Skip to main content
Select Source:

Textiles

TEXTILES

TEXTILES. Textile production played a crucial part in the American industrial revolution, the establishment of organized labor, and the technological development of this country. Once, textile production was simple enough that the entire process could and did take place in the home. Now, textiles represent a complex network of interrelated industries that produce fiber, spin yarns, fabricate cloth, and dye, finish, print, and manufacture goods.

Products and Services

About 35 percent of U.S. manufactured cloth is intended for apparel, 16 percent for home furnishings, and 24 percent for floor coverings. The remaining 25 percent is used in industrial textiles, which include sports equipment, conveyer belts, filtration materials, and agricultural and construction materials. So-called geotextiles are used for earth stabilization and drainage as well as reinforcement in roads and bridges. The aerospace industry uses industrial textiles in the nose cones of space shuttles, and medicine uses textiles as artificial arteries and dissolving stitches.

Fiber Producers

Until the early twentieth century, all textiles were derived from plants or animals. The invention of a process for regenerating cellulose from wood chips and cotton linters into a usable fiber marked the beginning of research, development, and innovation. Many of today's textile producers started as chemical companies.


Producers of natural fibers are dependent on raw materials and often held hostage to nature. It is not easy for them to quickly increase or decrease output based on consumer demand. Most producers sell their fiber to mills or wholesalers for resale and seldom have any direct involvement after the fiber is sold. Trade organizations like Cotton Incorporated and the American Wool Council have been established to support producers by providing educational materials, helping with public relations, and assisting with advertising.

Manufactured fibers can be made from regenerated natural materials, or they can be synthesized from chemicals. Because many of these processes may be petroleum-based, such producers may be affected by events concerning the oil industry. The American Fiber Manufacturers Association is the primary association for the manufactured fiber industry. Manufactured fibers can be sold as unbranded fiber, where the fiber producer has no further involvement; trademarked fiber, where the fiber producer has some control over the quality of the fabric; or licensed trademarked fiber, where the fiber producer sets standards that must be met by the fabric manufacturer. An advantage of trademarked or licensed trademarked fiber is that the fabric manufacturers and, ultimately, the garment manufacturers, can capitalize on advertising and brand recognition.

Origins in America

The American colonies were viewed as rich deposits of natural resources for Europe, and the colonists were considered as a consumer pool. Because Holland and France were producing their own wool, England was forced to look west for a new market. England encouraged the culture of flax, hemp, and silk in the colonies, but only if it aided English industries. Though the colonists were capable of producing cloth through spinning and weaving, they found no real necessity to do so as long as cloth could be imported. Problems arose in the Massachusetts colony when the French captured supply ships. The lack of sufficient warm clothing in an inhospitable climate created great hardship in the northern settlements.

The Massachusetts colony recognized the need to be as self-sufficient as possible. It encouraged the development of raw materials and the manufacture of wool and linen cloth. A bounty was offered to weavers as inducement, and the coarse linen they produced was the first officially recorded American-produced textile.

In 1638, twenty families arrived in Massachusetts from Yorkshire, a wool-producing district in England. Five years later, they began the manufacture of cloth, establishing the textile industry in America. Although they worked primarily in wool, they also spun and wove flax and cotton. The mill they established continued in production into the nineteenth century. With increasing concern over the availability of goods, in 1645 the Massachusetts colony instructed the public to preserve and increase their flocks of sheep, make woolen cloth, and advise friends and family still in England to emigrate and bring as many sheep with them as possible. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, there were a quarter of a million colonists. Textile production had become important enough to pose a threat to English merchants and manufacturers. The English enacted restrictions that detailed what goods could be exported to the colonies and by whom, and what items could be exported from the colonies and where. This only served to instill a greater sense of defiance among the colonists. George Washington was a great supporter of homespun American cloth and maintained a weaving house on his Mount Vernon estate, as did Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. Imported textiles became very unpopular, especially after the 1765 Stamp Act. England retaliated for colonial disobedience by disallowing the exportation of any textile goods, machinery, or equipment to the colonies. The American army suffered terribly during the Revolution because of lack of proper clothing. The freedom won by the former colonists allowed the textile industry to develop.

Industry Pioneers

George Cabot founded the first integrated American textile mill in Beverly, Massachusetts, in 1787. His mill hand-carded fiber, spun yarn, and wove cloth, all under one roof. The company produced a variety of cotton fabrics until the early 1800s.

Samuel Slater may be considered the father of the American industrial revolution. English by birth, he trained for seven years in a textile mill, and left England in 1789 at age twenty-one. Settling in Rhode Island, he built the first successful water-powered spinning mill in Pawtucket in 1793.

Francis Cabot Lowell, nephew of George Cabot, visited English textile mills and committed the workings of the power loom to memory. Upon his return, he worked with the inventor Paul Moody at Waltham, Massachusetts, to develop the first American power loom.

George Corliss contributed to steam engine design and succeeded in making Providence, Rhode Island, the center of steam engine manufacture in the 1850s. First used as a source of alternate power during the dry season, steam slowly replaced water as an energy source. It allowed a mill owner to build in a populous area without regard for waterpower.

How the Industry Developed

Cloth production is a two-part process: spinning fiber into yarn, and weaving yarn into cloth. A mechanized spinning frame was invented in England in 1764 that could spin eight spools of yarn at once. Within a few years, it was improved to spin 100 spools simultaneously. Richard Arkwright improved upon the original design so that all steps occurred in one machine. It was in the factory of his partner, Jedediah Strutt, that Samuel Slater was trained. Slater opened Slater Mill in 1793 with money from Providence investors. His organizational methods


became the blueprint for successors in the Blackstone River Valley. Based on mills smaller than those used in Massachusetts, his plan was ideal for small rural mill villages. Seven more mills opened by 1800, and there were 213 by 1815. The mills flourished in areas where the rocky terrain made farming unsuitable.

The year after Slater opened his mill, Eli Whitney patented a machine that would lead to the revival of the declining practice of slavery and ultimately contribute to the causes of the Civil War. In 1790, there were 657,000 slaves in the southern states. In 1793,187,000 pounds of cotton was harvested. Because one slave was able to clean only one pound of cotton fiber per day, the crop hardly was worth the trouble. Whitney's cotton gin, however, could process fifty pounds a day, enabling the harvest to grow to six million pounds in 1795. The business of slavery grew as well, so that in 1810 there were 1.3 million slaves and 93 million pounds of cotton harvested. Cotton became the largest U.S. export and textiles the most important industry before the Civil War.

Weavers could not keep up with the abundance of yarn being produced by the mechanized mills. This problem was solved when Francis Cabot Lowell and Paul Moody created their more efficient power loom and spinning apparatus in 1813 in Lowell's Waltham mill. With a dependable loom, weaving could now keep apace of spinning. Soon mills began to dot the rivers of New England. The fully integrated mill marked the shift from a rural, agrarian society to a manufacturing economy. Shortly after his death, Lowell's associates began to develop an area north of Boston where the Merrimack River and Pawtucket Falls had the waterpower to operate dozens of mills. Named for Lowell, the planned community was set up in 1823 and incorporated in 1826. By 1850 almost six miles of canals flowed through Lowell, drove the water-wheels of 40 mill buildings, and powered 320,000 spindles and almost 10,000 looms, operated by more than 10,000 workers.

The period from 1820 to 1860 saw the rapid development of many more factories. New England became the nation's textile center. In 1825, there were 16,000 mills in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. By 1850, there were 60,000 mills in the United States. New England alone had 896 power-driven mills, almost 500 of which were in northern Massachusetts, patterned after Lowell's Waltham mill. Virtually all mills were fully mechanized by the early part of the nineteenth century. Initially powered by water, the mills eventually switched to steam, then electricity. By 1910, the Lowell mills were using hydroelectricity.

The Civil War dramatically changed production. The cotton harvest shrunk to 200,000 bales in 1864, and after the war the western states began producing cotton. The South was faced with the need to reinvent itself and began to build spinning and weaving mills. Its lower wages, lower rate of unionization, and openness to new technology induced many northern mills to relocate southward in the years between the world wars.

Chemistry began to play an important part in the textile industry in the mid-nineteenth century when synthetic dyes were discovered. These were followed in 1891 by the development of regenerated cellulose, the first manmade fiber. The first plant for manufacturing "artificial silk" in America opened in 1910. Later named rayon (1924), the fabric was followed by acetate and triacetate, also cellulose derivatives. Chemical companies set up research and development labs in the race to find new fibers.

DuPont established an experimental lab for the purpose of pure scientific research in 1928. Directed by Dr. Wallace Hume Carothers, the lab conducted work on polyesters but abandoned the project to pursue what would become known as nylon. After several years of development, the fiber was presented to consumers in the form of women's stockings. In 1940, when they became available to the general public, nylon stockings earned more than $3 million in profit in seven months, completely covering the cost of research and development. Nylon stockings ceased production during World War II when nylon was needed for parachutes, ropes, and tents.

British scientists picked up Carothers's work on giant molecules and further developed polyesters. DuPont bought the appropriate patent and opened the first U.S. plant to produce Dacron polyester in 1953. Subsequent developments include manufactured fibers for protection, high performance, durability, strength, and ease of care. Other important chemical contributions are finishes on traditional fabrics for wrinkle resistance, shrinkage control, and color fastness. Technological developments include computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacture (CAM). CAD equipment is used in the design of yarns and fabrics and the development of coloration. Prints can easily be manipulated, and designs can be reconfigured in seconds. CAM is used for designing factory layouts and in textile production processes like the control of looms and robotics. Computers are invaluable in communications and for tracking inventory.

Concern for the impact of manufacturing on the environment led to the development of so-called environmentally improved textile products. One such product is lyocell, regenerated cellulose produced using a nontoxic solvent. Organic cotton and naturally colored cottons are being cultivated, and natural dyes have sparked interest. Attention is also being given to recycling materials such as old carpets as well as other used textile products into new materials. Plastic soda bottles are being processed into fiberfill, polar fleece, and geotextiles.

Statistics

By the end of the twentieth century, there were approximately 75,000 woolgrowers in the United States, active in almost every state, and 35,000 cotton growers, mainly in the South. Textiles were also being manufactured in almost all states, with the largest concentrations in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Bureau of Labor Statistics there were 5,117 companies, with 6,134 plants, in 1997. The companies employed 541,000 workers in 2000, but within a few years 177,000 jobs had been lost and more than 215 mills had closed. Though the industry income was $57.8 billion in 2000, shipments and exports soon dropped as the strength of the U.S. dollar against faltering Asian economies allowed for a surge of inexpensive imported textiles and clothing.

Changes in Business and Commerce

The textile industry has undergone significant changes in business practices in several key areas. Labor relations, trade practices, product labeling, product safety, and environmental and antipollution measures have been subjects of public scrutiny and federal legislation.

Employee and Labor Practices

Once farmers gave up rural self-sufficiency, they had to adapt to a mill whistle rather than the rhythm of nature. Life was difficult and unhealthy with long hours and poor conditions. Respiratory disease was common and there was always the danger of losing a limb in the machinery. The mills were cold and drafty in the winter and stifling in the summer, as well as dirty and noisy. Physical abuse occurred and it was not uncommon for mill owners to take advantage of workers. When labor was scarce, conditions improved, but conditions declined again when more workers became available.

Samuel Slater developed a management style that became known as the Rhode Island system. He hired entire families, who often lived in company housing, shopped in the company store, and attended company schools and churches. It was a clever means of control because bad behavior on one worker's part could get the entire family fired. Work was ten to twelve hours a day, six days a week. Sunday was for church and for children to learn basic reading, writing, and arithmetic. Though the mill complex did provide a measure of convenience for the workers, it was actually a way for the owner and investors to regulate every aspect of the workers' lives. Paid by the mill owner, teachers and ministers preached the party line.

By 1830,55 percent of Rhode Island mill workers were children earning less than $1 a week. Children on farms worked equally long hours, and so for poor families, millwork was seen as an improvement. Textile machines lent themselves to child labor because they were simple enough for unskilled children to operate under adult supervision.

By 1900,92 percent of southern textile workers lived in mill villages. By 1908, fewer than 7 percent had a living situation with anything more than a simple privy. Some villages had a rule that a family had to have one employee for each room in the house, further ensuring child entry into the workforce. School was discouraged so that children would have no option but to enter mill life. Schools were free to seventh grade, then charged tuition after that. Between 1880 and 1910 about one-fourth of southern cotton mill workers were under sixteen, having entered the mills full-time by age twelve. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 finally regulated child labor.

