The fine art of sampling

Early in my spinning career I learned about fibre prep, drafting, and twist and how they all work together. What I didn’t truly appreciate until years into it, was that there are so many variations on the theme.

I thought that if you had a long-stapled fibre, you’d flick card or comb it and then spin it with a short forward draw for worsted yarn. If you had a shorter staple length fibre you’d drum or hand card into rolags and then spin long draw for woollen yarn.

But I was breaking the rules right from the beginning. I was hand carding long stapled fibres because that’s all I had at hand. And I spun the rolags I made from short stapled fibres with a short forward draw because I couldn’t yet do the beautiful and balletic long draw.

In fact, it wasn’t until 2011 – when I attended a three-day workshop with Abby Franquemont (Spinning for a Purpose – Taos, New Mexico) that I transitioned from being a recreational spinner into an intentional one. This means that I learned how to make yarn for a specific purpose, when and if I wanted to. And most importantly, I learned the fine art of sampling.

Here are two good reasons why sampling is something to check out:

  1. Sampling uses a small amount of  fibre – make your mistakes or confirm your plan using less than one ounce of fibre
  2. Along that same theme, sampling is a small commitment of time – make your mistakes or confirm your plan in under an hour (doesn’t count drying time!

When you sample you can explore a wide range of things including, but not limited to:

  • washing technique
  • fibre preparation
  • drafting technique
  • amount of twist
  • yarn structure
  • yarn finishing process
  • fibre and/or colour blending

In a series of samples shown above, I tested the dark brown wool (Friesian), decided I wanted to lighten it up with colour; tested colour and adding silk noil;  and played around making small samples and mini-skeins until I settled on the yarn I wanted.

And here is another series of samples as I experimented with colour and texture.

Trust me. Sampling has saved me from near disasters and has helped me really refine the yarn for a specific project. Try it out for yourself.

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