Meet Our 2016 Spinzilla Sponsors–Strauch Fiber Equipment

We interviewed Otto Strauch from Strauch Fiber Equipment, one of our 2016 Bison Sponsors.

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Spinzilla: What is the focus of your shop/business?

Otto: Our focus is to educate folks in the wonderful world of fiber processing. We want to show them that it does not have to be an arduous chore, but rather enjoyable. Fiber prep is another way to stimulate one’s creativity. We do all this by making tools that are well designed, durable, and fun to use.


Spinzilla: What is your typical day like?

Otto: My day starts at 7AM. Orders are entered on the production board so that our staff knows what’s to be made and shipped. From 8-4 it’s busy, busy. Questions from workers are fielded, incoming parts shipments are processed, emails answered, and I still take some time to build carders. From 4-7PM, end of the day paperwork is finished and the production shops are made ready for the next day.

Spinzilla: What is your favorite part of the job?

Otto: Even though most of my time is running the business, I really love to spend time in the shop making and improving our equipment for the fiber enthusiast.

Spinzilla: That must be satisfying. Which of your products specifically help spinners produce more yardage and how?

Otto: That’s an easy one. It’s our world class drum carders! Drum carders are needed to produce batts or rovings in order to spin.  Folks have told us that because of the unique design of our carders, they can produce batts faster, smoother, and easier, allowing them to spin up more yarn in a given time.


Spinzilla: That is a great thing for Spinzilla spinners to remember! You also have a nice “helpful hints” section on your website. It’s one thing to have tools, and another thing to use them to their best advantage! What about your business would surprise our team hosts and spinners?

Otto: We are a very nimble company. We can respond quickly to customer’s special requests and get them exactly what they need for a specific job.

Spinzilla: What kinds of crafts or other activities do you enjoy personally?

Otto: Actually, my company is also my hobby. But, I do spend some time on non-business related wood working projects.

Spinzilla: What is your fiber background?

Otto: None! I was a manufacturing engineer in the corporate world. But, Joanne, also from the corporate environment, spun, knitted, and crocheted for relaxation.

Spinzilla: Many of our sponsors came to the fiber world after being in the corporate world. I guess the lesson is that if you like fiber, you might be able to try to make a living in a related business at some point. What was the first fiber item that ever caught your interest?

Otto: That’s easy, Cashmere.  We raised cashmere goats for over twenty years and Joanne is still spinning and blending that luxurious fiber. 

Spinzilla: Tell us why you are in the fiber business. How did you get started?

Otto: Fortunately, we were both able to retire at a very young age. To keep us active, Joanne pursued her love of fiber and I wanted to continue working with my hands. As the years went on, we attended more shows and festivals. Joanne saw a need for better equipment and first asked me to make a stronger swift for her yarn winding. We experienced rather rapid growth which led us to what is now Strauch Fiber Equipment Company.


Spinzilla: Why are you sponsoring Spinzilla?

Otto: It’s a great way to inspire the fiber community and to be able to answer their fiber processing needs.


Spinzilla: What is the most fiber fun you have had?

Otto: I love to interact with people at shows, and to see their looks of amazement when they experience for themselves how our carders blend fibers, and I like to see the beautiful batts they make.  Their enthusiasm is contagious.


Spinzilla: Well, so is yours! Thanks for the interview and for your generous support of Spinzilla, and keep up the good work making wonderful tools!

Find out more about Strauch Fiber Equipment on their website!



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Meet Our 2016 Spinzilla Sponsors–The Woolery

We interviewed Taevia Magee from The Woolery, our returning 2016 Yak Retail Sponsor.

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Spinzilla: What is the focus of your shop/business?

Taevia: Just about everything fiber arts related.  We sell supplies and equipment for weaving, spinning, felting, rug hooking, and more.  We have a strong focus on providing information for our customers about these crafts and the items we sell.  As a retailer of many different brands and products we have a unique perspective on the products we sell.  We also provide group classes and private lessons to help people learn about the different areas of Fiber Arts.  Our spinning class is particularly popular and always fills right up!

Spinzilla: What is your typical day like?

Taevia: Busy!  We start the day with pulling orders and answering customer emails.  When the shop officially opens the phones are a background noise all day.  Orders go out, new stuff comes in daily.  We oooh and ahh over color, fibers, yarn, and equipment on a regular basis.  It is rarely dull around here.   

Spinzilla: What is your favorite part of your job?

Taevia: I love talking to all of the people that work with fiber around the world.  It’s amazing just how far that reaches.  It’s perfectly normal to talk with a beginner spinner one call then the next call is with a movie producer that needs flax tow for their planned shoot the next day.  Variety is the spice of our life here.


