Handwoven Table Runner in Overshot

My grandmother was a weaver. She taught weaving in Grand Rapids, Michigan, for many years in her basement studio. I didn’t, however, learn to weave from my grandmother. I just lived too far away and weaving isn’t something you can just pick up from weekend visits. Learning to weave came much later, but when I weave, I often think of my grandmother and fond memories of holidays emerge.

Visiting my grandparent’s home during the holidays was always a formal affair. The meals were amazing and they were always served on the finest china. After my grandmother’s passing, I inherited one of the sets of china which I cherish to this day. Having more “formal” dinners at during the holidays is a tradition I wanted to continue for my family. Each holiday when I bring out the china I remember holidays as a child. As my family continues to grow, I found myself in need of a few more placemats. Up until this now, I’ve been using placemats woven by my grandmother. They’ve worn a bit over the years and it’s time to have another option.

When I started I didn’t have as solid vision of what I wanted. I knew I wanted the placemats to not compete with the china. I wanted them to take a backseat to the tableware. They needed to be thicker, but not too think and their size needed to adjusted to fit the different types of tables I use during dinner. I chose overshot as my weave structure and played with color on my sample to see what would work and not work as well. I plan to use 8/2 unmercerized cotton as the warp and 5/2 mercerized cotton as the pattern weft and 10/2 mercerized cotton as the tabby weft. Below is a picture of my color sample with the china.

Well now for the testing part and where the table runner and placemats come in. I chose to use the pattern “Daybreak” from Weaving Designs by Bertha Gray Hayes: Miniature Overshot Patterns. I purchased that book awhile back and her story just fascinates me. I’m sure my grandmother and Bertha Gray Hayes never met, but maybe they did. I felt a little connection to my grandmother in this project by choosing a pattern designed by a weaver in her era.

I wove a sample using 176 warp ends sett at 13 epi. I treadled different sequences to see what they would types of patterns would emerge. I’ll use this sample as a reference when I begin to weave the placemats for the china.

As I develop as a weaver, I’m growing to appreciate the need for weaving samples. In this case, not only did weaving the sample allow me to experiment with different treadling sequences, it let me know that the shrinkage was more than expected. When I thread the loom for the placemats for the china, I’m going to have to factor in adding another inch.

Well, I ended weaving a table runner and several placemats. Except that they are a little narrower than expected, I really like them. I loved playing with the different treadling sequences and was spot on with my choice of using 5/2 mercerized cotton as my pattern weft. Now I feel I have enough information to start the big project of weaving placements for the next big holiday. Just as a side note, as I look at this picture I see the loom that I wove this placements on in the background. This loom was gifted to my grandmother by her weaving teacher. When my grandmother closed her studio when she moved into assisted living, she gifted the loom to her long time student, Jane Schaffer. Jane then taught weaving in her basement studio for years as well. When Jane downsized, she called my aunt and eventually the loom found its way to my home. I am just started to teach weaving as well. Gotta love history and family traditions.

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