In the 1890s, the National Union of Textile Workers held meetings throughout the Carolina Piedmont, organizing ninety-five locals by 1900. Unions continued to organize workers and in 1929 a wave of strikes began in Elizabethton, Tennessee. Thousands of mill workers walked out and stayed out three months even in the face of intimidation and the murder of Ella May Wiggins, organizer of the Gastonia, North Carolina, strike. Though hunger forced the workers back with only minor concessions from the owners, the stage was set for later protest.

In an effort to stimulate recovery from the 1929 stock market crash and the depression that followed, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) into law in 1933. Under NIRA, a Cotton Textile Board was established to enforce a code of fair competition in the industry, limit destructive price competition, prevent overproduction, and guarantee mill hands a minimum wage. Unfortunately, the Board was controlled by mill owners, who used the minimum wage as the maximum and laid off even more workers.

The 1934 General Textile Strike led to the eventual abandonment of the mill village system. Twenty thousand Alabama workers walked out, demanding a minimum of $12 for a thirty-hour week and reinstatement of fired union members. The unrest spread, and when the United Textile Workers (UTW) called for a general strike an estimated 400,000 workers walked out, making it the largest labor conflict in American history. The governors of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia called out the militias and the national guards to support the mill owners. Financial need forced workers back and the UTW called off the strike three weeks later. Many workers were fired and blacklisted.

In the early 1960s, African Americans made up fewer than 2 percent of textile industry employees. Although the industry was very competitive and most jobs were largely unskilled, it chose to overlook this source of labor. Integration occurred through the enforcement of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Prospects

In the 1980s, half a million jobs moved overseas in the search for cheap labor, and in the next decades jobs continued to be lost and mills shut down. Legislative efforts have been made to protect the American textile industry, which will also need continuing innovation and technological advances in order to survive.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Collier, Billie J., and Phyllis G. Tortora. Understanding Textiles, 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2001.

Hall, Jacquelyn Dowd, et al. Like a Family: The Making of a Southern Cotton Mill World. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987.

Harris, J., ed. Textiles, 5000 Years: An International History and Illustrated Survey. New York: Abrams, 1993.

Kinnane, Adrian. DuPont: From the Banks of the Brandywine to Miracles of Science. Wilmington, Del.: DuPont, 2002.

Little, Frances. Early American Textiles. New York: Century Co., 1931.

Minchin, Timothy J. Hiring the Black Worker: The Racial Integration of the Southern Textile Industry, 1960–1980. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.

Tortora, Phyllis G., and Robert S. Merkel, eds. Fairchild's Dictionary of Textiles, 7th ed. New York: Fairchild, 1996.

ChristinaLindholm

See alsoIndustrial Revolution ; Labor ; Labor Legislation and Administration ; Mill Streams ; Slavery ; Strikes ; United Textile Workers andvol. 9:Mill Worker's Letter on Hardships in the Textile Mills .

Lowell Mill Girls

Beginning in 1823, girls from farms and local villages were recruited to work in the Lowell mills for a few years before they left for marriage or other reasons. Most were between fifteen and thirty years old and worked an average of three years. They lived in dormitories and boarding houses with strict rules of curfew and moral conduct. In 1834, 800 young female mill workers went on strike to protest wage cuts, claiming the cuts threatened their economic independence. The Lowell Female Labor Reform Association was formed in 1844, the first organization of working women to try to bargain collectively for better conditions and higher pay. The economic downturn of the 1850s led to lower pay and longer hours, and as a result, immigrant Irish women replaced American farm girls. In the late nineteenth century, women held nearly two-thirds of all textile jobs in Lowell.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Textiles." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Textiles." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 15, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/textiles

"Textiles." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved December 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/textiles

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

textiles

textiles, all fabrics made by weaving, felting, knitting, braiding, or netting, from the various textile fibers (see fiber).

Types of Textiles

Textiles are classified according to their component fibers into silk, wool, linen, cotton, such synthetic fibers as rayon, nylon, and polyesters, and some inorganic fibers, such as cloth of gold, glass fiber, and asbestos cloth. They are also classified as to their structure or weave, according to the manner in which warp and weft cross each other in the loom (see loom; weaving). Value or quality in textiles depends on several factors, such as the quality of the raw material used and the character of the yarn spun from the fibers, whether clean, smooth, fine, or coarse and whether hard, soft, or medium twisted. Density of weave and finishing processes are also important elements in determining the quality of fabrics.

Tapestry, sometimes classed as embroidery, is a modified form of plain cloth weaving. The weaving of carpet and rugs is a special branch of the textile industry. Other specially prepared fabrics not woven are felt and bark (or tapa) cloth, which are beaten or matted together, and a few in which a single thread is looped or plaited, as in crochet and netting work and various laces. Most textiles are now produced in factories, with highly specialized power looms, but many of the finest velvets, brocades, and table linens are still made by hand.

The Printing of Textiles

Textile printing, the various processes by which fabrics are printed in colored design, is an ancient art. Although the time and place of origin are uncertain, examples of Greek fabrics from the 4th cent. BC have been found. India exported block prints to the Mediterranean region in the 5th cent. BC, and Indian chintz was imported into Europe during the Renaissance and widely imitated. France became a leading center and was noted especially for the toile de Jouy manufactured at Jouy from 1760 to 1811.

Early forms of textile printing are stencil work, highly developed by Japanese artists, and block printing. In the latter method a block of wood, copper, or other material bearing a design in intaglio with the dye paste applied to the surface is pressed on the fabric and struck with a mallet. A separate block is used for each color, and pitch pins at the corners guide the placing of the blocks to assure accurate repeating of the pattern. In cylinder or roller printing, developed c.1785, the fabric is carried on a rotating central cylinder and pressed by a series of rollers each bearing one color. The design is engraved on the copper rollers by hand or machine pressure or etched by pantograph or photoengraving methods; the color paste is applied to the rollers through feed rollers rotating in a color box, the color being scraped off the smooth portion of the rollers with knives.

More recent printing processes include screen printing, a hand method especially suitable for large patterns with soft outlines, in which screens, one for each color, are placed on the fabric and the color paste pressed through by a wooden squeegee; spray printing, in which a spray gun forces the color through a screen; and electrocoating, used to apply a patterned pile. Color may be applied by the various processes directly; by the discharge method, which uses chemicals to destroy a portion of a previously dyed ground; or by the resist, or reserve, method, which prevents the development of a subsequently applied color to a portion of the fabric treated with a chemical or with a mechanical resist.

History

Yarn, fabrics, and tools for spinning and weaving have been found among the earliest relics of human habitations. Linen fabrics dating from 5000 BC have been discovered in Egypt. Woolen textiles from the early Bronze Age in Scandinavia and Switzerland have also been found. Cotton has been spun and woven in India since 3000 BC, and silk has been woven in China since at least 1000 BC About the 4th cent. AD, Constantinople began to weave the raw silk imported from China. A century later silk culture spread to the Western countries, and textile making developed rapidly. By the 14th cent. splendid fabrics were being woven on the hand looms of the Mediterranean countries in practically all the basic structures known to modern artisans, and there has been no change in fundamental processes since that time, although methods and equipment have been radically altered.

Bibliography

See A. T. C. Robinson, Woven Cloth Construction (1967); E. E. Stout, Introduction to Textiles, (3d ed. 1970); A. Geijer, A History of Textile Art (1982); F. M. Montgomery, Textiles in America, 1650 to 1870 (1984); M. Thomas, Textiles: History of an Art (1985); E. J. W. Barber, Prehistoric Textiles (1991).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"textiles." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"textiles." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 15, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/textiles

"textiles." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/textiles

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

textile

tex·tile / ˈtekˌstīl/ • n. 1. (usu. textiles) cloth or woven fabric: a fascinating range of pottery, jewelry, and textiles. ∎  (textiles) the branch of industry involved in the manufacture of cloth. 2. inf. used by nudists to describe someone wearing clothes, esp. on a beach. • adj. 1. of or relating to fabric or weaving: the textile industry. 2. inf. used by nudists to describe something relating to or restricted to people wearing clothes. ORIGIN: early 17th cent.: from Latin textilis, from text- ‘woven,’ from the verb texere.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"textile." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"textile." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 15, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/textile-0

"textile." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved December 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/textile-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

textiles

textiles Fabric, especially those produced by weaving yarn. The yarn is made by spinning natural or artificial fibres. Textiles are used to make clothing, curtains, carpets, and many other products. Powered looms for spinning and weaving were introduced in the 18th century. See also acrylic; cotton; flax; linen; nylon; polyester; rayon; silk; wool

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"textiles." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"textiles." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 15, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/textiles

"textiles." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/textiles

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

textile

textile adj. and sb. woven (fabric). XVII. — F. textile or L. textilis, f. pp. stem of texere weave.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"textile." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"textile." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 15, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/textile-1

"textile." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved December 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/textile-1

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

textile

textile •tactile • pantile •erectile, insectile, projectile •gentile, percentile •reptile •sextile, textile •hairstyle • freestyle • fictile • epistyle •peristyle • acetyl • lifestyle • hostile •homestyle •butyl, futile, rutile, utile •ductile • fluviatile • infantile •decastyle • mercantile • cyclostyle •volatile • hypostyle • tetrastyle •hexastyle • versatile • fertile •turnstile • servile • meanwhile •erstwhile • exile

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"textile." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"textile." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 15, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/textile

"textile." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved December 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/textile

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Textiles

TEXTILES

In the biblical period garments were produced from both animal and vegetable materials. The most common garments were made of animal furs, especially of the less expensive sheepskin and goatskin, though rarer skins were also used. The pelts were processed to make them soft and hairy. Simple garments were sewn from these skins with the hairy surface worn either against the body or outward. Skins were prepared in two fashions: hard and thick for footwear, and soft, thin, and more delicate for clothing. Skins were also used for military dress and various military accessories. Beginning with the second millennium b.c.e., leather and fur were processed by specialists, who maintained facilities for this purpose. Natural silk, bought from India and Arabia, was used only in the most expensive garments, such as royal raiment. The most common, however, and almost the sole materials used for textiles were wool and linen. (The identification of meshi (Ezek. 16:10, 13) with silk, by Rashi, followed by all other commentators, is almost certainly a mistaken one. The first reference to silkworms is by Aristotle in his De Animalibus Historia, 5.) The preparation of cloth required several operations. The raw material was cleaned, and if necessary dyed (see *Dyeing). It was then used for the spinning of threads which was done on a spindle – a short, narrow rod at whose end is a circular weight which maintains the rod suspended in a vertical position and serves as a small fly wheel to turn the rod on its axis. By turning the suspended spindle with deft finger motions, the fibers were inwoven into threads of uniform thickness. The threads thus produced were bound about the spindle stick as on a bobbin (H. Gressman, Altorientalische Bilder zum Alten Testament (19262)). Spinning was done by old people or women at home in their spare time (cf. Prov. 41:19). Some excavations have revealed perforated weights, generally made of stone.

The next process in the production of clothing was the weaving of the woolen or flaxen threads into cloth. For this purpose there were vertical or horizontal looms, and for larger cloths, the mobile looms were attached to the ground. The base for the woven cloth consisted of the warp strands that stretched through the length of the cloth. On a vertical loom the warp strands were closely spaced over the two horizontal bars of the fame. Larger vertical looms used only one horizontal bar, with perforated clay or stone weights attached to the other end of the warp strands. On horizontal looms, the tension in the warp was maintained by two bars held in place on the ground or on a table. The woof strands were passed alternately above and below the warp threads. More complex patterns were produced by picking up several warp strands at a time or by multidirectional weaving. The most advanced looms permitted more complex methods such as separating warp groups by attaching them to several upper or lower bars whose positions could be exchanged. The woof thread was bound about a beam, which served as a bobbin that was passed back and forth over the warp all the while unwinding the thread. To make the cloth more opaque, a rough comb was passed along the taut warp strands, to make the woof adhere more thoroughly. The proximity of the threads determined the strength of the cloth, while the thickness determined its coarse or delicate structure. Much use was made of colored threads which could be woven into particular patterns. Clothing was sewn by hand with metal or bone needles, also used for coloring embroidery on the fabric, which was an integral part of its decoration. Clothing was fastened with laces tied to one another by means of special pins. The use of buttons was very rare.

