Tried and True: Five Reasons Sampling Makes Sense

Why sample? It means using more warp and weft. And it means waiting longer to start to the “real” project. What do I gain from it, anyway? Is it a waste of resources and time?

I can’t imagine putting on a warp that didn’t have room up front for sampling. There’s more than one reason to put on sufficient warp to weave a sample. It makes perfect sense, especially if there is anything new or unfamiliar about your planned project.

Five Reasons to Add Extra Warp for Sampling

Drawloom
Sampling to test patterns, weft colors, and beat consistency, before starting on fabric for a garment.


1 Space to play. I want plenty of room to play, and to practice techniques that are new to me.
2 Room to try out designs. By weaving a portion of my designs, I am able to determine what works, and what adjustments need to be made.
3 Warp for testing weft colors. Only when woven can I see the full effect of each potential weft color.
4 Time to gain a consistent beat. When I start the main project, I want to have woven enough to be able to “feel” how firmly or softly I need to move the beater.
5 The best reason of all! It’s always good to have enough warp on the loom that you can invite friends and family to enjoy some weaving time. …Before your main project is in progress.

Drawloom
My weaving friend Betsy came over to see what it is like to weave on a drawloom.
Drawloom
My daughter Melody came for a visit and wanted to see what it was like to weave on a drawloom.
Drawloom, making garment fabric.
Garment fabric. This is to be used for two side panels of a vest I plan to make for myself.
Drawloom, making garment fabric.
This is to be the back panel of the vest.
Drawloom, making garment fabric.
This is the beginning of the front panels for the vest.

May you give yourself room to play.

Yours truly,
Karen

12 Comments

  • Joyce Lowder says:

    Lovely, Karen! Your advice is well taken! Also love seeing your friends checking out the draw loom. 🙂

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Sample, sample, sample. I love to sample. When I need a break from big projects I’ll dress the loom with a narrow warps and play with new-to-me drafts. Great advice!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, It’s rewarding to try out new things on samples. That’s where we get some of our best ideas for future projects.

      Happy Weaving,
      Karen

  • Charlotte says:

    It is lovely, visiting your Blog, today. There is a Casita gathering Feb. 12th on Lake Belton. If you and Steve could sign up, I think you would thoroughly enjoy it. We play games, at night. Have music (mostly guitars, ukuleles), enjoy potlucks. I usually spend a few minutes with Sarah in her Saori studio and then…we piddle. I can send you more information, if you think you might be free.

  • Nannette says:

    Good morning Karen,
    I’ve done samples in others textiles, but never considered samples in weaving. Must do. It would have been one less garage rug when weaving overshot.

    Thank you for your wisdom.

    Nannette

  • Vivian says:

    Ha ha ha! What a novel idea. What a delight that you invite friends and fa,ily to try your loom.

  • Gail Pietrzyk says:

    A sample also gives you an opportunity to test finishing methods–especially if you are using some unlabeled mystery yarns.

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Pictorial Tapestry Weaving

Inspired by some of Joanne Hall’s exquisite large tapestries, I have been taking steps to learn her techniques. This fascinating style that is unique to Joanne enables her to weave large tapestries at a comfortable pace. My Lizard tapestry last year was a step in this direction. (See Quiet Friday: Lizard Tapestry.) One thing that the lizard taught me is how much more I need to learn. So, you can imagine my delight in having the opportunity to take a Pictorial Tapestry Weaving workshop taught by Joanne Hall last week! (Contemporary Handweavers of Texas Conference in Fort Worth was the setting.)

Texas Wildflowers, tapestry by Joanne Hall.
Texas Wildflowers, tapestry by Joanne Hall. Photo credit: Steve Isenhower 2013
Detail of Texas Wildflowers, tapestry by Joanne Hall.
Detail of Texas Wildflowers. Threaded in rosepath, with a linen warp. Woven with butterfly bundles of wool yarn. Photo credit: Steve Isenhower 2013

Things to remember: Don’t beat hard. Bubble the weft more. Color theory is invaluable for adding depth and intensity. Simplify the cartoon. And countless more bits of insight and instruction! I am invigorated in my pursuit to develop these tapestry skills. Expect to see a tapestry on my 120cm Glimåkra Standard in coming days.

