch!

Recipes. There are many patterns available which are open-ended so that the knitter or crocheter can customize for the amount of yarn they have. Think of these as a road map, and know that you may need to do a little math or be vigilant with measuring your yarn as you go.

Buzzwords. Simple, basic, textured, classic, easy – usually, these words are associated with the type of patterns which are well-suited to handspun yarns!

Knitting Patterns Designed for Handspun Yarns

There are many great patterns available on Ravelry, but shown here are some of the most popular free patterns and recipes for knitters. Clockwise from top left: Handspun Cushion by Wovenflame, Handspun Shawlette by Jen Lucas, Bluemoon Cowl by Jillian Moreno, Handspun Fingerless Gloves by Emily Wessell, and Garter Vanilla Shawl by Welford Purls.

Handspun Knitting Patterns

Handspun-Friendly Patterns

These free knitting and crochet patterns are a great way to put your handspun yarns to use! Clockwise from top left: The Age of Brass and Steam Kerchief by Orange Flower yarn, the York Crocheted Shawlette by Anastacia Zittel, the One Good Turn Crochet Cowl by Ali Green, and The Simple Collection from Tincan Knits, which contains 11 knitting patterns for accessories, blankets and sweaters written for multiple gauges – shown here are the Rye Socks.

Handspun Friendly Patterns

Find more great patterns for handspun yarns here on Pinterest. We’d love to see your projects over on Instagram, too – share your photos with #strauchfiber in the description!

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Fiber to FO: Planning & Spinning for a Specific Project

Welcome back to the third installment of our Fiber to FO blog series. Previously, we talked about how to turn “forgotten” fibers lurking in your stash into beautiful, spin-worthy batts. Next, we covered some approaches for working with the resulting batts as well as how and why you should sample spin before starting your spinning project.

Today, we’ll dig a little deeper into the nuts and bolts of planning and spinning for a specific project – large or small – so that you don’t have to worry about running out of fiber or yarn along the way.

Just a Little Bit of Math Before You Spin

If you have a specific project in mind, you’ll want to make note of the yarn requirements to ensure that you spin a suitable yarn for substituting. To make your calculations, you will need to know 3 things about the called-for yarn in the project:

  • The total yardage required.
  • WPI (Wraps per Inch, a measurement which pertains to yarn weight).
  • The size of the yarn (communicated as YPP, or Yards Per Pound).

PRO TIP: We’ve seen a few variations in numbers regarding YPP, but our friends at the Woolery have a handy list of YPP by Yarn Weight that has served us well when making our own calculations.

So, how do all those acronyms and numbers help us estimate how much yarn to spin?!

Let’s say the recommended yarn for your project is a light worsted weight. That means that for every pound of wool you spin, you can expect to create between 1100-1300 yards of yarn. If you’re looking to spin a sweater quantity of yarn, this might be all you need to know when sourcing fiber – depending on your desired yardage, you’ll need between 1-2 pounds.

If your project calls for a smaller quantity of yarn, a little more math will be required. Let’s say project calls for 400 yards of light worsted yarn. In this instance, it might be easier to think of your yardage in terms of ounces of fiber instead of pounds. For this weight of yarn, you can estimate between 68.75-81.25 yards per ounce of fiber (remember, 16 ounces in a pound!). Therefore, you’ll need between 5-6 ounces of fiber. To be safe, we recommend rounding up to 8 ounces, or a half-pound, of fiber so that you have plenty of fiber for sampling as well!

Not all Fibers are Interchangeable

Once your calculations are made, take a moment to revisit the fiber content and make-up of the yarn that is specified in the pattern you want to make. If you plan on sourcing different fibers for the yarn you’ll be spinning, make sure that they have similar qualities to what was used in the specified yarn so that you achieve similar results in your finished project. While we don’t have time to delve into the wide world of fiber within the confines of this post, keep in mind that fiber length and other characteristics such as crimp and fineness/coarseness can have a profound effect on the resulting yarn and project.

That’s not to say that you can’t get creative with your fiber choices, of course – in fact, you may have some very pleasant surprises if you do! But the only way you can know for sure whether or not the fibers will work for what you have in mind is – you guessed it! – sample spinning and swatching.

