Swedish Overshot Experience

Experience builds on experience. The more I practice the classic Swedish weave structures, the more freedom I have in the process. Dice weave, halvdräll, and, now, this monksbelt, are all related. These are variations of overshot. I am putting what I know into practice, even though this is the first time I have woven monksbelt on my own loom. (My prior experience with monksbelt was first in a workshop with Joanne Hall, and then, under Becky Ashenden’s tutelage at Vävstuga Swedish Classics.)

Colorful Fårö wool is used for the monksbelt pattern weft.

Colorful Fårö wool is used for the monksbelt pattern weft.

Plan projects from start to finish, dress the loom single-handedly, use complex threading and complicated treadling, and weave with multiple shuttles. Do you relish these challenges? It is possible to weave things that don’t require as much training or practice. You can find a pattern on Pinterest or in a magazine, and do what “everybody” is doing. Not much is required of “everybody” in the crowd.

Classic monksbelt pattern with innovative color variations.

Classic monksbelt patterning is repeated with different color variations.

Swedish overshot, such as monksbelt, uses two shuttles--one for fine thread, and one for the thicker pattern weft. Warp is 16/2 cotton. Ground weave weft is 16/2 cotton. Pattern weft is 61 Fårö wool. Sett is 22 1/2 ends per inch. Weft density is 30 pattern picks per inch, with 2 tabby picks in between.

Swedish overshot, such as monksbelt, uses two shuttles–one for fine thread, and one for the thicker pattern weft. Warp is 16/2 cotton. Ground weave weft is 16/2 cotton. Pattern weft is 6/1 Fårö wool. Sett is 22 1/2 ends per inch. Weft density is 30 pattern picks per inch, with 2 tabby picks in between.

But some people strive to learn, and practice what they learn, building on previous experience. Consider truth. You are responsible for the truth you know. The more you are taught, the more that is required of you. And as you practice the truth you know, you discover the freedom that comes along in the process.

May you grow in experience.

Happy weaving,


  • Alaa says:

    I’ve yet to try Monk’s Belt but your weaving is inspiring.

  • Marie says:

    I have never woven Monks Belt but find it so exciting as I watch it come off of
    your loom. It looks like magic. I have put it on the list of projects for my
    4 shaft loom. Then I check out dice weave and halvdrall and my mind started to race with possibilities. Weaving is great for starting the creative process.
    Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Karen says:

      Marie, It does seem like magic to me, too, as the pattern shows up on the loom. I never tire of seeing the pattern develop with color.

      Thank you for your thoughts!

  • Cindie says:

    I love your monk’s belt with all the color changes in both pattern and ground.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cindie, Changing the color in the ground weave gives monksbelt a whole new dimension that I wasn’t expecting. I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I’m glad you like it!


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Designing at the Loom

For the most part, I am designing this monksbelt at the loom. Even so, I have guidelines regarding color order, sequence of tabby and pattern colors, and treadling order. Each time I remove the temple, I make mental notes for the upcoming segment. When I advance the warp, I step back to get a better idea of where I’ve been, and where I want to go.

Monksbelt with Faro wool pattern weft.

Two tabby picks of blue 16/2 cotton are between each Fårö wool pattern pick. Purple wool weft is carried up the selvedge a short distance under the blue wool weft .

The challenging part is the weft rep tabby. I make a high arch with the tabby weft, and change sheds before beating the weft in. Inconsistency shows up as streaks, especially with darker weft, like the blue tabby I’m on now. When it seems like too much effort to get it right, I have to remember that I am not just making yardage; I am developing skills and habits for successful weaving.

Saturated colors bring high contrast to the monksbelt pattern.

The intensity of saturated colors provide high contrast. Lavendar wool appears gray when deep purple and dark blue are introduced.

It takes planning and caring to build a home. It takes wisdom. Homes are built with wisdom. It’s like designing at the loom. We can’t see into the future, but we can set guidelines that help us make a good design. There is always a challenging part, in every stage. All the more reason for consistency in our convictions. Home is not just a place. Home is where we learn to love.

May your home be your family’s favorite place.



  • Debbie Moyes says:

    Your selvedges look wonderful! I have a temple and I will have to try using it on my next project. What is your plan for the yardage? It’s going to be luscious.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Debbie, Thank you! Selvedges always have a weaver’s attention, don’t they? It’s the paradox of trying to improve selvedges, while resisting fiddling with them.

      Using a temple is standard weaving procedure for me. I feel lost without one.

      This time, I have no immediate plan for the fabric. I wanted the freedom to weave and let the design take me where it will. After it comes off the loom I will decide what it’s good for. Or, I’ll put it away, and find it later when I need some fabric, and this happens to be perfect! That sounds like fun to me.


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Weaving Slowly

After a solid hour of weaving, I have produced only two more inches (5 cm) of woven fabric. I am completely enthralled with the process, though, of this intriguing monksbelt weave. Some of the best things take the most time.

Monksbelt on the loom. Karen Isenhower

Walnut boat shuttle is an Ebay find. It appears to be an antique Swedish shuttle. I like the way it fits in my hand. The fabric measures 4 inches (10cm) from the beginning of the Rust and Brick section to the fell line.