Workshop looms.
My hand-built countermarch loom is perfect for a tapestry workshop. Betsy brought her Glimåkra Julia loom.
Tapestry sampler in Joanne Hall's workshop.
Workshop sampler gives students various tapestry techniques to practice. We learned techniques of other tapestry weavers, such as Hans Krondahl and Helena Hernmarck, as well as Joanne’s unique approach.
Tapestry workshop with Joanne Hall.
Fellow student Cindy created this pear, taking advantage of the rosepath threading to add pattern to the image.
Joanne Hall's tapestry workshop.
Joanne, center, explains the process of creating a cartoon. She spreads out photos of flowers as a starting point for students’ cartoons.
Joanne Hall's tapestry sample.
Joanne’s tapestry sample demonstrates the outcome of her process. A portion of the photo was enlarged from which she drew the cartoon.
Tapestry workshop.
Fellow student Deborah creates a flower from her original cartoon.
Making a tapestry cartoon.
I am choosing to make my cartoon from an enlarged portion of a lily photo.
Weaving from a cartoon in tapestry workshop.
Color studies and technique exercises all come together in the last part of the tapestry sampler. Weaving from a cartoon.
Tapestry progress.
Time to take the loom apart and head home. Checking my progress with the photo before packing up.
Lily sample from tapestry workshop with Joanne Hall.
Lily sample is finished at home.

I find myself pondering how experiences fall into place in our lives. There are times when the stepping stones seem to be set out before us, showing the way, when we don’t know exactly where we are going. The Lord knows where I am going. He knows me. And he kindly sets out the next steps. Perhaps he smiles as he sees our delight when we figure out that we are the bundles of yarn in his tapestry.

May your joy in learning never cease.

Happy Weaving,
Karen

21 Comments

  • Petrina says:

    Thank you for sharing this. It is so interesting.

  • Beth Mullins says:

    Beautiful! Looking forward to seeing your progress. I don’t have the patience for tapestry.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Beth, You might be surprised. In some ways it is similar to the inlay I’ve seen you do, but on a larger scale.

      In any case, I’m pleased that there are so many directions we can go with yarn and threads and a loom.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Annie says:

    Wow! Karen, you are always doing something amazing! Thank you for sharing the workshop since I was unable to attend any this year.

    I am curious as to how you were able to bring your loom. It doesn’t look very portable.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, The whole conference was a great experience. Maybe you will be able to attend next time, 2021 in San Antonio.

      These Swedish looms are easy to take apart and put back together. Think of it as large Lincoln Logs. The side gables are the biggest pieces. The rest —beams, crossbars, treadles, lamms— all fit into two large duffel bags. The gables and the duffel bags fit in the back seat of our Toyota Tacoma.

      Karen

  • Charlotte says:

    Oh my darling Karen! It is wonderful, reading your blog, this morning. En route to the Navajo Nation, our vehicle died in Albuquerque. What a story I have to share…His goodness to us…to place His people in our path…each one learning of us and needing prayer for themselves and their families. What a miraculous day He had planned.
    Thank you for being YOU! Thank you for taking such grand pictures from our workshop with Joanne. It passed by us all too quickly.

  • Betsy says:

    So fun to re-live the class through your pictures! Love your lily, that came out very well. I still haven’t put the Julia back together, I want to give it new dowels, so a trip to Lowe’s is on the list.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Betsy, I’m so glad my CM loom had a sister in the room! It was fun to get to weave side-by-side with you.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Vivian says:

    It is so uplifting to learn from your heroes. It is a well of kindness that keeps on giving. Thank you for sharing. I appreciate the breakdown of technique and you were able to make tapestry seem just a little more approachable.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Vivian, “Hero” is a good word to describe Joanne. We are fortunate that she is so willing to share her expertise.

      If tapestry weaving seems more approachable, then I’ve accomplished one of my goals. Thanks!

