• The Golden Thread

  • How Fabric Changed History
  • By: Kassia St. Clair
  • Narrated by: Helen Johns
  • Length: 11 hrs and 26 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (178 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The best-selling author of The Secret Lives of Color returns with this rollicking narrative of the 30,000-year history of fabric, briskly told through 13 charismatic episodes.

From colorful 30,000-year-old threads found on the floor of a Georgian cave to the Indian calicoes that sparked the Industrial Revolution, The Golden Thread weaves an illuminating story of human ingenuity. Design journalist Kassia St. Clair guides us through the technological advancements and cultural customs that would redefine human civilization - from the fabric that allowed mankind to achieve extraordinary things (traverse the oceans and shatter athletic records) and survive in unlikely places (outer space and the South Pole). She peoples her story with a motley cast of characters, including Xiling, the ancient Chinese empress credited with inventing silk, to Richard the Lionhearted and Bing Crosby.

Offering insights into the economic and social dimensions of clothmaking - and countering the enduring, often demeaning, association of textiles as "merely women's work" - The Golden Thread offers an alternative guide to our past, present, and future.

©2018 Kassia St. Clair (P)2019 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

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What listeners say about The Golden Thread

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent for those interested in textiles

Having enjoyed St Clair's 'Secret Life of Colors' so much, I looked forward to reading this as well and am happy to have listened to it instead of choosing the print format because Helen Johns' narration made it all the more enjoyable.

The author invites us all to explore the role that textiles play in the human experience. However, stepping back from my own intense interest in the subject, I am not entirely sure this book would appeal to a general audience. But if simply contemplating spinning, sericulture, sumptuary laws and the like makes your heart beat a little faster, as it does mine, I recommend it highly.

St Clair creates thirteen self-contained chapters about textiles. This is not a comprehensive history, nor does it pretend to be. Subjects include the origins of weaving, mummy wrappings, silk in ancient China, cities of the Silk Road, Viking sails, the wool industry of medieval England, luxury fabrics, cotton in America, clothing for Everest and the Antarctic, rayon workers, space suits, high performance sports fabrics, and spider silk.

Having read many histories with an exclusively feminine (and sometimes feminist) slant, speaking of the so-called 'consolations of the needle' and drudgery of 'women's work,' I found this book added a more modern and expansive viewpoint.

The best thing about the book is that it leaves you wanting more. One might study any number of additional considerations from a given chapter. But isn't that always one of the great joys of reading well-written history? I'm grateful there are authors like St Clair write so meaningfully about a subject which for many of us is nothing less than an obsession.

25 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Mixed feelings about this book

Narration is pretty terrible - she sounds like she’s going to burst into tears any minute. As far as the book itself - some chapters were interesting and others go into too much detail about completely irrelevant things - this book is about textiles - do I really want to hear very long descriptions about astronauts eating, urinating and defecating. Chapter about Everest climbers could have been shorter. I’m sure there are a lot of textile related material was completely omitted from the book.

2 people found this helpful

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Great book!

The history was fascinating and it’s well written. I wish he or she had gone into more specific fabrics.
The narration was great!!

2 people found this helpful

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Mixed feelings on the one.

Mixed feelings. Is it about fabric or social injustices? Portions don’t even touch on fabric. Princes oversized tennis racket...

2 people found this helpful

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Great book, okay narration

Fantastic. I love this book so much. I love learning about the history of textile production and the lives of the people who made them.

I did have one quibble with the narrator. She didn't always research the pronunciation of things. The one that bothered me the most was in the section on sports fabrics, she mispronounced Nike. Not just once but Many, Many times. It is "NI-kEy" not "Nik." I feel like someone in the production chain should have caught that even if the narrator had never heard of the incredibly famous sportswear brand.

1 person found this helpful

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Deep dive into textiles and history

A detail packed look at textiles and fibers and the part they have played in progressing human development. More sociology than craft, I still found it captivating and I learned alot. Many interesting tidbits to share with others who like the topic. Had enough factual detail that I have been looking for that I wanted to get a hard copy. Fills an overlooked part of our history for certain.

1 person found this helpful

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not good..

I wish I could return this purchase. The entire story was bad and badly read. I'm sadly disappointed.

1 person found this helpful

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Loved it!

I absolutely loved this book. Anyone interested in pursuing a career in fashion, fashion design, interior or furniture design should read this. In fact anyone who wears clothes or uses upholstered items must read!! Fascinating and informative!

1 person found this helpful

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Wonderful and fascinating

Wonderful and fascinating book with excellent details that remain interesting by the excellent reading and content.

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The humble cloth.

I'm a professional seamstress who enjoys delving into history. How little we are taught about the history of every day things. So much more interesting than who fought and won what war. The Golden Thread delves into the history of thread and cloth and the people and processes to make them. While not an exhaustive tome, nevertheless this book highlights the varied histories of thread and yarn. Silk production in China to the current search for a way to make spider web are covered. Playtex role in NASA's spacesuit and the Golden Cape are all covered.