Yesterday I discovered that the 20-yard warp I’d spent the last week making was tangled beyond salvation. Ten pounds of yarn and 20-30 working hours, down the drain. And I’ll have to order more yarn to make another go at this.
But am I kicking myself for it? No.
Many of the things I do look really risky from the outside. Putting together an incredibly complicated warp 20 yards long on unfamiliar equipment looks pretty crazy. But it’s not. It’s a calculated risk, and it was (I think) a good decision, even if the result appears to be disaster. Making good decisions about risk does not mean that you never lose. It just means that, on average, the benefits of succeeding outweigh the expected losses from failing.
So why did I take this chance? Because my main concern was whether the warp would tangle during dyeing. The chances of that are basically the same regardless of warp length, so putting on a long warp wasn’t any riskier than putting on a short warp. I could have put on a short, narrow warp as a test, but that would have taken almost as much time as winding and beaming the full warp. (That’s because the bulk of the time investment is in dyeing the warps, which takes about the same length of time regardless of warp length or width.) So about the only thing I’d save by putting on a sample first would be about $150 in yarn. That’s a good bit of money, but it pales against another 20 hours spent winding and dyeing another warp. (I’m assuming my time is worth more than $7.50/hour.)
I mention all this because a lot of weavers are timid about taking risks, and take a “disaster” as a sign that they should take fewer risks. I don’t think that’s a good response. Even a good risk strategy will sometimes produce disaster. And being too cautious also has a cost: the time and materials spent sampling, or the (much higher) creative cost of sticking to the tried and true rather than trying new things. So I would urge you, if you are thinking about risk, to figure out all the costs and benefits involved – not just material cost, but time and creative expression as well.
I do believe in sampling, by the way – and I do a lot of it, because I am usually pushing my limits and samples are worth the effort. But not always. Instead, I calculate my risks – because, in the long run, it saves time, effort, and materials.
Here’s a photo of the failed warp, by the way. It came out beautifully, exactly as I wanted, except for the tangles. I think I understand what happened and how to fix it – so I can’t wait to wind, dye, and beam the next one!