Coverlet Project: Overview

What is it?

In the fall of 2011, members of the Black Sheep Handweavers Guild decided to undertake a cooperative friendship coverlet project. In the end, each weaver will end up with an overshot coverlet in the yarn of her choice. It will be made up of many squares. Each square will be woven by a different weaver, using a different overshot pattern. It is both a sampler and a memento of friendship.

The squares will all share a common background and tabby weft of unmercerized 8/2 Valley Cotton from WEBS in a natural, off white color. The pattern weft will be the choice of each weaver. Some will buy a yarn that they like. Others will spin their yarn.

Why overshot?

Overshot was chosen for several reasons. It gives excellent dimensional stability, since there are the same warp type threads running in both the warp and weft directions. It also offers a wide range of patterns. There are many traditional patterns available in overshot that reflect its prominence as a Colonial American art form. There are also modern versions. And, truth be told, any twill pattern can be converted to overshot by running alternating plain weave picks between the pattern weft picks. An inch of plain tabby weave is woven between each square to provide space for lines of stabilizing machine stitching.

How do the squares become a coverlet?

Once the squares are all woven, the participants will gather with the collection of squares that they have each woven in all the different weft colors. The long strips of many squares of different colors will be cut apart in between the lines of machine stitching. The squares will then be exchanged with the other weavers until each weaver has all of her own weft yarn back.

Each weaver will then assemble her coverlet from the squares she has gathered from the other weavers who wove with her chosen weft. Some may chose to sew them directly side by side. Some may insert fabric between the squares. Others may crochet a border around each square before sewing or crocheting them together. Some form of material between the squares helps adjust for possible differences in size and squareness.

Each weaver has a different pattern and a different weaving style. Even though every effort is made to avoid pulling in, squares may come out different widths. Some patterns may lead to more draw in than others. Each weaver also has to adjust to a different weft for each square. This presents challenges as well. The beat that makes a perfect square in one weft may be a bit too hard or too soft for the next one. Checking pick counts can help a lot, but some variation in dimension is to be expected, regardless.

The guild coverlet

Each weaver in this project will also be weaving one extra square in her own yarn to donate to the guild. These squares will be connected by a number of volunteers into a single coverlet. The guild coverlet will reflect both the pattern and yarn color choices of the participants. It will be auctioned or raffled off at a guild meeting or event.

The wrap up

This project fits the guild to a tee. It fosters cooperation, encourages memories, and provides a crash course in many nuances of overshot weaving. After a number of months full of finding or spinning weft, dressing looms, weaving a wide range of wefts and doing the inevitable head scratching and deep breathing, we will each emerge with a memento of some wonderful weaving friendships. Weave on!