The Golden Thread Book Summary By Kassia St Clair

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The Golden Thread (2018) is a book that explores the role of textiles in human history.

This fascinating read takes readers on an amazing journey through different cultures, times and epochs to explore how fabric has influenced people's lives throughout the ages.

It reveals how humans have continually reinvented cloth to express their creativity and ingenuity.

It also highlights how fabric has been used for more than just clothing - it has been a vehicle for achievement, expressions of social structure and political power, displays of artistry, elements of religious and spiritual ceremony, even documenting history itself.

In The Golden Thread, you can learn about it all!

The Golden Thread Book

Book Name: The Golden Thread (How Fabric Changed History)

Author(s): Kassia St Clair

Rating: 3.8/5

Reading Time: 23 Minutes

Categories: History

Author Bio

Kassia St Clair is an accomplished London-based freelance journalist and author.

She holds a first-class honors degree in history from Bristol University and a Master’s from Oxford University.

She has also been writing about color for Elle magazine since 2013, and her work on design culture has appeared in publications such as The Economist and New Statesman.

Just two years ago, she released her critically acclaimed book "The Secret Lives of Colour".

Now, Kassia St Clair brings us another fantastic read with "The Golden Thread".

The Golden Thread: Uncovering The Power Of Fabric Throughout Human History

The Golden Thread

Have you ever thought about how the materials we use throughout history can tell us a story? In The Golden Thread, you get an inside look at a forgotten history: fabric production.

This book gives readers the opportunity to gain a glimpse into history through a veil of colorful fabric.

It examines the vital role that fabrics like wool and flax have played in technological advancement from ancient societies to our current day.

It covers topics such as how sheep made the Vikings powerful, women’s labor keeping economies afloat, and what spacesuits owe to staple items like bras.

The Golden Thread provides an interesting perspective on past eras that have been overlooked due to their use of ephemeral material like fabric rather than other metals and materials used in those times.

It takes readers on a journey full of discovery where they may uncover fascinating facts with every page turn!

The Cultural Significance Of Fabric In Ancient Egypt: From Practical To Sacred And Beyond

The importance of linen was an integral part of ancient Egyptian life, not only in the economic sphere as a tradeable asset and a way of storing wealth, but in religious duties and practices as well.

Linen was used to make clothing and bandages, but also played a part in death rites such as mummification and embalming.

It is believed that linen was chosen for its unique qualities – it is a very good conductor of heat which makes it cool to the touch, perfect for Egypt’s hot climate.

Linen also held great spiritual meaning; priests referred to as ‘masters of secrets’ would wrap cult statues and mummies in linen daily or during special rituals.

These linen wraps were highly ritualized, with specific processes and protocols being followed.

Often fabric layers would be cut into multiples of three or four as a reference to an important number in Egyptian culture while amulets or items of significance would be layered among the fabric.

Additionally, some people collected linens throughout their lives that they later wanted wrapped on their bodies when they died, which gave extra meaning to the wrapping process.

Linen was undoubtedly an essential element of ancient Egyptian life – whether it was for practical use, spiritual beliefs or even diplomacy – making it one of the most impressive accomplishments from this civilization.

The Powerful Role Of Silk In Ancient Chinese Society

Silk has always been an important part of Chinese culture ever since the dawn of civilization.

It was primarily associated with women and is even attributed to Xiling, the wife of the legendary Yellow Emperor.

Silk was used for everything from a form of currency to diplomatic agreements between neighboring nations.

And in ancient times, it was largely women who were responsible for silk production, from harvesting cocoons to designing elaborate embroidery patterns with Chinese characters.

In addition, there are many legends surrounding the discovery of silk, such as how a cocoon fell into Xiling’s tea and dissolved to reveal silk thread inside.

This same legend around Xiling has led to her becoming a goddess of sorts among Shanghai factory workers as recently as the 19th century.

Finally, we cannot forget Sui Hui and her intricate Star Gauge poem which was written using silk embroidery on a panel.

It had over three thousand distinct meanings that could emerge depending on which direction one’s eyes wandered and is still renowned today!

How Viking Woolen Sails Enabled Far-Reaching Trade And Conquest

Woolen Sails

The success of Viking ships was largely due to the use of wool in their sails.

This was a surprising choice, as wool is not known for its ability to catch wind.

Yet, the Vikings found a way to make it work by utilizing an extensive manufacturing process and sourcing Old Norse sheep with high lanolin content that helped repel water.

Every sail took two and a half years of labor to be made, including hand-pulling the wool from sheep in midsummer, separating the wool into different kinds of yarn, spinning and weaving it into cloths, sewing pieces together, and then finishing it off with the smörring process of rubbing in hot tallow or fir tar to smooth gaps between individual pieces.

The result was incredibly effective, enduring sails that caught almost no wind yet lasted for around 40-50 years – definitely worth all the effort!

With these unique sails, the Vikings were able to travel great distances and settle entirely new areas such as Iceland and Greenland.

Before them, no one had been able to achieve such lengths due to limitations imposed by other material options; but thanks to their innovative spirits (and hardworking hands), they made their mark on history books with their unparalleled sailing capabilities.