In the Talmud

During the talmudic period wool and linen continued to be the main sources for textiles. Whereas, however, wool was more plentiful in Ereẓ Israel, linen was so abundant and cheap in Babylon that its cheapness was regarded as one of the main material attractions of the country (Ta'an. 29b). To such an extent did the economy depend upon it that public prayers were offered when its value dropped by 40% (bb 91a). There were special districts where flax was soaked and where it was sold (Git. 27a). The difference between Ereẓ Israel and Babylon with regard to those two materials is reflected in the statement that whereas in Babylon colored woolen garments were regarded as the most expensive, in Ereẓ Israel white linen was so regarded (Pes. 109a). During this period a considerable number of new materials appear. However, it is interesting that two passages in which these new materials are mentioned are explicitly connected with this extension.

Mishnah Kilayim 9:1 states that "Wool and linen alone are forbidden under the law of *mixed species," and the subsequent mishnayot deal with the new textiles common at the time. They are camel hair (cf. Matt. 3:4), hemp (9:1), silk and floss silk (9:2), and a textile made of a mixture of hemp and linen. Garments made of hemp were usually imported (9:7). In Babylonia hemp was even cheaper than linen (Ket. 8b). Similarly, on the law enjoining that the ẓiẓit must be attached to one's "garments" (Num. 15:38), the Talmud, acknowledging that the word in the Bible applies only to wool, continues "Whence then can I include camel hair, rabbit hair, goat hair, floss silk [kallakh], raw silk [Sirikon = Lat. Sericom], fine silk (Shira'in – Men. 39b; cf. also Sifra, Tazri'a, Perek 16)." Kallakh occurs in Mishnah Shabbat 2:1 as one of the materials forbidden for use as wicks for the Sabbath lamp. The Babylonian amoraim, uncertain of its identification, in their discussion mention a number of varieties of silk used in Babylon such as "metuksa" (Gr. μέτυξα) and peranda silk (Late Gr. πράνδιοι). In addition cotton was extensively used. It should be noted, however, that the talmudic word kutnah, or kitnah, is not cotton, but linen. The Arabic form of the word qutn was adapted by traders for the Arab cottons which they introduced into Europe. The talmudic name for cotton is ẓemer gefen ("vine wool"; Kil. 7:2, tj, Ket. 2:4, 27d).

Home weaving was so essential an aspect of the domestic menage, at least in mishnaic times, that it is stated that even a wealthy woman "even if she brought a hundred maidservants" into the house, should still be obliged to engage in wool-spinning, "since idleness leads to lewdness" (Ket. 5:5); nevertheless, there is ample evidence of the existence of textiles, and specifically woolen goods, manufactured on a commercial scale. "Ben Zoma said, 'how many labors did Adam have to perform before he obtained a garment to wear! He had to shear, wash, comb, spin, and weave (the wool) before he had a garment to wear, whereas I get up early and find all that done for me. All kinds of people come betimes to my house, and … I find all these ready'" (Ber. 58a).

[Louis Isaac Rabinowitz]

Medieval Period

The prominence of Jews in the manufacture of textiles in the Mediterranean Basin in the Middle Ages was connected with the widespread commerce in textiles, particularly silk and the more expensive fabrics, in general, and with Jewish commercial activity in this sphere in particular. Cheaper types of cloth were also an important article of trade; thus, in the sources of the period, wherever a Jewish merchant is mentioned plying his trade he was most commonly dealing in textiles. In medieval Egypt the silk trade "fulfilled a function similar to that of stocks and bonds in our own society. In other words, it represented a healthy range of speculation, while providing at the same time a high degree of security" (S.D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society (1967), 223).

In Muslim Spain, where many Jews engaged in the silk industry, there "were two brothers, merchants, the manufacturers of silk, Jacob *Ibn Jau and … Joseph … they became successful in the silk business, making clothing of high quality and pennants that are placed at the tops of standards of such high quality as was not duplicated in all of Spain" (Ibn Daud, Tradition, 68–69). To King Roger of Sicily was attributed the introduction of the silk industry into his lands by means of captured Jewish craftsmen from the Balkans (1147). *Benjamin of Tudela describes the Jews of Thebes as "the good craftsmen in making silk and purple clothes in the land of the Greeks"; at *Salonika he also noted that "they deal in the craft of silk," while among the Jews of *Constantinople he found "craftsmen in silk" (ed. Adler (London, 1907), 12–16). The occupation of *dyeing, then widespread among Jews and often mentioned by him, was connected with textiles. In Spain woolen cloth, produced from the famed local merino sheep, was produced by Jewish weavers, particularly in *Majorca and the eastern cities of *Barcelona, *Valencia, and *Saragossa. The weaver's guild in *Calatayud had its own synagogue. *Moneylending in Western and Central Europe brought Jews into contact with valuable textiles given in pawn which they had to maintain in good state, and also often to sell.

In the Ottoman Empire

Many of the exiles from Spain and Portugal (1492, 1497) continued their former occupations in the textile trade or crafts in their new places of settlement in the Ottoman Empire, or turned to them when they arrived in the Balkans and came into contact with the old tradition of Jewish occupation in this field. Salonika had been established as a center of the textile industry before the arrival of the refugees, many of whom joined in manufacture of the produce of the Balkan hinterland. Thus in the 16th century thousands of Jews engaged there in all stages of the production of cloth (known as "abba"). A textile workshop could be found in almost every Jewish home, where the head of the household worked with his wife and children. Jews also distributed and sold the local cloth. Textile workshops were bequeathed to synagogues and charitable institutions. At Ḥanukkah it was customary to donate pieces of cloth to poor yeshivah students. The scope and problems of the industry and trade in textiles in Salonika is shown in the many communal regulations and rabbinical injunctions issued against price slashing, the sale of wool to foreigners, and the purchase of raw wool with cash (which only the wealthy could afford to do). Locally made garments only could be put up for sale, and every Jew over 20 years old had to wear clothes locally produced. From 1586 the tax on Salonika Jewry levied by the Ottoman authorities was payable by a quota of cloth (1,200 standard pieces of cloth), which was presented to the janissaries.

The most flourishing period for the Jewish textile industry in Salonika was between 1500 and 1580, but afterward it gradually declined. A financial crisis in 1584, and others that succeeded it, forced many Jewish artisans to leave for other textile centers (Verria, *Rhodes, Smyrna). The Ottoman authorities afforded the industry no protection against the superior, foreign-made, European textiles, which swamped the market. Hence the Salonika Jews began to specialize in carpets and other local wares.

At the peak period of activity in the Safed textile center in Ereẓ Israel (1530–60), the majority of earners among the approximately 15,000 Jews there were employed in the manufacture of high-quality woolen cloth, produced from raw, short-fibered wool sent from the Balkans to Safed via *Sidon. All stages of production were carried out in Safed; the fulling mills (known as batan) utilized the many local springs; one is still standing. Tales of the leading Safed mystics show that many owned such textile mills. Both the trade and the community itself began to decline rapidly after 1560, for the same reasons as had operated against Salonika and because of transport hazards at sea.

Eastern Europe

Their occupation in *arenda and their predominant role in the grain and forest produce export trade in Poland-Lithuania, enabled Jews to take an important part in the import trade of textiles there. From the 16th century Jews traded extensively in textiles on every level of the trade and in all types and qualities of cloth. Though never occupied directly in weaving or spinning, Jews were predominant in the trade in raw wool, yarn, and textiles of all types. Three Jewish weavers are mentioned in Plotsk in the 16th century. In *Mezhirech the Christian weavers attacked some Jewish rivals in 1636. The Poznan community declared the trade in raw wool produced in the region to be a *ḥazakah, and appointed a special wool parnas in the 17th century to prevent foreign merchants from buying it up. In the Poznan region Jewish merchants would advance money, or farm out herds of sheep, in order to obtain the raw wool, which they gave out to local Christian craftsmen to make up into cloth for them. This expertise in capitalist entrepreneurship was in modern times transposed by many Jews of this region to Germany after the partitions of Poland-Lithuania at the end of the 18th century. Jewish *peddlers, in particular in the *Pale of Settlement and parts of Austria-Hungary, bought up raw materials in the villages, and supplied them to large-scale Jewish traders, and also sold fabrics and clothes in the villages.

Under Russian rule in modern times Jews were active on various levels in the development of the Polish textile industry, and in its celebrated center at *Lodz. In 1842, 39 of 82 Jews engaged in commerce in Lodz were suppliers of wool or yarn to artisans. In the early 1840s Jewish wool and yarn merchants and cotton importers began founding firms of their own. In 1864 there were more than 50 independent Jewish manufacturers in Lodz. The early 1860s witnessed a growing increase in Jewish investment and industrial ventures in textiles, with Jews leading in technological innovations and business organization methods at Lodz as well as at *Bialystok. In 1867 about 11% of the factory owners in Lodz were Jewish, but these accounted for only 8.5% of the total production. However, entrepreneurs such as Israel Poznanski, Bielchowsky, Joshua Birnbaum, and others forged ahead to become the leading Lodz textile manufacturers. Jewish participation in the textile industry there reached its peak before World War i, when 45.6% of all Lodz textile factories were owned by Jews and almost 27,000 Jewish workers were engaged in various branches of the industry and trade. Of these, one-third were still using manual looms, living in indescribable poverty in the Balut suburb of Lodz. Very few were employed in factories and virtually none in specialized technical work.

In independent Poland between the two world wars, Jewish participation in the Lodz and Bialystok textile industry was hard hit by the anti-Jewish discriminatory policies of the state. Some, however, like Oscar Cohn, managed to develop their factories with foreign capital. By 1931 textile enterprises in Jewish ownership were mainly on a smaller scale, and Jews were employed in the industry in clerical posts rather than as workers. In 1931, 16% of those employed in the textile industry in Poland were Jews, and 71.4% of the independent employers.

Central Europe

Jewish traders, generally from Poland-Lithuania, played a considerable role both as buyers and sellers of fabrics and clothes on *market days and at the fairs in Central Europe. At *Vienna, the entrepôt of all types of textile goods, Jewish merchants from the wool-producing provinces, Hungary, and Galicia, traded there with Jews from the textile-manufacturing areas of *Bohemia and Moravia, while the imperial army, and the city itself, took a large part of the products. Among the Viennese privileged manufacturers were Hermann *Todesco, who developed the silk industry there (further developed by S. Trebitsch and sons), and Michael L. *Biedermann, by whose single-handed efforts Vienna displaced Budapest as center of the wool trade in the Hapsburg Empire. Another privileged merchant manufacturer who was ennobled was M. *Koenigswarter. In 1846, 33 of 133 textile printing firms in Vienna were Jewish-owned, 11 of 72 cotton producers were Jews, as were also 27 of 53 textile commission agents, primarily for the Balkans and the Orient. In 1855 there were 89 Jewish-owned printing and weaving enterprises, about 5% of the total. After the official abolition of all restrictions on Jewish trade (1859; 1867) the participation of Jews in the Viennese textile trade became virtually a monopoly; even after World War i, when each of the Hapsburg successor states developed and protected its own textile industries.

In Hungary

The Hungarian wool trade was conducted almost entirely by Jews, who were thus in a position to establish textile industries. Adolf and Heinrich Kohner, originally Moravian feather merchants, established Hungary's first modern wool textile factories. Other notable textile manufacturers were Robert Szurday (originally Weiss, ennobled in 1899), Leo Buday (originally Goldberger), and Samuel Goldberger (ennobled in 1867).

Bohemia and Moravia

These areas, the most industrialized in the Hapsburg Empire, also produced most of its textiles, and Jews played a prominent role in this industry. From the 17th century Jews had been almost the sole dealers in raw wool, from the peasants together with furs, hides, livestock, and other agricultural produce. The peddler, who maintained immediate contact with the peasant, sold his wares to a Jewish merchant who had the wool washed and bleached, spun by peasants, and woven by artisans, and then sold it at the fairs. One of the earliest cloth manufacturers was Feith Ehrenstamm of Prossnitz (*Prostejov), who supplied the imperial army with large quantities during the Napoleonic wars by organizing the production of hundreds of local weavers.

