Saturday, January 16, 2016

Overshot, How do I love thee?

Overshot is a traditional American weave structure. It was used for coverlets (bed coverings) in Early American times. The warp threads are of a fine cotton (or linen) thread and the pattern weft is made of two threads, one cotton (or linen) for the background and the other usually wool. It is supple, lightweight and warm. The pattern varieties are endless! They are some of the most coveted pieces in museums that deal with Early Americana.  This is a structure I have dreamed of weaving since I began my foray into weaving 21 years ago. Bucket list, check.

Overshot, How do I love thee? Let me count the ways! 

Now before I begin listing what I love about this historic weave structure, let me just say that weaving a new structure is a lot like dating. You make plans, decide to 'do a project together' spend a lot of time preparing and getting ready, and then you jump right in and either fall madly in love, or run the other direction. I am glad to say that Overshot and I are getting along quite well, after just one day of weaving! (Shh...don't tell my husband!)

The prep process was pretty painstaking. The 10/2 cotton yarn (thread, really) was stickier than I expected and darker than I have warped in a while, (which I hate to admit, is harder to see with my aging eyes.) However, after winding 220 warp threads, lashing on to my table loom, and threading heddles and reed, I went to my Saturday class prepared for my date with said Overshot sampler. (I am making a sampler so the table loom will use less yarn and therefore waste less yarn than the floor loom.)

Little did I know that Overshot would literally blow my mind! I have been weaving plaid for so long that I don't know how to do anything but balance numbers in my weaving (multiples of 2 are the norm with designs in plaid.) Suddenly, Overshot has me going rogue. Patterns end on either side of the loom while weaving, not always on the same side. Nothing seems as neat and easy as with my dear, familiar, plaid. (To keep with the dating was like the guy who picked me up for our date brought a motorcycle, when I am used to riding in a 4-door sedan.. Hmmm. This is going to take some getting used to, but how exciting!)

Overshot's weave structure has a tabby weave background that holds the Overshot pattern floats in place. In this case, the blue threads are literally holding the cream colored threads neatly in the fabric structure, but the cream threads are the pattern. So in actuality I am weaving two separate fabrics simultaneously. Or 1 1/2 if you want to get picky, as the cream threads wouldn't really be able to hold their own in shape, without the skeleton of the blue tabby.

The design I chose to thread was one of Bertha Gray Hayes Miniature Overshot Patterns called, Stars of Victory. It is a lovely pattern with what looks like a pointed star in between a butterfly shape. It sort of depends on how you see, which part of the pattern will stand out to you! I have chosen not to weave in three colors, as the sample from the book Weaving Designs by Bertha Gray Hayes has shown, rather, I want to see a more traditional Early American coverlet style in my sampler, so two colors seemed the better choice.

The pattern repeat is 48 threads wide. That was a lot to keep track of for me, after doing mostly twill threading for plaid. (Twill is threading 1,2,3,4 over and over)

The treadling (order in which the harnesses are raised for pattern) was where the wheels nearly fell off the wagon (or should I say that I almost didn't get on the motorcycle for that date) but I jumped on and I'm so glad! The treadling has a huge repeat. The book has it at over 80 maneuvers. Quite a feat to keep it sorted when you realize that those maneuvers are all in between throwing the shuttle for the tabby weave. So that means I have to throw the shuttle twice, once for blue and once for cream, on each pass at the loom, from side to side. That is double the throwing for a normal twill, like plaid.
Lucky for me, I have one of the best weaving teachers, and she suggested a stick note to remind me which harnesses to raise for the tabby on each side of the loom. Now at least one part of my pattern is easy to access. And now that I am weaving along, that portion is becoming second nature!

So here I go with my first Overshot sampler. Not quite done with one treadling repeat at this point, but I am happy to say that there are no threading errors and the pattern is quite lovely.

Admittedly, I cannot imagine weaving a bed-sized coverlet at this point (gold star to the Colonial weavers....maybe if I didn't like watching historical dramas on TV so much I would just make one with all that time) but I am glad to bond with the weaver's of the past in my pursuit of a beautiful, versatile weave structure. But never say never!

Warm and inviting, yet complicated and exciting, I am glad my date with Overshot has lived up to my expectations!