The Joy of Sampling

The Joy of Sampling

Our new entryway has a narrow, long glass panel next to the door, and I wanted to weave a beautiful sheer textile panel, so that we can see out, yet still get light in and have some privacy from visitors at the door. For months I've been planning it in my head...I should do this, or this would look know, all the amazing things you can think of that tumble around an (over) active creative brain. I'm not one to sketch things out and have always been a practical hands-on learner, so I make a lot of samples. Four years into weaving and there’s still so much to discover, I’m always testing techniques and ideas, yet this project kept getting pushed aside. Perhaps it was the commitment to making a new weaving, as all my past samples have still been decent size weavings - finished complete works that I cherish. I find that the process and feelings I go through when figuring out something new, and the satisfaction when I troubleshoot (sometimes stubbornly) a design successfully, seem to stay woven like a memory into the piece. 

Then Rainie's Travelling Loom arrived, and it seemed like the perfect nudge I needed to figure things out. The little loom was the perfect size to make a bunch of little samples using different fibres, without feeling the commitment of making a larger sample piece. 

Where To Start?

Most of my work is born from falling in love with a particular colour palette that needs to come to fruition, or a beautiful yarn, and how best to make them shine. An education in colour theory and a 25+ year background in soft furnishing and decorating fired my passion for colour, and the last 12yrs of those in the wool carpet world of safe beige and greige has almost given me an aversion to the beige aesthetic.

So, it's no surprise then that my front door is not white but an olive green/ khaki/ dark chartreuse (green) shade. Coral peaches (orange) and lilacs (purple) are the perfect split complement. I love my secondary shades! If you've seen my work, you will notice I've had a bit of a mohair love affair over the last year. I love how ethereal it is, floaty but grippy with those fluffy fibres, and it gives the perfect sheer effect – tick! I came across a stunning hand-dyed peachy base silk mohair which had all the secondary shades I wanted plus some neon to spark it up - it could not have been more perfect. Now I have my starting point, how best to weave them up? 

Sampling Process

It's easy for me to overthink all the possibilities when I have a rainbow of fibres to play with, but by sticking with my peachy mohair as a constant I was able to dive in and play!

ONE - first up I tried a simple warp of The Unusual Pear's natural mohair from the box, and then wove a simple tabby stitch with the peachy mohair. Straight away a single weft strand wasn't giving me enough colour, so I doubled the yarn over. The goal is to have a sheer textile so I keep the weft loose and spaced out, not packed down usual. 

mohair on the loommohair weaving

I've woven with Rainie's natural mohair before, and I love how "leggy” it is and how it grips the opposing fibre. While I'm happy with the result of this sample, it may be too subtle through the glass. Will file that away for a future project.

Ok, so that was quick and fun.... let's try another!

TWO silk mohair is not strong enough as a warp under tension so thought I'd see how icord (or French knitting as we called it as kids) behaved as tabby weave. I had some neon lime mohair icord strung up for the warp and my peachy mohair mixed with a cotton into a chunky icord for the weft. 

Look at that colour combination!

cord mohair weaving

cord mohair weaving relaxed

As suspected, once cut from the loom the warp and weft compressed together, as the neon warp was stretched on the loom, and then retracted once released. Not gauzy enough for my privacy screen textile, but I sure love this look and will be doing a bunch of coasters sometime soon. 

THREE  I was dying to try out the alpaca core spun yarn from the box (so silky!) and I thought I'd try the peachy mohair as warp but held with a matching cotton yarn for strength. I want maximum mohair colour so I warped the mohair yarn several times more. Then wove the chunky alpaca into picot waves alternating with 3 passes of an 8-thread bundle of peachy mohair between to build height for each alpaca "swoop". I realised early on this wasn't going to give me the sheer result I wanted ( I should have spaced out the mohair more), but I loved the effect and wanted to see how it looked. 

I went to take a photo mid-way through the weave, and noticed the 8 strands of weft mohair had curved up in a cool way from the needle on the left...and I had one of those lightbulb / a-ha / chorus of angels moments of an idea!

core spun alpaca and mohair weaving

 I quickly finished this one – logged the 5 other future ideas I had from this sample – and took some finished photos.

core spun alpaca mohair

FOUR I quickly warped up the loom same as before, and tabby wove 8 threads of coloured mohair loosely back and forth. I kept each strand loose and open, using a needle to separate them out if needed, and kept a gentle, loose, curved wave on each edge. My heart was doing a happy dance at how pretty it looked, and with the right amount of sheer textile effect. Success! I cannot wait to weave this up full scale with some copper highlights and extra neon embellishments.

mohair mohair weaving

sheer glow

sample mohair weaving

By using the loom as a sketchbook, relaxing into the freedom of sampling without a definite plan, and letting the fibres lead the way, I find you can really let loose and explore each experimental moment. I have woven many long, larger samplers in this method, but I've never tried so many smaller ones and the bite size really led to a rapid evolution of ideas, which was new and exciting for me. I had so much fun I would have kept going if not for the school bus! 

I think these little samples will look great together in a frame too! Happy sampling!

Michelle Robinson, Woven Glow

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