In *Brno three of the first seven modern steam weaving factories were established by Jews, who had previously been supplying weavers with wool. Among the larger firms was that of L. *Auspitz, inherited and expanded by Phillipp *Gomperz, as well as the *Loew-Baer factories, and those of the Popper brothers and Salomon Strakosch. The textile industry also followed the same pattern in Reichenberg (*Liberec) where the earliest suppliers of wool there were the sons of Jacob *Bassevi of Treuenberg in the 17th century. Jews not only supplied the raw material but sold off the finished goods, primarily in Prague, where almost all the textile merchants were Jews (459 compared with 39 gentiles in 1772). Some of them established factories for cloth printing and other end processes, among them Moses and Leopold Porges, Salomon Brandeis, Simon *Laemel, and many members of leading Prague Jewish families. In Czechoslovakia after World War i Jewish activity in textiles continued and developed. The nationalization of the jute industry after 1918 was organized by Emanuel Weissenstein and Richard Morawitz, who remained president of the "Juta" concern until 1939. In Trutnov, the center of the flax industry, Alexander Videky was chairman of the flax exchange for many years.

Germany

The mercantilist policies of 18th-century Prussia encouraged *Court Jews and other Jewish financiers and purveyors to become entrepreneurs of various branches of the textile industry there. Levi Ulff brought Dutch artisans to Brandenburg in 1714 and founded a ribbon factory, which was soon commissioned to supply all the royal regiments. The elders of the Berlin Jewish community proposed setting up woolen cloth factories in Pomerania at their own cost (and to import 3,000 workers), in return for freeing the Jewish community from a newly imposed silver tax, but their proposal was rejected. Many Jews initiated new factories, some in new branches of textiles, such as Pinthus Levi of Rathenow, a horse and grain purveyor, who set up a canvas factory in 1763, which employed more than 1,000 workers. Isaac Bernhard, who imported silk from Italy, received state support in establishing a factory which soon employed 120 looms (his trusted bookkeeper was Moses *Mendelssohn, whose residence in Berlin depended on his employment). David *Friedlaender was a large-scale silk manufacturer. After the first partition of Poland (1772) Benjamin Veitel *Ephraim utilized the semi-professional local labor of Jewish women and girls in the Netze district, where Jews formed 6% of the total and one-quarter of the urban population. He established schools for teaching pillow-lace manufacture, and by 1785 was employing about 700 Jewish women and girls.

At *Stuttgart, center of the south German textile industry, there were in 1930 about 170 Jewish manufacturers and the same number of merchants; mainly in processing semi-raw products, semi-finished goods, and finishing, and particularly in the manufacture and trade in tricots and knitwear. Jews were also active in the nearby textile centers of Untertuerkheim, Bocholt, Westphalia, and Landeshut, Silesia, where the linen-manufacturing firm of H. Gruenfeld was well known. Jews participated in the trade and import of wool and in the finishing stages of the industry. Generally, Jewish entrepreneurs tended to concentrate in specific sectors, such as the manufacture of jute sacks, and drapery – lace ribbons, suspenders, garters, neckties, etc. – knitwear, and carpets. Between the two world wars the most important Jewish textile merchant in Germany was James *Simon, multi-millionaire philanthropist. A distinguishing feature of the Jewish participation in the German textile trade was its close connection with Great Britain, from which goods were imported, methods followed, and designs imitated, by means of agents and relatives. Jewish participation in the trade in finished textile goods (about 40%) was twice as high as their participation in the industrial sector of the textile industry.

Great Britain

Jews had mainly entered the textile industry and trade in Great Britain after the industrial revolution. One of the first was Nathan M. *Rothschild who established himself as a cotton-goods manufacturer (especially of uniforms) in Manchester in 1797. He was followed by many Jewish buyers from Jewish and non-Jewish firms from Germany and the continent, many of whom became independent exporters of cotton goods. At Bradford, Jacob Behrens became important after 1838, and several other German Jews were active there, as well as in other textile centers. In Scotland, they were prominent in the local jute industry in the last quarter of the 19th century, Sir Otto *Jaffe (see also *Tailoring) was a leading figure in Northern Ireland.

United States

In the United States few Jews entered the textile industry, an outstanding exception being the *Cone family of Carolina. However, Jews became prominent in raw cotton and wool brokerage, as well as in the wholesale and retail trade in fabrics. None of the large producers of synthetic fibers was Jewish-owned.

[Henry Wasserman]

In Israel

In the late 1960s the textile industry became one of the largest industrial branches in Israel, second only to the foodstuff industry. The output in 1969 was 10% of the total industrial output, amounting to il 925,000,000. At the same time textile products constituted about 12% of industrial exports, totaling $66,000,000, the second largest export branch after diamonds.

By 1937 there were already 86 spinning and weaving plants in Ereẓ Israel, with about 1,500 employees. The necessary capital and technical knowledge were brought by Jewish professionals from Europe, an example of such enterprise being the Ata plant near Haifa. The development of the textile industry received considerable impetus in World War ii which cut off the European supply, stimulating local manufacture for army needs. In 1943 the number of factories had grown to 250, employing about 5,630 workers; invested capital had grown fourfold and the output value tenfold.

After the establishment of the State of Israel, during the government's drive to step up industry, the textile industry expanded, and special emphasis was put on its establishment in development areas. By 1965, 25% of the textile workers were employed in the three large cities – Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa – while the rest were concentrated in new industrial areas, in particular in the development areas of Lachish, Ashkelon, and in the Negev and Galilee. The new plants were equipped with the latest machinery, including improved automatic weaving looms, which gave employment to hundreds of workers. While the older plants located in the central part of Israel employed about ten workers each, plants in the development areas employed an average of 50 workers each. There was a rapid growth in production, which before 1955 was mainly concerned with finishing processes. The products were then processed from the raw cotton stage. Apart from increase in quantity of production, there was an improvement in design and techniques. Export of textiles was expanded, and in 1971 exports had increased to one-fifth of the industry's output. In 1965 there were 1,007 textile factories employing 26,300 workers, including 100 plants employing more than 50 workers each. In 1970 there were 300,000 cotton-spinning machines and 50,000 wool-spinning machines, compared with 55,000 cotton-spinning machines before the outbreak of World War ii. The number of mechanical looms grew from 2,000 before 1948 to 6,000 in 1970, more than half of them automatic and up-to-date.

The expansion of Israel's textile industry was also a result of the development of cotton growing in Israel as a profitable agricultural branch. Following successful experiments in 1953, the cotton-planted areas were expanded from 300 dunams in 1953 to 290,000 dunams on irrigated land and 32,000 dunams on unirrigated land, a total of approximately 330,000 dunams. The output of cotton fiber grew from 95 kg. per dunam in 1955 to 130 kg. per dunam in 1969. The total output of cotton grew from 2,000 tons in 1955 to 39,200 tons in 1969, when 21,000 tons of cotton were exported and about 18,000 tons were sold to the local industry. The carding machines were set up in various places in the cotton-growing areas. About 400 tons of wool were produced in 1969 by local sheep, but of this only 100 tons were sold to the local textile industry. The majority of the raw material for Israel's wool industry is therefore imported. Other raw materials for the textile industry are also imported.

[Zeev Barkai]

In the 1990s Israel's textile industry faced a crisis as cheap East Asian labor made it uncompetitive. At that time around 400 Israeli Arab sewing shops handled the brunt of the subcontracting work. These began to close down. The turnaround came when Israeli firms began doing their sewing work in Jordan and Egypt. The giant Delta company led the way, followed by Polgat, Argeman, Kitan, and others. In the early 2000s Israeli companies had 30 plants in Jordan employing 6,000 workers while employment in the industry in Israel dropped from a peak of 45,000 to 38,000. Israel's growing exports reached $370 million a year as it continued to supply such retailers and designers as Marks & Spencer, The Gap, Victoria's Secret, Wal-Mart, Sears, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and Donna Karan.

bibliography:

talmud period: Krauss, Tal Arch, 1 (1910), 136–42; J. Newman, Agricultural Life of the Jews in Babylonia (1952), 104–5. medieval period: S.D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society (1967); M. Wischnitzer, A History of Jewish Crafts and Guilds (1965); O. Schmelz, Jewish Demography and Statistics. Bibliography for 19201960 (1961), 83ff. ottoman empire: S. Aviẓur, in: Sefunot, 6 (1962), 41–71; 8–12 (Eng.); idem, in: Oẓar Yehudei Sefarad, 5 (1962), 101–8; S.A. Rosanes, Korot ha-Yehudim be-Turkiyyah, 3 (1938), 384–96; I.S. Emmanuel, L'Histoire de l'Industrie des Tissus des Israélites de Salonique (1935); M.S. Goodblatt, Jewish Life in Turkey (1952), 47ff.; M. Benayahu, in: Oẓar Yehudei Sefarad, 5 (1962), 101–8; S. Schwarzfuchs, in: rej, 121 (1962), 169–79; Y. Kena'ani, Ha-Ḥayyim ha-Kalkaliyyim bi-Ẓefat (1935). poland: P. Friedmann, in: S.W. Baron and A. Marx (eds.), Jewish Studies in Memory of George A. Kohut (1935), 178–247; idem, in: Lodzer Tagblatt (1931), nos. 204, 210, 216, 222, 228, 234, 240, 246, 252; idem, Lodzer Visenshaftilikhe Shriftn, 1 (1938), 63–132; R. Mahler, Yehudei Polin Bein Shetei Milḥamot Olam (1968), 69–113; W.M. Glicksman, In the Mirror of Literature (1966), 43f., 55f., 130–43; A. Yasny, Geshikhte fun der Yidisher Arbeter Bavegung in Lodz (1937); B.D. Weinryb, Neueste Wirtschaftsgeschichte der Juden in Russland und Polen (1934), index s.v.Textil, Weber, Tuchmacher; D. Boim, in: Yidishe Ekonomik, 1 (1937), 34–43; 83–91; S.E., ibid., 199–201; M. Linder, ibid., 149–57, 240–51; M. Ashkewitz, Zur Geschichte der Juden in Westpreussen (1967), 69ff.; D. Avron (ed.), Pinkas Hekhsherim shel Kehillat Pozen, index, s.v.Soḥer Ẓemer.central europe: S. Mayer, Die Wiener Juden (1917); J. Pick, in: The Jews of Czechoslovakia (1968), 409–16; E. Hofmann, in: H. Gold (ed.), Juden und Judengemeinden Boehmens (1934), 529–69; R. Kestenberg-Gladstein, in: Zion, 12 (1947), 49–65, 160–89; B. Heilig, in: blbi, 3 (1960), 101–22. germany: A. Marcus, Die wirtschaftliche Krise des deutschen Juden (1931), 70–96; idem, in: yivo Annual, 7 (1952), 189–99; S. Stern-Taeubler, in: jsos, 11 (1949), 129–52; E. Landsberg, in: Der Morgen, 3 (1927), 99–113; A. Cohn, Beitraege zur Geschichte der Juden in Hessen-Kassel (1933), 41–50; M. Zelzer, Weg und Schicksal der Stuttgarter Juden (1965), 32ff., 472–7; A. Taenzer, Die Geschichte der Juden in Jebenhausen und Goeppingen (1927), 109–50, 431–69; J. Jacobson, in: zgjd, 1 (1929), 152–62; F. v. Gruenfeld, Das Leinenhaus Gruenfeld (1967); I.M. Kulisher, in: Yevreyskaya Starina, 11 (1924), 129–61. great britain: A.R. Rollin, in: jhset, 17 (1951–2), 45–53; C.C. Aronsfeld, in: ylbi, 7 (1962), 315ff.; V.D. Lipman, Social History of the Jews in England, 18501950 1 (1954); idem, in: jjso, 2 no. 2 (1960); M. Freedman (ed.), A Minority in Britain (1955); L.P. Gartner, The Jewish Immigrant in England 18701914 (1960); J. Gould and S. Esh, Jewish Life in Modern Britain (1964); A.R. Rollin, in: jhset, 15 (1946). add. bibliography: W. Badarneh, "Marks & Spencer Calls the Shots: Israeli Textiles Flourish in Jordan and Egypt," in: Challenge (March 2000).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Textiles." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Textiles." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 15, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/textiles

"Textiles." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved December 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/textiles

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Textiles

TEXTILES

TEXTILES . Processing fiber into thread and transforming those threads into fabrics, possibly the oldest human technology, first appear on the cultural horizon during the Neolithic period, between twelve and fifteen thousand years ago. Not until the sixth millennium bce, however, do fragments of textiles excavated at sites in central Europe and the Middle East provide evidence for their inclusion in ritual or religious contexts. These grave furnishings and occasional finds from refuse dumps suggest purpose and intent; however, the archaeological record is far from complete. The documentation of the actual meanings of many ritual practices involving fabric is, in most cases, relatively recent. Despite differences in time and space and the fact that few causal links exist among the cultures discussed here, the practices involving textiles in religious rites and ceremonies can be considered in three broad categories: (1) symbolic meanings associated with textiles, (2) ritual functions for textiles within religious practices, and (3) links between the sacred and the profane realms.

