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.

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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.

fiber

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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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.

spindle

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.

black strip

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.

blended line

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.

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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.

white locks

Now, remove the batt from your drum carder:

finished batt

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.

vert-horiz

stacked

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.

dawn dishsoap

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.

 

rolled

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.

tea set

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!

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