The Color Purple


Where I grew up, purple was against the Amish Ordnung. I yearned for purple. When I got my first set of 64 crayons, the purple ones were the first ones to be worn down.

Most of all, I wanted to wear purple. But it was against the Amish Ordnung, and that was all there was to it. Or so I thought. Then one day I saw a photo of a woman from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, who was wearing purple. I asked Mem why they could wear purple and we couldn't, and yet they were Amish. She gave me her stock non-answer, "That's just the way it is."

I never knew which reaction I would get from Mem… that of the submissive Amish woman, making statements like the one above, or that of her dropping her voice to a conspiratorial whisper saying, "I've often wondered that myself." Because Mem was of two minds when it came to the Amish rules. She chafed against the rules that women needed to be submissive to their husbands, and yet she was much more capable of making sound and intelligent decisions than her husband, and she knew it. And yet she allowed my brothers to lord their power over us sisters as we were growing up. She had me get up from the supper table to get my younger brother water when he demanded it. When my older brother walked towards me in his solid footsteps to "discipline" me I'd plead Mem for help and she would often stay silent.

So, to say that I received mixed messages from Mem is an understatment. Perhaps she could do without wearing purple dresses easily enough, but she didn't like playing the submissive role to Datt. She, too, was getting mixed messages. On the one hand, she was supposed to be submissive to Datt, but when we were small children, she was not getting any help from Datt to provide for the family. and she also wasn't getting any help in her domestic chores. I often wonder how she managed to feed and clothe the seven of us, while still playing the role of both parents. She was being asked to be submissive to someone who was not capable of playing the role of husband and father. And she was not getting any support from the community to help make ends meet.

In this environment, it may seem trivial to have a desire to wear a certain color. Perhaps purple was a symbol of something more important, such as being authentically who I was meant to be, without restriction. It is the color of my soul and I felt deprived of purple in my childhood.

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I like wearing purple. Sometimes I look at my color palette in my closet and think I should diversify a bit. But I feel at home in purple, bright blue, turquoise, teal, and black.

I was thinking about all this as I was braiding my latest rug. When I was done, I realized I had braided at least one strand of purple thoughout the whole rug, until the very last row of black. I am very pleased with the result. I now have it in front of my bed, where I see (and feel) it when I get up in the morning. I feel like I have given myself a Christmas gift. One that represents me being truly who I am, without external restrictions.




David really likes this rug. My son, Tim, says it's too purple for his tastes. He likes the one I made a while back in earthtones. Now I know what color to make a rug for him someday. I learned from my mistakes on this rug, and so you'll notice it's a little misshapen.


My attic studio, where I braid rugs:


Do you have a color you feel reflects your soul? Why or why not?

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39 thoughts on “The Color Purple”

  1. For some reason, I was always drawn to the color green. I was ecstatic when “avocado” green was popular in the 60’s. Around 1990, I was ecstatic when “forest” green was popular. About 10 years ago, I was ecstatic when “seafoam” green was popular. When my kids were little and I was active in PTA, we had a lady in to do a program about “Color and You”. Everyone took a turn going up and she presented us with different colors. When it was my turn, needless to say, everyone agreed that “green” was the best color for me. I tried blue in the 80’s – but am back to green – bedroom walls, some furniture, outside accents. My eyes are hazel. My husband says if my eyes turn green, watch out – the volcano is ready to blow!!!! I am totally happy in the spring when the grass starts turning green and the trees are leafing out again! It’s definitely my favorite season of the year! Everything is so vibrantly green. I feel more “alive” again.

    Your purple rug is beautiful.

    1. Kristine, I love how enthusiastically you love green, and I love all your reasons… especially the first green of spring! It makes me yearn for spring, even in the beginning of this winter.

      I would even like to be around when the color of your eyes signify a volcano about to erupt… smile.

      Thank you for the compliment on my purple rug. I suspect the bit of teal that is not enough for your tastes…

      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family!


      1. Hi Saloma your rugs are great. My grandmother used to make similar ones that I wish I still had. After having a long week with the family we are convinced that you used to babysit us when we were younger. I also think you mentioned this in your book. Our mother had ms. Unfortunately she lost her battle Sunday night.. I you think this is you I’d love a conversation.

        1. Hi Steve! Small world, you are absolutely right… I did work for your family. Oh so long ago.

          I am so sorry to hear of your loss. I would LOVE to be in conversation with you and your family. If I remember right, my mother sent me an article about your father once some years after I left.

          Please feel free to email me…

      2. I did notice the teal – it made a lovely accent! And no, you probably would not want to be around when my eyes turn green – I’m 1/2 Italian!
        double smile!

    1. I have. A friend gave it to me for my birthday once. I’m not into the red hat part of it, though. When a friend and I got together recently, we were both wearing purple coats. We decided we wanted to start the “purple coat society” instead of the “red hat society.”

      Thanks for stopping by, Carol.

