Monday, October 11, 2010

"Sample" Is Not a 4 Letter Word

Colour gamp in saturated colours, twill and plain weave

Colour gamp in 'neutrals', plain weave

So many weavers comment that they hate making samples, or they don't have enough yarn/time to make a sample.

In my universe samples are how I learn. They are equivalent to a potter firing hundreds of chips to test their glazes, a musician doing scales, a dancer spending hours at the barre, an athlete in training.

Samples can be done in several different ways. When I get a new-to-me yarn, especially a wool or other protein fibre that will full, I wind a 3 yard long warp choosing a set that seems appropriate for plain weave and weave about 12 inches. I may then switch to twill and weave some more. That gets cut off and wet finished. Then I'll re-sley, tighter or looser, depending on the results of the wet finishing and do it all over again. I may do this several times adjusting the epi/ppi and weave structure to see what happens when....

Handwoven published an article I did using Harrisville 2 ply showing the various samples I wove to learn the potential of the yarn. Jan/Feb 2009.

Other yarns I may wind a 3 yard warp and weave 6 inches to see how it looks and if I'm satisfied with what I'm seeing in terms of set/weave structure/weft colour may then go on to weave a scarf.

If I'm very confident that I know what I'm doing I may go ahead and put on a longer warp and weave a header to 'prove' the concept.

During the weaving of the header I am also checking for errors - threading/sleying - and to make sure my weave structure and weft are suitable.

Weaving - like other technologies such as pottery, metalsmithing, woodturning - rely on a set of physical skills and knowledge of the materials used.

Weaving samples is how a weaver gains an understanding of their materials. Purposeful study of what they have achieved and how to change the materials or processes in order to get the desired results is never a bad thing.

After a guild presentation I did a few years ago where I talked about weaving 23 scarves before I got the result I wanted, a friend confided to me an overheard remark --- "That Laura Fry weaves way too many samples!"

Laura Fry thinks that she doesn't weave enough samples.....

Currently reading I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett


Kerstin på Spinnhuset said...

Beauty is to have 23 (slightly) different scarves to offer to the beautifully diverse public out there - and then one perfect to keep!


Sandra Rude said...

Hey, I thought scarves WERE samples! Was I wrong? (Don't think so...)

That means everything I weave is a sample, which isn't a bad thing at all. Out of any given warp, there are scarves I love, and scarves I'm not so crazy about. But somebody will love one of them enough to take it home :-)

Laura said...

Scarves can be samples. Remember my 23? :D

I don't have to *love* every scarf I make. Someone else will hopefully love them enough to take home - either as a purchase or when I donate to a worthy cause.


Sharon Schulze said...

I met a weaver yesterday who weaves with strips of cloth in both warp and weft. She dyes the cloth and then does kind of a shibori/ikat thing. The work is just gorgeous, kind of like abstract paintings. She showed me a sample she had done where she had progressively changed the width of the cloth strips in the weft as well as the set in the reed. Each sample was about 10"x10" or so and it was soooooo interesting to see all those samples lined up! She had a little card that listed the details for each sample (set, strip width, I think something else I can't remember) and it looked like something that would actually be practical and useful for her kind of weaving. She had similar charts for takeup/shrinkage but she said that was more about getting the feel for how fabric would behave in her weaving. The samples with the strip/set combinations, though... she could think about the kind of effect she wanted and then pick the right set. It was very, very cool.

And the best thing is she will be presenting to our guild this month so I get to hear even more about it!

:-) Sharon

amyfibre said...

Thanks, Laura. This was really, really helpful. I'm a weaver that tends to avoid samples like the plague....instead weaving "full size samples" in the form of dish towels or scarves. But I think that a good chunk of my resistance to true sampling is that I have never been able to imagine an approach to sampling that was both meaningful and also reasonably limited. When I think of sampling, I get lost in the enormous universe of possibilities to sample, ie. all structures at all setts...which is clearly not practical. So I don't sample. Your approach to new fibers is both reasonable and useful. You may have converted me!