Ask Madelyn: Tabby and Every Other Pick

Is tabby always plain weave, and is it the same as weaving “every other pick” as in rep? Madelyn has the answer!

Madelyn van der Hoogt Mar 18, 2021 - 4 min read

Ask Madelyn: Tabby and Every Other Pick Primary Image

Photo Credit: George Boe

Dear Madelyn,

I’d like to ask some (what I hope are easy) questions regarding overshot. I’ve never woven it, but I understand the idea of alternating a (usually) thicker pattern pick with a thinner “plain-weave” pick. I weave a lot of rep weave, so it makes sense.

Why is every other pick always called tabby or plain weave, when to me it seems obvious that there are some drafts that are so interlaced that it is not possible to include a true tabby (meaning every weft shot goes over ONE warp thread and next under ONE warp thread)? I have an 8-shaft draft on my loom right now where it was not possible to set up plain-weave treadles. I was able to come close, but it’s not a true plain weave. Yes, it’s true that on one treadle, half the threads go up, and on the next treadle, the other half go up. But it’s not plain weave. I was lucky that I could design it pretty close, but there are floats.

This terminology is very confusing to me. When I finally realized the draft I had tried to weave in the previous project, which had HUGE floats, was actually supposed to be overshot (the pattern didn’t say so or make a note that there should have been tabby shots), light bulbs went off.


But now that I know that there are invisible sort-of plain-weave shots in between each pattern shot in the weft, I am wondering whether there are also invisible so-called plain-weave shots in the warp, too?


Hi, Virginia!

I will answer your questions one by one and hope this makes sense! I’m numbering them below; there are three, even though they are interconnected.

  1. "Every other pick” is only called plain weave when those picks actually do weave plain weave (this isn’t true of every other pick, the thin picks, in rep weave). Tabby, by definition does not refer only to the fact that they weave plain weave. Tabby picks do that, but they also alternate with a thicker weft, the pattern weft. The tabby picks weave a plain-weave ground cloth that the pattern weft floats on to make a pattern (they are called the “supplementary weft”). Weaves with a plain-weave ground cloth and a supplementary pattern weft include overshot, summer and winter, and other tied weaves.

  2. Overshot treadling drafts often do not show the plain weave (tabby) picks because to do so would make them hundreds of threads long. Usually, at the side of an overshot draft somewhere, it will say “Use Tabby." After you are familiar with overshot drafts, you’ll recognize them right away and know they need tabby. Most of us learn about this exactly the way you did, by weaving an overshot draft without tabby, first.

  3. The warp and tabby weft in overshot (and in other weaves with a plain-weave ground cloth) are not invisible, but they don’t contribute to the pattern itself. And yes, the warp is weaving plain weave with the tabby weft.

I hope this helps! Weaving takes time to learn, a quality we also learn to love! (Eventually.)