Bertha Gray Hayes: Queen of Miniature Overshot

BeWeave It

Handwoven editor Anita Osterhaug on a lesser-known but influential American weaver: Bertha Gray Hayes. ~Andrea

“Today’s weavers owe much to the early 20th-century giants who revived handweaving in the American craft scene: Mary Meigs Atwater and the Shuttle-Craft Guild, Harriet Tidball, and Osma Gallinger Tod. But if you’ve ever woven a miniature overshot or a name draft, you may have to thank a lesser-known but passionate weaver named Bertha Gray Hayes.

No one knows what started Bertha Hayes down the weaving path. Perhaps it was the rich textile heritage of her adopted home, Rhode Island. But in 1923, she became a charter subscriber to Mary Meigs Atwater’s correspondence course, the Shuttle-Craft Course in Weaving. She kept a scrapbook of lessons and ideas. At some point, she struck out on her own, taking traditional overshot in new directions.

Overshot towels inspired by the miniature overshot drafts of Bertha Gray Hayes.

These 4-shaft overshot towels use “Waldenweave,” an overshot pattern from Bertha Gray Hayes. Get the draft in the November/December 2016 issue of Handwoven.

Bertha Hayes worked six days a week and still found time to design and sample almost 100 original 4-shaft miniature overshot designs, many of them based on name drafts, a technique suggested to her by a weaving correspondent in California.

Through a depression and a world war she wove, using Structo table looms with prewound cotton warps, often with tatting thread or mending wool for pattern weft. She produced a collection of 72 original patterns, each meticulously woven, lovingly named, and documented on a sample card with draft, drawdown, and woven sample.

Her name drafts were often dedicated to other weavers or to events such as the National Conference of American Handweavers, which she attended until the year she died. The designs also reflected her time, with names like Jitterbug, Gone with the Wind, and Bomber Flight.”

If you’d like to read the rest of Anita’s article on Bertha Hayes, see some of her historic overshot drafts and samples, and weave these cute towels inspired by her work, download or order a print copy of Handwoven November/December 2016!

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