byatt spins


We think of our lives – and of stories – as spun threads, extended and knitted or interwoven with others into the fabric of communities, or history, or texts. An intriguing exhibition at Compton Verney in Warwickshire, The Fabric of Myth, mixes ancient and modern – Penelope’s shroud, unpicked nightly, with enterprising tapestries made in a maximum security prison out of unravelled socks. In an essay in the accompanying catalogue, Kathryn Sullivan Kruger collects words that connect weaving with storytelling: text, texture and textile, the fabric of society, words for disintegration – fraying, frazzling, unravelling, woolgathering, loose ends. A storyteller or a listener can lose the thread. The word “clue”, Kruger tells us, derives from the Anglo-Saxon cliwen, meaning ball of yarn. The processes of cloth-making are knitted and knotted into our brains, though our houses no longer have spindles or looms.

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