Textiles as Symbols

In most societies that developed textile technologies, cloth and its production served as metaphors for life. In Greek mythology, for example, three goddesses known as the Moirai controlled the lives of mortals. The Fates, as they are more commonly known, include Clotho the spinner, who creates the web of life; Lachesis, who measures its length; and Atropos, who cuts it. The physical act of interlacing prepared threads on a frame to create textiles is a powerful symbol. The spinning of thread, its winding onto bobbins, and the warping of the loom symbolize conception, gestation, and birth. The process of weaving evokes the vicissitudes of life, growth, and maturity. Cutting the cloth from the loom can symbolize death, but more frequently it symbolizes rebirth and renewal because the process creates an object that can then be used.

In parts of South Asia and the South Pacific the physical form of a newly woven cloth is tubular because the warp yarns are continuous and form an uninterrupted circle between the two beams of the loom. When the cloth is finished only a small section of the warp yarns remains unwoven. For normal use the textile is cut open across this area. The rich metaphorical potential of the continuous yarns in the uncut cloth became obvious to diverse groups within the Indonesian archipelago. Among the Sasak tribes on the island of Lombok in eastern Indonesia, three sacred tubular cloths are made for a child at birth by the eldest woman weaver in the family. These are stored in a sacred area of the house until needed. In the course of the hair-cutting, circumcision, and marriage rites, the warps of these textiles are cut. Although deceptively modest in appearance, these red, yellow, black, and white striped cotton textiles are endowed with significance affecting the general well-being of individuals. Farther west, on the island of Bali, the more elaborate geringsing, decorated with double ikat-patterns, have similar metaphorical significance. Geringsing also have a circular warp that must be cut to form a cloth. A single cloth, which may take over a year to produce, accompanies an individual throughout each life-crisis ceremony; ultimately it serves as a funeral pall for the corpse.

The associations with female textile "producers" reflect other, more nuanced cultural meanings. Across the ages dowries have involved fine textiles and the presumption that these specialized fabrics embodied a bride's skills to provide for and clothe the family. Entire industries in many parts of the world, like those still flourishing in Morocco, cater to the wedding trade and, despite their patriarchical commercialization, are evidence of the link between textiles and life processes. The productive and fructifying qualities associated with women are transferred to dowry textiles, which in turn function as fertility symbols. When juxtaposed with male symbols in metal or agricultural products, textiles evoke a complementary polarity, a polarity well illustrated in the archaeological and ethnographic record. The second-century ce graves of Dian nobles excavated in Southwest China at the sites of Shizaishan and Lijaishan, for example, contained bronze models of looms, other weaving tools, and sewing boxes in female graves; comparable male burials were furnished with bronze weapons and models of agricultural tools.

Together, tools or weapons and textiles symbolized completion and ideals of cosmic harmony. Echoes of this notion are found in legends of the ancient Mediterranean and Asian worlds that personified the annual conjunction of two stars within the Milky Way as the weaving maiden and the herdsman.

Ritual Uses for Textiles

In Jewish tradition the tassel or tzitzit at each corner of a man's tallith, which is worn as an undergarment, consists of eight strings and five knots wrapped in specific ways to equal the numerical value of one of the names of god. The numerical value of the word tzitzit (together with the eight strings and five knots on each corner) adds up to 613, the number of mitzvoth, or obligations, in the Torah.

Binding

Present-day Hindu practice continues to use a thread or cord as the symbol of renewal, creating a closed circle that ties the worshiper to the principles of the faith. During Upanayana, a rite-of-passage ceremony, sacred cords are placed over the shoulders of adolescent boys to signify their eligibility for education within the caste tradition. For the brahman caste the thread is cotton; for the katriya (warrior or ruler) caste the cord is hemp; for the vaiśya (artisan or merchant) caste the cord is wool. Women also use the sacred thread within rituals. For example, at the annual festival of the goddess Gauri, a cotton thread sixteen times the woman's height is wound into a skein and laid before images of the goddess. Later the skein is worn around the neck, then buried or burned.

Ritual bonding frequently uses textiles. The priest's stole that drapes the joined hands of a couple during the marriage ceremony in the Western and Eastern Christian Church in effect becomes the tie that binds man to woman and the couple to the church, reinforcing the sanctity of marriage. In many Muslim societies ritual bonding occurs when the bridal couple is invited to sit on a shared mat or textile. Among the Batak tribes of northern Sumatra the climax of the traditional marriage ceremony is the enveloping of the couple in a single textile by the bride's father. Other members of the immediate family are also wrapped in shawls during the course of the ceremony, further emphasizing the bonds this event celebrates.

Offering

Literally hundreds of blankets, bolts of cloth, and other utilitarian textiles, as well as great quantities of nontextile domestic and ritual goods, were amassed by extended family groups among the tribes of the northwest coast of North America for potlatch feasts. They were presented to guests or burned in extravagant demonstrations of exchange. In contemporary revivals, commercial cloth and clothing are exchanged. Although less dramatic, the imported Chinese white silk scarves patterned with Buddhist symbols and the simple Indian white cotton gauze scarves used by Tibetan Buddhists convey a similar sense of offering and sacrifice. In the wool-producing regions of the Tibetan Plateau these exotic imports were tokens of exchange between individuals upon meeting and offerings to images. Tibetans also offer rectangles of cotton cloth block-printed with prayers to the elements as acts of devotion. Flown from poles, suspended on lines, or tied to the roofs of temples and shrines, these textiles are literally destroyed by the winds that activate intercessions with the gods.

Funeral customs provide other insights into textile-offering practices. Although knowledge of the actual practice is far from complete, the archaeological record for pharaonic Egypt and pre-Columbian Peru is spectacular. The dry climates of the Egyptian desert and of coastal Peru have preserved vast quantities of textiles used in burial. Egyptians wrapped mummies of the dead in fine linen. Complete wardrobes of clothes and household linens, reflecting the status and means of the individual in life, were also interred to provide the comforts of this earth in the next world. Along the dry south coast of Peru, pre-Columbian mummy bundles of aristocrats contain numerous finely woven and embroidered sets of wool and cotton clothes as well as large quantities of other fine textiles.

In China, where silk was a principal trade commodity as well as the imperial standard for the payment and collection of taxes, silk textiles played a major role in life and death. Throughout the centuries the number and quality of burial clothes reflected the status of the individual in life. The remarkably well-preserved chambered tomb of the Lady Dai at Mawangdui, Changsha, which dates from about 160 bce, contained over twenty-seven items of silk apparel, including some twelve coats, forty-six rolls of uncut silk, and numerous silk wrappers and bags. During the later imperial period the custom of preparing clothes especially decorated with characters meaning "long life" (the so-called shufu, or "longevity" coats) arose, but burial clothes mainly copied an individual's official wardrobe, which designated rank at court. Archaeology has also revealed abuses of the rules of entitlement, such as the garments recovered from the tombs of Xu Fan (14631530) and his wife from Taizhou, Jiangsu province, in which the wive's robes outranked those of her husband by two ranks.

Although there are instances of funeral textiles recycled from life, such as the bridal garments used for the burials of Chinese women, which reflected a most exalted status in the rigid patriarchial society that largely ignored women, most were specially acquired for burial. The obligation and expense for a Confucian funeral were borne by the next generation of the family. By contrast, nineteenth-century aristocrats on the island of Timor in eastern Indonesia devoted considerable amounts of time and money to amassing quantities of prestige textiles for their own burials.

Sacrifices do not always involve fabrics of the greatest economic or aesthetic value. For some cultures specific textiles are produced for shrouds. The traditional burial clothing of Jews is a set of simple, untailored linen garments. In Bali the sacred cloths called bebali are in effect token textiles made only for offering. Loosely woven, they are too fragile for use; most are too small to function as clothing for the living. During the late imperial period in China and continuing into the twenty-first century, sets of paper clothes and models of bolts of silk are as offerings to the dead for the next life.

Textile offerings were important in rituals honoring personified deities. In pharaonic Egypt images of gods within cult temples were centers of elaborate ceremonies that imitated human life. Gods were awakened in the morning, fed, bathed, and clothed, taken on festive outings, and put to bed at night, not unlike the pharaoh, the living manifestation of god on earth. Aqllawasi (House of Chosen Women), often referred to as Virgins of the Sun, was a cloistered community of Quechua noble women devoted to the cult of the Sun God. Among their duties was the weaving of clothing for the ruler or Inka, the embodiment of the Sun God on earth. Perhaps the most celebrated textile offering of antiquity was the annual Panathenaia in Athens, an event commemorated on the inner frieze of the Parthenon. The climax of the festival was a procession carrying the costly new peplos made by the women of Athens to the Acropolis and the presentation of this garment to the cult image of Pallas Athena.

Offerings of clothing to temple images were frequent occurrences throughout Buddhist, Hindu, Daoist, and Confucian Asia. In late imperial China, for example, where the giving of prestige cloths marked the New Year as well as birthday celebrations, many of the city gods were presented on these occasions with new robes, cut especially large and often without side seams, a fact frequently recorded in pious inscriptions by donors.

Icons

In some cultures textiles themselves are venerated. The effigies of the hearth deities worshiped by nomadic Mongols were made entirely of felt. These special effigies, called ongot, one identified as male, the other female, were kept inside the yurt. In Buddhism, before the development of a rich figural iconography following the second century ce, images of the Buddha's attributes, including his mantle and his throne with its textile-covered cushion, served the faithful as a symbolic focus for worship. The legend and the numerous illustrations of Veronica's veil or the much-celebrated linen shroud preserved in the cathedral at Turin, which bears a human image said to be that of the crucified Christ, are two examples of venerable textiles from the Christian tradition. Among Muslims the presentation of the cloth cover from a saint's tomb is a means of conveying blessings on an honored visitor.

Among the Toraja tribes of central Sulawesi, a group of sacred textiles called ma'a and sarita embody spiritual power. These textiles are heirlooms handed down through families; they are used for display on many ritual and ceremonial occasions. Some of these textiles are of local manufacture, but many are made of imported Indian cotton cloth that has been painted with Torajan symbols.

In Tibet, maala s depicting various deities in the Buddhist pantheon were constructed in the appliqué technique from Chinese silks and other exotic fabrics donated to monasteries. The most impressive examples were the gigantic maala s measuring over twenty meters in length that were displayed once a year against the facade of the Potala in Lhasa.

Creation of a sacred place

The place where a ritual or ceremony is performed may have a temporal as well as a spatial dimension. The suspension of normal time to create a temporal framework in which humans can commune with the supernatural can be aided by textiles in several ways. For example, the repeated use of textiles or sets of textiles, such as the red vestments and altar furnishings employed in the Western Christian Church within the same context over time (e.g., for feast days of martyrs), emphasizes a sense of ritual cycle that is permanent despite the passage of real time. The use of the same textile within a sequence of events, as is done with the geringsing cloths from the island of Bali, achieves for the participant a sense of suspended animation. A third sense of ritual time is embodied in the notion of transformation: special furnishings or clothing can dramatize the transformation of a place into the presence of a god or of the individual into a servant or intermediary of the god.

Textiles also have spatial functions, creating a sacred precinct within a larger profane context. On the most fundamental level, textiles can provide a focus for ritual. The act of spreading a cloth, whether it is the simple linen textile that covers the top of the Christian altar or the elaborately patterned silk covers for the Buddhist incense tables, transforms a table into an altar.

The kiswah, the most important textile in Islam, covers the Kaʿbah in Mecca, a square granite structure that immures the Black Stone. The stone itself predates the founding of Islam, but it became the most sacred relic of the religion and the focus of Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. The kiswah is made of black silk with Qurʾanic inscriptions woven or embroidered in gold. Covering a cubical structure roughly twelve meters high, the kiswah is a dramatic indicator of a sacred precinct. It is replaced annually, and the older textile is cut into pieces that are sold as relics.

