Purple Cloth

I wove some cloth! This shouldn’t be so remarkable, I suppose, but I’ve been really unproductive in the fiber art realm lately so it’s big news. Ultimately I plan to use this cloth to make a new batch of books with purple covers. I had hoped to have a few made in time for the upcoming “Purple Show” at the Shelburne Arts Co-op, but alas they will not be ready in time. I may get them finished before the end of the show…. The show hangs this Tuesday March 31st, and is up until Monday April 27.

Here are the weaverly details about this project: The warp is 20/2 cotton, from the discontinued UKI line. The color is called Malay Purple. There are 598 ends in the warp. The sett is 30 ends per inch. The width in the reed is 20 inches. My draw-in (how much the edges pulled in as I wove) was about 6% and the shrinkage in the width was about 4%. Shrinkage in length was about 6%. I washed it by hand in hot water and hung to dry.

The pattern is a miniature overshot motif called Maltese Cross. I’ve written about overshot in earlier posts, but I’ll quickly recap here. To weave overshot, you typically weave one pick of fine yarn (the same size as the warp) alternating with one pick of thicker yarn (approximately twice the diameter of the warp). The fine yarn makes a background that stabilizes the cloth creating a plain weave structure called tabby. In this piece of cloth, I used the same color of 20/2 cotton for the warp and the tabby. The thicker weft yarns float over several warp ends and form the pattern. I’ve woven most of my book cloth using overshot motifs. I really love them. To me they are simultaneously old-fashioned and psychedelic. Continue reading “Purple Cloth”

New Hop Vine Books

I have sewn up a few more books with the Hop Vine pattern on the cover. One was actually sewn in Maryland on February 20th, where I was visiting my sister who is about to have her second baby. From there it was promptly mailed off to Arizona, from whence it will travel to Ohio. Not a carbon-neutral book, alas. However, it was blessed by the paw of the Pippi, so I’m sure its sins are forgiven.

Often when I am working on something involving glue or paper or yarn, the cat jumps up to “help.” At least, that’s what we always say. “Pippi likes to help.” Then we say, “Don’t help, Pippi!” In this case, though, I was happy she was helping. Because…. Continue reading “New Hop Vine Books”

Hop Vine Color and Design

This afternoon I wove off the rest of the Hop Vine warp. I am pretty pleased with the cloth, and have even come around to liking the three sections that I was so critical of in my last post.

To add some variation to the pattern, I decided to switch to the “rose fashion” treadling for the remainder of the warp. You can see the difference in the two photos below. The first one shows the star fashion treadling. It is a series of diamonds with strong diagonals. The second is the same pattern and tabby colors woven rose fashion. Four-pointed stars alternate with ovals to create more undulation.

Mosstone and Pistachio Hop Vine Mosstone and Pistachio Hop Vine Rose FashionHere’s a close up of the cloth with the rose fashion treadling.

Mosstone and Pistachio close upI do think it is more dynamic with the alternating motifs. That shift alone added a bit more energy to the cloth. Continue reading “Hop Vine Color and Design”


My new book cloth is a variation of a miniature overshot motif called Hopvine. To create my threading I worked from two other drafts. One was “Modified Hopvine” from a sampler from the Hill Institute. The other was “Modified Hop Vine” from Marguerite Davison’s classic A Handweaver’s Pattern Book. The threading from Hill had too many ends in each pattern repeat to suit the scale of my book covers (5.5 inches by 8 inches) so I wanted to make the motif smaller. The Davison draft had fewer ends in a repeat but looked weirdly jittery in the drawdown in my weaving software.

So, I tinkered until I found a satisfying balance in the pattern, and am still tinkering with the treadling. The design consists of two different diamonds, one a longer and more pointed and the other a little more squat and rounded. I am not sure if these are supposed to evoke different elements of a hop vine, for example the leaves and the inflorescences. Or maybe the name of the pattern has a different origin. There are some nice images of hops plants here.

For those of you who recall my emboldening tabby travails of a year ago, you might be surprised to hear that I ran into the same problem of keeping a consistent tabby this time, also. Sigh. Continue reading “Hopvine”

Guild Presentation

On Wednesday November 14th I gave a presentation to the Weavers of Western Massachusetts about my Coptic bound books with handwoven cloth covers. It was very flattering to be invited to share my work with such an accomplished group of weavers, and I really appreciated the opportunity to talk about my process to an interested audience. It was a lot of fun. Continue reading “Guild Presentation”

Recent Books

Back in September, I finished a custom order of 8 books, which was very satisfying. I used only naturally-dyed pattern weft, in linen, cottolin, and cotton (the warp and tabby wefts were commercial). I had a variety of weld-dyed yellow, madder-dyed pink and terra-cotta, and woad-dyed blue yarns to work with. They were all woven in an overshot pattern called Young Lovers Knot, which I have been using for my book cloth for about a year now.

You may recall my frustration earlier in the spring when I was weaving the cloth, and I was bored of weaving the same pattern over and over again. I complained about it at the time, and then got re-inspired when I bought some new tabby weft colors. I also switched from weaving the design star fashion, which creates boxes and distinct diagonal lines as you weave, to weaving rose fashion, which makes the motifs rounded and gives a sense of concentric circles rippling outward. Continue reading “Recent Books”

Exhausted Madder and Exhausted with my Warp

I have exhausted the madder bath I’ve been working on.

madder exhaust on bleached cottonThese are the 10/2 bleached cotton skeins which were double-mordanted with aluminum acetate and heated in the calcium carbonate fixing solution. Actually, I could probably run one more bath for an extremely pale pink, but I’m ready to move on with other projects.

