Sampling in Tapestry with Array

Array tapestry samples by Kennita Tully

 

As tapestry weavers, unless we are weaving free-form, we need to plan carefully and make a lot of decisions up front. That’s where sampling comes in. Sampling can take many forms and involve testing out the structure (warp and weft combinations), choosing colors, or fine-tuning with specific techniques. I will touch on structural sampling here and focus on color and techniques; areas where Array really shines.

 

Kennita's sampling journal

Documentation

Before I get into each form, let’s talk a little bit about the importance of documentation. I can’t begin to stress enough how valuable a good documentation process is. You may think you can remember a specific color, or warp sett, but trust me—memories.

There are many ways to keep track of your weaving projects and process. My method is to always have a weaving journal beside me wherever I am. I like sketchbooks, as shown in the photo above, but you might prefer something different. Some like to use binders so samples can be added. What I do, instead, is to photograph my samples on regular copy paper; it’s only for documentation purposes so quality isn’t important. I then tape or glue the small images in my journal.

One more tip: if you choose a method like this and keep all your notes in one journal, it can be hard to find what you’re looking for when you want to go back and refer to a project or notes. I use the Bullet Journal method of numbering my pages and creating an index as I go. It’s saved me a lot of time over the years.

Even if you’re new to weaving, these records will be very helpful in the future. Now, let’s look at some ways to sample, starting with structure.

Sett/Warp/Weft Combinations

When sampling the structure, I’m referring to several elements of the tapestry. The warp size and/or material in relation to the sett and the weft size and/or material in relation to the warp chosen.

Examples of sampling sett, warp, and weft combinations might be trying different warp thicknesses or fiber content (cotton, wool, linen) for the weft size you will be working with. Or, conversely, it could involve determining how many strands work best for the warp thickness and ends per inch you’re working with.

Array sample by Kennita Tully

In the image above (12/12 warp sett at 8 EPI), I show weaving with only 2 strands of Array at the bottom, moving up to 10 strands at the top. You’ll notice how smooth the 2 strand weft is in relation to the 10 strand. Also how “plump” and textural the top area is compared to the bottom. This surface— or “stitch”—is referred to as “the bead” of the weaving. Some like a rounded bead while others prefer a smoother surface.

If you do this experiment, you will also notice how thin the 2 strand weft is compared to the opposite end. Which one you choose is a personal preference. A good rule of thumb for tapestry weavers is to use a weft that is about the same size as the space between the warps. I found my sweet spot at 5 or 6 strands for most of my sampling.

You can also sample with different setts and compare the number of strands. If you change setts a lot, that could be helpful in planning future weavings. I tend to stick with 8 EPI most of the time, so these samples are all woven at 8 EPI with either 12/9 or 12/12 cotton seine twine warp.

Color

Unless we have a set palette for most of our work, we also need to choose colors in every tapestry we create. This is the form of sampling that takes the most time in my own work. It can take me months to decide on exactly the right colors for a piece. Sampling colors can be done on the loom or with yarn wraps. Yarn wraps are a handy resource and much quicker than weaving.

Array color samples

To do a yarn wrap, you’ll need sturdy strips of cardboard or matte board. I tend to cut them about an inch wide and 4 to 6 inches long. Choose the colors you’d like to work with and wrap them around the cardboard.

Once you decide on a set of colors you’re happy with, you might want to look at your design and consider the ratio of each color. Maybe even make another yarn wrap to demonstrate an emphasis of the color used most to compare. For example, the yarn wrap on the left in the photo could be a yarn wrap for the pick and pick sample below.

When searching for color combinations, consider the different blending results such as monochrome, harmonious, and what happens when you add neutrals to the mix. Blends can be speckled with contrast or very subtle.

Weft Bundling

Array weft bundles

My favorite color blending technique is weft bundling, gradually changing the gradations or color in an area. I do a lot of weft bundling in my own tapestry work. I can occupy myself quite happily for hours making one sample after another to test combinations. Considering the number of values within each hue of Array, I can imagine endless color sampling in my future!


horizontal blending

 

Weft Bundling can be done in specific techniques (above) or as a horizontal or vertical blend (below). For this type blend, start with a bundle of a specified number of weft threads in a solid color that merges into a solid color of another hue by replacing one strand at a time with the new color.

vertical blending

Other techniques

And finally, specific techniques might be considered—or even weft bundling and technique combined. While there are many techniques in tapestry, I am focusing on two I see often used in combination with weft bundling: Hatching and Pick and Pick.

 

hatching sample

 

Hatching

Hatching is a fun one to sample because you’ll see another color emerge where the striping (hatching) occurs as the eye blends them together. This effect is created when two colors alternate in a striping sequence. Within the same area, one pass is woven of one color, then one pass is woven of the alternate color.

 

pick and pick sample

 

Pick and Pick

Pick and Pick is another way to move colors around. In this technique two colors alternate by only weaving one pick of each, resulting in a vertical stripe since the same color will always be woven in the same shed. In the sample shown here, strong vertical stripes form in the Ocean when paired with the four gradients of Tangerine.

Free-form approach

free form sampling

 

And finally, you might want to do some random color sampling with blocks of color that change. Unlike a systematic approach, blending randomly can create some unexpected results. I especially like the relationship in the piece shown here in the middle section between the darkest Tangerine and Ocean combination in contrast to the lighter blend of Tangerine alone. I might never have discovered this combination using another method to sample.

Of note: I was also trying out a new to me warp here; sticking to my normal warp and/or less strands in the bundle may have been a better choice!

The weight of Array and the gradations within a hue allow for a tremendous amount of value changes and color play. As you can see, sampling can be a valuable resource and save a lot of time in the end. Especially when you document each step! You’ll not only discover what works, but what doesn’t!

About Kennita Tully

Kennita Tully is a tapestry artist, author, and teacher living in Pottawatomie County, KS. She writes a weekly blog on tapestry and teaches both online and in-person. You can find out more about what Kennita is up to by signing up for her weekly newsletter, visiting her website or following her on Instagram.

 

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