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Why should I sample? – The answer in Black and White …..
Now, about those samples. How wide should one do them and how long? I am thinking in terms of wasted yarn – don’t get me wrong, I don’t consider sampling a waste but unlike knitting I can’t undo it and reuse the yarn. Since I’m not a professional I have to pay full price for the yarn and always feel a little concerned at all those metres I am using on a sample that I can’t then use on the actual item. With this yarn, which will be sett around 30/inch, even if I do a sample of only two inches that’s going to be about 100 metres threaded and woven. (I only have the louet spring; I don’t have a small loom for sampling) The problem is, I know what the answer is! You might as well put it in black and white though!
Sampling is never wasting yarn. It is necessary so you don’t waste yarn. There is nothing worse than weaving an entire project that could have been perfect if you had taken the time to sample. And….., how do you know which sett is perfect unless you have something to compare to. I make my samples on a floor loom, not a table loom. your loom loss at the front is the same as on a table loom and the loom loss on a Spring at the back end is barely anything. You still have to thread both of them and sley both of them.
I make samples large enough that I can really feel the hand of the cloth, so at least 12” x 12”. I weave one 50/50. Cut it off, wash it, and then resley a few ends more or less depending on which direction I need to go, weave it, wash it and then I have 2 things to compare. Sometimes I have to do a third to get it perfect. I do this in plain weave and twill. There is never ever just one sett for any yarn. it depends on the end purpose of the cloth. If you want super drapey, then your sett has to be more open, if you want upholstery then your sett needs to be closer.
Washing, wet finishing, controlled fulling (whatever you want to call it) stabilizes all cloth whether it is cotton or wool, but wool can be stabilized the most. you can achieve stability with extemely open setts because you can lock the structure in the finishing, hence you can get brilliantly soft open fabrics on wool with open setts. If you aren’t too fussy about the end width of the project you can just make the warp for the project 1 yd longer and do the sampling before you start. If you end up being an inch or so wider or narrower it won’t matter, but will save that loom loss at the end of the warp that you would have lost if you had sampled separately. This is not wasteful, you are gaining knowledge about sett, hand and drape. You are not wasting because you haven’t woven an entire scarf that is so hard and heavy that it could stand in the corner all by itself….that is wasting two things, yarn and your time. :^) There you have it in black and white.