Twills and the Rewards of Sampling

Last week I spent time weaving twills with some wonderful students. Every class has its own unique mix of student perspectives and experiences, and this group was absolutely delightful. A couple were fairly new to weaving in general, some had woven rugs and wanted to try weaving a lighter fabric, another had been concentrating on color for most of her previous projects and wanted to try some new patterns, and another had been a weaver off and on for many years and was coming back to the fold once again. We all found ourselves weaving dozens of different twill patterns, some planned, some serendipitous, but all quite lovely.

As part of my teaching mission, I promote the virtues of sampling. Taking good notes is helpful, but there is nothing quite like handling a piece of finished cloth to help you understand what those notes really mean. In my own studio, whenever I try out a new yarn or new technique, I’ll weave several samples with different wefts, different setts (threads per inch), etc., just to see what happens. In addition, for almost every project I weave, I keep my notes and a swatch of the finished fabric in a notebook. I go back to these notebooks often, either as a reference of the “nuts and bolts” specifics for how I created a certain fabric or as inspiration for new pieces.

As an exercise in this class, I had each student weave a few extra inches in a twill pattern of their choosing to exchange with their fellow classmates. So, in addition to their individual projects to take home, they now have a small collection of samples and notes that they can use for future reference, as well as mementos of the week. It may seem like a small thing, but even this little sample exchange reinforces the idea that everyone has something to contribute, and we all can learn from each other. A big thank you to my students for a great week!