Sunday, November 7, 2010

Thoughts on String

I just finished reading Bill Bryson's fascinating new book, At Home: A Short History of Private Life.  All about the changes to homes and houses over the last few centuries.  Among many other interesting subjects, he had a wonderful passage about thread:
String is marvelously elemental.  It is simply two pieces of fiber placed side by side and twisted together.  That achieves two things: it makes a cord that is strong, and it allows long cords to be built up from short fibers.  Imagine where we would be without it.  There would be no cloth, clothing, fishing lines, nets, snares, rope, leashes, tethers, slings, bows for shooting arrows, or a thousand useful things more.  Elizabeth Wayland Barber, a textile historian, was hardly exaggerating when she called string the "weapon that allowed the human race to conquer the earth." 
Wow, think on that.  Usually we think of inventions that started it all to be stone arrowheads, or the control of fire, or somesuch...but someone long long ago had to have the bright idea that two of those vines twisted together were so much stronger than one alone, and that they could be used to close the cloak, make a net, or hold together a container

And eventually, someone along the line hit upon the idea to use strings to decorate a simple cloth, to make something plain special and beautiful.  Archeologist have found evidence of embroidery on the clothing of ancient egyptian mummies.

It me ponder all those stitchers and fiber workers before me, and all steps along the way to get to this point.  There is a story in the stash box.

1 comment:

  1. What a great and interesting read this was about the string, There are so many things we take for granted. I have read about the way different embroidery techniques were taken round the world by the early traders, but never thought of where the thread originated....when you think about silk and the coccoon, who was the person who first discovered that such a wonderful thread could be made from that little object.