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 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—a pleasing aesthetic to the human eye throughout history.
In the overshot heyday, both male and female weavers would make coverlets for family members. Itinerant 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 were shared between friends and family, and a weaver’s or patron’s name, and the year of creation, would frequently be meticulously woven into the corner of the coverlet, recording its provenance for centuries to come.
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 summer visits to 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 is 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 Andean weaving techniques, 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, viewing weaving as a form of communication, both liberated from and paying homage to the constructs 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 allow us to hold centuries of history in our hands, adding our own traditions to the record. As they were traditionally, Vaeven overshot coverlets are meant to be used and loved for generations. They are tactile expressions of the unique history and power of the handmade object.