This is why I do it

I’ve talked a lot about sampling in the past – why it’s important, what you can learn, and even how to go about it.  That said, it’s nice when I’m able to prove to myself (and maybe the rest of you!) why it’s important.  I’m also feeling pretty darned good about my pack-rat tendencies right now.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a sewing pattern for a coat by Closet Case Patterns over in Montreal called “Clare“.  It’s a fantastic coat with two versions – one is a classic double-breasted and the other has a zipper running down the raglan seam line.  As soon as I saw it I knew I wanted to make one out of handwoven fabric; but, I’m still deep into my “use what I have phase” so that meant no new yarn.  Mentally tossing my stash reminded me of a set of color gamp samples I did for Sara Lamb‘s article in the May/June 2013 issue of Handwoven.  I used an 8/2(ish) BFL yarn, dyed a variety of colors and then wove a gamp in both twill and plain weave.  Perfect!  Let’s have a look:

Here they are in all their glory.  With an incredible stroke of foresight, I even saved a sample of the unwashed pieces – and a good thing, too, because I neglected to write down sett or dimensional information for either of them.  This is where we get to the “pack-rat” part of the story.

Confession Time:  I really don’t have a solid, fool-proof system of recording all the stuff I’ve done.  I try lots of things but nothing really sticks.  So, I compensate by being very careful about throwing away scraps of paper, nearly-used-up notebooks or even deleting old emails.  That last bit is what saved me, because the sample fabrics alone can’t tell me what I did; either from a dyeing or a weaving standpoint.  I partially solved the first one by digging through all my old notebooks (that gave me the basic dye formulas) and then  I found an old email discussing the article in which I stated the dye proportions along with the sett for the twill piece.  That, plus some good old-fashioned detective work on the fabrics themselves got me to where I was pretty sure I knew what I’d done.  Whew!  NB: I’ve now written dimensional stuff on the tags so I won’t have to worry about THAT again.

Next step was taking a good hard look (and feel!) at those pieces and deciding what I liked and didn’t like about them.  The color isn’t hugely important; my cones are all white and I’d planned on dyeing them anyway, but the relationship of the colors to each other, the way the fabric felt, how thick it was and how much it changed in size as part of the finishing process would all be important when I started working on the final fabric.  I liked the twill fabric much better than the plain weave – it felt better and it draped better but it’s just a bit thicker than I want.  Awesome!  Now I have a starting point for the sampling that I want to do – I’ll start at a slightly looser set, finish the fabric and then compare the two.  And, since I’m putting on a 3ish yard warp, I can make a good decision about another sett to sample. What’s not to love?

I’m going to gloss-over the “design” section for now (yup, that’ll be my next post and probably what I work on while on the airplane tomorrow) because it really was quite a round-about way of getting to what I’m currently planning.  What I will say now is that my current plan is nothing at ALL like my original plan (just wait) and a good thing, too.  Because now I can use all my leftover yarn bits from that sample above.  So, this morning I started with this:

which became this:

on it’s way to becoming this:

This is where I’m going to leave this post for today, but before I do, let me take a moment to be clear about what I’m trying to get out of this particular sample:

  1. See how this particular yarn works with the structure I’m weaving.
  2. See how I like the feel of the finished fabric at at least two setts.
  3. Get a basic sense of proportion for the color pattern in the fabric to decide whether or not it’s appropriate for the garment.
  4. Use this to start thinking about colors – more from a value than a hue standpoint.
  5. Confirm the dimensions of the pieces on the loom, off the loom and after finishing so that I can make sure I not only have enough yarn, but also that I dye the right amount of each color.

See?  That’s A LOT of stuff that I’m going to get out of this little sample – and that’s without even dyeing a single inch of yarn.  Oh, and I’ve already learned something that I figured out last time but had since forgotten – this yarn sheds like the dickens.  So, when I dye it, I’ll also size it.  Because when all this pre-work is done, I’d like the weaving to be a pleasant experience.

Ok, I gotta go and thread the loom.  Because I’m not home tomorrow, or Thursday (DAMMIT!) and I’d really like to get going on this fabric!  Happy sampling, y’all!

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