A magnificent work of original research that unravels history through textiles and cloth—how we make it, use it, and what it means to us.
How is a handmade fabric helping save an ancient forest? Why is a famous fabric pattern from India best known by the name of a Scottish town? How is a Chinese dragon robe a diagram of the whole universe? What is the difference between how the Greek Fates and the Viking Norns used threads to tell our destiny?
In Fabric, bestselling author Victoria Finlay spins us round the globe, weaving stories of our relationship with cloth and asking how and why people through the ages have made it, worn it, invented it, and made symbols out of it. And sometimes why they have fought for it.
She beats the inner bark of trees into cloth in Papua New Guinea, fails to handspin cotton in Guatemala, visits tweed weavers at their homes in Harris, and has lessons in patchwork-making in Gee's Bend, Alabama - where in the 1930s, deprived of almost everything they owned, a community of women turned quilting into an art form.
She began her research just after the deaths of both her parents —and entwined in the threads she found her personal story too. Fabric is not just a material history of our world, but Finlay's own journey through grief and recovery.
Victoria Finlay is the critically acclaimed author of Color: Travels Through the Paintbox and the former arts editor of the South China Morning Post. She studied social anthropology and has travelled around the world in search of stories about her subjects, from colour to jewels and fabric. As well as writing, she has worked in international development.