Embroidered skirts by the Alfaro-Nùñez family of Cochas, Peru, using traditional Peruvian embroidery methods.
Textiles are often dyed, with fabrics available in almost every colour. The dying process often requires several dozen gallons of water for each pound of clothing.Coloured designs in textiles can be created by weaving together fibres of different colours (tartan or Uzbek Ikat), adding coloured stitches to finished fabric (embroidery), creating patterns by resist dyeing methods, tying off areas of cloth and dyeing the rest (tie-dyeing), or drawing wax designs on cloth and dyeing in between them (batik), or using various printing processes on finished fabric.
Woodblock printing, still used in India and elsewhere today, is the oldest of these dating back to at least 220CE in China. Textiles are also sometimes bleached, making the textile pale or white.
Textiles are sometimes finished by chemical processes to change their characteristics. In the 19th century and early 20th century starching was commonly used to make clothing more resistant to stains and wrinkles. Since the 1990s, with advances in technologies such as permanent press process, finishing agents have been used to strengthen fabrics and make them wrinkle free. More recently, nanomaterials research has led to additional advancements, with companies such as Nano-Tex and NanoHorizons developing permanent treatments based on metallic nanoparticles for making textiles more resistant to things such as water, stains, wrinkles, and pathogens such as bacteria and fungi.
More so today than ever before, textiles receive a range of treatments before they reach the end-user. From formaldehyde finishes (to improve crease-resistance) to biocidic finishes and from flame retardants to dyeing of many types of fabric, the possibilities are almost endless. However, many of these finishes may also have detrimental effects on the end user. A number of disperse, acid and reactive dyes (for example) have been shown to be allergenic to sensitive individuals. Further to this, specific dyes within this group have also been shown to induce purpuric contact dermatitis.Although formaldehyde levels in clothing are unlikely to be at levels high enough to cause an allergic reaction, due to the presence of such a chemical, quality control and testing are of utmost importance. Flame retardants (mainly in the brominated form) are also of concern where the environment, and their potential toxicity, are concerned.Testing for these additives is possible at a number of commercial laboratories, it is also possible to have textiles tested for according to the Oeko-tex Certification Standard which contains limits levels for the use of certain chemicals in textiles products.
Brilliantly dyed traditional woven textiles of Guatemala, and woman weaving on a backstrap loom.
Weaving is a textile production method which involves interlacing a set of longer threads (called the warp) with a set of crossing threads (called the weft). This is done on a frame or machine known as a loom, of which there are a number of types. Some weaving is still done by hand, but the vast majority is mechanised.
Knitting and crocheting involve interlacing loops of yarn, which are formed either on a knitting needle or on a crochet hook, together in a line. The two processes are different in that knitting has several active loops at one time, on the knitting needle waiting to interlock with another loop, while crocheting never has more than one active loop on the needle.
Spread Tow is a production method where the yarn are spread into thin tapes, and then the tapes are woven as warp and weft. This method is mostly used for composite materials, Spread Tow Fabrics can be made in carbon, aramide, etc.
Braiding or plaiting involves twisting threads together into cloth. Knotting involves tying threads together and is used in making macrame.
Lace is made by interlocking threads together independently, using a backing and any of the methods described above, to create a fine fabric with open holes in the work. Lace can be made by either hand or machine.
Carpets, rugs, velvet, velour, and velveteen, are made by interlacing a secondary yarn through woven cloth, creating a tufted layer known as a nap or pile.
Felting involves pressing a mat of fibres together, and working them together until they become tangled. A liquid, such as soapy water, is usually added to lubricate the fibres, and to open up the microscopic scales on strands of wool.
Nonwoven textiles are manufactured by the bonding of fibres to make fabric. Bonding may be thermal, mechnical or adhessives can be used.
A variety of contemporary fabrics. From the left: evenweave cotton, velvet, printed cotton, calico, felt, satin, silk, hessian, polycotton.
All synthetic textiles are used primarily in the production of clothing.
Polyester fibre is used in all types of clothing, either alone or blended with fibres such as cotton.
Aramidfibre (e.g. Twaron) is used for flame-retardant clothing, cut-protection, and armor.
Acrylic is a fibre used to imitate wools, including cashmere, and is often used in replacement of them.
Nylon is a fibre used to imitate silk; it is used in the production of pantyhose. Thicker nylon fibres are used in rope and outdoor clothing.
Spandex (trade name Lycra) is a polyurethane product that can be made tight-fitting without impeding movement. It is used to make activewear, bras, and swimsuits.
