The Golden Thread is a fascinating book that lives up to the beautiful cover. Kassia St Clair looks the history of fabric throughout the years.
The author researches the origins of weaving that has been found in fibres in caves. It goes from the mummies of Ancient Egypt to the silken dragon robes of Imperial China. She researches the silk roads and the cities that silk built. Then there is the Vikings’ Woollen Sails and Wool in Medieval England.
She has a chapter devoted to lace and luxury, and the lace ruffs that annoyed the Puritans. There is slave trading and the cotton industry in another chapter. The author covers off the calicoes and chintzes that powered the Industrial Revolution, clothing for extreme climates like the South Pole, suits for space, and record-breaking sports fabrics.
Kassia St Clair shows that the continuing reinvention of cloth tells fascinating stories of human ingenuity. ‘We live surrounded by cloth. We swaddled in it at birth and shrouds are drawn over our faces in death.’ This well-written book is not a history of every aspect of textiles, but it has thirteen very different stories that show the vastness of different textile’s significance to the world.
The Golden Thread is a book for anyone who is curious, and it swiftly deals with the notion that clothing is frivolous and unworthy. Textiles allow humans to live in climates where they would otherwise perish, and textiles have allowed us to achieve extraordinary things. This is Kassisa’s second book, and she writes with confidence and in an engaging way that will have you eagerly turning the pages to discover more.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan
Hachette, RRP $44.99