Now that I have a pretty decent stash of naturally dyed cotton, linen, and cottolin, I have been using only naturally dyed pattern weft yarns for my current batch of book cloth (the warp and tabby yarns are commercial). Thus far, I have really enjoyed using yarns that I dyed myself. However, on Monday I was having a mightily difficult time choosing color combinations. I couldn’t figure out what my problem was, but I was dissatisfied with everything I tried.  Colors that I had been perfectly happy with before–my screaming yellow weld, for example–looked ugly and annoying.

After a while I realized that I was just tired of weaving the same pattern over and over again (Young Lovers Knot). I put on enough warp for about 20 pieces, with the idea that I was being efficient. But instead I was bored. I am never, ever bored. There is so much to do all the time, and so many interesting things in the world, how could I ever be bored? It took me a while to recognize the feeling, and I felt better when I figured it out.

So, I decided to mix things up a little. I bought some new spring-like colors of 20/2 cotton (the sadly discontinued line from UKI) and decided to use commercially dyed 10/2 for the pattern weft for a while. I also switched from weaving the Young Lovers Knot pattern “Star Fashion” (which gives it those nice diagonal lines) to weaving it “Rose Fashion” (which makes all the motifs more rounded). It was a nice change of pace, and the new colors got me motivated again. In fact, with the new tabby colors, my naturally dyed yarns have taken on all sorts of new possibilities. Here is a 20/2 linen madder-dyed skein from the recent dyebath woven with a rich purple commercially dyed 20/2 cotton tabby weft. It’s sort of easter-eggy but considering that crocuses, daffodils, and all the other bulbs are blooming now, it feels OK to me.

madder-dyed pattern weft with purple tabby

Where are the books now?

My blank books and bookmarks are now available for sale at two fine establishments, Shelburne Arts Co-op in Shelburne Falls, MA, and Sawmill River Arts by the Montague Bookmill in Montague.

In other news, I have been making plans for flax growing experiments this spring. Usually I don’t plant flax until mid-April or even early May, but spring has come very early this year. I have grand aspirations this year, and will be growing several varieties: a non-specified fiber flax variety from Richters, Evelin from Richters, Marilyn from the Hermitage, and a tiny quantity of Regina from Sand Mountain Herbs.  Stay tuned for more updates about flax.


More journals

This weekend I sewed together the last of the books from the Young Lovers Knot warp. Three have blue 10/2 tencel for the pattern weft (the color is called Moroccan Blue from Textiva Yarns) with black 20/2 tabby weft. One has a copper-colored 10/2 cotton pattern weft (a UKI color called Mead) with black 20/2 tabby, and one has green 10/2 tencel (Emerald Green from Textiva Yarns) pattern weft with 20/2 black tabby. copper and black bookblue tencel book cover





Here are a few more details about them. The coptic binding lets the journal open flat as you write. This is an advantage because you can write anywhere (e.g., sitting snug in bed with your journal propped on your knees). Also, you don’t waste any paper because you can write all the way to the edges. journal opens flatThese journals are meant for writing, rather than drawing or painting. The paper is smooth, so you can write without bumps and lumps. Any kind of pen will work (except Sharpie bleeds through). I prefer old-fashioned ball points, my pen of choice for decades. The paper isn’t too plain, though, it has visual texture, with little flecks of light brown against the cream-colored paper.

The spines are exposed so you see the folds of the signatures, and the coptic stitch is decorative. I like how the stitching extends the feeling of the threads in the cloth on the covers. It makes the books feel connected, like the covers and pages grew together.blue tencel spinespine close up





Matching the color of the waxed linen thread with the yarns in the cover is fun, though not straightforward. I bought certain colors of waxed linen thread specifically because they matched the yarns I have. But when the cloth is all woven together, interactions between the pattern yarn and the tabby yarn create new color effects. This is always true with weaving, but it happens in a particular way with overshot because of the interactions of the tabby weft with the pattern weft, as well as the warp. Because of these interactions, two colors that were similar when compared one-on-one no longer look alike. I prefer the color of the waxed linen thread to blend into the cloth on the covers. To me it adds to the feeling that the cloth and the stitching are one process or one structure.

My journals are no longer available at Food for Thought Books, since they are in the midst of textbook rush and the space is filled with books for classes for the new semester. For the moment, I have them here at home. Here is the description I posted with the books at the store:

“These books were handmade by Michelle Parrish of Local Color Dyes and Wood Thrush Weaving – Amherst, MA. I hand wove the cloth for the covers using cotton, tencel, and cotton-linen blend yarns. The pattern is a variation on a traditional overshot motif called “Young Lovers’ Knot.” I sewed the books with a Coptic binding using waxed linen thread. In addition to being decorative, the Coptic binding allows your book to lay flat as you write. The writing paper is 50% post consumer recycled, acid free, and FSC certified. Though all the books in this series share the same pattern, each book is one of a kind.

I made these books so that people could write in them. Writing helps me make sense and meaning of my life, to re-tell and remember, to think, plan and decide, and to create continuity and a sense of personal history over time. It connects me to myself. I have kept a journal since I was 7 years old.

The overshot pattern on the cover holds a story of its own, and is connected to a longer history. In times past, these patterns were woven with linen or cotton and wool, and made warm, durable bed covers. Many old coverlets were made entirely by hand and represented months of work: the linen was grown, processed, and spun, and the wool sheared, washed, spun, and dyed, by the weaver and her family. There are hundreds of traditional overshot patterns, many with evocative names. Each of us lives a unique story of our own, but we are all connected to one another, past and present, through the fabric of life. I hope one of these books will connect you to others who labored, created, lived and loved, and passed their stories to us in the form of these traditional patterns.

And I hope these journals offer a space to write some of your own story.”