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Tools & Resources to Make Spinning Easier

Besides your trusty drum carder and spindle or spinning wheel, there are some handy gadgets and references that can make spinning a whole lot easier.

  • A WPI Gauge comes in handy for measuring yarns as you spin. While you can just as easily use a ruler, there are lots of  interesting WPI gauges available that can add a bit of fun to your next spin. Just make sure not to wrap the yarn too tightly or too loosely to ensure an accurate reading.
  • A Spinner’s Control Card has printed or etched lines which correspond to gauge and/or WPI, allowing you to quickly see whether or not the yarn you are making is the correct size. Some spinners find this tool easier to use than a WPI gauge, but both are inexpensive and worth investing in!
  • A Twist-Angle Gauge is easy to make on your own if you happen to have a protractor (this post from the Knitty archives has some great how-to photos!) and is helpful during the plying process.
  • Books about fiber: Deborah Robson’s Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook, Clara Parke’s The Knitter’s Book of Wool, and Beth Smith’s The Spinner’s Book of Fleece explore the wonderful world of fiber in great detail.
  • Books about handspinning: Jillian Moreno’s Yarnitecture, Amy King’s Spin Control, Abby Franquemont’s Respect the Spindle and Sarah Anderson’s The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs are just a few of many titles worth adding to your library.
  • Websites: Renowned spinning instructor Abby Franquemont has a website that is filled with great spinning tips; you can also check out joyofhandspinning.com and the Ask the Bellwether blog archives for plenty of inspirational and educational content.

We’d love to hear about your favorite spinning tools and resources in the comments. Be sure to follow us on Instagram for more fibery fun!

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Fiber Artist Feature: Benjamin Krudwig

Benjamin-krudwigIt’s been a while since we’ve featured a fiber artist here on this blog, so we are pleased to share this interview with Benjamin Krudwig, a designer and fiber artist living in Colorado with his wife and two cats. He is drawn to nature, color, and all things fibery. His work can be seen in Spin-Off, Handwoven, Knitty, and other publications. Find him online at www.benjaminkrudwig.com and on Instagram @benjamin_krudwig.

How did you get your start in the fiber arts?
I’ve always been creatively inclined. I was always into something, pipe cleaner crafts, origami, painting, you name it. It wasn’t until high school that I asked my older sister to teach me how to knit that I was introduced to fiber arts. I put it down (like many new knitters) and then in college, I picked up a crochet hook and taught myself how to crochet in order to combat test anxiety. It’s all been down the rabbit hole since, with me picking up how to weave, spin, felt, etc. over the years.
From concept to reality: jacket made with handblended and handspun yarn.

From concept to reality: jacket made with handblended and handspun yarn.

What inspires you?
Honestly, the easier question would be what doesn’t inspire me. Everywhere I look, something catches my eye. I think that’s an artist thing. Even the littlest details and innocuous events can cause my brain to go into design mode. I take a lot of my inspiration from nature, especially from the naturally occurring colors and patterns.

How do you translate your inspiration into a batt?
First I start with the color palette (for example, greens and golds as seen in the photo below). This is generally the easiest way for me to grasp onto the core feeling of the inspiration. Then, I may add texture to the batt with different fibers to create more depth and interest to the batt. My “Newsprint Tweed” article in an issue of Spin-Off in 2017 goes through my entire process of trying to achieve a specific yarn by blending the base fiber and tweed additives.
Perfectly blended fibers are a delight to spin!

Perfectly blended fibers are a delight to spin!


What is/are your favorite fiber(s) to work with?
I love alpaca, silk, springy wools. I adore using yak, though it can be finicky when blended with longer fibers.

Which other fiber artists do you admire?
I adore Jillian Moreno, Beth Smith, Rebecca Mezoff, Nicole Frost of Frostyarn, Amanda from Classy Squid Fiber Co. and so many others that I have met over the years! I feel truly lucky to have such a great community surrounding me.

What Strauch product can you not live without? 

Easy: the Strauch Petite Drum Carder (shown below). It is my go-to for blending fibers together and creating new and interesting batts for spinning and felting. The ease and versatility of this drum carder is so amazing.

Strauch Petite Drum Carder

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

Click here to read more fiber artist profiles in our blog archive; if you liked this interview, let us know by sharing it with your friends on Facebook!

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