Sample Minded

Darwin didn’t walk around the Galapagos and come up with the theory of evolution. He was exploring, collecting, making observations. It wasn’t until he got back and went through the samples that he noticed the differences among them and put them in context. Craig Venter

Okay, sampling in weaving might not be quite in the same realm as the “sampling” process that lead Darwin to come up with the theory of evolution, but Venter’s point is that new ideas rarely appear like light bulbs.  New ideas are often, counterintuitively, results of collecting the “old ideas” together, moving them around, making small changes, observing, etc.

With this notion in my mind, and in preparation for an upcoming class, I have been (uncharacteristically) sample minded. I realize that I have moaned and groaned about “sampling” in one or two or more . . . blog posts, but I recently discovered a nuance in my relationship to “the sample”. It turns out that I hate sampling for a project, but I love weaving samples as the project!  If the mission is to weave samples in preparation for weaving a scarf or placemats, then I would much rather (impatiently) dive into the project itself, and consider what I have woven as “the sample” if there is a problem or “the project” if it works out well. IMG_5626 IMG_5693

Some might see the biggest problem with this approach as the potential waste of time/materials if the initial concept is faulty, but I think there is a much bigger problem.  For one thing, I have been doing it this way for a long time and the results of my approach have rarely been so disastrous as to be a total loss.  Alarm bell!  By definition, I must be keeping my “ideas” in a very narrow, safe zone if I can weave projects without sampling. And by having an end use in mind I have already shut the door on other possibilities and reduced my willingness to mess around, re-arrange, etc.

IMG_5732 IMG_2585 IMG_5762

SO, my new mission is samples as the end product!  And to paraphrase Laurie Autio when she was asked what she was making when she was doing a lot of experimental drafting, she replied, “I’m making a weaver.”

IMG_5766 IMG_5828 IMG_5830 IMG_5881 IMG_5903 IMG_5632 _DSC0664

I will admit that this might be too big to count as a sample . . .


  • June 22, 2016

    Love every one of your samples especially the blue/purple and red textured ones. So much movement with what looks like tabby.

      • June 23, 2016

        Sigh…. I love every one of those samples. I too enjoy weaving sample warps more than samples for a project. The reason is there are no rules, no expectations, no exact pattern repeats or selveges to worry about…..just throw the shuttle and see what happens.

        Hope you get to come back to Michigan soon!

  • June 29, 2016


    Oh, that blue and brown, where the warp appears to wander way back and forth! And who says samples have to be small, anyway? If all we ever sample are pieces small enough to stuff in a notebook, what about rugs? What about very-long-repeat yarns? Warp painting? If you fail (or succeed) boldly with a project, without sampling first, doesn’t that teach you just as much or more as making nice tidy little samples?

  • July 1, 2016

    Suzanne Pelto

    I believe your Mother might say your work has not fallen far from her tree! Such gorgeous colours Lisa! So exciting and rich!


      • July 15, 2016

        Suzanne Pelto

        When? And would love to!

  • August 4, 2016

    Jules Waddell

    Oh, so, so beautiful and inspiring! Can you tell me more about your first sample? I’m still trying to get my brain to translate what the flat angular draft looks like to the organic, textured form of the final product. I would love to make towels with that pattern!

  • November 7, 2019

    Isabelle Flinois

    Tout ça est magnifique ! J’adore regarder vos fabrications.
    Bonne continuation,

  • May 5, 2022

    Nancy Jean Moore

    Where can I find the draft for the third sample that is blue and green?