The High Danger Of Cold: How Robert Falcon Scott’S Tragic End Highlights The Need For Adaptation To Extreme Environments

The human body is not well-suited to extreme cold; even with small drops in temperature, the circulatory system can start to slow down and induce involuntary shivering, which can cause body parts to start freezing.

This is why proper clothing for protection from the cold is essential when exploring frigid environments.

British explorer Robert Falcon Scott and his Terra Nova expedition learned this firsthand during their unsuccessful mission to reach the South Pole in 1912.

In addition to wind- and water-resistant cotton gabardine suits, the Norwegians were wearing parkas and trousers made of reindeer or seal skin which provided extra insulation – a trick they had learned from the Netsilik Inuits on previous trips.

However, despite knowing of its effectiveness as an insulative material, Scott rejected using duck or goose down due to its unheroic appearance.

The realization that even a skilled explorer like Scott could be felled by something as simple as having the wrong clothing underscores how important it is for anyone in such conditions to choose garments properly suited for that environment‘s temperatures.

The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Artificial Silk: Balancing Profit And Safety

Synthetic fabrics, once seen as a revolutionary innovation, were widely embraced by consumers in the late 19th century and beyond.

This new wave of fabric was easily manufactured using powerful chemicals and highly efficient production techniques that made it more affordable than natural fibers.

Soon, more and more people were buying synthetic clothing to look stylish without breaking the bank.

Unfortunately, production of these fabrics posed serious risks to both workers and the environment.

The introduction of rayon into the market exposed factory workers to harmful levels of carbon disulfide (CS2), which even in limited doses can cause irreversible damage to humans.

Conditions within factories became highly hazardous, with many resorting to forced labor as production swelled during WWII .

Meanwhile, polyester – derived from oil – as well as wood pulp used for rayon left an alarming environmental footprint due to unsustainable sourcing practices.

Despite this tremendous downside, synthetics now account for around 60 percent of all textile consumption worldwide – largely due to their prevalence in establishing markets for disposable fast fashion.

The Unlikely History Behind Neil Armstrong’s Spacesuit: A Tale Of Sewing Machines And Girdles

Neil Armstrong's

To make the trip to the moon and back, especially when Neil Armstrong made his historic first step, astronauts needed special clothing that could protect them from the extreme conditions, like cold temperatures and lack of air pressure.

For decades prior, space exploration attempts had used flight suits similar to those worn by pilots.

But these were insufficient for the trip to the moon.

So NASA began looking for a more suitable solution.

Unexpectedly, they found it in the International Latex Company (ILC), otherwise known as Playtex-a company better known for making lingerie and girdles!

They had the expertise necessary to create a much better spacesuit than what NASA had before-one that was specifically designed with their requirements in mind.

The spacesuits created by ILC featured as many as 4,000 pieces made up of 21 layers of material to provide maximum protection against extreme conditions.

These included features such as vinyl-coated nylon bladders worn inside the suit which pressurized it when needed and helped keep blood flow steady while circulating warmth within.

Additionally, mesh panels were utilized from undergarments crafted by Playtex which allowed for some flexibility but would also prevent ballooning out.

By combining engineering knowledge with their experience manufacturing lingerie and girdles for women, ILC was able to create something truly remarkable: a 56 pound suit costing between $100K-$250K each!

This enabled astronauts like Neil Armstrong to go into space in full confidence of being well protected during his journey.

The Technological Arms Race To Win At Sports: How Mankind Has Used Fabrics To Excel

The Golden Thread Book Summary brings a unique insight into the effects of technological advancement on sports.

With the introduction of Speedo’s full-body LZR Racer swimsuit just before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, swimmers wearing it broke 22 world records in only two months.

This suit was designed to reduce drag and have seams that were joined together by ultrasonic welding to prevent bulging.

Subsequent versions became even more effective at compressing the body and trapping air between the suit and skin, resulting in increased buoyancy.

While many praised these advances as beneficial for boosting performance, others began raising questions about fairness in sports as access to these cutting-edge clothes was unequal and offered advantages that benefitted some athletes more than others.

Paul Biedermann, not a top-ranked swimmer, famously beat Michael Phelps at a swimming event during the World Aquatics Championships in 2009 – prompting international news coverage and anger from Phelps himself.

This led to FINA banning all tech suits within six months’ time.

Despite this, some of the records set while wearing tech suits were still allowed to stand – though only 13 remained by 2018 – with further advancements such as sport nutrition helping swimmers go even faster.

Wrap Up

The Golden Thread, a book by Kassia St.

Clair, is an exploration of textile’s role in human history.

The key message throughout the book is that fabrics—usually taken for granted—enabled us to thrive in environments that would otherwise have been inhospitable to our species, as well as granting us the means to express our ingenuity.

At the end of it all, what we take from this book is the conclusive truth of just how significant textiles were, and still are, for human civilization.

In more ways than one, fabrics have enabled us to grow and spread our influence around the world; fabrics have served humankind since its dawning and will likely carry on for years to come.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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