Everywhere I turn lately, I’m seeing overshot. Or maybe I’m just more aware of it because I used that weave structure for my mug rugs (see previous post). But the March/April issue of Handwoven Magazine did include an article about researching a found coverlet , “The Story of the Martin Brenneman Coverlet” by Tom Knisely followed by a project for a table runner in overshot. And there are numerous books – books on my very own bookshelf!—about overshot. So I want to take another look at this weave structure.
It’s curious how weaves come and go. And it’s amazing what is woven today in structures that have been around a really long time, how structures are combined and envelopes are pushed, making something old speak to today! I think that’s why overshot is showing up again.
I recently reread American Woven Coverlets by Carol Strickler (Loveland, Colorado: Interweave Press, 1987). Strickler writes here for anyone interested in coverlets, not just for weavers. She defines a coverlet as “a hand-woven bedcover with loom-controlled pattern” and differentiates coverlets from quilts (quilts are two or more separate fabrics put together like a sandwich). She goes on to cover the why, the when, the who, and the where of coverlet weaving. She includes chapters on the fibers, the equipment, and the patterns used to weave coverlets. It’s a fascinating and very readable book for weavers and non-weavers alike.
Another book referenced by Strickler and one that I’m currently reading is Keep Me Warm One Night: Early Handweaving in Eastern Canada. Burnham, Harold B. and Dorothy K. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1972. This is a classic! Strickler notes that although this book only discusses Canadian coverlets, the patterns, materials, and equipment used are “closely related to a large portion of Eastern American weaving.” (bibliography). More on this classic next time.
What appeals to me about both coverlets and overshot is that they were often woven at home by the homemaker. The looms that these weavers used were usually simple four shaft looms. The materials were often spun and dyed at home. And the weavers were busy with the demands of life, but found time to create beautiful household linens with the materials at hand. My deepest respect to the weavers who have gone before me.