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Threads of Life – Clare Hunter

Threads of Life – Clare Hunter

This book has been in my pile for quite some time. I have read Embroidering Her Truth, I think this one just got buried under the pile of new books. Eventually I listened to it.

Here’s the blurb …

A globe-spanning history of sewing, embroidery, and the people who have used a needle and thread to make their voices heard 

In 1970s Argentina, mothers marched in headscarves embroidered with the names of their “disappeared” children. In Tudor, England, when Mary, Queen of Scots, was under house arrest, her needlework carried her messages to the outside world. From the political propaganda of the Bayeux Tapestry, World War I soldiers coping with PTSD, and the maps sewn by schoolgirls in the New World, to the AIDS quilt, Hmong story clothes, and pink pussyhats, women and men have used the language of sewing to make their voices heard, even in the most desperate of circumstances. 

Threads of Life is a chronicle of identity, protest, memory, power, and politics told through the stories of needlework. Clare Hunter, master of the craft, threads her own narrative as she takes us over centuries and across continents—from medieval France to contemporary Mexico and the United States, and from a POW camp in Singapore to a family attic in Scotland—to celebrate the age-old, universal, and underexplored beauty and power of sewing. Threads of Life is an evocative and moving book about the need we have to tell our story. 

It is split into 16 chapters (each chapter is the theme by which the needlework is discussed):

  • Unknown
  • Power
  • Fraility
  • Captivity
  • Identity
  • Connection
  • Protect
  • Journey
  • Protest
  • Loss
  • Community
  • Place
  • Value
  • Art
  • Voice

For example, embroidered banners are discussed in the Protest chapter (mining unions, the women’s suffragette movement)

If you are at all interested in social history and/or textiles, then you will find this book fascinating and inspiring. The research is impressive, but not overwhelming. And there are some personal anecdotes as well, which I always enjoy.

A review

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Filed under 4, History, Miscellaneous, Non-Fiction, Recommended

Embroidering Her Truth – Clare Hunter

Embroidering Her Truth – Clare Hunter

I have Clare’s earlier book Threads of Life and I have heard her speak at some events (Selvedge and Royal School of Needlework). I find her and her research fascinating.

Here’s the blurb …

An alternative biography of Mary, Queen of Scots through the textiles of her life from the author of Sunday Times bestseller Threads of Life

I felt that Mary was there, pulling at my sleeve, willing me to appreciate the artistry, wanting me to understand the dazzle of the material world that shaped her.

At her execution Mary, Queen of Scots wore red. Widely known as the colour of strength and passion, it was in fact worn by Mary as the Catholic symbol of martyrdom.

In sixteenth-century Europe women’s voices were suppressed and silenced. Even for a queen like Mary, her prime duty was to bear sons. In an age when textiles expressed power, Mary exploited them to emphasise her female agency. From her lavishly embroidered gowns as the prospective wife of the French Dauphin to the fashion dolls she used to encourage a Marian style at the Scottish court and the subversive messages she embroidered in captivity for her supporters, Mary used textiles to advance her political agenda, affirm her royal lineage and tell her own story.

In this eloquent cultural biography, Clare Hunter exquisitely blends history, politics and memoir to tell the story of a queen in her own voice.

I really enjoyed reading this, hearing about all of the sumptuous fabrics and the embroidery. And the symbolism of the embroidery, the cat and the mouse, etc. I also liked the parts about Clare’s own textile practice and her trips to various Marian locations. If you like history, women’s history, and textiles, then I think you will love this book.

I would have liked the book to have pictures/images, but perhaps that would have made it unaffordable.

A review.

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Filed under 4, History, Memoir, Non-Fiction