Textiles suspended over a ritual area transform the space beneath to offer real or symbolic protection. Some are portable, like the wedding canopies common to many faiths. In effect they transform any space beneath them into a ritual area and are reused as occasion demands. Other canopies convey cosmological meaning. Those placed over altars or above images in Christian or Buddhist buildings, for example, serve as metaphors for heaven, contrasting the visual universe or firmament with the larger perceived but invisible heaven beyond.

The pierced quatrefoil canopy called yunjian in Chinese, meaning "cloud collar," which is placed on the apex of Mongol felt yurts, is of central Asian or southern Siberian origin. Its four pendant points promote spatial orientation with the cardinal points of the compass; the hole at the top is called a sky door and symbolizes the gate to heaven, through which the earth axis passes. The application of this shape around the necks of garments, which also arose on the steppe, conferred a notion of cosmic orientation to the wearer.

Fabric may also cover the area on which ritual occurs. Mats and carpets indicate places for prayer and meditation in most Asian cultures, which did not develop elaborate furniture for sitting but lived primarily on the floor. For example, small square woolen carpets decorated with Buddhist symbols were commonly used by Buddhist monks in Tibet. High-ranking clergy, however, often sat on silk-covered cushions.

Some floor coverings promote ideas of spatial orientation. Within many of the powerful agrarian empires across the world, the precise arrangement of specific floor coverings and other furnishings within a ritual area ensured the success of the ceremony. A fourth-century bce text, the Shujing (Book of history), describes the proper procedure for setting up the offerings for the burial of a prince, with detailed instructions concerning the appropriate carpet, offering table, and sacrifice for each of the cardinal points within the tomb area. In other instances single textiles function as spatial indicators: the organization of motifs in certain Mongol, Turkish, and Chinese carpets within the rectilinear confines of the textile imply a correct alignment.

The most famed ritual floor covering, the so-called Muslim prayer carpet, is traditionally decorated with an arch at one end echoing the mirāb niche in the mosque, which orients prayer toward Mecca. However, the function of these carpets is independent of decoration, since they provide a spatial substitute for worship within a mosque to assist the faithful in discharging the obligation of prayer five times a day. No specific carpets are prescribed for the mosque floor. If anything were to be considered the first religiously prescribed floor covering, it would be the simple plaited palm-leaf mat used by nomadic Arabs. But once Islam came into contact with the artistically sophisticated cultures of western Asia, custom and taste dictated design. Historically, many carpets were merely decorative; however, some were undoubtedly used for prayer within the home.

Textiles have served as portable shrines for nomadic peoples, and some of these textile environments survive among settled populations. The mahmal tents used during the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca are one example.

Textile curtains act as screens shielding sacred ritual areas and guarding access to them. Although a distancing device, these textiles afford the celebrants a ritual dramatic effect when they are suddenly parted to reveal mystery. The ark curtain or parochet (Hebrew, parokhet ) is the main ritual textile within Jewish practice. Its precedents can be found in the tabernacle described in chapter 26 of Exodus. This record of one of the most celebrated of the portable ritual-textile environments profoundly influenced the ritual trappings of later Jewish and Christian practice. Within Ashkenazic tradition the standard parochet consists of a prestige cloth framed between two pillars and a lintel, a device previously thought to relate to sixteenth-century title pages from printed books. The form may well have more ancient precedents, however, recalling times when practice demanded large curtains hung between architectural bays to subdivide areas of worship. Archaeological evidence from the third-century ce synagogue at Dura-Europos in Syria reveals that a large curtain divided the area in front of the Torah shrine from the congregation. This custom of using curtains to subdivide spaces within religious and secular architecture was widespread in the Near East and the Mediterranean during classical times.

This pattern influenced early Christian worship as well. In the early centuries of the Christian era, large curtains were used to articulate space within the church or meeting room to accommodate different audiences. Part of the building was accessible to nonbelievers, and other provisions were made for those under instruction but not yet baptized. The faithful were divided into groups, with men and women occupying different areas; the clergy had an area around the altar. In the West large curtains disappeared from the interiors of religious buildings with the rise of the Romanesque architectural style around the year 1000. The parochet and the tabernacle veils of the Western Christian Church are humble reminders of times when interiors were lavishly decorated with textiles.

Large curtains remained in use in the Eastern Christian Church for a time, but the development of the iconostasis on which icons were displayed gradually replaced the portable curtains separating the sanctuary from the nave. The amphithyron, a smaller curtain that hung behind the central doors of the iconostasis, is all that remains of the more elaborate curtaining systems. Only in Ethiopian churches practicing Coptic rites do large dividing curtains survive.

The notion of concealment is present at other levels as well, particularly in practices that shield sacred paraphernalia from the eyes of the uninitiated or from direct contact with the profane hand. In the Christian Church the chalice and the Host, as well as many of the accoutrements used in the service, are only revealed at the appropriate moment in the ritual; at other times they are veiled from sight. The Torah mantles, made of the most costly silk and gold-enriched fabrics, the simple tie-dyed silk curtains that hang in front of the painted images of Tibetan Buddhist maala s, and the elaborately embroidered epitaphios sindon of the Greek Orthodox rite, which veils the chalice and paten, serve identical functions.

Textile Links between the Sacred and the Profane Realms

Throughout history textiles have conveyed both symbolic and economic meaning. Before the industrial age reduced most textiles to the realm of disposable consumer goods, all textiles possessed real value as the product of the labor invested in cultivating, spinning, dyeing, and weaving. These labor factors, as well as the materials, skills, and ritual meanings, conferred prestige that could be transferred. Many religious organizations relied on cloistered workshops to produce liturgical textiles. These establishments were often managed by women, whose textile production calls to mind specialized dowry manufacture. Some particularly time-consuming specialized techniques associated with these workshops are like pious acts of devotion embodying repetitive invocations and blessings. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, secular schools for young noble womenlike the Smol'nyi Institute founded by Catherine the Great and the Maison royale de Saint-Cyr established by Madame de Maintenonwere modeled on cloistered ateliers. These schools produced fine textiles for the church as well as for aristocractic households, as evidenced by the surviving fabrics dating from the late Medieval period. The largest number of textiles used within religious ceremony have neither ritual function nor meaning as religious symbols. Rather, their purpose is self-consciously decorative. Whether temporary or permanent, these textiles enhance ritual through splendid display. These decorations often featured fabrics that had been transformed from secular uses for the purpose. Many churches encouraged the donation of secular prestige textiles by the faithful as a meritorious deed, and this cache of prestige goods was available for recycling. Particularly valuable textiles were often used to wrap relics and other sacred items before placing them in reliquaries for storage. In the West many examples of the medieval silks survive only from these contexts.

Banners and hangings announce the special character of ritual space. They can be carried in procession or used for interior display. Most of these objects are showy and made of lightweight materials; some, such as the banners used in Buddhist temples, have long streamers that add movement as well as color to ritual space. Banners bearing images of deities convey popular iconography and may serve an informal educative function, but in general they are difficult to distinguish from comparable secular decoration.

Textiles that adorn the interior walls of worship halls, like the wall paintings many of them replaced, are commonly didactic. The painted cotton temple hangings from northern India, for example, often depict stories from Hindu mythology. Many of the tapestry sets woven for religious institutions in medieval Europe illustrate the lives of the saints or depict apocalyptic visions. In the West the popularity of such monumental textiles lapsed with the rise of the Gothic architectural style. The Graham Sutherland tapestry at Coventry Cathedral is an outstanding example of the twentieth-century revival of tapestry weaving that has affected contemporary Western Christian Church decoration.

Carpets may cover the floors, cushioning bare feet as in the mosques of Islam, decorate the space before the altar as in Christian practice, or wrap the pillars of the worship hall as in Tibet and China. In most cases these lavish displays are more apt to result from pious donation of secular goods than from ritual requirements.

A vast range of covers for lecterns, reading desks, books, scrolls, cushions, kneelers, and furniture utilize fine textiles. Textile valances enhance architectural settings. The kapporet (cover) placed over the Torah curtain transforms the Torah shrine into the mercy seat of the Ark of the Tabernacle. In East Asian religious contexts, elaborately embroidered valances were often added to the niches in which image shrines were placed. Some of these were special commissions donated to the temples. One popular Chinese Buddhist valance type was made as a patchwork by members of the congregation from personal textiles or from temple supplies of donated textiles.

In the same way that most vestments used by religions throughout the world were derived from secular clothing, many of the decorative textiles that have become associated with ritual also have secular origins. One group of textiles in particular, however, remains virtually unchanged from its secular usage. Cloths of state, throne covers, footstool covers, umbrellas, and baldachins are statements of secular political power. They designate rank and position within the clergy (of Western Christian traditions, Judaism and Buddhism) for purposes of prestige and control rather than ritual.

See Also

Clothing; Kaʿbah.

Bibliography

In the absence of a comprehensive investigation of textiles used in ritual and ceremony, information is scattered in many sources, and data are inconsistent from culture to culture. General references to the roles textiles play in ritual are in Michael V. Angrosino's The Culture of the Sacred (Prospect Heights, Ill., 2004), and Catherine M. Bell's Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice (New York and Oxford, 1992). A number of papers that cover the aspects of ritual textiles are in Lynne Milgram and Penny Van Esterik, eds., The Transformative Power of Cloth in Southeast Asia (Toronto, 1994), and Textile Society of America, Sacred and Ceremonial Textiles, Proceedings of the Fifth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of American, Chicago, Illinois, 1996 (Minneapolis, 1997).

For the Christian Church, scholarship has focused largely on vestments. Identification of nonvestment textiles used in Christian ritual is in J. Wickham Legg's Notes on the History of the Liturgical Colours, Transactions of the St. Paul's Ecclesiological Society (London, 1882), and in Legg's Church Ornaments and Their Civil Antecedents (Cambridge, U.K., 1917). Among the best explanations of the origins and uses of textiles in Jewish ritual is Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett's Fabric of Jewish Life (New York, 1977). This exhibition catalog to the collection of ritual and ceremonial textiles in the Jewish Museum collection is well illustrated and contains a good bibliography.

Specific aspects of the use of textiles within ancient and historical Western religious contexts are in Elizabeth Grace Crowfoot, "The Clothing of a Fourteenth-Century Nubian Bishop," pp. 4351; Veronika Gervers, "An Early Christian Curtain in the Royal Ontario Museum," pp. 5681; and Donald King, "How Many Apocalypse Tapestries?," pp. 160167; all of which are in Studies in Textile History: In Memory of Harold B. Burnham, edited by Veronika Gervers (Toronto, 1977). In addition, this Festschrift contains Rita Bolland, "Weaving the Pinatikan, a Warp-Patterned Kain Bentenan from North Celebes," pp. 117, and John E. Vollmer, "Archaeological and Ethnographical Considerations of the Foot-Braced Body-Tension Loom," pp. 343354, both of which discuss non-Western textiles. R. B. Serjeant's Islamic Textiles: Material for a History up to the Mongol Conquest (Beirut, 1972), which was originally published serially in Ars Islamica 914 (19421951), is the basic reference for Islamic textiles. A good source for both Islamic and East Asian carpets is M. S. Dimand's Oriental Rugs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, 1973). In addition to the catalog to the Metropolitan Museum's considerable collection, this volume includes a series of essays documenting the use of carpets in Asia as well as their earliest appearances in the West.

One of the best references for the East Asian region in English is J. J. M. de Groot's The Religious System of China: Its Ancient Forms, Evolution, History, and Present Aspect, Manners, Customs, and Social Institutions Connected Therewith (Leiden, 18921910). This six-volume study remains one of the best standard references on traditional religious practices in China. Leonardo Olschki's The Myth of Felt (Berkeley, Calif., 1949) contains a perceptive essay on the significance of this material in traditional Mongol society. Articles by international scholars documenting ritual use of textiles throughout the Indonesian Archipelago are in Mattibelle Gittinger, ed., Indonesian Textiles: Irene Emery Roundtable on Museum Textiles, 1979 Proceedings (Washington, D.C., 1980). Other Asian practices are dicussed in Alice Beck Kehoe's Shamans and Religion (Prospect Heights, Ill., 2000); and Rosemary Crill, Steven Cohen, and Ruth Barnes, Court, Temple, and Trade: Indian Textiles in the Tapi Collection (Mumbai, India, 2002). References to textiles within the Tibetan context are in the five-volume catalog by the Newark Museum, Catalogue of the Tibetan Collection and Other Lamaist Articles in the Newark Museum (Newark, N.J., 19501971).