Spinzilla: Which of your products specifically help spinners produce more yardage and how?

Taevia: Ooooo…  That’s a hard one.  There are many things that we sell that help people gain more yardage.  I’m going to pick well prepared fiber as the most important one.  We sell combed top and fluffy batts that are a dream to spin.  Our Potluck Roving has the best of both worlds.  It’s a dyed medium wool that is combed after dyeing so it never gets compacted, as can sometimes happen with prepared fiber that is then dyed.  It can be spun worsted or woolen and comes in a great array of color.  

Spinzilla: What about your business would surprise our team hosts and spinners?

Taevia: Just how many unusual applications there are of the products we sell.  We’ve sold weaving products for aerospace applications; body armor; shoe lacings; prototypes for large scale upholstery companies and high end textile companies; and for marbleizing paper. 

Spinzilla: What do you wish you knew starting out that you know now?

Taevia: Just how much fun this would be!  I would have jumped feet first into this a long time ago.

Spinzilla: What kinds of crafts or other activities do you enjoy personally?

Taevia: Personally I weave, rug hook, knit, and crochet.  I’m also an avid computer gamer.  In the shop we have employees that do all of the fiber arts we sell as well as tatting, quilting, cross stitch, embroidery, and sewing.  I’m not the only computer gamer, several of us are book worms, and we have one person who is building their own house.

Spinzilla: What is your fiber background?

Taevia: My Aunt got my started when I was young with crochet and cross stitch.  I think it was to keep me out of her hair when she was baby sitting me.  I wandered away from it as a teenager and then wandered back as an adult.  At the shop we have people of various backgrounds, but thanks to our intrepid spinning teacher. Nancy. only two people in the entire shop don’t spin yarn!  

Spinzilla: Wow, that’s great! What was the first fiber item that ever caught your interest?

Taevia: Yarn.  I loved the colors and how easy it was to make into things.  I would create worlds in my mind as a kid with yarn.  People made out of pompoms were a particular favorite.  (I was six, what can you expect?)


Spinzilla: Tell us about why you are in the fiber business? How did you get started?

Taevia: Personally I needed a change.  I had worked in corporate America for 16 years and I was ready to leave it.   The timing worked out perfectly for me to start working at The Woolery shortly after I left my prior job.  I moved to Frankfort and have never looked back.  Our employees come from various backgrounds, several very similar to mine.  We bring our experience of fiber arts, customer service, purchasing and other areas to The Woolery.  That vast array of skills makes The Woolery shine!

Spinzilla: Sounds familiar. Many folks in the fiber business are recovering from the corporate world. Why is the Woolery sponsoring Spinzilla?

Taevia: The Woolery sponsors Spinzilla because we believe in education.  The art and craft of working with fiber, yarn, and textiles brings joy to so many people.  It is such a versatile medium to work in and we want to make sure that it gets shared with as many people as possible. 

Spinzilla: What is the most fiber fun you have had?

Taevia: Working here at The Woolery is the most fun I’ve ever had.  I love conventions and retreats and fiber festivals very much.  Even those cannot touch the happiness that being able to work with fiber day in and day out brings me.  I get to see the enthusiasm of newcomers to this world and I get to learn from the experts on a daily basis.  It doesn’t get better than that!

Spinzilla: You’re right, it doesn’t get better! Thanks for doing the interview and for your continued generosity as a Spinzilla Yak level sponsor.

Find the Woolery on Ravelry, Facebook, and their website.


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Meet our 2016 Spinzilla Sponsors–Spin Off Magazine

We interviewed Ann Merrow, the editor of Spin Off Magazine, our Yak Media Sponsor for the third year in a row.

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Spinzilla: What is the focus of your business?

Ann: Spin-Off and Spinning Daily are all about teaching and delighting spinners at every level. We produce content in print, digital, video, and educational formats.

Spinzilla: What is your typical day like?

Ann: Like most of us, I bet, it involves a lot of email! Depending where we are in the magazine cycle, it could be editing articles, attending a photo shoot, writing a newsletter, deciding what videos we should make next, or coming up with ideas for all kinds of new projects.

Spinzilla: What about your business would surprise our team hosts and spinners?

Ann: You might be surprised to learn that Spin-Off is Interweave’s oldest magazine! It was “spun off” from Interweave magazine in 1977, so we’re looking forward to our 40th anniversary next year.

Spinzilla: What is your favorite part of your job?

