Monday, July 16, 2012

Sample, sample, sample....

There are a lot of excuses for not sampling when weaving:
  • a limited amount of yarn.
  • the yarn is very expensive, it takes too much time.
  • and my all time favorite:  "I just don't feel like sampling."
I've been weaving since 1980 and it took several very disappointing projects for the value of samples to really sink in.   Now I love to play with sampling, asking "what if..." questions throughout the process and playing with variables to create the best project that I can.

Here are three samples, or swatches, of the fish and waves draft from the previous post.
(Full disclosure:  the idea for this fabric was generated by this discussion on Ravelry and Bonnie Inouye's 10 harness draft.  Thanks Bonnie!)  
The warp is a combination of 8/2 and 16/2 unmercerized cotton in two shades of blue.  I chose these two yarns because my previous samples are in diversified plain weave, so I have this thing going on in my head about thick and thin threads.  Also, my weaving group is studying tied weaves so this sample was going to be Summer & Winter on 12 shafts and I thought it would be interesting to make the S&W warp tie down threads be the thin threads.  The pattern weft is a softly spun 3/2 unmerc. cotton in natural.  The tie down weft is the same 16/2 cotton that is in the warp.  And the final reason for these yarn choices: they are in my stash, no new yarn purchase necessary!

The first advantage of weaving a sample is the opportunity to establish the rhythm of the weave.  You can tie the treadles in whatever order is easiest for you to remember the foot work.  And when using more than one shuttle, the sample process provides an opportunity to establish your shuttle order to produce the best selvedges.

Also, when designing your own draft, it gives you a chance to check that design.  During the weaving process, I tweaked the tie-up for the wave pattern, decided I didn't care for the fish and waves facing up and down, and discovered a threading error (which several of you kindly referred to as "winking").  And since looking at the finished sample for awhile, I've decided that the fish would look better if they were a true half drop rather than offset they way they are in these samples and have adjusted the treadling accordingly.

The next advantage of the sample is to determine the correct sett and beat to get the fabric that you want.

In the photo above all of the samples have been washed, run through the dryer and pressed with a steam iron.  The sample on the left is the first sample, sett at 24 epi. which is what I often use for 8/2 cotton towels.  The hand of that fabric is very much like denim.  It would make a good tote bag or something of similar durability.  So, I decided to open up the sett to 20 epi.

The center sample is sett at 20 epi.  It has a little bit more drape, something like a sturdy kitchen towel.  I was looking for something with a bit more drape and softness.  So I opened up the sett again, this time to 16 epi. which is the sample on the right.  Notice the increase in the scale of the motif at this sett.  The hand of the fabric is much softer, letting the character of the softly spun pattern yarn to come through. 

Perhaps the following photo's will give an idea of the differences in drape, even though the first sample is pretty short compared to the other two you can still get an idea of the stiffness of the fabric:

24 epi

20 epi
16 epi

Since I'm thinking about using this draft for a baby blanket, the 16 epi sample best fits that use.  But I'm not done with that 16 epi sample yet.

Because of the more open sett, I'm concerned about wear on the softly spun pattern weft where it turns at the selvedge.  So I can use this sample to swatch various types of edge treatments.  Here is a quick sample of blanket stitch along the selvedge.  I will also try some crochet, perhaps  crab stitch, along the edge.  But I have plenty of edge available to try out various things.

When you have a generously sized, washed sample the shrinkage rate and finished size of pattern repeats become a known factor and you can use that information in calculations for the design.  And if you plan to sew with woven fabric, a generous sample allows you to swatch seaming techniques, closures such as button loops or holes, and other design elements.

So if you ask me about a sett for a yarn, I'll tell you to look at the Master Yarn Chart or the recommended sett published by the yarn vendor, but I will also encourage you to buy extra yarn and sample, sample, sample.


  1. I think you mean to say that the sample on the LEFT is set at 24 EPI...

    Thanks for such a detailed post! Now to try to adapt this to 8 shafts!

  2. I think you mean to say that the sample on the LEFT is set at 24 EPI...

    Thanks for such a detailed post! Now to try to adapt this to 8 shafts!

  3. Him if it's a blanket, I know swedish weavers quite often do a fabric binding. Protects the woven edges esp. where most the handling occurs and is easily replaced when worn. Just a thought. Great post on sampling!!!

  4. Thanks Diane, you're right. I corrected that.

  5. That was a great demonstration. I get your point and thanks for sharing.


tie in the loose ends...