Why choose freeform overshot to weave complex motifs & patterns?

There are multiple techniques to weave complex patterns. I think mine is the most flexible one. Here’s why:

1. Freeform overshot can be done on ANY loom: frame looms, rigid heddle looms, shaft looms, table looms, backstrap looms, even full sized inkle looms and bead looms! Only two shafts/sheds are necessary for the tabby weft. Your loom can be small enough for easy portability. I use a 10-inch rigid heddle loom for most projects.

2. Freeform overshot allows weavers to create large motifs that mix different weave structures however you please to create the designs, patterns, textures and other visual effects you want. Twills, sateen (weft-wise satin), and plain weave-based patterns like huck lace can be combined in any way, shape or form. A weaver would need dozens of shafts and a dobby loom or drawloom to reproduce freeform overshot designs.

3. I create 64-shaft designs because that’s the limit of my weaving software. However, weaving software is not necessary to weave designs with more ends freehand like my Mermaid Scarf or using graph paper more than 64-ends wide. There are no commercial looms with more than 40 shafts, and even those looms cost tens of thousands of dollars.

4. The tabby weft allows for greater float lengths while maintaining a stabilizing grid for greater weave structure variability. If, however, your float lengths are smaller, you CAN leave out the tabby shots, meaning that in those cases, no shafts/sheds are necessary, not even shed sticks and string heddles.

5. All loom-controlled designs are limited by the available shaft numbers. Freeform overshot has no such limits. This includes the four shaft pick up-like technique developed by Nancy Searles in her book, “The Technique of Freeform Design,” 1984. The technique involves switching back and forth between warp-emphasis and weft-emphasis weave structures, such and 3:1 and 1:3 twills.” In addition, this technique requires compatible weave structures that can be woven on the same threading and treadling. While the technique can also be used with an eight shaft loom, the number of shafts snd treadles still place constraining limits on patterns and designs and still require a pick up stick. No such limitations exist for freedom overshot.

6. Deborah Silver has developed a related technique to Searle’s. About her forthcoming book on split-shed weaving she says, “Yes, it is similar [to Searle’s technique], but her method uses treadling changes as the shuttle moves through the shed, which I found to be awkward. The method I use is a split shed, which makes a layer of warps between the upper and lower warp, creating two mini-sheds. The shuttle navigates above and below this middle layer depending on whether you want the weft to show more or less.” Therefore, it is still shaft- and weave structure-limited and requires a four-shaft or multishaft loom. It also still requires a form of pick up weaving to create the motifs.

7. Drawlooms are the only looms that can create patterns as complex as mine. They, too, cost a lot of money or require serious DIY skills to build your own loom. Furthermore, drawlooms take up entire rooms because of their large size.

8. Industrial mechanized Jacquard looms cost tens of thousands of dollars.


Freeform overshot is the answer for anyone who wants a low cost way to create designs as complex or even more complex weave structures than shaft looms, and drapeable fabric instead of stiff rugs and tapestries. My ebooklet “The Mermaid Scarf Pattern & the Freeform Overshot Technique” is an 8 1/2″ x 11″ 20-page FULL COLOR booklet explaining how to design and weave any motif you want. If designing your own patterns sounds too daunting at first, I am listing new freeform overshot patterns in my Etsy shop every week or two.

I weave my freeform overshot scarves, including my Mermaid Scarf, Seashell Scarf, and my Goddess Scarf on my rigid heddle loom. Usually I use a fingering weight or 3/2 cotton or rayon warp, a 10/2 weaving tabby weft or #10 crochet thread, and a fingering wool pattern weft. It is entirely possible to weave with finer threads like weavers have been weaving for thousands of years.

This 20-page 8 1/2″ x 11″ ebooklet contains:
* Close-up, full-color photographs of the back of my Mermaid Scarf showing design detail.
* A description of my creative process and reinventing freeform overshot.
* A detailed, easy-to-follow description of how to weave a Mermaid-style scarf.
* Excerpts and photographs from blog posts I wrote while I was weaving the scarf.
* Directions on how to apply the freeform overshot technique to any weaving project.
* Many photographs of freeform overshot scarves and comments from five other weavers.
* How to use weaving software to design freeform overshot patterns.
* How to weave freeform overshot-style patterns on a dobby loom.

This booklet is much longer and easier to follow than my Nov/Dec 2015 Handwoven magazine article. The article was only three pages long and the editors shortened my version of the article even further. This booklet includes a lot of written information and many color photos not included in the magazine article.


One thought on “Why choose freeform overshot to weave complex motifs & patterns?

  1. thanks for reminding me that I have your booklet and need to get weaving!! I printed it out and then LIFE (illness and death in the family) got in the way. I am going to try some small projects like book marks with it and am very excited because my weaving friend just finished a 32 harness project which is way beyond my scope! thanks again!!


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