The strings have been cut and, at last, ‘The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History’ is out in the wild. I began this book precisely two years ago. The pitch was submitted a couple of weeks before the publication of ‘The Secret Lives of Colour’, and by the time the latter was on shop shelves in late October 2016, I was hip-deep in tales of linen, silk, cotton, rayon, nylon and wool.
Writing ‘The Golden Thread’ has been an incredible challenge, not least in plucking out thirteen tales from the many millions worthy of the telling. To give you some idea of this vastness, I can say that during the course of my research I discussed the mating habits of spiders with the staff at London Zoo; the production of GM silk with a biotech start-up in San Francisco; running harnesses for use in outer space with a NASA subcontractor; and the finer points of swimsuit design with Rebecca Adlington. I also pored over books and articles in textile archives, museums and libraries, drank countless cups of coffee and doubted whether I’d ever be able to do justice to so rich and varied a topic.
Thankfully, the reaction so far has been incredible. “Beautifully wrought”, according to Nature; “charming, absorbing and quietly feminist” (The Sunday Times), “fascinating” (The Spectator), “marvellous” (Dad, who hasn’t read it yet, but who….might). It also got shout outs on Women’s Hour [from 29 mins in], Adrian Chiles on 5Live [from around 2.16.30], BBC London, BBC Scotland, and, wonder of wonders, was selected as this week’s Book of the Week on Radio 4.
Just as with ‘The Secret Lives,’ a huge number of people were involved in taking ‘Golden Thread.doc’, and turning it into ‘The Golden Thread’, an object worthy of bookshelves. Tremendous thank yous to Georgina, for editing; James, who designed it; Ruth, for the index; Yassine, Emma, Kate and everyone at John Murray. For a fuller but almost certainly incomplete list, please see the Acknowledgements page.
Below are a selection of things that caught my eye over the past few weeks as well as some of the pieces that I’ve worked on. Enjoy. Continue reading