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.
+ + +
On those email apology replies you send when you’ve been busy
How the design of retail spaces is adapting to the age of online shopping
The man who made millions by rigging the McDonald’s Monopoly Game
A densely embroidered straightjacket created by a woman held in an assylum for the insane in early 20th-century Germany
Why an artist tried to erase the colour orange from the city of Cleveland
A woman found a mysterious note in a purse she bought at a Walmart in Arizona claiming to be from the bag’s maker: a prisoner at a Chinese prison
From face-paint to miniature capes: the colourful experiments being used to understand spiders
Friends, acquaintances and fellow dog-walkers will have already heard me bang on about Pod Save America, but now I’ve got two new American politics pod-dictions: The Wilderness, a warts-and-all examination of the Democratic party, and season two of Slow Burn, about the Clinton impeachment scandal
My review of Bad Times at the El Royale
I collaborated with Color Factory, the pop-up exhibit that was based in San Francisco last year, to create an alphabet of unusual colours, from absinthe to zephyr, for their new site in New York. It’s open for another couple of months and you can find more info and book your tickets here
And finally, if you’re a fan of Anni Albers and would like two tickets to see the excellent new show all about her and her work at the Tate Modern in London, I’m doing a giveaway on my Instagram