Ann: So many to choose from, but I’d say getting to know the wonderful writers and spinners whose work fills our pages. (A close second: Having excuses to buy fiber and spin yarn!)

Spinzilla: Which of your products specifically help spinners produce more yardage and how?

Ann: In a way, everything we produce (from books to videos to free tutorials) helps spinners produce more yardage by building skills, but if I had to pick just one, I’d say Spinning to Knit Large Projects by Abby Franquemont. She teaches everything from ergonomics to setup to mindset, all in pursuit of making a lot of yarn in less time than you thought.

Spinzilla: Tell us about why you are in the fiber business? How did you get started?

Ann: This is the second or third time I’ve turned my hobby into my career! I loved to read, so I became an editor, and I learned to knit for fun. I started publishing knitting books, so I learned to spin for fun. Now I create spinning products… and, OK, I still spin (and knit) for fun.

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Spinzilla: What is your fiber background?

Ann: My parents learned to weave and spin in the 1970s and my Grandmother taught me to knit, but it was working in New York book publishing—in Times Square, helping edit bestselling novels—that set me on this path. My boss taught me to knit and it really stuck with me. At first I didn’t think I’d be a spinner, but the previous editor of Spin-Off offered me a beginning class she’d won and that was all it took.

Spinzilla: Who was the teacher of the beginning spinning class that you took?

Ann: Maggie Casey! I consider myself extremely lucky.

Spinzilla: What do you wish you knew starting out spinning that you know now?

Ann: It’s a marathon, not a sprint! Better to enjoy the process than race through just for the sake of being done. Also, fiber is voluminous, so it will take up more space than you expect.

Spinzilla: What other kinds of crafts or other activities do you enjoy personally?

Ann: I started in the fiber world as a knitter, and I also weave and occasionally crochet.

Spinzilla: What was the first fiber item that ever caught your interest?

Ann: Oh, I have no idea. I was very inspired by hand-dyed sock yarn, but by then I was already a knitter. And I still remember marveling at the plump, squishy handspun yarns that I’d see in the office.

Spinzilla: What is the most fiber fun you have had?

Ann: Aggressively finishing yarn. Depending on what you’re going for, beating the heck out of your yarn can be good for the yarn and the soul.  

Spinzilla: How much time to you give yourself to spin?

Ann: Depends! Sometimes it’s days at a time, sometimes it’s 15 minutes stolen somewhere. I tend to go for longer spins so I can get myself settled into a rhythm (and finish a TV show or audio book).


Ann spinning in her pjs. Photo by Jim George (her husband.)

Spinzilla: How many people from your office will personally spin during Spinzilla?

Ann: Hmm… I think 4? Maybe 5 if we can aspinnerate a new person! 🙂

Spinzilla: What is the best advice you can think of for brand new spinners?

Ann: There’s a bunch, but here’s my top 2: Practice for 10-15 minutes every day; your hands will learn as you sleep. And (I believe Rudy Amman said this): If you’re spinning on a wheel and you get into trouble… Stop treadling.

Spinzilla: What have you learned from some of the spinners whose work you feature?

Ann: Oh, I am so lucky in that respect, but here goes…

  1. There are a whole lot of opinions and different ways to accomplish what you want to in spinning, and as long as you’re getting the results you really want and not hurting yourself (or others!), you’re doing something right. (This comes from a lot of people, but it makes me think of Maggie Casey, who is as good a spinner as you’ll find and also the least judgmental spinner I’ve ever met.)
  2. If you spin the same thing every time, you’ll only be able to spin that thing. The best spinners practice and experiment and stretch themselves. (This comes from a lot of people, but I think of Sara Lamb and Sarah Anderson, both of whom are fearless about trying new things and find the process itself a pleasure.)
  3. The rules of physics that are at work in the world are at work in your yarn. (This from Judith MacKenzie.)

Spinzilla: Why are you sponsoring Spinzilla?

Ann: To be part of the fun, of course! It’s a great way to reach out to new spinners or new-to-us spinners and to challenge ourselves to dedicate time to making yarn.

Spinzilla: Is there anything else I forgot to ask you that you would like to highlight?

Ann: One of the joys and challenges of being a company with 40 years of spinning history is that we strive to have something for spinners who are brand-new to us and the craft as well as those who have been spinning for decades. Spinzilla really brings the whole range together. One member of our team is in her 80s and has been spinning for so many years, and others are in their first years. We try to be welcoming to one and all.

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Introducing our 2016 Spinzilla Sponsors

In our last post we talked about the Needle Arts Mentoring Program and the real meaning of Spinzilla. This time we want to talk about the businesses who make this all possible. Spinzilla has grown exponentially over the years, and we quite literally could not have kept it going without the generous support of our sponsors.