Olefin fibre is a fibre used in activewear, linings, and warm clothing. Olefins are hydrophobic, allowing them to dry quickly. A sintered felt of olefin fibres is sold under the trade name Tyvek.
Ingeo is a polylactide fibre blended with other fibres such as cotton and used in clothing. It is more hydrophilic than most other synthetics, allowing it to wick away perspiration.
Lurex is a metallic fibre used in clothing embellishment.
Milk proteins can also be used to create synthetic fabric. Milk or casein fibre cloth was developed during World War I in Germany, and further developed in Italy and America during the 1930s. Milk fibre fabric is not very durable and wrinkles easily, but has a pH similar to human skin and possesses anti-bacterial properties. It is marketed as a biodegradable, renewable synthetic fibre.
Asbestos and basalt fibre are used for vinyl tiles, sheeting, and adhesives, "transite" panels and siding, acoustical ceilings, stage curtains, and fire blankets.
Glass Fibre is used in the production of spacesuits, ironing board and mattress covers, ropes and cables, reinforcement fibre for composite materials, insect netting, flame-retardant and protective fabric, soundproof, fireproof, and insulating fibres.
Metal fibre, metal foil, and metal wire have a variety of uses, including the production of cloth-of-gold and jewelry. Hardware cloth is a coarse weave of steel wire, used in construction.
The catalog of smart textiles for the future is teeming with cognitive intelligence—–fabrics that serve as interactive surfaces or are embedded with sheets of tiny microprocessors, little solar batteries, or antimicrobial properties. But these materials may miss the point. The textile arts, after all, have their origins in comfort—–rugs that keep our feet off the cold floor, curtains and wall hangings that keep out the draft, quilts that keep us cozy at night. What may have more value, both stylistically and holistically, is not so much a conventionally smart textile, but one that has emotional intelligence—–kind of an electric blanket for the soul.
Artist Rachel Wingfield of Loop.pH is well on the way to this idea with her Light Sleeper, an illuminated duvet and pillow that simulate sunrise. Electroluminescent wires are woven into the fabric to cast a radiant sheen, and the bedding can be programmed to gradually begin to glow at the desired time. Its gentle wake-up call is meant to help reset the circadian rhythms of those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder. Surely, though, such incandescent bedding is only the beginning.
As the convergence of lighting and textiles becomes more sophisticated, perhaps the products themselves could distinguish between different qualities of daylight and even recognize the complex and subtle association of light, time, and place. They could also offer a more expansive menu of lightscapes. If one can, in fact, program daybreak, why not also be able to choose between the rose-colored dawn over the Aegean in spring, the vibrant splash of northern lights as seen over Finland in January, or the cool blue morning light of northern Scotland in July, when the sky hardly darkens at all?
Embroidery, like other forms of needlework, has always been a source of innovation in American decorative arts, and Bush has simply continued the tradition by updating its materials and application. Her Xorel Embroider brings decorative stitchery to places we’re not accustomed to finding it, like hospitals and office buildings.
The highly durable wall covering and upholstery fabric appears to be embroidered, but the yarn, like the surface it has been stitched on, is polyethylene—–utilitarian, washable, and enduring.
It is, of course, not couture work, but the yarn has a delicacy and decorative detail, and its single, double, and more intricate stitching riffs on high-end handwork. Bush says it was her hope to bring a sense of craft, a genuine texture and surface interest, and a graphic quality to a high-performance surfacing material. “It kind of has a tattoo-ish feeling,” she says of Sway, an oversize, slightly off-center pattern that leaves a lot of negative space. Other designs with botanical motifs resemble improvisational pencil drawings. And the more recent Xorel Stripe takes its cues from men’s dress shirts, a source Florence Knoll might have looked to herself.
The life of the modern textile might rightly be said to have begun with the Industrial Revolution and the advent of the cotton gin, power loom, and roller printing machine. But it would be generations before the concurrence of design and commerce fully flowered in the middle of the 20th century.
Though cozy flannels, tasteful tartans, and cotton prints depicting George Washington and Ben Franklin in political discourse have undeniablecharm, textile design realized a fuller exuberance around the time that Charles Eames famously instructed designers and consumers alike to “take your pleasure seriously.” The Eameses did just that in connecting the dots of both formal play and industrial might in patterns both random and precise. Contemporary Alexander Girard’s textiles boast brilliantly colored prints and woven geometrics, and Verner Panton’s optical extravaganzas surely justify his own dictum: “Beautiful can be ugly. Ugly can be beautiful.”
