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The Hidden History of the Material World

Victoria Finlay



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16 May 2022

ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- So far, this is my book of the year! Finlay (author of the wonderful Colour: Travels through the Paintbox) tells the histories of a range of materials, starting with Barkcloth and ending with Patchwork, via cotton, wool, pashmina, linen, silk and others. She combines beautifully written and colourful stories of the development of the fabrics, with history, travel and personal anecdotes. Underlying these, is her grief and acceptance at the loss of her parents, so that their story is woven through the narratives with the lightest of touches. Every page seems to contain some revelation, the sort you want to share with someone else (shoe sizes go up by the medieval measure of a barleycorn - a third of an inch!) or startling facts (the bit about pashmina contributing to climate change is a real 'butterfly flaps its wings' moment). It's a book that encompasses multitudes, but is a delight to read - erudite, enlightening and sometimes touching - and I guarantee you will look at the fabric around you with different eyes! Lindy

From our earliest ancestors to babies born today, fabric is a necessary part of our everyday lives, but it's also an opportunity for creativity, symbolism, culture and connection. Travelling across the world and bringing history to life, bestselling author Victoria Finlay investigates how and why people have made and used cloth.

A century ago in Wales, women would sew their own funeral clothes over tea with friends. In Papua New Guinea, bark is stripped from trees and beaten into cloth. Harris Tweed has a particular smell, while Guatemalan weavers use dazzling colours. Uncovering the stories of the fabrics people wear and use from sacking to silk, Fabric combines science, history, tradition and art in a captivating exploration of how we live, work, craft and care.\
 Fabric: The Hidden History of the Material World

Imprint:   Profile
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Edition:   Main
Dimensions:   Height: 238mm,  Width: 160mm,  Spine: 48mm
Weight:   780g
ISBN:   9781781257067
ISBN 10:   178125706X
Pages:   528
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Victoria Finlay is the critically acclaimed author of Colour - 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.

Reviews for Fabric: The Hidden History of the Material World

Enthralling and sumptuously spun narrative history of how and why people around the world have made, used and worn different kinds of fabric. Beginning her research shortly after the death of her parents, Finlay finds her own story of love and grief entwined in the threads too, making for a fine blend indeed -- Caroline Sanderson, Non-Fiction Editor's Choice for November * The Bookseller * Fabrics can be a clue to what is underneath the surface. The word clue itself comes from the Greek name for a ball of yarn that can be wound back to show the right path. The stories of fabrics, the histories of them, are about endeavour and work and secrets and feuds and inventions and abuse and beauty and ugliness, and sometimes they are about tenderness. -- Victoria Finlay Praise for Victoria Finlay -- - Her curiosity is inexhaustible, her reading wide, and her writing style a delight * Sunday Telegraph * A highly companionable guide, adventurous and romantic * Independent on Sunday * This is a rare and wonderful book - a model of erudition and charm, the writing elegant and precise, and with at least one new and fascinating revelation on every single page. -- Simon Winchester

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