News: Churchill Fellow’s book tells the history of protest through sewing

Published: 19 Mar 2019

Author: Clare Hunter
News: Churchill Fellow’s book tells the history of protest through sewing

A new book by Churchill Fellow Clare Hunter explores stories of women and marginalised communities who have used sewing to communicate political messages and make their voices heard. ‘Threads of Life: the history of the world through the eye of a needle’ is out now, published by Sceptre.

One of the book’s chapters takes us to 1970s Argentina, where grieving mothers marched in front of government buildings wearing headscarves embroidered with the names of children who disappeared under the country’s military dictatorship. Another chapter recounts how Mary, Queen of Scots, used needlework to communicate with the outside world while she was under house arrest.

Below: Clare Hunter

Clare Hunter

‘Threads of Life’ was named a Radio 4 book of the week and has received praise in The Sunday Times, the Mail on Sunday and the Radio Times, amongst other publications. Clare said:

“I wrote Threads of Life because, despite there being thousands of books published on needlework, I couldn't find any that explored why people sew. I have always been interested in the social, emotional and political motivation behind taking so much time to sew something of personal meaning, and writing this book gave me the chance to research that interest further.”

Below: Threads of Life cover art

Threads of Life cover art

One chapter tells the story of Clare’s trip to China in 1995 on her Churchill Fellowship. The aim of her travels was to study the textiles of the Miao people, said to be the first settlers of present-day China. Clare said:

“The Miao have no written language. For centuries they have instead used embroidered textiles to depict their history, their myths and their spiritual beliefs. Their embroideries are their libraries. My search took me to museums in Kaili and Chengdu, and to tiny villages in remote areas. In Shidong in Guizhou, I eventually found what I was looking for - whole stories narrated on a small rectangle of cloth.”

Top picture: Miao embroidery

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