Virginia Postrel's Videos Related to Her The Fabric of Civilization Book

The strange story of calico prohibition; the hidden history of bandanas; and Uighurs and weavers.


I much enjoyed Virginia's posts last week, and hope you did, too; in case you're interested, here are three videos Virginia has put together on the subject:

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  1. I read many years ago about how much textiles were the heart of the Industrial Revolution, how women used to spend 90% of their time just spinning thread, not to mention weaving cloth and sewing clothes. When textile factories made cloth, that alone freed up women for all sorts of other chores, and houses actually began to include kitchen windows and curtains. When full clothes were available ready made, it accelerated the process, and it was close to a full century before electric appliances gave the next boost in wifely productivity. It’s hard to imagine today how much of a time sink it was just to sew clothes; almost impossible to imagine beginning with spinning thread and weaving cloth.

    1. “…almost impossible to imagine beginning with spinning thread and weaving cloth.”

      And that came after birthing the lambs, shepherding the flock, scything the winter feed, shearing the wool, washing and carding, …

      Or think about going to the lumberyard and buying a 2×4 … I think lumber prices are way up but a 2×4 still costs a fraction of the minimum wage. Then think about felling the tree with an axe, dragging it to the saw pit, and sawing it into boards. They called the saw the ‘misery whip’ for a reason, especially for the guy on the bottom end. The wiki article says that a 2 man crew could crank out a whopping 12 boards in a days work. And it has a picture of a pit in operation, in 2007 in Zambia.

      When ‘the kidz these days’ go on about how horrible life is, I always wonder ‘compared to what’?

  2. Is there going to be some discussion of the invention and production of silk in China, and how that induced commerce throughout the Old World?

    Chinese silk has been discovered in the tombs of Egyptian Pharaoahs from 3000 years ago, and was very popular in Roman times. The Silk Road was the first example, I think, of world commerce.

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