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Joanna says:

    Hi Karen, thanks for another great post. Joanne’s wildflower tapestry is a marvel. I’m wondering where she managed to find so many colors in what appears to be the same weight of yarn. Was it perhaps woven in the era of the famous Paternayan yarns (gone now and sadly missed)?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Joanna, That’s a great question about the yarn. If Joanne sees this maybe she will leave a comment.

      In the workshop we used mostly 6/2 Tuna wool and 6/1 Fårö wool. We made butterflies with the equivalent of 4 strands of Tuna wool. Using several strands together introduces great ability for variety of color and shading.

      I agree that Joanne’s tapestries are marvels.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

      • Joanna says:

        Back in the day I did a lot of needlepoint using Paternayan Persian wool yarn. The yarn came as 3 strands of 2-ply yarn and that put-up, combined with an incredible color range, enabled the stitcher to create the exact shade needed. It spoiled me. Do you know the date of JH’s wildflower tapestry?

        • Karen says:

          Joanna, I’m sure your needlepoint images were spectacular!

          Joanne Hall’s Texas Wildflowers tapestry was installed the summer of 1995.

          Karen

    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Joanna,
      As Karen said, we used 2 ply Swedish wools, Tuna, 109 colors available from Glimakra. We can extend the color choices by also using the Faro yarn,an additional 74 colors, using two strands as one. I did some dyeing for the Texas Wildflowers tapestry, as it is hard to get clear pastel colors.
      Joanne

  • Amazing. Beautiful.
    Right place. Right time. The rose path warp on my loom is exceeding my filler on some rag rugs. This technique has inspired me to weave the last rug as a tapestry in a simple design from stringers of red currants.
    Always an inspiration. Always a blessing.
    Thank you.
    Nannette

    • Karen says:

      Hi Nannette, I would love to do some tapestry rag rugs at some point. I was thinking about that earlier this morning. Good for you!

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Cindy says:

    What a treat to open your blog for the first time since I signed up and see my little pear! I had so much to learn and Joanne stuffed as much as she could into my sponge of a brain. Not sure where it will lead, but such an intriguing path!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cindy, Your pear deserved to be seen! It’s good to go as sponges. It will be interesting to see where all this leads!

      All the best,
      Karen

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Weaving Plans on Paper

I doubt myself when I start weaving something. But it’s a good time to question everything. The first twenty centimeters are designated for sampling. Is this the right sett? How is the weft density? What treadling order will I use? Which weft color(s) works best?

Trying out some treadling patterns.

Trying out some treadling patterns for this cotton throw. Undulating twill is planned.

It helps to see it on the loom. I plan on paper, and get excited when I see a ready warp on the warp beam. But nothing is settled until I’ve passed the sampling tests. The plan on paper is what I think I want. And then, unanticipated adjustments and changes are necessary at the loom. In the end, I expect the actual weaving to be better than my original plan.

Sampling before weaving a cotton throw.

More sampling of treadling patterns.

Testing weft colors for undulating twill cotton throw.

Testing weft colors.

When we think we must have what we planned, we give up a better way. We lose our way when we insist on having our way. Jesus came to us as an infant (the Christmas message), leaving his rightful heavenly position. To follow Jesus is to deny myself like he did. Some of the testing means telling myself no. In return, I gain the life I could not see on my paper plan.

May you give up some of your favorite plans.

With Advent thoughts,
Karen

14 Comments

  • Joyce Lowder says:

    Beautifully said, Karen! Too often, I don’t want to deny myself, but when I follow Him, I am at peace, as I know He wishes, all the time. So there is much joy in giving up my plans. Thanks for sharing and reminding me. Thankfully, we have Him to follow, every day! His love is not measured by our standards, and it is everlasting! Merry Christmas to you and yours! 🙂

  • Anneloes says:

    Beautiful! Both the sample, as well as your message of encouragement. I hope to get better at letting go of my ‘paper plans’ in life.

