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We’ve all had them—challenges that derail the day, slow down the process, defy expectations. It’s the picture that turned out squashed. Or the warp that wasn’t quite long enough for that last towel. Or the blanket that came off the loom in a flourish only to reveal a treadling error in the middle.

Twill Gamp Blanket

Twill Gamp Blanket

As I was growing up, I heard more than once — much more than I wanted to hear — “Chalk it up as a learning experience.”

It’s a “glass half full vs. glass half empty” way of looking at things but without those learning experiences, we’d miss so many serendipities!

This spring I’m experimenting with some structures and experiments are all about seeing “what if…?” It’s a learning experience on purpose.

For the first time that I can remember, I actually wove a “gamp.” My dictionary defines gamp as a large baggy umbrella, used humorously. In weaving terms, a gamp is a sampler: thread 4 or 5 different threadings and colors, treadling as drawn in. It’s a fun way to try out different looks. My baby blankets sported 5 different colors in 5 different 8-shaft twill threadings and treadlings. Fun!

Except for that pesky treadling error right in the middle of the middle block! Learning experience. Perhaps that blanket will be cut up into bibs. Perhaps I’ll keep it as a twill reference.

On the drawloom, the barn picture went through several variations. The proportions of first one off the loom seemed off to me. Back to the digital “drawing board.”

I’ve read in Alice Schlein and Bhakti Ziek’s The Woven Pixel (2006 Bridgewater Press, available on Handweaving.net) that to get the woven picture to truly reflect the graphed design, you have to adjust the size of those little squares to the proportion of your weave structure. While their discussion was aimed at computerized weaving, I adapted their advice to my simple sketchpad drawing, making the squares – well, less square. After all, how many woven fabrics are perfectly balanced warp to weft?

After three or four more tries, I’m closer to the proportions I envisioned. And along the way, I played with different elements in the actual design. Slight differences, but all adding to the whole.

Barn in Progress

Barn in Progress

I’m learning to slow down on my assessments. So what if I ran out of warp for a towel? Can it still be woven up into something else—a napkin? A table mat? A wash cloth? It’s a fallacy to expect a project to turn out perfect on the first try.

I share this because I don’t think I’m alone here. As makers, we have this ideal we aim for and if it doesn’t turn out like that ideal, we feel like it’s a failure. Not so! Sometimes we have to walk away from it for a while in order to look at it with different eyes.

I’m learning to walk away for a bit. Give the warp time to tell me what it should be.

Try it with your next challenge. And enjoy the learning experience!