I long to feel the completed cloth in my hands. This weft rep monksbelt is new to me. I honestly don’t know how the hand and drape of the final cloth will be. There is nothing I can do but wait. And, at two inches (5 cm) per hour, that’s a long wait. But I won’t give up. I have enough experience at the loom to know that this is going to be a treasured piece…if I don’t get impatient and cut it off early.

Monksbelt on the loom.

Monksbelt with 9 colors of Faro wool pattern weft. Karen Isenhower

Palette of nine wool pattern colors has been selected for this monksbelt project. Changing the ground weft and the pattern weft at differing intervals produces an active cloth, reminding me of musical counterpoint.

Monksbelt on the loom in the late afternoon.

Weaving in the late afternoon–a relaxing and satisfying experience. Temple awaits on the beater, to be re-positioned when the photo op is over.

Do you have a prayer waiting to be answered? Sometimes it takes a while. Does that mean that God didn’t hear, or that he doesn’t care? If we could see the invisible, I think we would see things being woven into place–at the right time, in the right way. Do not give up on God. Ask, seek, knock. And remember that our heavenly Father has good in mind for us.

May you rest in the wait.



  • linda says:

    Karen: looks great !!! Colonial overshot and damask, when I get in rythem,(sp) I can do about 15″/ hr. Until I get that rythem it’s slow going, but I know all the strips will match and no seam will be visible. The body will only allow me to weave one hour at a time, darn joints, so I’m slow.

    Tell that wood working hubbie to make your shuttles. Mine made some for me from a cherry tree that died on our tree farm. It’s perfect and my go to shuttle. He also carves oblong bowls. They take a little longer, but they are beautiful. as always, LP&J linda

    • Karen says:

      Hi Linda, I can’t imagine weaving colonial overshot with such precision. Your work must be a delight to see!

      Steve has made a beautiful cherry ski shuttle for me. I think he will make a boat shuttle one of these days.


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One Color Too Many

I have forty-five shades of Fårö wool. That’s better than a giant box of crayons! Monksbelt and Fårö wool–is there anything better?! I have narrowed it down to nine colors. For the weft rep ground weave, a few tubes of 16/2 cotton off my shelves will do nicely.

Planning Swedish monksbelt with Fårö wool and 16/2 cotton.

Nine cakes of Fårö wool lined up against the wall. The wool is used for the monksbelt pattern weft. Seven colors of 16/2 cotton will serve as the ground weave, background for the pattern.

As always, I sample to see what works, and what doesn’t. I want a collection of colors that make a strong, but peaceful, statement. One misplaced color will spoil the effect. After trying various wool and cotton combinations, I see that the teal cotton must be removed. This color is welcome in other settings, but here it is out of place.

Removing the teal quill from the collection of colors.

One quill is eliminated–teal. The brash contrast between the green wool and teal cotton is immediately apparent as the cloth is woven.

Faith is like a determined collection of colors that are meant for each other. Do not underestimate the power of faith. When lined up like close-knit friends, when put into action, when woven into the warp, it’s phenomenal! However, faith is strongest when fear is removed. Taking the teal out of the lineup makes all the difference. Now, I weave this with confidence, knowing it works. Have you heard the account of Jesus calming the storm? He told the wind and waves, “Be still.” Strength and peace. That’s the power of faith.

Monksbelt on the loom. Wool and cotton. Karen Isenhower

Monksbelt weaving project starts with a bold statement. With the sampling now complete, I can weave the selected colors with assurance.

May you find the color that needs to be removed.

With strength and peace,


  • Eva says:

    What will you make? Love Monksbelt!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Eva, Thanks for asking!
      I am weaving this monksbelt with no end product in mind. I will wait until I can hold the fabric in my hands to decide how to use it. Right now, the pleasure is simply in the weaving.

      Happy weaving,

  • Debbie Moyes says:

    45! I’d love to see a picture of your fiber storage area…. I’m sure you have lots of other goodies as well. I love monksbelt too, but usually have issues with the selvedge. It looks like you have it well under control.

    • Karen says:

      Debbie, I know. I’m embarrassed to tell how much Fårö wool I have. I have collected the colors little by little for doing my small tapestries. I love having a wide range of colors for that.

      Fiber storage – I do have a great system that a dear friend helped design for me. My Fårö has overflowed its space, though, and half of it has drifted into a large box on the other side of the room. haha!
      A post on some storage solutions is a great idea! Thanks for the idea.

      So far, the selvedges are not giving me too much trouble. The temple helps with that.


  • Elisabeth Munkvold says:

    Beautiful! And I agree in the teal! It doesn’t contribute to balance…or peace. The green/teal combination speaks a different “language” than the other color combinations.

    On storage, a few ideas:
    Before looking into storage solutions: Reduce! Weed out anything that doesn’t meet your need any more! Did something already serve its purpose in your life and will now serve someone else better?

    Can you add shelves to your existing system or did you already utilized every inch of height between the existing shelves?