References to New World practices are in Laurie Adelson and Arthur Tracht, Aymara Weavings: Ceremonial Textiles of Colonial and Nineteenth-Century Bolivia (Washington, D.C., 1983), and Ann Pollard Rowe and John Cohen, Hidden Threads of Peru: Q'ero Textiles (Washington, D.C., 2002).

John E. Vollmer (1987 and 2005)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Textiles." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Textiles." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 15, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/textiles-0

"Textiles." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Retrieved December 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/textiles-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Textiles

Textiles

History of textiles

Textile techniques

Spinning

Weaving

Finishing

Types of textiles tapestries

Woven rugs

Embroidery

Lace

Printed and dyed textiles

Knits

Netting, knotting, and crochet

Felt and bark cloth

Significance of textiles

Resources

Textiles are generally considered to be woven fabrics. They may be woven from any natural or synthetic fibers, filaments, or yarns that are suitable for being spun and woven into cloth.

History of textiles

The earliest known textiles were recovered from a neolithic village in southern Turkey. Rope, netting, matting, and cloth have been found in the Judean desert (dating from 7160 to 6150 BC).

Flax was the most common plant fiber used in antiquity. Hemp, rush, palm, and papyrus were also employed as textile fibers in ancient times. Early evidence of the use of flax has been found in north Syria (c. 6000 BC), Iraq (c. 5000 BC), and Egypt (c. 6000 BC). Evidence that fibers from sheep, goats, and dogs were used in textiles as early as the eighth century BC. has been found in northwest Iran; early use of these fibers has also been traced to Palestine and southern Turkey. Cotton, native to India, was used in Assyria around 700 BC. The use of silk, originally exclusive to China, appears to have spread to Germany by around 500 BC.

The ancient Egyptians and later the Israelites preferred garments of white linen and wool. But Kushites, Nubians, and Libyans apparently preferred dyed fabrics. The principal dyes and mordants such as alum were probably known since earliest times. Royal purple was produced by the Phoenicians, who had become major traders in dyes and wools by around 1700 BC, from murex. Evidence exists of trade in textiles as early as 6000 BC, in which wool and cloth were important trade goods.

Textile techniques

Spinning

spinning is the process of making yarn or thread by the twisting of vegetable fibers, animal hairs, or man-made fibers, i.e., filament like elements only a few inches in length. In the spinning mill, the raw material is first disentangled and cleaned. Various grades or types of fibers may then be blended together to produce yarn having the desired properties. The fibers are next spread out parallel to one another in a thin web, from which a yarn like material is formed.

Weaving

in its simplest form, i.e., basketry, weaving probably pre-dated spinning, as in early cultures individuals presumably interlaced long fibrous stems with their fingers before they learned to convert short fibers into continuous yarn. Woven structures consist of two sets of threads, the warp and the weft, which are interlaced to form cloth. Warp threads are held parallel to each other under tension; the weft is worked over and under them, row by row. Looms have been used since the time of ancient Egyptians to keep the warp threads evenly spaced and under tension.

The following techniques are used to prepare the warp and the weft prior to weaving: 1) In doubling,

two or more yarns are wound on a bobbin without undergoing any twisting (as distinct from spinning, in which fibers are twisted together to give them the requisite strength). In twisting doubling, two or more yarns are twisted around each other; 2) Sizing is done to make the warp threads smooth, to reduce the friction of the threads. The threads are coated or saturated with an adhesive paste (size); 3) Twisting joins the ends of a new warp with those of the one already in the loom. It is done by twisting the ends together, either by hand or with the aid of a special device.

Simple weaves are of three types: tabby, twill, and satin. Tabby weave, or plain weave, is produced by passing the weft across the warp twice. Twill weaves are characterized by a diagonal movement caused by starting the weave sequence one place to the right or left on each successive passage of the weft. Satin weave is distinguished by the spacing of the binding points, the normal sequence being over one warp, and under four or more. Compound weaves are based on the three basic weaves with the addition of extra warp, weft, or both. Velvet is a compound weave that starts as a basic weave.

Finger weaving techniques include twining and braiding. Twining uses two sets of yarns. In weft twining, the warp is stretched between two bars and the weft worked across in pairs. One thread passes over a warp and the other under, with the two yarns making a half turn around each other between each warp.

Finishing

most fabrics produced by weaving or knitting have to undergo further processing before they are ready for sale. In finishing, the fabric is subjected to mechanical and chemical treatment in which its quality and appearance are improved and its commercial value enhanced. Each type of fabric has its own particular finishing operations. Textiles produced from vegetable fibers require different treatment than textiles produced from animal fibers or synthetic fibers.

Woven cloth is usually boiled with dilute caustic soda to remove natural oils and other impurities. It is then rinsed, scoured in an acid bath, further processed, and bleached with sodium chlorite. Singeing may be done to remove any fibers on cotton or rayon materials, especially if they have to be printed.

In the course of spinning, weaving, and finishing, the fabric is subjected to much pull and stretch. When the material gets wet, the material reverts to its original shape. Sanforizing mechanically shortens the fibers, so that they will not shrink in the wash.

Raising (or napping) is a process in which small steel hooks tear some of the fibers or ends of fibers out of the weft yarn, so the fibers acquire a wooly surface (called the nap). This improves heat retention and absorptive properties (as in flannel fabrics), making them softer to the touch. Raising is chiefly used for cotton, rayon, or woolen fabrics. It can be applied to one or both sides.

Types of textiles tapestries

Although the term tapestry usually conjures up images of large pictorial wall-hangings of the sort used in medieval and post-medieval Europe, tapestries are in fact distinctive woven structures consisting specifically of a weft-faced plain weave with discontinuous wefts. This means that the weft crosses the warp only where its particular color is need for the fabric design. The technique has been used in many cultures to produce fabrics ranging from heavy, durable floor coverings to delicate Chinese silk. Compared to other weaving techniques, tapestry allows the weaver much more freedom of expression.

Woven rugs

Rugs can be made by a number of techniques, including tapestry, brocade (in which a plain weave foundation is supplemented with supplementary wefts), and pile weaving. Pile rugs are most commonly associated with rug weaving, however. These rugs are made of row after row of tiny knots tied on the warps of a foundation weave which together form a thick pile.

Embroidery

embroidery is a method of decorating an already existing structure, usually a woven foundation fabric, with a needle. Embroideries have also been done on other media such as parchment or bark. For the past 100 years, it has been possible to produce embroidery by machine as well as by hand. Embroidery yarns are woven into a fabric after it has come off the loom, unlike brocade, which in which yarns are placed in the fabric during the weaving process.

Lace

lace is essentially an openwork fabric constructed by the looping, plaiting, or twisting of threads using either a needle or a set of bobbins. It is not woven. Needle lace is made with one thread at a time. Bobbin lace is constructed with many different threads, each wound on its own bobbin. These are manipulated in a manner similar to that used in braiding. Machine-made lace was first produced around 1840.

Printed and dyed textiles

Aside from exploiting the effects achieved by using natural fibers, the only ways to introduce color into textiles are by printing or dyeing.

In textile printing, the dyes are dissolved in water. Thickening agents (e.g., starch) are added to the solutions to increase viscosity. The oldest method is block printing, usually from wooden blocks in which a design is carved. Stencil printing is done with the aid of paper or thin metal stencils. In silk screen printing, the design is formed on a silk screen, which then serves as a stencil. Most cloth is printed by roller printing. The printing area is engraved on a copper roller to form a recessed pattern (intaglio), which is coated with a color paste. The roller transfers the paste to the cloth.

Pattern dyeing uses two principal procedures: resist dyeing and mordant dyeing. In resist dyeing, a resist substance such as hot wax, rice paste, or clay is applied to those areas chosen to resist the dye and remain white. The cloth is then dyed and the resist is later removed. The technique is widely known in China, Japan, and West Africa, but is most often identified with Javanese batik. Tie dyeing is a resist technique in which parts of the cloth are tied with bast or waxed cord before dyeing. The dyeing is done quickly so the wrappings are not penetrated, and a negative pattern emerges. Many dyestuffs are not directly absorbed by fibers, so mordants or fixing agents are used that combine with the dye and fibers to make the color insoluble.

There are two main types of textile dyeing machines: in one type the dye solution is circulated through the fabric, which remains at rest; in the other, the fabric is passed through a stationary bath of the dye solution.

Knits

knitting is a looped fabric made from a continuous supply of yarn. The yarn need not be continuous throughout the piece, however. Different colors or qualities or yarn may be introduced into a single knitted piece.

Knitting is used for the production of underwear and outer garments, curtain fabrics, etc. The materials used are yarn and threads of cotton, wool, and man-made fibers; as well as blended yarns and paper yarns. The products are either flat fabrics (later made into garments) or ready-fashioned garments. In weft fabric, the threads extend crosswise across the fabric; in warp fabric, the threads extend lengthwise. Warp fabric has less elasticity than weft fabric and is not used as much for socks and stockings.

Netting, knotting, and crochet

Netted fabrics have been known since antiquity when they were probably used for fishing nets. In knotting, knots are first made with a small shuttle at intervals in lengths of string, linen, silk, or wool. The knotted thread is then applied to a suitable ground fabric, forming patterns or covering it completely. Twentieth century macrame is a form of knotting. Crochet is a looped fabric made with a continuous thread that forms horizontal rows, with loops locked laterally as well as vertically.

Felt and bark cloth

Felt is a fabric formed by applying pressure to hot, wet fibers (usually wool). The fibers become interlocked, and the process cannot be reversed. In Polynesia, bark cloth was traditionally obtained from bark stripped from trees of the mulberry family. The bark was first soaked for several days to make it soft and flexible, then the rough outer bark was scraped from the inner bark. The inner bark was next beaten with mallets to form sheets of cloth, which were treated in a variety of ways before use.

Significance of textiles

Textiles serve the everyday needs of people, but they may also serve to distinguish individuals and groups of individuals in terms of social class, gender, occupation, and status with the group. Traditional societies associated special meaning with textile designs. These meanings tended to have specific meanings for particular ethnic groups alone. It was assumed that everyone in the group knew them. However, once the meanings have become lost, it is almost impossible to reconstruct them. The patterns in Javanese batiks, for example, originally had meaning to the wearer, but these meanings are now largely lost. Textiles also have real as well as symbolic value. Under Byzantine emperors, silk was a powerful political tool: foreign governments out of favor were denied trading privileges; those in favor were rewarded with silks.

Textiles have played major roles in the social, economic, and religious lives of communities. In many parts of Europe and Asia, young girls spent

KEY TERMS

Bobbin A small cylinder or similar article round which thread or yarn is wound, in order to be wound off again and as required, for use in weaving, sewing, etc.; a spool.

Fiber A complex morphological unit with an extremely high ratio of length to diameter (typically several hundred to one) and a relatively high tenacity.

Loom A machine in which yarn or thread is woven into fabrics by the crossing of vertical and horizontal threads (called respectively the warp and the weft).

Mordant A substance enabling a dye to become fixed in the fabric on which it is used, usually applied beforehand.

Shuttle A bobbin with two pointed ends used in weaving for carrying the thread of the weft across between the threads of the warp.

Warp The threads stretched lengthwise in a loom.

Weft The threads woven at right angles across a warp in making a fabric.

many months preparing clothing and furnishing textiles for their wedding trousseaus as a demonstration of their skills and wealth. Traditionally, women have played a far larger role than men in producing textiles. In many parts of Africa, however, men produce both woven and dyed textiles, and in many urban or courtly textile traditions, men were the main producers (e.g., Asian rug weaving, European tapestry).

Textiles are thus a major component of material culture. They may be viewed as the products of technology, as cultural symbols, as works of art, or as items of trade. The textile arts are a fundamental human activity, expressing symbolically much of what is valuable in any culture.

See also Dyes and pigments.

Resources

PERIODICALS

Akin, D.E. Enzyme-Retting Of Flax And Characterization Of Processed Fibers. Journal Of Biotechnology 89, no. 2-3 (2001): 193-203.

Nontraditionally Retted Flax For Dry Cotton Blend Spinning. Textiler Research Journal 71, no. 5 (2001): 375-380.

