The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History (Hardcover)

COVID-19 Update

As we do every year, we will be CLOSED on Easter Sunday.

March 30: In his March 30 press briefing, Governor Northam continues to say that businesses like Prince Books may remain open to customers as long as we practice social distancing. We are currently processing many online, email and phone orders, and we continue to receive boxes from our wholesaler and publishers. You are welcome to request curbside delivery, or you may come into the store. We spray the counter and the doors throughout the day. Please continue to order from us! Thank you for your business.

For now, Prince Books intends to remain open. If you would like a book and don't want to come into the store, please call us with your book request and credit card number, (or place order at, tell us that you would like us to bring your purchase out to your car. Park on Martin's Lane next to the back door, and call us so we can run your purchase out to you. 

 In the meantime we'll be closing daily at 5 p.m.  Thank you for your business!

The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History Cover Image
On Our Shelves Now
On hand as of Apr 7 9:01pm


A Sunday Times (UK) Book of the Year

Shortlisted • Society of Authors' Somerset Maugham Award

A BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week

The best-selling author of The Secret Lives of Color returns with this rollicking narrative of the 30,000-year history of fabric, briskly told through thirteen charismatic episodes.

From colorful 30,000-year-old threads found on the floor of a Georgian cave to the Indian calicoes that sparked the Industrial Revolution, The Golden Thread weaves an illuminating story of human ingenuity. Design journalist Kassia St. Clair guides us through the technological advancements and cultural customs that would redefi ne human civilization—from the fabric that allowed mankind to achieve extraordinary things (traverse the oceans and shatter athletic records) and survive in unlikely places (outer space and the South Pole). She peoples her story with a motley cast of characters, including Xiling, the ancient Chinese empress credited with inventing silk, to Richard the Lionhearted and Bing Crosby. Offering insights into the economic and social dimensions of clothmaking—and countering the enduring, often demeaning, association of textiles as “merely women’s work”—The Golden Thread offers an alternative guide to our past, present, and future.

About the Author

Kassia St. Clair is a journalist and author who has written about design and culture for publications including the Economist, Elle, and the Times Literary Supplement. The author of The Secret Lives of Color, St. Clair lives in London.

Praise For…

An eclectic take on how humans have developed fabric…Each subject offers a fascinating look at the challenges that fabrics aim to overcome, as well as the often-devastating environmental and human effects involved in their production… The Golden Thread spins a rich social history of textiles that also reflects the darker side of technology and the development of capitalism.

— Rachel Newcomb, Washington Post

As Kassia St. Clair underscores in The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History, fabric is an essential element in our lives… A pleasant and enjoyable survey of moments in textile history.

— Judith Flanders

Fascinating.... Written in elegant prose, this tour of textile history will draw in readers interested in human evolution and culture.
— Publishers Weekly [starred review]

A fascinating look at one of those everyday things many of us take for granted: fabric. Instead of tackling fabric’s entire history, St. Clair.... skips across centuries and around the world, sharing accessible and telling stories.... Whether sharing the silk-making secrets of Chinese empresses or exposing the benefits of performance-enhancing swimsuits, this extensively documented and always entertaining overview works equally well for reading cover to cover or dipping into for snippets.
— Kathleen McBroom, Booklist

[A] spirited, illuminating cultural history on essential fibers that have been spun, knitted, and woven throughout time, from traces of thread discovered in Neolithic caves to the multilayered "one-person spaceships" worn by American astronauts.... Vibrant, entertaining, and brightly informative.

Hugely ambitious, sparklingly erudite, and wonderfully engaging.
— Peter Frankopan

Joyful and beautiful.

Will make you rethink your relationship with fabric.

The history of the world through the eye of a needle.... [F]ascinating.... I recommend this book to anyone.
— Katrina Gulliver

A charming, absorbing history that takes us on a journey from the silk roads to sportswear, from ruffs to spacesuits.... I devoured this quietly feminist book.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781631494802
ISBN-10: 1631494805
Publisher: Liveright
Publication Date: November 12th, 2019
Pages: 368
Language: English