    You love color palettes as much as I do…would displaying your yarn in wall hung shallow wooden boxes be an option?

    Would it be more functional to move yarn back into the existing storage system and take something else out to be placed elsewhere?

    Is it an option to sell yarn to other weavers to reduce money held up in inventory and set the money aside for future yarn needs 🙂 Full price by weight…maybe half the amount of each color goes a long way. This could be done for any yarn/thread that’s not used a lot.

    Do some items take up too much space by sitting in a box that’s too big? Would some items be better off on a small wall shelf as a “piece of art”…like clamping a bobbin winder to a small colorful shelf for example. Or hang extra heddles on decorative pegs?

    And last but not least, I really like the flexibility of the IKEA Ivar system. Shelves can be placed as far apart or close together as you need. And, you can cover the side(s) with wood or a peg board and have functional wall storage.

    Have wonderful weekend!


    Sent from my iPhone

    • Karen says:

      Elisabeth – This is why I love hanging out with you! Your advice is priceless.

      For the Fårö situation, I think it’s time to weed out some old yarn that is not the quality I like to use. It’s just taking up space. If I do that, I think I can make room to put all the Fårö together. 🙂 You’re brilliant at pointing out the simple and obvious. …and at asking the hard questions.

      Thank you!

  • linda says:

    Karen: You must be too close to your weaving to decide about the teal, from Massachusetts it looks wonderful! Sometimes just a hint of that “off” color makes the others sing. Back up 20′ and squint. What do you see? LP&J,linda

    • Karen says:

      Okay, let me try that. I’ll be right back…

      • Karen says:

        Linda, I see what you mean. From a distance, the teal color doesn’t seem as harsh against the wool green. I know exactly what you are talking about that a hint of an “off” color can add a vibrant touch to the fabric. I’ve experienced that a few times, too.

        Hmm… I think I will set the teal aside–mostly; after all, the fabric will be seen close up most often. I may, however, sneak in a small bit of the teal as a surprise element. We shall see…

        Thanks for the feedback,

  • Elisabeth Munkvold says:

    I agree with Linda on the value of using an off color, I do it in my quilts all the time, it is easier when using an array of colors in a large project. With fewer colors and a smaller project (small compared to a king size quilt) a hint, like Linda says, would be the way to go.
    Thank you Linda for reminding me of the value of the off color! I am too new to weaving, and hung up in the process, to apply my color experience from other areas yet. Good reminder 🙂


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Perfect Warp Tension?

Two fingers gently test the resistance of the threads, from the center of the warp, moving outwards to the right, and to the left. This is how I evaluate the warp tension. I don’t rush; and I give the effort all my attention. Weft rep, where the ground weft almost completely covers the warp, is especially susceptible to hills and valleys from uneven warp tension. After I have made several tension adjustments, I tie on the leveling string. Next is tying up lamms and treadles, and winding quills. Then, the joy of weaving this monksbelt begins!

Cotton warp with leveling string, getting ready to weave monksbelt!

Leveling string is in place across the beginning of the warp. Lamms, which can be seen below the warp, are tied up next. And then, the treadles are tied up. After that, weaving begins!

The ability to feel unevenness in warp tension is a learned practice. Being attentive is half the battle; and patience is the other half. Taking time on the front end reduces correction time after weaving has begun.

Sampling at the beginning of monksbelt project. 16/2 cotton and 6/1 Fårö wool.

Classic Swedish weave, monksbelt, is woven here with 6/1 Fårö wool for the pattern weft, over 16/2 cotton for the weft rep ground weave. Sampling has begun!

Skilled listening is a learned practice, too. Listening is more than hearing, isn’t it? Pay attention to how you listen. It matters. It takes a gentle touch to listen with a heart of understanding. When we listen with an unbending heart, we only hear what we want to hear. Patience on the front end results in fewer corrections later.

May you hear and be heard.



  • linda says:

    Hi Karen: My , at the time 6yo, daughter asked me one day to listen to her with my eyes. I was unpacking her backpack and really not listening to the telling of the days events. She was right. giving her my Full attention right then was most important. Weaving teaches patience and really seeing not just the over all finished product, but the tiny one thread flaws that must be corrected to make the whole right. Again your method is new to me and fascinating to see, thanks for doing this. linda

    • Karen says:

      What a sweet story with great insight. Children teach us so many things! I’m glad that weaving teaches patience, because for most of us, that doesn’t come naturally.


  • Ingie says:

    Between this post and the previous one, there is no information on how you tie on to the front apron rod. It doesn’t appear to be a method that I’ve seen before and am struggling to understand how you did it. Also, what is the “leveling string” and what is its purpose?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ingie, Thank you for asking. The method of tying on is closely linked to the leveling string. Here’s the link to a post that explains the leveling string, and also talks about how the knots are tied. —
      Tools Day: Leveling String

      The books I mention in the post also detail this method of tying on in more detail. The knot I use is one I specifically learned from Becky Ashenden at Vävstuga. It is covered thoroughly in Becky’s book.

      Happy weaving,

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