Sunday, 6 January 2019

January ... bleurgh! - time to grab a book ...

I'm back for my start-of-the-year moan about January. I know I do this every year: so grey, so bleak, so ... predictable.  I've just taken down all the Chrimbo decorations, sent the cards for recycling, clinked all the empties off to the bottle bank and then, to add to the grimness, I've taken the pledge for a dry month - no more vino til' February 😨. I'm about as cheerful as that pitiful pile of denuded conifers waiting on the Common for the council to carry them off for composting.

So, what do you do when it's so grey and uninviting outside? You could do worse than reach for a good book ...

Cold grey London skyline

And if, like me, you're a crafty type you may enjoy the Golden Thread by Kassia St Clair, which sets out to explore the history of fabric, but in effect gives us an needle's eye view of world history. It's a whimsical subject that takes you on a romp through all the ages of clothing from the linens of ancient Egypt to the silken robes of the Chinese emperors to the woollen sails of Viking longboats to the space-age fibre technology of what astronauts wear on moonwalks. It's all there, and it's all compelling.

I was touched by the details from ancient Egypt. I'd never appreciated that the funerary robes, for instance, had such symbolic importance, nor that the ancients would have been mortified had they known that Tutankhamen was not wrapped in his elaborate funeral robes when his remains were placed back in his casket in the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. They'd have had no truck with the wish of modern curators to preserve the precious wrappings for further study. 

There's a chapter devoted to England's wool trade, which all knitters will enjoy. In medieval and early modern times much of the country's wealth was generated by wool. Henry VII, for example, amassed much of the fortune that funded the Tudor dynasty through his control of the alum trade; alum being the valuable mordant that fixed dyes to wool.

It has a subtly feminist approach to its subject. Since the days of Penelope (of ancient Greek myth) weaving and textiles have been very much a female preoccupation. Yet much of the evidence of generations of crafts(wo)manship has decayed and been lost to history. Evidence of the carpenters' craft that produced the viking longships remains, but the woven sails that would have taken a pair of skilled women over a year to produce is much more elusive.

Image result for the golden thread

Huddle down for a good read, keep warm and roll on February!

All the best for now,

Bonny x

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