Randall Frost

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Textiles." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Textiles." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 15, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/textiles-0

"Textiles." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Retrieved December 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/textiles-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Textiles

Textiles

Textiles are generally considered to be woven fabrics. They may be woven from any natural or synthetic fibers, filaments, or yarns that are suitable for being spun and woven into cloth.


History of textiles

The earliest known textiles were recovered from a neolithic village in southern Turkey. Rope, netting, matting, and cloth have been found in the Judean desert (dating from 7160 to 6150 b.c.).

Flax was the most common plant fiber used in antiquity. Hemp , rush, palm, and papyrus were also employed as textile fibers in ancient times. Early evidence of the use of flax has been found in north Syria (c. 6000 b.c.), Iraq (c. 5000 b.c.), and Egypt (c. 6000 b.c.). Evidence that fibers from sheep , goats , and dogs were used in textiles as early as the eighth century b.c. has been found in northwest Iran; early use of these fibers has also been traced to Palestine and southern Turkey. Cotton , native to India, was used in Assyria around 700 b.c. The use of silk, originally exclusive to China, appears to have spread to Germany by around 500 b.c.

The ancient Egyptians and later the Israelites preferred garments of white linen and wool. But Kushites, Nubians, and Libyans apparently preferred dyed fabrics. The principal dyes and mordants such as alum were probably known since earliest times. Royal purple was produced by the Phoenicians, who had become major traders in dyes and wools by around 1700 b.c., from murex. Evidence exists of trade in textiles as early as 6000 b.c., in which wool and cloth were important trade goods.


Textile techniques

Spinning

Spinning is the process of making yarn or thread by the twisting of vegetable fibers, animal hairs, or man-made fibers, i.e., filament-like elements only a few inches in length. In the spinning mill, the raw material is first disentangled and cleaned. Various grades or types of fibers may then be blended together to produce yarn having the desired properties. The fibers are next spread out parallel to one another in a thin web, from which a yarn-like material is formed.


Weaving

In its simplest form, i.e., basketry, weaving probably pre-dated spinning, as in early cultures individuals presumably interlaced long fibrous stems with their fingers before they learned to convert short fibers into continuous yarn. Woven structures consist of two sets of threads, the warp and the weft, which are interlaced to form cloth. Warp threads are held parallel to each other under tension; the weft is worked over and under them, row by row. Looms have been used since the time of ancient Egyptians to keep the warp threads evenly spaced and under tension.

The following techniques are used to prepare the warp and the weft prior to weaving: 1) In doubling, two or more yarns are wound on a bobbin without undergoing any twisting (as distinct from spinning, in which fibers are twisted together to give them the requisite strength). In twisting doubling, two or more yarns are twisted around each other; 2) Sizing is done to make the warp threads smooth, to reduce the friction of the threads. The threads are coated or saturated with an adhesive paste (size); 3) Twisting joins the ends of a new warp with those of the one already in the loom. It is done by twisting the ends together, either by hand or with the aid of a special device.

Simple weaves are of three types: tabby, twill, and satin. Tabby weave, or plain weave, is produced by passing the weft across the warp twice. Twill weaves are characterized by a diagonal movement caused by starting the weave sequence one place to the right or left on each successive passage of the weft. Satin weave is distinguished by the spacing of the binding points, the normal sequence being over one warp, and under four or more. Compound weaves are based on the three basic weaves with the addition of extra warp, weft, or both. Velvet is a compound weave that starts as a basic weave.

Finger weaving techniques include twining and braiding. Twining uses two sets of yarns. In weft twining, the warp is stretched between two bars and the weft worked across in pairs. One thread passes over a warp and the other under, with the two yarns making a half turn around each other between each warp.

Finishing

Most fabrics produced by weaving or knitting have to undergo further processing before they are ready for sale. In finishing, the fabric is subjected to mechanical and chemical treatment in which its quality and appearance are improved and its commercial value enhanced. Each type of fabric has its own particular finishing operations. Textiles produced from vegetable fibers require different treatment than textiles produced from animal fibers or synthetic fibers.

Woven cloth is usually boiled with dilute caustic soda to remove natural oils and other impurities. It is then rinsed, scoured in an acid bath, further processed, and bleached with sodium chlorite. Singeing may be done to remove any fibers on cotton or rayon materials, especially if they have to be printed.

In the course of spinning, weaving, and finishing, the fabric is subjected to much pull and stretch. When the material gets wet, the material reverts to its original shape. Sanforizing mechanically shortens the fibers, so that they will not shrink in the wash.

Raising (or napping) is a process in which small steel hooks tear some of the fibers or ends of fibers out of the weft yarn, so the fibers acquire a wooly surface (called the "nap"). This improves heat retention and absorptive properties (as in flannel fabrics), making them softer to the touch. Raising is chiefly used for cotton, rayon, or woolen fabrics. It can be applied to one or both sides.


Types of textiles

Tapestries

Although the term tapestry usually conjures up images of large pictorial wall-hangings of the sort used in medieval and post-medieval Europe , tapestries are in fact distinctive woven structures consisting specifically of a weft-faced plain weave with discontinuous wefts. This means that the weft crosses the warp only where its particular color is need for the fabric design. The technique has been used in many cultures to produce fabrics ranging from heavy, durable floor coverings to delicate Chinese silk. Compared to other weaving techniques, tapestry allows the weaver much more freedom of expression.


Woven rugs

Rugs can be made by a number of techniques, including tapestry, brocade (in which a plain weave foundation is supplemented with supplementary wefts), and pile weaving. Pile rugs are most commonly associated with rug weaving, however. These rugs are made of row after row of tiny knots tied on the warps of a foundation weave which together form a thick pile.

Embroidery

Embroidery is a method of decorating an already existing structure, usually a woven foundation fabric, with a needle. Embroideries have also been done on other media such as parchment or bark . For the past 100 years, it has been possible to produce embroidery by machine as well as by hand. Embroidery yarns are woven into a fabric after it has come off the loom, unlike brocade, which in which yarns are placed in the fabric during the weaving process.


Lace

Lace is essentially an openwork fabric constructed by the looping, plaiting, or twisting of threads using either a needle or a set of bobbins. It is not woven. Needle lace is made with one thread at a time. Bobbin lace is constructed with many different threads, each wound on its own bobbin. These are manipulated in a manner similar to that used in braiding. Machine-made lace was first produced around 1840.


Printed and dyed textiles

Aside from exploiting the effects achieved by using natural fibers , the only ways to introduce color into textiles are by printing or dyeing.

In textile printing, the dyes are dissolved in water . Thickening agents (e.g., starch) are added to the solutions to increase viscosity . The oldest method is block printing, usually from wooden blocks in which a design is carved. Stencil printing is done with the aid of paper or thin metal stencils. In silk screen printing, the design is formed on a silk screen, which then serves as a stencil. Most cloth is printed by roller printing. The printing area is engraved on a copper roller to form a recessed pattern (intaglio), which is coated with a color paste. The roller transfers the paste to the cloth.

Pattern dyeing uses two principal procedures: resist dyeing and mordant dyeing. In resist dyeing, a resist substance such as hot wax, rice paste, or clay is applied to those areas chosen to resist the dye and remain white. The cloth is then dyed and the resist is later removed. The technique is widely known in China, Japan, and West Africa , but is most often identified with Javanese batik. Tie dyeing is a resist technique in which parts of the cloth are tied with bast or waxed cord before dyeing. The dyeing is done quickly so the wrappings are not penetrated, and a negative pattern emerges. Many dyestuffs are not directly absorbed by fibers, so mordants or fixing agents are used that combine with the dye and fibers to make the color insoluble.

There are two main types of textile dyeing machines: in one type the dye solution is circulated through the fabric, which remains at rest; in the other, the fabric is passed through a stationary bath of the dye solution.


Knits

Knitting is a looped fabric made from a continuous supply of yarn. The yarn need not be continuous throughout the piece, however. Different colors or qualities or yarn may be introduced into a single knitted piece.

Knitting is used for the production of underwear and outer garments, curtain fabrics, etc. The materials used are yarn and threads of cotton, wool, and man-made fibers; as well as blended yarns and paper yarns. The products are either flat fabrics (later made into garments) or ready-fashioned garments. In weft fabric, the threads extend crosswise across the fabric; in warp fabric, the threads extend lengthwise. Warp fabric has less elasticity than weft fabric and is not used as much for socks and stockings.


Netting, knotting, and crochet

Netted fabrics have been known since antiquity when they were probably used for fishing nets. In knotting, knots are first made with a small shuttle at intervals in lengths of string, linen, silk, or wool. The knotted thread is then applied to a suitable ground fabric, forming patterns or covering it completely. Twentieth century macrame is a form of knotting. Crochet is a looped fabric made with a continuous thread that forms horizontal rows, with loops locked laterally as well as vertically.


Felt and bark cloth

Felt is a fabric formed by applying pressure to hot, wet fibers (usually wool). The fibers become interlocked, and the process cannot be reversed. In Polynesia, bark cloth was traditionally obtained from bark stripped from trees of the mulberry family. The bark was first soaked for several days to make it soft and flexible, then the rough outer bark was scraped from the inner bark. The inner bark was next beaten with mallets to form sheets of cloth, which were treated in a variety of ways before use.


Significance of textiles

Textiles serve the everyday needs of people, but they may also serve to distinguish individuals and groups of individuals in terms of social class, gender, occupation, and status with the group. Traditional societies associated special meaning with textile designs. These meanings tended to have specific meanings for particular ethnic groups alone. It was assumed that everyone in the group knew them. However, once the meanings have become lost, it is almost impossible to reconstruct them. The patterns in Javanese batiks, for example, originally had meaning to the wearer, but these meanings are now largely lost. Textiles also have real as well as symbolic value. Under Byzantine emperors, silk was a powerful political tool: foreign governments out of favor were denied trading privileges; those in favor were rewarded with silks.

Textiles have played major roles in the social, economic, and religious lives of communities. In many parts of Europe and Asia , young girls spent many months preparing clothing and furnishing textiles for their wedding trousseaus as a demonstration of their skills and wealth. Traditionally, women have played a far larger role than men in producing textiles. In many parts of Africa, however, men produce both woven and dyed textiles, and in many urban or courtly textile traditions, men were the main producers (e.g., Asian rug weaving, European tapestry).

Textiles are thus a major component of material culture. They may be viewed as the products of technology, as cultural symbols, as works of art, or as items of trade. The textile arts are a fundamental human activity, expressing symbolically much of what is valuable in any culture.

See also Dyes and pigments.

Resources

books

Harris, Jennifer. Textiles—5000 Years. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1993.

Simmons, Paula. Spinning and Weaving Wool. Seattle: Pacific Search Press, 1987.


periodicals

Akin, D.E. "Enzyme-Retting Of Flax And Characterization Of Processed Fibers." Journal Of Biotechnology 89, no. 2-3 (2001): 193-203.

"Nontraditionally Retted Flax For Dry Cotton Blend Spinning." " Textiler Research Journal 71, no. 5 (2001): 375-380.


Randall Frost

KEY TERMS

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Bobbin

—A small cylinder or similar article round which thread or yarn is wound, in order to be wound off again and as required, for use in weaving, sewing, etc.; a spool.

Fiber

—A complex morphological unit with an extremely high ratio of length to diameter (typically several hundred to one) and a relatively high tenacity.

Loom

—A machine in which yarn or thread is woven into fabrics by the crossing of vertical and horizontal threads (called respectively the warp and the weft).

Mordant

—A substance enabling a dye to become fixed in the fabric on which it is used, usually applied beforehand.

Shuttle

—A bobbin with two pointed ends used in weaving for carrying the thread of the weft across between the threads of the warp.

Warp

—The threads stretched lengthwise in a loom.

Weft

—The threads woven at right angles across a warp in making a fabric.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Textiles." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Textiles." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 15, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/textiles

"Textiles." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Retrieved December 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/textiles

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Textiles

TEXTILES

This entry consists of the following articles:

Block-Printed
Early Painted and Printed
Karuppur

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Textiles." Encyclopedia of India. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Textiles." Encyclopedia of India. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 15, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/textiles

"Textiles." Encyclopedia of India. . Retrieved December 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/textiles

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Textiles

Textiles

This entry consists of the following articles:

Textiles before 1800

Textiles since 1800

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Textiles." History of World Trade Since 1450. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Textiles." History of World Trade Since 1450. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 15, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/textiles

"Textiles." History of World Trade Since 1450. . Retrieved December 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/textiles

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.