CNCHnet . . . The Textile Arts Webzine of the Conference of Northern California Handweavers

The Special Sample Service

The CNCH Special Sample Service needs your samples!

For the last 34 years, the CNCH Special Sample Service has provided samples of handwoven fabric to browse and buy at the CNCH conferences. Each sample contains a swatch of fabric, its draft, and information on the materials and wet-finishing techniques used to make the sample. Sample prices are kept low to make them available to as many weavers as possible, and all proceeds benefit CNCH.

To offer this service, however, the CNCH Special Sample Service needs you to donate samples! Like CNCH, we are run by volunteers, and we rely on donated samples to create the stock we offer back to the weaving community. In recent years we have had difficulty getting enough samples to sell, so your support is critical. Please send us your scraps and remnants, along with the draft and information on how to reproduce the sample (materials, sett, draft source, finishing, and proposed use). The ideal contribution would be 5-10 samples 4×4 inches on a side, but smaller is OK, especially if you are weaving with fine threads, small repeats, or are weaving inkle/card woven bands or braids. We will make copies of the instructions to accompany each sample. We’re more than happy to cut up the samples and reimburse you for materials. If you put on a little extra warp at the beginning of a project, weaving samples will be easy, and a great way to give back to the weaving community.
For information on contributing samples, please contact Sue Fandel at seesuerun2004(at), or Tien ChiuĀ  tienchiu(at)

The Special Sample Service Booth

The Special Sample Service Booth

Weavers perusing samples at Conference

Weavers perusing samples at Conference









A little background on the Special Sample Service:

The CNCH Special Sample Service was founded by Helen Pope in 1979, as table decorations for the luncheon at the Conference of Northern California Handweavers. Helen was a big influence on the Bay Area weaving community – a teacher, a yarn shop owner, and mentor to countless weavers. (She also wove great textiles!) For the luncheon, she asked well-known textile designers for drafts and ideas, and then she and her guild members wove the samples. Each swatch was complete with instructions, and required no more than eight shafts. The decorations were a total hit, so Helen decided to continue the sample service as a part of every conference. She started asking Northern California weavers to weave samples and provide the instructions for the fabric to the Special Sample Service. The resulting sample sets were displayed at the annual conference and sold for a nominal sum.

For many years, the Sample Service was one of the most popular attractions at CNCH. The samples were displayed at the conference, with the sale beginning early Sunday morning. Weavers would peruse the samples during the previous days, finding their favorites and plotting strategies for the sale. Lines formed long before the sale open, with competition for the prized samples. In 1990, the Sample Service even appeared at Convergence (held in San Jose that year), and was wildly popular – over 30 guilds contributed almost 1,100 samples, with fierce competition to buy the samples.

Peggy Osterkamp took over the Sample Service in the mid-’90s, after Helen officially retired, and after Helen’s death, her friend Sue Fandel took over the Special Sample Service. Sue was not a weaver, but the sample service cashier – inspired by the samples to take up weaving herself!

Helen Pope’s dream for the CNCH Special Sample Service was for weavers to share their weaving with other weavers – providing samples to inspire and interest other weavers. Woven samples convey a sense of the fabric in a way no draft or photo can duplicate – not just a “recipe” but also a piece of the fabric to see and touch. Photos can’t show the drape and flow of a fabric – woven samples are precious, and one of the best ways to learn “what happens if…?”
In addition to the samples sold at the conference, one piece of cloth and the instructions from each sample is collected and saved in the CNCH Special Sample Service notebooks, available for loan by request. Carol Graves of the Sacramento guild is keeping these sample books. To contact Carol, carolswoolies(at)

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