Book Report: The Fabric of Civilization

Rating: 5 out of 5.

How appropriate that I finished this book just as civilization began to unravel where I live. But, here’s a nice post about nothing scary. It’s about The Fabric of Civilization, by Virginia Postrel (2020). From the five stars in my rating, you may infer that I enjoyed this book. Whew, I sure did.

This was one fascinating book. Postrel sure did her job by showing that a topic people might thing was boring and insignificant, cloth, is actually critical to the development of much of human culture and civilization. The best news is that this one’s written in an interesting and fun style that makes you want it to go on and on and on.

One of the best points Postrel makes is that, while we go on and on about wearing natural fibers, none of the fibers we wear is in the natural state for the plant or animal from which it comes. Wild cotton is almost all seeds. Today’s cultivated and carefully hybridized silkworms would not last long at all out in the natural mulberry groves, wherever those are. Wild sheep are brown and shed their wool (thank goodness, since there’s no one out there on a mountainside to shear wild sheep).

As Postrel goes through the chapters, each of which is a self-contained unit you could read by itself, you learn how fabric contributed to civilization way more than just by covering people up. It was one of the earliest forms of money. Trading it led to the development of bookkeeping and checking. Figuring out new ways to create fiber has led to all sorts of scientific discoveries, from way back when people were trying to figure out how to dye fabric (I can’t get away from that topic) up to today, when they are trying to make clothing with batteries and computer chips in them that’s comfortable (comfort is the hard part).

One thing I wish is that the folks at Basic Books had budgeted for some color photographs. In a book that talks so much about weaving gold fabric and other shiny things, it sure would be nice to be able to see them in detail. The black-and-white images aren’t clear at all.

I should also warn you that it really helps to have some basic understanding of weaving, knitting, and looms to get the most out of the chapter on cloth. Thankfully, Postrel does include a glossary in the book (Judith Flanders, the author A Place for Everything, would appreciate that alphabetized learning aid). Plus, with 30 pages of end notes, you can rest assured research was involved in this.

One thing’s for sure, I will never take the clothing on my back, the upholstery on my chair, or any piece of fabric I come across for granted. Knowing me, I’ll analyze whether it’s woven or knitted (more likely knitted, since the vast majority of our clothing to day comes off knitting machines, not looms) and what the yarn or thread is made of. Then I’ll wonder how it was dyed…yep, even with all my years of working with fiber, I learned a lot from The Fabric of Civilization, and it’s sticking with me!

Author: Sue Ann (Suna) Kendall

The person behind The Hermits' Rest blog and many others. I'm a certified Texas Master Naturalist and love the nature of Milam County. I manage technical writers in Austin, help with Hearts Homes and Hands, a personal assistance service, in Cameron, and serve on three nonprofit boards. You may know me from La Leche League, knitting, iNaturalist, or Facebook. I'm interested in ALL of you!

One thought on “Book Report: The Fabric of Civilization”

  1. How important is it to fix something, things work out on their own sometimes, it can be unpleasant , change, but a relief , friends stay friends

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

sara annon

seeking the middle path

Tonya's Tall Tales

My life with horses, bunnies, chickens, ducks, and cows.

rfljenksy - Practicing Simplicity

Legendary Wining and Dining World Tour.

The Backyard Horse Blog

All about keeping horses at home

Hazel's Animal Adventures

My life on the ranch.

Diary Of The Wests

The West Household Runs Of Love And Laughter

Katie Zapfel

Children's book author. Mom blogger.

365 Knit Socks

I knit, crochet, dye yarn, and cross stitch

recoveringpornaddictcom.wordpress.com/

Coach, author and educator

The daily addict

The daily life of an addict in recovery

Just Vee

A regular gal who likes to stop and smell the flowers.

Happy Heidi's Happenings

My life in the country.

BrownesPups

A family of dog lovers, owners & breeders since 2015

The Adventures of a Mountain Coward

panic-stricken mountain adventuring!

Something Over Tea

Scribbles from my notebook

The Renegade Press

Tales from the mouth of a wolf

Heccateisis's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

The Upstate Gardener

The Upstate Gardening blog with Gardening Information, Recipies, Home Improvement Ideas, and Crafts Projects to make your life more beautiful and healthy.

Read, Learn, Live

Look closely around and about you, and you will see all forms of beauty.

Nature And Photography

Bring Nature Into Life

AT PATHO

no streetlights, just star light

Words and Stitches

woolgathering at its best

The Grief Reality

Normalising the conversation about Grief.

iRoseStudios.com

Art Studio Dumfriesshire

The Creative Pixie

eat up some crafty goodness with this creative mama

Writings of a Furious Woman

My thoughts, sentiments, and scribbles on womanhood

Paws Bark

Dogs Leave Paw Print in your Heart

Yeshua's Child Art

Art that Expresses the Heart

Chicken Coop Plans

Build Your Chicken a Home

Leaf And Twig

Where observation and imagination meet nature in poetry.

Hidemi’s Rambling by Hidemi Woods

Singer, Songwriter and Author from Kyoto, Japan.

Cathartic Tendencies

motivational posts, rants, and stories!

TotallyTexasGifts.com

Featuring Fine Arts & Crafts created and sold by Texans

Seasons As My Teacher

Truth Written In The Wind

claudiajustsaying

Aging & Attitude

The Tragedy Kween

A boisterous introvert illustrating her way through life.

Zoewiezoe

Where a little insanity goes a long way

%d bloggers like this: