How to Plan a Project: Sett Samples

Once upon a time I had a professor at college who pushed making samples so much that it drove me up the wall. I developed a diversion to producing samples for anything and just jumping right in and solving issues in the final project as I worked.

Now that I have had time to work on my own without supervised direction I have realized the importance of samples. Samples were especially helpful with this current project that I am working on. The series of blankets that are on my large loom were sett correctly for the size of yarn. The were not sett however to accommodate the halo of fiber on the single spun fiber. Because of this, as I had mentioned in my previous post, every time I tried to change a shed a line of felted fiber would form.

Before I started fussing with the massive amount of warp on my loom, I set up my little loom with four yards of warp to create 10″ by 10″ samples. I would weave ten inches, cut the sample off the loom, re-sley at a progressively more open sett, weave another sample and so on. I gave myself a bracket of densities based off of the knowledge that I had.

Sample of the herringbone weave set at 18 ends per inch on my small loom.
Sample of the herringbone weave set at 18 ends per inch on my small loom.

Based off of this information I create samples that start at 18 ends per inch down to 12 ends per inch. Opening up the warp by two threads per inch.

By making the samples at the size I did, I can feel the drape and density of the finished fabric and really visualize how the pattern is going to look over the body of the cloth. The samples also allow me to gauge the angle of the twill and wether the sett will be appropriate for a set of blankets.

Sample #1: Cloth was set at 18 e.p.i.
Sample #1: Cloth was set at 18 e.p.i.
Sample #2: Warp sett at 16 e.p.i.
Sample #2: Warp sett at 16 e.p.i.
Sample #3: Warp Sett at 14 e.p.i.
Sample #3: Warp Sett at 14 e.p.i.
Sample #4: Warp sett at 12 e.p.i.
Sample #4: Warp sett at 12 e.p.i.

These samples have become another tool in my bag of tricks. Not only do these samples help me discover a solution to the bigger problem on my loom, but they are now part of my records. In the future, I can use these samples to pick and choose what will work and what won’t for this particular type of yarn. What hem stitches will be appropriate? How much does this type of weaving draw in on the loom? How much does it shrink off the loom?

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The trick is now going to be disciplined enough to sample warp on my large loom before embarking on a large project again. Why? The distance my reed has to travel on the Kyra Loom is close to a foot. The distance on my little loom is closer to five inches. This will effect how much abrasion will occur on a warp thread, which will effect how the fabric will weave.

From these samples I was able to figure out that a proper sett should be 14 ends per inch. It gives the warp the ability to move freely but also dense enough to make sure the weft didn’t have a lot of wiggle room once in the washing process. I re-sleyed my reed and removed about 200+ warp threads.

The warp after being re-sleyed, and removing the unnecessary warp threads.
The warp after being re-sleyed, and removing the unnecessary warp threads.

To adjust the width of the warp wound on the back beam I had to wind everything forward and then back again, re-tension the warp on the front beam and adjust some little things on my physical loom which I will talk about another day.

Needless to say- I am up and running on the blankets!

Hooray for blankets!
Hooray for blankets!

The samples were a tremendous help and not I can move along with this project in a much more timely and efficient manner.

How do you feel about weaving samples? Have you been putting it off because you are so excited about weaving? How about your other crafts- how has sampling helped you? I’m still fighting samples in other crafts I do, but now that I am weaving professionally, I have to learn how to eliminate time wasters (such as re-laying 53″ of warp instead of sampling 10″)

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