Intentionally designed and centuries in the making—Vaeven reinterprets a rich weaving tradition.
We don’t often think about it, but the objects we encounter every day have a backstory. A ceramic mug, a computer, a kitchen chair—they all have a history. They’ve traveled great distances. They’ve been touched by different hands on their way into our lives. For some objects, the backstory is short, clipped and mass produced. For others, it’s decidedly deeper.
When you hold an overshot coverlet in your hands, the history is palpable.
This type of handwoven blanket has its roots in Northern European weaving, but became popular in the United States in the mid 1700s. The name overshot (which is about as dramatic as weaving terminology gets) comes from the way horizontal weft yarns jump over several vertical warp yarns at once. This technique lends itself to a diverse array of geometric patterns—making it a natural choice for coverlets (which is a posh word for bed covering).
In the overshot heyday, both male and female weavers would make coverlets for family members. A makeshift economy of roaming weavers would also travel from town to town and create coverlets on commission for local families. Most households owned at least one—and as an object, it was strongly tied to a family’s identity. Weave drafts (which is a rather technical term for a pattern) were shared between friends and family. They were written down and mailed to loved ones living in other states. A weaver might not know the outcome of the pattern until it slowly revealed itself—creating a slow-burning mystery, suspense and delight that all weavers understand.
For our founder Laura, the overshot coverlet represents a connection to family, identity and history — her paternal grandmother was an antique dealer who collected these heritage textiles.
During their summer visits in northwestern Ohio, Laura would spend afternoons exploring the curiosities in her grandmother’s attic and gaining an appreciation for artisan-made textiles and the intergenerational history they carry.
The overshot coverlet is a truly American weaving expression, and like many traditions in the United States, it’s an amalgam of diverse influences: as people migrated from Northern Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, they brought their weaving traditions with them and created a woven language that embodies a rich cultural history—of their predecessors and of the United States itself. Today, Laura and Vaeven co-founder Cameron are writing another chapter for the overshot coverlet by incorporating yet another weaving tradition. Working with expert weavers in the Peruvian Andes, Vaeven is reviving and reinterpreting these historic objects. Using baby alpaca wool and employing time-honored techniques from Peru, Vaeven overshot coverlets are an homage intended to do justice to the rich history of the originals.
Vaeven believes in honoring an object’s backstory, and we see weaving as a form of communication which is free from the constraints of place and time.
Our coverlets use the same weave drafts that were in circulation hundreds of years ago, and when they come off the loom, our coverlets come to life. They let us hold centuries of history in our hands—and allow us to add our own traditions to the record. As they were traditionally, a Vaeven overshot coverlet is meant to be used and loved for generations. It’s meant to be a tactile expression of the unique history and power of the handmade object. (And all of this was rather a long way of saying that we hope you enjoy using your Vaeven coverlet as much as we enjoyed making it.)