Inside the four neat-as-a-pin workshops in Virginia folks are at work creating quality, we-stand-behind-them tools and equipment for fiber aficionados around the world. Welcome to Strauch Fiber Equipment Company.
Four employees, Adam Gentry, Lawre O’Leary, Liz Ackermann, and Carol Huffman, (Carol’s two teenage sons, Victor and Austin, and daughter, Taylor, also pitch in after school) along with Otto and Joanne Strauch, owners, blend their skills and passions (and more than a dose of humor) to make carders, swifts and winders for fiber processing artisans.
So just how did an idea grow into a made-in-the-U.S.A. business with a worldwide reputation for quality and customer service? Joanne will tell you that it all started with a neighbor’s lonely horse.
“We decided to get a goat to keep that horse company – and then we just fell in love with goats.” As one thing leads to the next, the Strauches soon found themselves with a herd of cashmere goats, plus chickens, rabbits and cats. Joanne learned to spin and was using fiber equipment from various sources. Otto, an engineer by profession, would scrutinize how each tool or machine could be made to work more efficiently.
In 1991, they began making hand-crafted floor swifts and skeinwinders. “We knew a gentleman who made the carders I used and learned that he was looking to retire. Otto went to see the shop and we bought it. That was 12 years ago,” recalls Joanne Strauch from her office, where she will describe herself as accountant – but she is so much more – a spinner, a knitter, and teller of tales.
While living in New Jersey, they began looking for more elbow room, and found near-paradise in southwestern Virginia, ample land for their critters with a gentle creek and scenic mountain views. Nowadays, only two cats remain from the herd and flock they once cared for – and business is good. “We love what we do and love talking with other people in the fiber industry,” said Joanne. “They are down-to-earth and friendly, with some pretty big farms and businesses in the mix. Dealers find us – even from overseas. Otto loves the sales and production. He is our customer service guru.”
Folks know that Strauch Fiber products are a “one-time purchase” – a product that will last a lifetime. “I don’t believe in ‘planned obsolescence,’” notes Otto.
Editor’s Note: Keep an eye on this company for more innovations because at Strauch’s, they don’t just make fiber tools, they use them, too. Of particular interest is the interactive illustration of their drum carder. Listings include fiber festivals they attend, a lively forum, and new products such as a rotation counter, a collaboration with TwiddleWorks. Correction: Elizabeth Ackermann, weaver, writes the “Tea Shanty” blog, filled with inspiration, color, fiber, and tapestry-weaving, linked here. The Strauch blog is “The Wool Goes Round.” One of their helpful YouTube how-to videos is shown below.