One of Spinzilla's goals is to spin enough yarn to go around the world. Every yard spun gets us closer to that goal!

One of Spinzilla’s goals is to spin enough yarn to go around the world. Every yard spun gets us closer to that goal!

Through the growth of Spinzilla we are able to serve more mentors to serve more kids and make a special place in their hearts for the needlearts. Our sponsor spots sold out quickly this year, with many companies pledging their support before the 2015 Spinzilla season ended.

Yak Sponsors–The yak is the largest animal in the Spinzilla stable and our 3 Yak sponsors have stepped up big to bring you this event.

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The Woolery returns for the 3rd year in a row as our retail Yak sponsor. They have so many tools and supplies, as well as a wealth of knowledge for how to use them.

Also, returning for its 3rd year, SpinOff is our major media Yak sponsor. Start your Spinzilla training right with some of their free downloadable tutorials!

And new for this year is Kromski North America. Kromski is a family business that started almost 100 years ago!

Bison Sponsors–Our next biggest sponsor animals are our Bison sponsors. These wholesale companies are all household names for fiber enthusiasts.

Ashford/Foxglove Fiberarts Supply

Ashland Bay

Louet North America (Last year’s winning team!)

Paradise Fibers

Strauch Fiber Equipment

We will be featuring our Yak and Bison Sponsors in our blog tour this year and watch our blog for an interview series with these companies.

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Merino Sponsors–Most fiber artists have heard of Merino and that is the name of our next level sponsors. If you haven’t heard of our sponsors Happy Fuzzy Yarn, Maine Top Mill, Manos, Sweet Georgia Yarns, Treenway Silks, and Unicorn Fibre, do yourself a favor and check them out!

All of the sponsors above will be offering Spinzilla specials to you, our spintastic spinners! Go check out our official Ravelry sponsor special thread to see what they are offering.

We also have many companies we call our Cotton Boll sponsors. They will be donating ten $25 gift certificate prizes to the prize pool. This is one of the things that keeps Spinzilla fun. For a complete and updated list of our sponsors, make sure to check out the sponsors page on our website.

A huge roar of thanks to all of our 2016 sponsors!

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Spinzilla Supports the Needle Arts Mentoring Program: This is What it’s All About

Whether you are gunning for the golden niddy noddy, reaching for personal spinning goals, or just want to do your part to ensure the vibrancy of handspinning in the future, we hope you will join us for Spinzilla this year. 

One of the main themes of Spinzilla is to try to spin more and spin better, but when you spin for Spinzilla, you are really part of something much bigger. Sure it is a competition, but it is also a collaboration, and a cooperative enabling of future spinning behavior. Spinzillians are helping to grow your next generation of spinners and weavers, through the fundraising we do for the Needle Arts Mentoring Program.

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This is what it is all about. Check out these happy kids.

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As of May 2016 there are  264 active needle arts mentoring programs. This means that volunteers are getting NAMP materials for free in order to introduce thousands of kids to the crafts of knitting, crochet, needlepoint, embroidery, cross-stitch, and now, thanks to the participation of thousands of folks in Spinzilla, spinning and weaving! Spinning and Weaving were added to NAMP at end of 2014. So far in 2016 we have seen an increase in both new programs as well as existing programs adding Spinning and Weaving. We have doubled the amount of children spinning (645)and tripled the amount of children weaving (915).

If you are in the fiber or spinning business these kids are the next generation of your customers. On behalf of the Spinzilla committee, this is what keeps us going all year!

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Team hosting sign ups are right around the corner. Please help us spread the word about Spinzilla 2016! Spin on!

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Getting ready for Spinzilla 2016

Team Woolery in 2015

Spinning along with Team Woolery in 2015. Photo courtesy of Knotanother1 on Ravelry.

Spinzilla isn’t asleep at the wheel. 🙂 We are treading as fast as we can, planning and working to get everything ready for Spinzilla year 4! YEAR FOUR!! The dates this year are Oct 3-9. The dates to register to host a team are June 21-Aug 19th. Spinner registration is Sept 1-30th. Please put that on your calendar and let’s make this year’s Spinzilla the most fun one yet!

In the meantime, here is a link to Kate Larson’s wonderful blog post on Finding Your Carding Bliss. This is great information that will help get you ready to process all that fiber you will need for Spinzilla and to do it safely. Take advantage of the last bit of chilly weather to start on the fiber you will need when spinning starts and the fiber is flying!
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