  • Beautiful work, may God’s blessing be upon you this Christmas

  • Ruth says:

    Life is what happens while we are making plans is a favorite saying of a dear friend. Your reflections on paper plans and letting go to follow Christ’s example coincide with that statement and remind me to follow Christ’s path and not my own. Blessings to you and yours as we follow the light of Christ during the coming year.

    • Karen says:

      Ruth, Your friend’s saying rings true with me. How much better to willingly let go of how we thought things should be, than to hold tightly to our ‘paper plans’ and miss the joys of living life to the fullest. What a relief that we have Christ to follow!

      Blessings to you,
      Karen

  • Beautiful weaving. Beautiful thoughts.

    Merry Christmas from the great white north.

    Nannette

  • Alison says:

    Thank yo Karen for sharing. I would have liked to have seen what your paper plans look like also, as they are part of the process. Your message is just what I needed.

    Alison

    • Karen says:

      Hi Alison, I don’t think I have done a post on project planning. I’ll have to do that! My paper plans hold the calculations, yarns, draft, and other details. I always have that piece of paper close at hand as I dress the loom and weave.

      I’m glad to hear that you gained something from today’s words.

      All the best,
      Karen

  • Linda says:

    Your reflections are such a blessing.
    Thank you and may God continue to bless you.

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Testing Color Surprises with My Little Helper

Twelve shafts and twelve treadles are all tied up. I found and fixed one threading error. And I am still making some adjustments on the tie-ups to get clean sheds. But for the most part, the Standard is ready to go! I have a week with this loom, to weave towels for my daughter. This colorful double weave looks promising.

My helper peers up at me as I tie on the warp.

My helper this week peers up at me as I begin to tie on the warp.

Dressing the countermarch loom.

Lower lamms and upper lamms are connected to the shafts before tying up the treadles.

Glimakra Standard with twelve-shaft double weave.

Arrangement of the heddles on the shafts give a clue to the three blocks in this twelve-shaft double weave.

Weaving with my granddaughter at my side.

Testing weft colors and patterns with granddaughter Lucia by my side.

Helper for managing the shuttles at the loom. :)

Two-year-old Lucia helps manage the shuttles.

Double-weave towels on twelve shafts. Beginning sample.

Design decisions for the towels will be made based on this beginning sample.
It’s surprising to see the array of colors produced by only four shades of cottolin thread.

When the loom is properly dressed and prepared, the weaving is delightful. Every pick of color is a pleasant surprise. Our Father knows our needs. He is the loom dresser. Everything is set up for the threads to make gorgeous cloth. Do we think prayer is all about asking God our Father for things? Yes, he does invite us to ask for the things we need. But let’s start with admiring his ways and works, with a heart of gratitude. Then, with the threads he puts in our hands, the future looks promising!

May your looms be ready for weaving.

Happy weaving,
Karen

12 Comments

  • When God blesses us with variables your loom demonstrates I believe He not only wants to meet our needs but wants to bring joy to our souls. Some people weave tabby with their lives. Some people live their lives weaving lizards while exploring the subtle variations in the process. I believe God wants us to explore and enjoy all the good He has to offer and dresses our individual looms to do that..

    Yesterday our second grandchild arrived. He is as perfect as his older sister. A day such as that makes it easy to forget all the threads that had to be re-sleighed along the way.

    Blessings to all

  • Laura says:

    Love the pattern and colors….

  • Lynette Glass says:

    Can I weave something similar with four shafts? Do you have any four shaft doubleweave pattern ideas or books that you know about? I like your colors very much!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lynette, You can certainly do double weave on four shafts. I don’t personally have much information on the topic, though. I do know that Jennifer Moore is known for her work in double weave and has a book and video about it, as well as workshops that she teaches.

      I chose colors that were not in my usual palette, and I’m pleasantly surprised at how much I like them.
      Happy weaving,
      Karen

  • Susie redman says:

    This looks stunning – the colours are so complementary. Are you managing this double weave on only one back beam?
    Susie

    • Karen says:

      Hi Susie, I have only one back beam, and I don’t know the first thing about weaving with a second back beam. Is double weave like this something for which a second back beam is useful?

