The Golden Thread by Kassia St. Clair

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      Just finished a very enlightening book that I thought others in the Guild would enjoy.  The Golden Thread by Kassia St. Clair explains how fabric changed the history.  We all take fabric for granted; it’s what our clothes are made of, items we use such as tents, towels, pot holders, and shoes to name a few.  As a sewist, we have a special love of fabrics, know more than the average person, and, I feel, appreciate it much more.  Put me in a fabric store, and I could spend the entire day dreaming of all the possibilities of items that could be made.

      It all starts with the discovery of thread from 30,000 years ago and ends with innovations in fabrics used today.  It all started with fibers turned into threads then the art of weaving these threads into fabric.  Did you know weaving is like computer programming?  There is a relationship.  We all know about the “silk road” but did you know it wasn’t just one road?  Did you know the Vikings used woolen sails on the ships?

      She goes into great detail about wool production: rise of sheep husbandry, spinning, manual to mechanical weaving and how wool (England) ruled the world.

      The creation of lace created a frenzy with rulers of countries.  Exorbitant amounts of money were spent on lace, which became the status symbol.  With more production the upper class was able to afford lace.  Those countries with the most sought-after exquisite laces ruled the economy.

      The section on cotton was totally eye opening.  Cotton ruled the world with England the main weavers of cotton fabric.  Demand became so great that England bought as much cotton as the United States could produce.  Importing of slaves became rampant, cheap labor produced more cotton and brought huge profits to plantation owners.  For an interesting look at cotton today read this article:  American Slavery Reinvented by Whitney Benns (in the Atlantic Magazine-September 2015).

      The chapters keep getting better and better:  clothing in extreme climates (South Pole exploration), invention of rayon and workers in factories, the invention of space suits, sports fabrics and Olympic Games’ controversy, and the final chapter is titled: the Golden Cape-Harnessing Spider Silk.  Yes, fabric made from spider webs.  It is breathtaking.

      To fully appreciate the Golden Cape, you must visit the V&A Museum website:


      Great book for yourself or a special friend.

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