We talk to author Kassia St Clair about the inspiration for her new book, The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History, and offer readers the chance to win one of five copies!
Where does your interest in fabric stem from?
Like colour, I became interested in cloth and clothing at university, when studying 18th-century fashions. It was impossible not to become intrigued by the descriptions of bombazines, velvets and silk faille. I was also struck by the depth of vocabulary commonly used by ordinary people. They were a great deal more knowledgeable and more discerning about the fabrics they were wearing than we are, and placed a far greater value on them.
Your book explores the impact on history that fabric innovation has had. Which was your favourite chapter to research?
The Viking sail chapter was a revelation, but I also loved researching the spider silk chapter. It was the first one I wrote (although I ended up returning to it several times) and it confirmed my excitement for the book as a whole.
How does your fabric obsession manifest in your day to day life?
Most recently, I have to admit, my love of fabrics manifests too often in guilt. Like many consumers (and unlike those in the 18th-century) I would say that at the outset of the project I had a very imperfect understanding of the fabrics in common use today, where precisely they come from, how they’re made, and where they go once they are disposed of. Some of this makes for very uncomfortable reading. I’m now a lot more conscious of labeling, and try and invest more in good-quality cloth, both financially and emotionally. Really having thought deeply about something, and being totally in love with it (rather than thinking of it as readily disposable) is now more important for me.
Quilters are obviously massively obsessed with fabric, often hoarding favourite prints for years. A patchwork quilt is nothing if not a celebration of the diversity and beauty of fabric – why do you think our members will enjoy your book?
It’s my hope that my book will affirm what quilters already know: that fabric is important. Each piece is its own work of art, with a deep history, and deserves to be celebrated.
Members will find a book review of The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History by Kassia St Clair, published by Hodder & Stoughton, in the forthcoming winter 2018 edition of The Quilter, our membership magazine.
For your chance to win one of five copies of Kassia’s new book and embark on your own journey into the social history of fabric, click here and enter your details!
This giveaway closes on 31 October 2018.