Overshot weaving is still one of those patterns that I see and I just can not seem to get over how cool and interesting it looks!
While it looks like it would be a very time-intensive and difficult technique to weave – it really isn’t! You just have to understand how and why it works the way it does. (We will get to that.)
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What is overshot?
In its simplest form – overshot is a weaving technique that utilizes at least 2 different types of weft yarns and floats to create a pattern. These patterns are often heavily geometric.
The name overshot possibly comes from the way the weft “shoots” over the plain weave (ground weft) to create decorative floats.
With the aid of a ground weft, overshot allows for you to repeat the same weft pattern in multiple lines without losing the integrity of the fabric.
Let’s go over a few words I just mentioned to make sure they make sense.
Ground weft – plain weave pattern that is used between each row of your overshot pattern. This plain weave gives the textile structure and allows for large areas of overshot to be woven without creating an overly sleazy fabric. Without the use of a ground weft on an overshot pattern, the weaving would not hold together because there would not be enough warp and weft intersections to create a solid weaving.
(Don’t forget to check out my post on 3 basic weaving patterns!)
Floats – Created when you have your weft yarn go over more than one warp yarn at a time. They “float” over top of the warp. I did an entire post on floats and using them in your weaving so make sure to check that out.
One great thing about overshot is that it often appeals to both historical and modern weavers.
For modern weavers it tends to evoke the magic of weaving at the turn of the 19th century.
Historically, overshot was often used to create coverlets (essentially fancy bedspreads) and could be found all over colonial America.
They were most popular though in southern Appalachia and continued to be so even after textile technologies advanced. When other parts of colonial America moved to jacquard weaving, the weavers of southern Appalachia continued to weave their overshot coverlets by hand.
There were two major types of coverlet patterns: geometric (overshot) and figured and fancy.
Since the overshot coverlets were most often woven at home on smaller looms they usually had a seam down the middle where two woven panels were sewn together.
Modern Overshot Applications
While overshot is a traditional technique, that does not mean that you can not use it in your more contemporary projects!
The thing about overshot is that no matter the application, it is pretty impressive. Perhaps that is just my opinion, but due to how complex it can look, I feel that it is pretty safe to say.
Just because it was originally used for coverlets, does not mean it can only be used for coverlets. Changing aspects of the pattern like the colors used, or the way you use your ground weft can drastically change the look and feel of your weaving.
Some different overshot applications that you may want to consider:
Discontinuous ground weft
In the image below you can see the ground weft is not the same color throughout. Instead, I wove the ground weft as discontinuous so that I could add extra pattern and design into the weavings. In this case, you may be wondering how to deal with your weft yarns when they are in the middle of the weaving and not at the selvage.
The discontinuous weft yarns will float onto the back of the weaving until you are ready for them in their next pick. This does make your overshot weaving one sided since it will have vertical floats on the back. Keep this in mind if you want to try this technique out.
Learn to weave discontinuous weft HERE!
Variegated overshot weft
Also seen in the image above, the overshot yarn that I used was not all one color! This is a really simple way to get extra dimension and interest in your overshot if that is something you are looking for.
Since the yarn does the color changing for you, you do not have to do any extra work.
Overshot only in certain areas
Overshot is already a combination of weave structures. Plain weave for your ground weft and weft floats for the overshot.
This makes it simple to be able to only weave overshot in certain parts of your weaving. If you want to do this then you can continue to weave your plain weave across the entire width of your weaving, but only weave overshot in specific areas. This creates a overshot section that functions similar to inlay.
Overshot Weaving Tips
Use thick and thin weft for a better pattern
Since the overshot pattern is strongly influenced by the weft yarns that are used it is important to choose the right yarns. Your weaving will be set up to the specification needed for a balanced plain weave. Make sure you understand EPI in order to get the right warp sett for your overshot weaving.
The ground weft used is almost always the same yarn as your warp. This allows the overshot weft to really be able to shine without contrasting warp and weft plain weave yarns.
Your overshot weft should be much thicker than your ground weft. Unlike your ground weft, the thickness of your yarn is not determined by the EPI, but instead on how much of a presence you want it to have in your weaving.
In order to get the full effect of the overshot, it must be thick enough that when you are weaving your pattern it covers up the ground weft between each pass. If it is not thick enough to do this, it will still be overshot, but the full effect will not be seen.
Keep in mind the behavior of your yarns and how they will behave once washed. Some yarns will bloom and become fuller after a wash and some will not. Yarns that bloom will fill in your ground weft gaps and create a nicer pattern.
Use a floating selvedge
One issue with overshot is that it can be hard to keep your selvedges looking neat.
A simple tip for this is to have an extra warp thread at each selvedge that does not slot into a heddle.
This warp thread is called a floating selvedge.
What this warp thread does is serve as an all-purpose selvedge that does not correspond with your pattern. Instead, you would make sure to go around this warp thread every time to make sure that you are able to weave fully to the selvedge. Without this, your overshot weft will float awkwardly on the back of your weaving whenever the pattern does not take it to the edge.
If you want to weave overshot then I highly recommend purchasing The Handweaver’s Pattern Directory by Anne Dixon.
I have mentioned this book multiple times because it really is such a great resource for any weaver looking to weave patterns of all types. It contains 23 pages of different overshot patterns (among so many other patterns) that you can set up on your floor or table loom.
Can you weave overshot on any type of loom?
Like a lot of different types of weaving, it is possible to do it on almost any type of loom that you have. The difference being that it might take you a little bit longer or require a bit more effort than if you did it on a traditional floor loom.
Weaving overshot on a frame loom or rigid heddle loom will require the use of string heddles and pick-up sticks that you have to manually use to create a shed.