Ask Madelyn: Choosing Yarns for Overshot

I am currently weaving a tablecloth with a 10/2 cotton warp, a 20/2 cotton tabby weft, and a 6/2 cotton pattern weft. I’d like to do a series of scarves with the remainder of the warp using a finer silk for the pattern weft but I am curious about the effect it will have on the pattern, Lee’s Surrender. I am assuming the pattern will be squished down and distorted rather than the neat exact squares and curves in the current piece, but it may make for an interesting effect in a scarf.

Any ideas on this?


Dear Margaret,

Usually, overshot is woven with a warp and tabby weft of the same size and a pattern weft that is two to three times heavier/thicker than the warp and tabby weft. In your tablecloth, you used a finer tabby weft than the warp yarn. Sometimes this is done in order to make it easier to beat in the tabby and pattern wefts so that the pattern weft covers the pattern area without showing streaks of tabby weft. This might especially help when weaving a wide piece like a tablecloth or coverlet (it takes more force to achieve the same number of picks per inch in a wider piece than in a narrower piece).

If you were to use the same warp yarn for a scarf and make the pattern weft finer, the pattern weft would be unlikely to cover the blocks showing pattern—you would see streaks of tabby weft between pattern picks (your 6/2 cotton pattern weft is already fairly fine for a 10/2 cotton warp). I’m assuming you would be using only a section of the warp for a scarf, since a scarf would be narrower than a tablecloth. What you could do is tie on a finer warp to the section of 10/2 warp you want to use for the scarf, and after the warp is beamed, re-sley to a closer sett. Overshot can make a lovely structure for a scarf, but usually in finer yarns than 10/2 cotton. The scarf shown here is woven with a 30/2 silk warp (at 28 epi), a 30/2 silk tabby weft, and a 20/2 silk pattern weft. A 20/2 cotton warp, 20/2 cotton tabby weft, and 10/2 cotton pattern weft would also make a beautiful scarf weight. If you do use your 10/2 cotton warp, I’d stick with the 6/2 cotton pattern weft.

The second part of your question has to do with whether or not using a finer pattern weft would distort the pattern. With overshot, you can always adjust the appearance of a pattern block (its height) by adding or subtracting pattern picks. Most overshot motifs are designed to be symmetrical (as tall as they are wide). Always allow some extra warp for sampling until you can determine the number of pattern picks (alternating with tabby) required to achieve symmetrical motifs (“weaving to square”).


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