      1. I was a founding member of a chapter of the Purple Coat Society! Inspired first by my love of the color purple, and secondly, this book, which I am sure you are aware of, but thought I’d share in case any other fellow purple people out there are not!

        Though there are other colors that I love (that deep green of sunlight through corn leaves, deep red, and acid green), purple is my true love. If I live to be and old woman, I am going to wear as much purple as I can away with, and maybe, live in as purple a house as possible.

  2. I’m not sure about color reflecting my soul, but I do know that as far back as I can remember, I have loved purple. It is the only color I would say is my favorite. I love your rugs and especially your personal one. (; I am also attracted to all the cool color palette that compliments purple. I could go for a purple coat society but have never been attracted to mixing red and purple together like “red hatters”. I am happy for you wearing all the purple you want to now. Life is too short to not wear colors we love. Merry Christmas to you, David and your family.

    1. Katie, they were forbidden colors for us, too. I like pink and yellow in certain situations, but not to wear because they are just not right for my skin tone. But I can imagine that you would look very good in those colors.

      Thanks for stopping by, and may you have a Blessed Christmas!

  3. I’ve experimented with color over the years and keep coming back to purple. While I wear many colors, a good portion of my clothing is something in the purple family. My bedroom and bathroom are done in purple with gray undertones – so soothing.

    1. Those colors sound divine. Our bedroom, bathroom, living room, and dining room are all a light shade of purple. And we have a purple stripe on our trim on the outside of our house. I wanted to go for a bold color of purple for that, but David wanted it toned down, so that’s what we have.

      Thanks for stopping by and Merry Christmas.

  4. Karen Parkin-Demmons

    I have always loved purple, but more so now. My young son has Epilepsy and the “awareness” color is purple. I try to wear something purple every day to help me remember to pray for those with challenges. I love how you wove purple throughout the entire rug, it is simply beautiful. Merry Christmas and may your New Year be filled with many blessings! -Karen

  5. It’s me, again. Forgot to say that your rug with the purple is just beautiful. I don’t know if you are musical or not, but if you are, you might want to google “What color is middle C”. I had heard of this concept many years ago but never had tried to find out additional information or opinions.

    1. Carol, thank you for your comments. I am not the least bit musical. My sons would say, “Mommy please don’t sing,” when I tried singing them songs at bedtime. Before they could say that, they would put their hands over their ears.

      May you and your family enjoy the holidays!

  6. Aha – this post is well-timed. Just this afternoon in a restaurant I was admiring a little girl, maybe 6 years old, who was wearing a purple print dress and a purple bow in her hair. She was SO cute. Purple and blue are my favorite colors, and I trace my preference back to 7th grade. My teacher for that year (and the next – in my school we kept the same teacher for 2 years) loved purple and blue. She was even able to have her classroom walls painted light blue, with windows accented by purple curtains!

    My mother always believed that wearing colors made one feel better, happier. You’d NEVER catch her in “earth tones.” She said that she’d been made to wear dark clothes as a child because her grandmother said they’d be more practical, but once she was old enough to make her own decisions in the matter, she never looked back.

    I may dress a bit less flamboyantly than she often did, but I always have on something colorful, even if it’s just my earrings.

    1. Joan, interesting how when we become aware of something, it pops up somewhere else in our world, isn’t it?

      I get what your mother was saying about earthtones.

      Thank you for stopping by, and many you enjoy your holidays.

  7. That purple rug is beautiful, Saloma. Not my personal favorite but I do love it- especially with complementary shades.

    My own favorite, like Kristine Lange above- is green. To me, green is the color of life. There are so many shades of green that I resonate to, even though there are a couple I don’t care for. There is even one shade that makes ‘poisonous’ always come to my mind. :) I know that red is said to be life, but new growth and survival itself is green.

    At the same time, my favorite season is Autumn; not too much green there.

    There are many colors and shades that I love, many of them I don’t even have names for. Like the colors of a sunset- the subtle shading of one color to another is a remarkable thing. Shades are one of the things I enjoy about water color painting. I like mixing them until it is just right for that particular spot.

    1. Elva, thank you for your comments. I love the way you describe the shading of the sunsets, and how you mix the shades for your paintings. I am not a visual artist, but now that I work with color for my rugs, I know exactly what you mean.

      I have two favorite seasons… spring and autumn. It used to be autumn for sure, but now I love spring just as much. The sunsets are the best in the autumn, though, and there is nothing so beautiful as to give us a glimpse of the world beyond…

      Thank you for stopping by. May you enjoy your holidays.

  8. I too love purple. I’m sure you know this Alic Walker quote: “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”

    I could never walk by that rug without noticing it! I think it’s gorgeous!

    And, of course, purple is the Goshen College color.

    You’ve made it a wonderful Christmas color also.

    These works of your hands are also works of your heart.

    Blessed Christmas,


    1. Thank you, Shirley, for the compliments. I do know that quote by Alice Walker. I read that book many years ago.

      May you and your family be showered with Blessings this Christmas, in the New Year, and beyond.

