Above is a Positive TV interview of John-Paul Flintoff, author of Through the Eye of a Needle: The true story of a man who went searching for meaning – and ended up making his Y-fronts. Y-fronts must be British slang for underpants.
I read the book. I agree with Flintoff that it's really important what we believe, who or what we put our trust and hope in, and what we do as a consequence. I am with him on wanting to address the possible consequences of Peak Oil and climate change, and I agree, in light of that, that it's good to grapple personally with the making of clothes. (You might remember in the first post of this blog, I said Peak Oil's the reason why I learned to spin yarn.)
As a Christian who takes seriously the whole "Hear O Israel: the Lord thy God is One God and thou shalt love the Lord your God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might," I disagree with a fair bit of the religious advice people gave him as well as a number of his own conclusions on religion and still I stand by his freedom of conscience. He started out, from his description, as a non-religious person with little experience in forms of worship or spiritual practices. I respect him for re-examining that part of his life and looking for reasons to change his beliefs and actions.
For anyone who likes thinking about thinking, and likes reading reports of someone interacting with people, famous and not, you'll find this book diverting.
There were some things in regard to the making clothes part that pained me, all things that touch on my hobbyhorses. For example, he didn't consult with a handspinner until at least five-sixths of the way into the narrative.
The woman who taught Flintoff to spin summed up drop spindles as "cheaper, but less efficient – and you get tired arms." From the description, "it looked like a knitting needle shoved through a very thick wooden dish," I would guess that the drop spindle he saw wasn't the nicest.
I don't remember linen being mentioned in the book, an oversight considering flax's suitability to the English climate and its status historically as one of the four major world fibres. Flintoff, as you can tell by the video above, is enamoured with the idea of gleaning nettles for cloth.
Flintoff uses crochet to make his underpants, first in nettle and then in Blue Face Leicester wool. I would quibble first with the cloth-making technique, since knit cloth and even woven cloth would give better coverage, and I'd quibble with his choice of material. But again I admire his determination to take on the task and his work to acquire the needed skills.
For me, the best line in the book was a realization Flintoff came to after he posted a video to a website asking for help making his shirts fit as well as one he'd had custom made. "It gradually dawned on me, after sending that film to ThreadBangers, that in my world it's easier to make a film than to clothe oneself – an essential second only to eating."
But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
-I Timothy 6:8 NIV