Design journalist St. Clair guides readers through the technological advancements and cultural customs that would redefine human civilization. From colorful 30,000-year-old threads found on the floor of a Georgian cave to the Indian calicoes that sparked the Industrial Revolution, this book weaves an illuminating story of human ingenuity.
...a thematic history of fabrics by design and culture writer Kassia St Clair who points out that the world’s earliest fabrics were made by human hand 34,000 years ago ... Probably the most disturbing chapter is the one on rayon, a synthetic fabric that has names like artificial silk, viscose, bamboo or modal. It has a sordid history of forced labour, heavy dangerous chemicals used and horrific medical hazards faced by factory workers ... The book concludes that the fabrics we choose and where we get them from still have consequences on the lives of those who produce them. Currently there are futuristic efforts to commercialise spider silk in the US, Germany and Japan, but St Clair’s account of visiting such a factory is just another one of the many vivid tales spun with such style in this utterly riveting history.
...[a] charming and informative history of textiles, which takes us on a journey from the silk roads to sportswear, from ruffs to spacesuits ... One of the themes of this absorbing book is the way that fabric has left traces on our language. I’d never realised before that 'text' and 'textile' share a common root in the Latin verb texere, to weave ... I devoured this book ... This is a quietly feminist book, that celebrates cloth-making as a form of art and craft that has not been given its due, maybe because it has almost always been done by women ... Like many before her, St Clair urges us to 'give a little more thought' to the clothes we buy. It is hard to disagree. We should buy fewer items, and we should value our clothes — and the people who make them — more. But in a free-market economy it is hard to see how to effect a radical change towards more sustainable fashion.
The history of ‘women’s work’ being devalued is very much a part of textile history ... In this book, Kassia St Clair looks at the developments of textiles through human history, and explains how our ancestors’ lives were shaped by these changes. In her journey, she touches on everything from the materials that went into Neil Armstrong’s space suit to biotech firms experimenting with spider silk ... Having read St Clair’s accounts of factory workers’ horrific injuries, I’ll certainly think again before buying anything rayon. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to look at the textiles in our world with a new understanding.