Overshot Basics

I contracted the weaving bug when I first started looking at overshot. There is something about the idea of making circles and curves in a format of 90 degree angles that has always been intriguing to me.

Beautiful undulating lines and bold patterns!
Beautiful undulating lines and bold patterns!

However, I didn’t know the slightest thing about overshot patterns when I tried them. I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t creating roses, or stars, or anything really- just weird floats with no pattern structure at all. The above pattern has been on my “to weave list” since I could comfortably warp a loom by myself.

Now that I have designed a little bit and have actually woven some true overshot, let me share with you what I have learned! (And hopefully get to weaving some of the drafts on my “to weave list”).

Most drafts do not have the tabby drawn in to the treadling.

An overshot draft scanned from "A Handweaver's Pattern Book" by Marguerite P. Davison.
An overshot draft scanned from “A Handweaver’s Pattern Book” by Marguerite P. Davison.

Where I have highlighted in yellow, it says USE TABBY. What that means is that after every pattern shot, you want to use the alternating tabby shot to secure your pattern weft. So when you break down the treadling pattern step by step:
1) Tabby shot: 1,3
2) Pattern shot: 1,4
3) Tabby shot: 2,4
4) Pattern shot: 1,2
5) Tabby shot: 1,3
6) Pattern shot: 2,3
7) Tabby shot: 2,4
8) Pattern shot: 3,4
etc…

At first, when I thought I understood this, I tried to weave overshot by using the same weight yarn in the warp and weft.

This piece was woven with an overshot pattern using the same yarn in both the warp and weft.
This piece was woven with an overshot pattern using the same yarn in both the warp and weft.
This is the draft I wove it from.
This is the draft I wove it from.

Which leads me to my next lesson:
Your pattern weft must be heavier than your tabby weft.

So potentially what I wove above would have worked if I had doubled or tripled the pattern weft and left the tabby weft the same. Instead, by using the same weight through-out, made the pattern weft just as much a part of the structure as the tabby weft. Having a heavier pattern weft, allows the yarn to be pushed above the smaller tabby weft, so it covers what is woven below it. This means that after the cloth is woven, you could basically snip away the pattern wefts and the fabric will still be solid because of the packing of the finer tabby weft.

On this simple diamond overshot, I switched from using the same size pattern weft to a heavier weft. You can see the difference in the strength of the pattern.
On this simple diamond overshot, I switched from using the same size pattern weft to a heavier weft. You can see the difference in the strength of the pattern.
Here is a close up of that change. You can see that instead of being an integral part of the weaving, the pattern weft is just floating over top of the tabby threads.
Here is a close up of that change. You can see that instead of being an integral part of the weaving, the pattern weft is just floating over top of the tabby threads.

Next post we will cover more of the technical aspects of overshot: how the pattern is developed, how it forms in the cloth, and what you can or can not do with it.

3 thoughts on “Overshot Basics

  1. I am ready to try overshot, but am wondering how to spread my warp on a 10 dent reed for 16 epi. I am weaving Partners in Life. I warp front to back and am left handed so usually start on the left side, although my instructions are for the right. Should I follow the right side directions?

    1. Overshot is an exciting adventure to get into in the weaving world! For your 10 dent reed, using yarn that is 16 ends per inch- I would sley as follows: 1-2-2-1-2-1-2-2-1-2. This will allow for an even distribution for your warp. Are your directions for the threading of the heddles or is it directions for sleying the reed? When I do any of my threading I start on my left and move to the right, just as if I were reading. I hope this helps! Let me know how your weaving turns out. -Tegan

  2. This is a timely topic. A friend has invited me to join her for a four day course of overshot at The Mannings, making a shawl in three colors of 10/2 perle cotton done in a gamp of five Davidson patterns taught by Tom Knisely who can explain anything. I am not up to speed on overshot yet and need to learn all I can before April 8 when the class starts. Grateful for your post and looking forward to more on the subject. Your diamond pattern is lovely.

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