For Weavers Only: An Overshot Story

Overshot, with its fantastical names and wonderful patterning, is a great structure for 4-shaft weavers.

Susan E. Horton Jun 2, 2020 - 4 min read

For Weavers Only: An Overshot Story Primary Image

Scott Norris used name drafting to develop his own overshot pattern for these linen towels. Photos by Joe Coca

If you aren’t a weaver, you may not get this story, but I’m still going to tell it. A friend of mine, Bud Frohn, who sadly is now deceased, once submitted a coverlet to a regional show. Bud was a wonderful weaver and won a prize, but what he most got a kick out of was the juror’s question: “Why did you call it ‘Lee’s Surrender’”? Why? Because Lee’s Surrender is a well-known overshot pattern and that is its name. We agreed that although that juror may have been good at recognizing fine work and craftsmanship, she was clearly not a weaver.

I imagine many a new weaver has thumbed through A Handweaver’s Pattern Book by Marguerite Porter Davison, stopped on page 184, looked at the picture of Lee’s Surrender with its blooming leaf borders and table center and thought, no way was that done on 4 shafts. But it was. That is the magic of overshot: enigmatic names and fabulous patterning on only 4 shafts.

Overshot is so beautiful that I’ve heard many weavers say it is their favorite weave structure. It’s certainly one of mine. I’ve woven many overshot pieces—runners, pillows, napkins, and towels. I like the big swoopy patterns such as the Mary Ann Ostrander Pattern from Davison's book and the more fiddly miniature patterns that Bertha Gray Hayes designed. They both have their uses, and sometimes you can get both styles in the same piece. I love overshot with borders as in Lee’s Surrender or how an overshot motif such as Wandering Vine can be a beautiful border on an otherwise plain-weave towel or runner. Knisely overshot ebook Coca

For this table runner, Tom Knisely used the Wandering Vine pattern, also known as Cat Track and Snail Trail.

Not long ago, Christina Garton and I went through issues of Handwoven from the past few years looking for overshot projects that we thought exemplified the beauty and diversity of the structure. We’ve packaged 10 of those patterns together in a new eBook: Best of Handwoven: Top Ten Projects in Overshot, Volume III. To round out the eBook, we included 3 articles: one by Madelyn van der Hoogt about overshot drafts; another by Norma Smayda about the Colonial weaver, Weaver Rose; and finally an article by Tom Knisely about traditional Show Towels.

It is a beautiful collection and one that any 4-shaft weaver would enjoy. For those of you who use weaving software, we included WIFs with the PDF download so that you can play with colors and repeats to your heart’s content, or simply use the WIFs to track your work.

Check out this latest pattern collection and join the many weavers who love overshot. Amazing patterns and crazy names, what’s not to love?

Weave well,