The Benefits of Weaving Samples

Many weavers have a love/hate relationship with sampling. In her latest video, Color in Weaving, Deb Essen explains why she loves sampling!

Deb Essen Nov 3, 2023 - 4 min read

The Benefits of Weaving Samples Primary Image

Deb Essen’s Surprise! Shadow Weave Towels are equally pretty on both sides. It would be worth it to weave 4 just to get all of the different looks. Photo by Matt Graves

Many weavers have a love/hate relationship with sampling. In her latest video, Color in Weaving Deb Essen explains why she loves sampling, especially when it involves color! Deb is teaching at our first ever Weave Together with Handwoven retreat. We love her approach to weaving and exploration and we think you will too in her Color in Weaving class. Find out more about her class and the retreat here! —Christina

When I started weaving, I never imagined I’d say, “I LOVE to sample!” It felt like a waste of time and yarn.

Au contraire! Sampling created my personal reference library. For less than the price of a large mocha at the coffee shop, I can play with multiple weave structures and color combinations in one woven piece that becomes a reference for future projects. And my samples last a lot longer than the coffee!

Sampling is the low pressure way to explore “what happens if?” It’s your time to play! As children, play is how we learn life skills. As adults, we resist playing. We put pressure on ourselves that we should “know” how things work and sometimes we are disappointed.

A sampler with multiple colors and/or threadings across the warp with multiple treadlings/colors along the length is called a gamp. In my video, Color in Weaving, I use gamps for testing color combinations in different setts/colors and different warp color threadings/weft color picks (instructions included) that are only the beginning of playing with color and structure, so you can build your personal sample reference library.

Color in Weaving Example Gamp

This color and weave gamp has 5 threading combinations and 11 different color pick combinations for 55 different sections and is only 38” long! Photo by Deb Essen

Samples don’t have to be big. I know, I know. Short warps aren’t what weavers “do.” But there are big benefits in short warps. When I wove 40 samples (not including all the test runs) for the HGA Certificate of Excellence, I found that weaving short samples not only taught me a lot about weaving and color, but I also became very proficient at winding warps and prepping my loom! When sampling, mistakes are allowed, play is encouraged and delightful surprises abound! Just be sure to keep good notes.

Which leads me to my last thought on sampling: keep great notes as you weave. When I weave a sample, I write notes for each section on a piece of paper. For future reference I transfer those notes to paper price tags on a string and then attach the price tag notes to the selvedges for each section. This way, I never have to go hunting for the original notes (which always hide when I need them).

Now, there’s more to color in weaving than just sampling with randomly selected yarns and my video will help you in using color values and color/yarn combinations to create successful projects. But give yourself permission to sample, and above all, play!

Learn more about color in weaving and sampling with Deb in person! She and many other amazing instructors will be in Colorado for the first ever Weave Together with Handwoven in February!

Deb Essen is the instructor in the video Unlocking Profile Drafts and the author of Weaving with Supplemental Warp as well as many other essential weaving resources. In addition to running her handwovens business, Deb teaches at national and international conferences and guilds.

Originally published February 13, 2017; updated November 3, 2023.