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Sally Orgren on Sampling

Photo courtesy of Sally Orgren. From left to right; the 1st row contains 4 needle woven samples to determine color choice; the 2nd and 3rd rows contain small samples all woven on the same white (inexpensive) warp to figure out structure considerations, and the top sample in row 3 used Sharpies® to simulate the planned warp colors; the 4th row shows the actual project warp with final weft sampling, and a section of the wet-finished fabric is overlaid on top of the larger piece.

On January 30, 2016 Peggy Hart talked about the importance of sampling at the New York Guild of Handweavers monthly meeting. She touched upon some of the “whys” of sampling, which sparked a post-meeting conversation between Tina Bliss and Sally Orgren. Listed below are some of the ideas that were shared in that conversation.

Bottom Line. 

  • Software is great, but as we heard from Peggy, it can’t tell the whole story about color interaction, interlacements that shift when taken off the loom, the finished hand of the textile, or take-up & shrinkage as it relates to specific fiber choice and chosen sett.

  • Sampling always produces a better textile than what I would have produced without sampling.

  • Sampling provides “data” for future work, increases my efficiency in project planning and reduces my failure rate, which all lead to a more confident and enjoyable weaving experience.


ONE: A Simple Sample:

  1. Needle-weave a sample on a narrow piece of cardboard. Wind a 1-2" warp around a 1.5-2" piece of stiff cardboard, and use a tapestry needle to insert the weft.

  2. Use a simple 2/2 twill in your needle weaving to represent floats if the actual treadling is too complicated to reproduce.

  • This small sample will give you an idea of the color interaction, interlacement, e.p.i. and p.p.i. for a minimal investment of your time and materials.

  • You can measure and then wet-finish the sample to determine a general sense of the shrinkage rate and hand of the textile.

  • Consider this method if you have very little material to spare, but keep in mind it also provides very limited information.

TWO: A Small Sample:

  1. Use a loom with the smallest amount of loom waste (especially if you have limited materials).

  2. Wind a warp 1-1.5 yards long, between 4-8" wide.

  3. Think about the “what ifs” before weaving. Alternate wefts? Alternate warp colors? (Can the warp be changed with a Sharpie® or fabric paint to articulate your emerging ideas?)

  4. Take a digital photo and view it on a larger screen. Changing perspective from the loom bench helps.

  5. Don’t rush sampling. Allow some time to weave one, then respond to the textile before weaving a second. (I usually sleep on it!)

  6. Feel free to rethread or resley if a better idea comes to you. A sample is not very wide, so it won’t take long!

  7. Measure the sample and wet-finish, recording your data.

  • This method will produce far more useable information than Method 1, for a slightly greater investment of your time.

  • When using a small table loom to sample, keep in mind the sett may need to be adjusted when the project is taken to a floor loom, as the beating is different between loom types.

  • Note: Rigid Heddle looms will not give as accurate information as a shaft loom, unless you are planning to complete the project on a RH loom.

THREE: The Most Accurate Sample:

  1. Wind a full-width warp, or add 1-1.5 yards to the project for sampling.

  2. Follow the same advice as for Method 2: consider the “what ifs”, take digital photos, don’t rush the process, rethread or resley if needed.

  3. For wet-finishing: if sampling on a wider warp, wash half of the sample and not the other, producing two "data points" for future projects.

  • The advantage of this method is that you will get the most accurate information for the loom and width (e.p.i., p.p.i., sett, take-up, and shrinkage), plus the hand of the textile.

  • The disadvantage is that this method takes more time to set-up if the project is wide, and will require more material to complete.

Sometimes I use a combination of all three methods:

If I am unfamiliar with the yarns, I may needle weave a sample. I always make a small sample on one of my table looms, and sometimes, I’ll add a little bit of warp to the beginning of the project to sample further.

What if I don’t want to waste my time or materials on sampling?

These samples and “what if” warps are never wasted!

Fabric that isn’t saved in my design notebooks becomes small items such as eyeglass cases, button covers, pin-cushions, sachets, notebook covers, wallets and purses, etc., for guild sales and goodie bags.

Two neckties were produced from this design process. One was entered into an exhibition called “cARTalog”, which challenged artists to produce artwork using discarded catalog cards from the University of Iowa libraries. Photo courtesy of Maury Logue.


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