I’ve been thinking about waste for the last day – how to define it, and how to minimize it.
I’m working on my next sample, listing out the various things I want to try, and the things I could potentially make from the sample. The problem is that until I sample various color combinations, I don’t know what I would want to make. So I basically have two options. One is to create a warp devoted to samples, and resign myself to winding, threading, etc. another warp later based on what I’ve learned from the samples. Or, I can create a “kitchen sink” warp, which starts with a yard or two of samples,Â but also contains enough warp to weave all the projects I’m considering. In the latter case I would weave only the projects that come out well in the samples – the sections of warp from the “failed” samples would simply be cut off and thrown away.
Wasteful? Perhaps. But there is waste, and there is waste. Waste of materials, waste of money, waste of time. Which is worse?
It turns out, in this case, that time is by far the most expensive potential waste. I calculated the cost of the warp I’d likely be cutting off if one of the samples failed. It comes out to about 1100 yards of tabby warp and 1100 yards of pattern warp. That comes out to half an ounce of the tabby warp and just over an ounce of the pattern warp. Given that I bought the silk as mill ends for about $30/lb, the total cost of a “failed” section would be three dollars. Compare that with winding a new warp, dyeing it, threading it, sleying it, and tying on/debugging it – which would collectively take well over 20 hours – and I’d be “paying” myself about fourteen cents an hour to avoid wasting two yards of warp.
Of course, this equation would look quite different if I were weaving a different project. Fine yarns are “cheap entertainment” because they take so long to weave even a few ounces of yarn. If I were weaving samples for an afghan in heavy-weight 100% cashmere yarn, the monetary cost of samples would be very high and the time to put on a new warp much less. The balance would be different.
But given today’s equation, I’m opting for the “kitchen sink” warp.
And what, you ask, am I planning to try? Quite a few things!
- Phoenixes in gradated color, dark red to red to orange to gold, against a black ground warp. Weft? I plan to try black, brown, dark red.
- Yellow phoenixes, against a medium orange ground warp that has been stenciled/airbrushed with swirls of dark red, red, and orange- red. Red or deep orange weft.
- An eight-shaft design (probably something abstract) – yellow pattern warp, red ground warp, orange weft. This would be for the Handwoven 2013 garment contest, and would be (if it works) marvelously iridescent.
And here, for the patient, is a Photoshop simulation of the gradated phoenixes on a black background:
I will probably use a more golden yellow in the “real thing”, as the black is (predictably) giving a greenish tinge to the lemon yellow sections. I’m not sure I like it better than the brilliant yellow-oranges of my earlier sample, but of course it will look quite different when woven, so I’m withholding judgment until I see a sample in “real” fabric.