A New Book is Underway. Plus: the medieval nun who faked her own death; three blues; and an episode of 99% Invisible

IMG_0863First the very-big-so-big-I’m-splitting-at-the-seams news: my next book is properly underway!

It has a publisher. It has an editor. It has a title. It has enough notes to justify it’s own lever-arch file.* What it unfortunely doesn’t have yet is permission to tell you about itself until the ink has dried on the contract, which should be in a month or two. To keep you going until then: it’s an idea I’ve been mulling for around three years, it’s a single story, it’s historical (naturally) and I can’t wait to share more details when I can.

I’m also not able to share the American cover of The Golden Thread, because it doesn’t have one yet, but I can confirm that it will be unleashed to American readers later this year courtesy of Liveright. It is also currently being translated into German, Romanian, Russian, Mandarin, Italian, Korean and Spanish! Huge thanks to those of you who have emailed me to tell me you’re reading it and to share the bits you’ve loved, the sections you’ve found surprising, and your own textile tales. 

That’s it from me for now, but, as ever, I wanted to share below a few of the things that have caught my attention over past few weeks, as well as some of the pieces that I’ve worked on. Enjoy!

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Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish-Iranian asylum-seeker currently detained on Manus Island, won a prestigious Australian literary award. He wrote the book on WhatsApp over five years

We can’t know for sure, but it seems Joan of Leeds wasn’t cut out for life in a nunnery. Marginalia from 1318 suggests she faked her own death in order to escape and persue other, more worldly, interests

There is space in New York to build affordable housing, it’s just that the spaces, many owned by the city, tend to be small and oddly shaped. Hence this competition to design “infill housing”

Humans have been sewing for 20,000 years!

Podcast aficionados will know about the wonderful design-focused 99% Invisible. Favourite episodes include a 2014 classic on flags, this one on McMansions, and…erm…the one that I got to do with them on colour

Saturday Night Live’s cue cards: everything you ever wanted to know

The magic and miracle of squid’s colour-changing skin

And in other colourful nature news: flying squirrels glow pink in the dark

A Flemish masterpiece was stolen from a Ligurian church wall in March. The police weren’t too bothered though: they had heard rumours about a heist a month previously and so had replaced the painting with a fake as a precaution

A dead humback whale has washed up in the Amazon rainforest

This article, recounting the search for the wreck of the USS Wasp, is a storytelling master class. You’ll be teary-eyed by the third paragraph and find yourself pinned to the edge of your seat for the duration

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that my long-running colour column for Elle Decoration has evolved. It’s now called ‘Colour in Context’ and it’s about schemes of yore that have worked really well and why. So far I’ve written about three very different mid-century interiors, one by Gio Ponti, one by Eileen Gray, and the third by Marion Hall Best, inspired by the colour and flair of Mary Quant. Elsewhere, I’ve investigated how wool lost its itch for 1843, and, for the World of Interiors, I wrote a feature about an historically inspired paint palette. Sadly neither Elle Decoration nor WoI put their content up online — this is because….well, I’m not exactly sure I know why — so I can’t link to them here. Booooo!

Another nun story: this one lived in Germany sometime between 997 and 1162, had traces of expensive ultramarine pigment in the tartar on her teeth. She likely spent her days illuminating manuscripts

Think 2019 is bad? Here are all the ways 536AD was worse




* Anyone who wants to see some behind-the-scenes photos of where I work, with a tantalising glimpse of one the very lever-arch files I’m referring to, can check out this little interview here


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