  9. I’ve found myself drawn to wearing a lot of blue, particularly navy. It hasn’t been a conscious decision, it just seems to have happened, so I’d be very interested in if there are any connotations/psychological meanings behind the color, as it seems to have happened naturally rather than being a conscious choice.

    1. Hello Fiona. My guess is that there are psychological underpinnings in all that we do, including the colors we are drawn to. Some years ago, there were therapists who used colors in their practice. I know I cannot tell you what it would sygnify, but someone probably could.

      Happy Holidays!

  10. What a beautiful rug!

    My mom always loved to put me in lavender/purple in the summertime. I distinctly remember 3 lavender colored summer dresses from when I was about 6 or 7 years old. I apparently stay away from that color, now … not sure why but it does not appear in my winter wardrobe at all and only once in my summer one (and only as a flower, at that!)

    Two years ago, I noticed that my most recent winter clothing purchases (we’re including several years as I don’t purchase many) were some shades of blue, leaning towards teal. I told myself that I needed to broaden my spectrum but apparently I didn’t listen and ended up purchasing two new spring/summer outfits in aqua… HAHAHA!!! I do love blue…and deep pink, too. With my changing hair color (naturally) I need to stay away from all things light brown and gray… and with my skin tone, need to stay away from most greens and yellows. But my summer garden will be filled with all the colors as is my Christmas tree (indoors and out) right now! I’ve been experimenting a little bit with black and white digital photography and am having fun with using a color focal point somewhere in the picture. I should get brave a post some on my blog… I just realized I “aim” for reds and blues.

    It’s great to be catching up!

    1. Peggy, that’s interesting that you have an aversion to purple when your mother obviously loved the color. It goes to show that we all have colors we are drawn to.

      I know what you mean about colors to stay away from. Yellow, brown, and gray never were good colors on me, and now that my hair is graying, it is more true than ever.

      I would LOVE to see some of your photography. I hope you “get brave.”

      Happy New Year to you and your family, Peggy, and I look forward to seeing you again.

  11. Dear Saloma,
    I too love purple. Also gold and deep red. I am half Italian and so, to me, purple is the color the ancient Roman Emperors used to wear- it is the royal color. The Romans used to trade for it with the ancient Phoenicians near Lebanon, who made it out of a special type of seashells, and the name for the color comes from the name of this shell. So when I see purple, I think of royalty and sea shells- pleasant things. I had a purple satin shirt that I loved and I used to wear it with gold gloves.

    I have a question for you- I read your first book and I just finished reading Bonnet Strings today. I want to ask you a question about your Mem. She had the choice to not marry your Datt, and she wanted to see you in that black coat, and she told you she also once had the chance to marry outside the Amish. Do you think your Mem secretly wanted you to succeed outside the Amish, and have the chances she never did?

    As I grow older I think parents maybe bequeath us their dreams. The other day my grandma was saying, “If I hadn’t had kids, I could have become a nun and gone to work in a library every day!” My mom has a similar refrain: “If I hadn’t had kids I could have become a professor, with bookshelves on every wall, coffee and many cats!” Now here I am a certified librarian, about to become a professor.

    Happy New Year Saloma. Reading the romance between you and David inspired me- maybe there is hope for me, too, to find a “special someone”. I have been interested in the Amish since I was a little boy. I admired how they seemed close to the earth and to God, and maybe they are. As an adult I learned about the political power of the Ordnung, the theological beliefs of Anabaptism and the idea of Gelassenheit. I think if I had been born Amish I’d have been like you- full of questions.

    I studied German for two years in college and I also studied in Germany. Since you went to Germany too I have a linguistic question. When you write the Amish-German phrases in your books they seem very different than my textbook High-German. Is Amish-German more closely related to Low German (i.e. Swiss or Austrian German) or are the linguistic differences merely a reflection of the Amish-German dialect’s great age (i.e. 18th-century German vs. modern German?)

    Thank you and best regards.
    Mark Langenfeld

    1. Mark, thank you for your comments. I’m so glad you like the color purple. I did not know the history of the color.

      Your question about Mem is a very astute one. I’ve always said that I lived the life my mother could have lived. And she lived the life I would have had, had I not left the first time.

      Mem was of two minds about wanting me to succeed. I think deep down she did. But she also played the guilt card, right up until she died, saying things like, “You girls all rejected me.” (My sisters also left). So, as in many other issues in her life, Mem gave me mixed signals about my choice of leaving.

      Yes, the German dialect the mainstream Amish use comes from the middle Rhine region. It’s called Pfälzisch, I believe.

      Yes, the Amish have a close relationship with the earth, by virtue of them being to hard-working and living in the country…. and of course those who farm.

      That is very interesting that you are living out your mother’s dream. I’m sure you are right… you will find someone to share your life with. David and I are very fortunate to have one another, and thank you for your good wishes.

      Come back soon!

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