Textiles The Whole Story

Beverly Gordon

“Leads readers from the Stone Age to the twenty-first century, while weaving its story from strands of craft, history and anthropology, and science and culture. . . . An outstanding achievement.” —Library Journal

There are few aspects of our lives—physical, emotional, spiritual—in which thread and fabrics do not play a notable part. Beverly Gordon reminds us memorably and movingly of the powerful significance of fabric throughout human history. Her expertise is enriched by her own hands-on experience: spinning silk from silkworm cocoons, weaving cloth, and creating natural dyes. In addition, she has studied thousands of textiles in a curatorial context; her familiarity includes the processing and handling of textiles as well as the making of them.

The author bridges past and present, from the Stone Age—when humans first learned to make cordage and thread—to twenty-first-century “smart fabrics,” which can regulate body temperature or measure the wearer’s pulse. Her discussion integrates craft, art, science, history, and anthropology, and she draws on examples from around the globe.

A dazzling array of illustrations includes paintings and photographs of historic and contemporary textiles plus a broad collection of textiles being created, worn, and lived with today.


Beverly Gordon


Beverly Gordon is Professor Emeritus in the Design Studies Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her previous books include Shaker Textile Arts, Feltmaking, and The Saturated World: Aesthetic Meaning, Intimate Objects, Women's Lives, 1890-1940.