Not that modern textiles were about pleasure entirely. With all its new energy and optimism, postwar design put a high value on fabrics that were architectural, inexpensive, and colorful without being decorative in a sentimental manner. So just as bright printed fabrics from modernist hotbeds Sweden and Finland held sway, so too did the engineering and science of the war years, which would be redirected to design and consumer goods.
As America’s postwar boom embraced European modernism, designers like Florence Knoll married elegant geometrics with machine-made fabrics. At the more austere end of the spectrum was weaver Anni Albers, who took a more sculptural approach in
her abstract, multidimensional textiles and who was certain that “the less we, as designers, exhibit in our work our personal traits…and idiosyncrasies—–in short, our individuality—–the more balanced the form we arrive at will be. It is better that the material speaks than that we speak.”
Perhaps the most vital innovation in modern textile design came not in content or form but in use. Fabric was embraced to help give shape to open-plan living, gird the expansive plate-glass windows that were suddenly ubiquitous, and add warmth to new halls of concrete and stone.
Though we’ve now wandered through the 1970s (“ the beige decade,” as it was called by textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen), when natural hues all too often resulted in a monotonous drabness, contemporary designers take their pleasures as seriously as their mid-century predecessors while reflecting some of the same visual perspectives. Artist Maira Kalman’s “Story of My Life” pattern is a spirited rebuke to Albers’s dictum regarding the dangers of one’s peculiarities and idiosyncrasies; it is an impressionistic catalog of pen-and-ink pictographs of ladders, birds’ nests, dancers, and wedding cakes.
Illustrative whimsy aside, contemporary textiles continue to take their cues from the annals of industry. Marcel Wanders worked with the Aerospace Engineering Laboratory at Delft University of Technology on the carbon-aramid netting for his Knotted chair, while yarns using photoluminescent pigments are finding their way into textiles for interiors. Lest one be tempted to think the story is all about such techno-synthetics, we have also seen the rise of small-batch fabrics and a return to craft. Contemporary textiles made of natural materials, such as bamboo, linen, and alpaca, highlight innovative construction and a lavish surface touch. The innate beauty of the yarns is the message here. Albers would have approved.
If the design world feels like an endless parade of products, then the gnashing maws of industrial production assuredly underpin it all. Take a look at how leading manufacturers make what they make, with a special eye on how to clean up what is often a messy act.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
A material made mainly of natural or synthetic fibers. Modern textile products may be prepared from a number of combinations of fibers, yards, films, sheets, foams, furs, or leather. They are found in apparel, household and commercial furnishings, vehicles, and industrial products. See also Manufactured fiber; Natural fiber.
The term fabric may be defined as a thin, flexible material made of any combination of cloth, fiber, or polymer (film, sheet, or foams); cloth as a thin, flexible material made from yarns; yarn as a continuous strand of fibers; and fiber as a fine, rodlike object in which the length is greater than 100 times the diameter. The bulk of textile products are made from cloth.
The natural progression from raw material to finished product requires: the cultivation or manufacture of fibers; the twisting of fibers into yarns (spinning); the interlacing (weaving) or interlooping (knitting) of yarns into cloth; and the finishing of cloth prior to sale.
The conversion of staple fiber into yarn (spinning) requires the following steps: picking (sorting, cleaning, and blending), carding and combing (separating and aligning), drawing (reblending), drafting (reblended fibers are drawn out into a long strand), and spinning (drafted fibers are further attenuated and twisted into yarn).
The process of weaving allows a set of yarns running in the machine direction (warp) to be interlaced with another set of yarns running across the machine (filling or weft). The weaving process involves four functions: shedding (raising the warp yarns by means of the appropriate harnesses); picking (inserting the weft yarn); battening (pushing the weft into the cloth with a reed); and taking up and letting off (winding the woven cloth onto the cloth beam and releasing more warp yarn from the warp beam).
Knit cloth is produced by interlocking one or more yarns through a series of loops. The lengthwise columns of loops are known as the wales, and the crosswise rows of loops are called courses. Filling (weft) knits are those in which the courses are composed of continuous yarns, while in warp knits the wale yarns are continuous.
Any filament, fibre, or yarn that can be made into fabric or cloth, and the resulting material itself. The word originally referred only to woven fabrics but now includes knitted, bonded, felted, and tufted fabrics as well. The basic raw materials used in textile production are fibres, either obtained from natural sources (e.g., wool) or produced from chemical substances (e.g., nylon and polyester). Textiles are used for wearing apparel, household linens and bedding, upholstery, draperies and curtains, wall coverings, rugs and carpets, and bookbindings, in addition to being used widely in industry.