      Thanks!
      Karen

      • Susie says:

        Hi Karen,
        I have only experienced double weave on a table loom and it was fitted with a second beam – one for each layer. My own loom is a Glimakra Standard too and I’m heartened to see that you can achieve double weave with one back beam. I had thought that it would be out of the question.
        Many thanks,
        Susie

  • Rebecca Neef says:

    This is so beautiful and inspiring. What an adorable helper you have! I have a Glimakra Standard also, a 120cm model. Mine only came (used) with 8 shafts, although it has 12 treadles. Is yours a special model made for 12 shafts, or did you do anything special to accommodate the extra shafts? I’d sure love to be able to do some 12 shaft weaves on mine! Thanks.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Rebecca, I was surprised that my little helper would sit there as long as she did. There was a lot to keep her attention, I guess.

      My loom (120cm) also came with 8 shafts. I wrote to Glimåkra USA and told them I wanted to upgrade to 12 shafts and they listed all the parts I would need to do that, and then I ordered the parts.

      I don’t expect that I’ll use 12 shafts very often, but it’s nice to have them for a few special projects.

      Happy weaving,
      Karen

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Glorious Weft Leftovers

I didn’t know it could look like this. The pleasant color interaction is astounding! Had I known, I may have woven the whole throw in this manner. This is the end of the warp, after 16 centimeters for the sample, 166 centimeters for the throw, and 50 centimeters for the lap blanket.

Double weave throw on the loom.

For the lap blanket I am spacing the blocks differently than for the throw. The deep plum weft has narrow and wider stripes that separate the squares into groups of three.

An ending sample is a perfect opportunity to use up weft left on the quills, and even some quills of 8/2 cotton left over from other projects. When the dark plum quill empties, others colors take its place. I put the colors one right after the other, without the dark plum separating them into squares. The fabric image that appears in front of me is mesmerizing!

Double weave sample on the loom. May be my favorite sample yet!

Softer color transitions are made by eliminating the deep plum weft stripes between colors.

Double weave sample. Karen Isenhower

Cutting off! Double weave in 8/2 cotton.

Back of fabric highlights the warp stripes, with deep plum squares. Now, for the finishing work!

Image. What we do with what we know contributes to the image of who we are. When we trust in Christ, who is the image of the invisible God, our image is renovated. We are renewed in our knowledge, aligning our image with God. What a magnificent thought! How differently we might live if we only knew how glorious the outcome will be. The Grand Weaver turns our leftover weft into his astounding masterpiece.

May you find glorious surprises in your leftover threads.

Happy weaving,
Karen

8 Comments

  • Rachel Lohman says:

    The joy of color is like being a little kid and opening your first big box of Crayons and seeing all the lovely colors – breathtaking! Thank you for that memory! Love your pieces – love your God references! Have a joyful day as you began mine!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Rachel, Yes, it is very much like that cherished box of crayons! Color seems to be an outward expression of joy.

      Thanks for your uplifting words!
      Karen

  • Karen, my first thought when seeing your final photos was that of crayons. We may be happy with the box of 24, but God gives us so many more colors if we open ourselves to Him. Your Weaving is lovely.

    Would you mind if I use part of your ending message to send to a friend soon undergoing cancer surgery to her jaw? You have such a great way with words.
    Jenny

    • Karen says:

      Jenny, Your thought about opening ourselves up to God’s abundant colors, instead of thinking our 24 is all there is, really gave me something to think about. Thank you!!

      I am honored any time you find something here you would like to share. Please do!

      Touched,
      Karen

  • 5 colors. So many variations. God is good.
    Nannette

  • Annie says:

    Quite an astounding difference! I, also, thought immediately of crayons and love what Jenny said about it. Perhaps this will be the pattern for future throws?

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge, your loom and your hospitality with me, Karen. Unfortunately, I will not be able to come for the dressing of the loom this morning.

    I hope you have a blessed day, Karen.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Annie, Interesting that several thought of crayons. I love that! Yes, I am going to keep this in mind for future throws, towels, scarves, and what-have-you.

      We’ll miss you this morning.

      Thanks!
      Karen

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