More About My Books

Well, the Cottage Street Studios open house was very interesting. Here’s a photo of my books and some of Amanda’s gilded acorns, wishbones, and gourds around a festive winter-time tree. handbound books with handwoven covers and gilden acornsShe also makes stunning gilded panels, frames, and other treasures. I met lots of great people and had inspiring conversations. My books have now moved to Food For Thought Books in Amherst where thy are available for sale. Here they are on display at the bookstore:handmade books by Michelle Parrish at Food for ThoughtMaking these books is a multi-step process. I haven’t photographed every step, but I thought I should give an overview. Understanding the process helps people to understand the labor and expense involved in creating a handmade object.

First I wove the cloth, using a variation of the traditional overshot pattern called Young Lovers’ Knot. This involved calculations about the sizes of the books and shrinkage of the cloth, as well as all the steps involved in dressing a loom. I put on a warp long enough to make 12 books. Even though I really loved the pattern, and enjoyed playing around with different color combinations, I was happy to get to the end of the warp when I finally finished it; it took a long time to weave. The pattern requires two shuttles, one with a thin thread (20/2, same size as the warp) and one with a thicker thread that makes the pattern. So, it went slowly. Here’s the end of the warp.

woad-dyed blue cottolin Young Lovers Knot warpThen I washed, dried, and ironed the cloth, and cut it into sections. handwoven cloth for book covers Then, for each book I decided whether to show the front or back of the cloth, front and back sides of overshot clothbecause the two sides look very different. For example, in the photo of the black and white cloth, the piece on the left, with the white squares (tables) in the center of the round motif, shows the “right” side of the cloth. With this color combination, I preferred the back side.

I used a paper template to center the pattern on the cover. I am a symmetry fan, so I was going for symmetry even if I didn’t always attain it. Cloth has a mind of its own. Once I framed the portion of the pattern that I liked, I cut the cloth to size, and glued the cloth onto book board (8.5 inches by 5.5 inches) with PVA glue.

I managed to waste very little cloth in this process, which on the one hand I was pleased about because the cloth took so long to weave that I didn’t want to waste it. On the other hand, I might give myself more of an allowance next time (i.e., weave a couple more pattern repeats in width and length) to give me more design flexibility. Here are my scraps:

handwoven cloth scrapsThen I trimmed the corners, and glued down the edges of the cloth on the inside of the cover. Then I pressed the covers. When they were dry, I cut and glued down nice papers on the inside of the covers. Matching paper colors and cloth colors is also a whole decision-making process. Here’s me gluing down the papers.The author making book coversThen I pressed the covers again until the glue was dry. Meanwhile, I folded the signatures, and put them under weights for a while. When the covers were dry, I punched holes in the signatures and holes in the covers with an awl, and sewed the whole thing together with 4 ply waxed linen thread. Ta-da, a book. Six are done, and six more are in the works.


New Handbound Books with Handwoven Covers

Today I am bringing my new crop of handbound books to the Cottage Street Open Studios, where my friend Amanda kindly invited me to offer them for sale alongside her gorgeous gilded pieces.

The cloth for the covers of my new books is woven in a traditional overshot pattern called Young Lovers’ Knot. I wanted the scale of the pattern to be small and intricate, so the warp and tabby weft are 20/2 cotton. The pattern wefts are 10/2 cotton, 10/2 tencel, and 22/2 cottolin. The cottolin is a blend, 60% cotton/40% linen, and I hand dyed it blue with woad from my garden. The rest are commercially dyed. The cloth took a ridiculously long time to weave. Then there was the problem of where to dry it since it was very long. It dried inside and outside.

book cloth drying outsideI wove two pieces without the emboldening tabby, a red one and a green one. So, the cloth for this red book is a small piece of history, now made famous right here in this post!Red Book with Young Lovers Knot coverAfter the first two pieces, I resolved my emboldening tabby problem. To make sure your emboldening tabby stays consistent, you need an even number of picks at each turning point in the pattern, i.e., in the center and at the end. I had added a pick at the end of the pattern, but later decided to take out two picks in the center of the pattern. This created a shorter, less busy-looking square or “table” in the pattern.

Young Lovers Knot-shorter squareEach book is unique. Here are a few photos of the books:

Coptic Bound Book Spines
Coptic bound spines
Green tencel and teal tabby
Green tencel pattern yarn and teal tabby
Woad-dyed cottolin
Woad-dyed cottolin
Black and white book
Black and white book

Small Ones Farm

Many thanks to Sally and Bob Fitz of Small Ones Farm for inviting me to table at their fruit CSA pick up days on Saturday October 1st and Wednesday October 19th. It was very inspiring to meet their members, and I had many stimulating conversations about CSAs, locally sourced materials, natural dyes, local wool, flax, and vegan cloth.

At my table I displayed a basket of naturally dyed wool yarns that were mostly handspun by me, over the years, using natural dyes. For the madder, I displayed the results of a dye bath using roots from Earth Guild. (I have also bought madder root from Tierra Wools and Aurora Silk.) For all the rest, I used plants I gathered or grew myself in Amherst or the surrounding area. When I first began spinning, the most economical way to acquire a lot of wool was to buy raw fleeces. I bought and have enjoyed working with Corriedale from the former Mad Women’s Farm in Amherst, Dorset/Border Leicester cross from Natural Roots in Conway, Coopworth from Shirkshire Farm in Conway, the mixed breed flock at Hampshire College, and Romney and mohair from a few farmers I met at the Webs fleece markets. After I got tired of washing and carding my own wool, I’ve enjoyed roving from Balkey farm in Northfield and others. I also had a smaller basket of naturally dyed linen (commercial 40/2 from Webs). The yarns (and my bundle of home grown flax) were for show and tell.

And for sale, I had handbound books with handwoven cloth covers.

hand bound books with hand woven covers
Some of my hand bound books with handwoven covers.