- Plural of cloth
A textile is a flexible material comprised of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw wool fibres, linen, cotton, or other material on a spinning wheel to produce long strands known as yarn. Textiles are formed by weaving, knitting, crocheting, knotting, or pressing fibres together (felt).
The words fabric and cloth are commonly used in textile assembly trades (such as tailoring and dressmaking) as synonyms for textile. However, there are subtle differences in these terms. Textile refers to any material made of interlacing fibres. Fabric refers to any material made through weaving, knitting, crocheting, or bonding. Cloth refers to a finished piece of fabric that can be used for a purpose such as covering a bed.
HistoryThe production of textiles is an important craft, whose speed and scale of production has been altered almost beyond recognition by industrialization and the introduction of modern manufacturing techniques. However, for the main types of textiles, plain weave, twill or satin weave, there is little difference between the ancient and modern methods.
Incan Indians have been crafting quipus (or khipus) made of fibres either from a protein, such as spun and plied thread like wool or hair from camelids such as alpacas, llamas and camels or from a cellulose like cotton for thousands of years. Khipus are a series of knots along pieces of string. They have been believed to only have acted as a form of accounting, although new evidence conducted by Harvard professor, Gary Urton, indicates there may be more to the khipu than just numbers. Preservation of khipus found in museum and archive collections follow general textile preservation principles and practice.
UsesTextiles have an assortment of uses, the most common of which are for clothing and containers such as bags and baskets. In the household, they are used in carpeting, upholstered furnishings, window shades, towels, covering for tables, beds, and other flat surfaces, and in art. In the workplace, they are used in industrial and scientific processes such as filtering. Miscellaneous uses include flags, backpacks, tents, nets, cleaning devices, such as handkerchiefs; transportation devices such as balloons, kites, sails, and parachutes; strengthening in composite materials such as fibre glass and industrial geotextiles, and smaller cloths are used in washing by "soaping up" the cloth and washing with it rather than using just soap.
Textiles used for industrial purposes, and chosen for characteristics other than their appearance, are commonly referred to as technical textiles. Technical textiles include textile structures for automotive applications, medical textiles (e.g. implants), geotextiles (reinforcement of embankments), agrotextiles (textiles for crop protection), protective clothing (e.g. against heat and radiation for fire fighter clothing, against molten metals for welders, stab protection, and bullet proof vests. In all these applications stringent performance requirements must be met. Woven of threads coated with zinc oxide nanowires, laboratory fabric has been shown capable of "self-powering nanosystems" using vibrations created by everyday actions like wind or body movements.
Fashion and textile designs
Fashion designers commonly rely on textile designs to set their fashion collections apart from others. Marisol Deluna, Nicole Miller, Lilly Pulitzer, the late Gianni Versace and Emilio Pucci can be easily recognized by their signature print driven designs.
Sources and typesTextiles can be made from many materials. These materials come from four main sources: animal, plant, mineral, and synthetic. In the past, all textiles were made from natural fibres, including plant, animal, and mineral sources. In the 20th century, these were supplemented by artificial fibres made from petroleum.
Textiles are made in various strengths and degrees of durability, from the finest gossamer to the sturdiest canvas. The relative thickness of fibres in cloth is measured in deniers. Microfibre refers to fibres made of strands thinner than one denier.
Wool refers to the hair of the domestic goat or sheep, which is distinguished from other types of animal hair in that the individual strands are coated with scales and tightly crimped, and the wool as a whole is coated with an oil known as lanolin, which is waterproof and dirtproof. Woollen refers to a bulkier yarn produced from carded, non-parallel fibre, while worsted refers to a finer yarn which is spun from longer fibres which have been combed to be parallel. Wool is commonly used for warm clothing. Cashmere, the hair of the Indian cashmere goat, and mohair, the hair of the North African angora goat, are types of wool known for their softness.
Other animal textiles which are made from hair or fur are alpaca wool, vicuña wool, llama wool, and camel hair, generally used in the production of coats, jackets, ponchos, blankets, and other warm coverings. Angora refers to the long, thick, soft hair of the angora rabbit.
Wadmal is a coarse cloth made of wool, produced in Scandinavia, mostly 1000~1500CE.
Silk is an animal textile made from the fibres of the cocoon of the Chinese silkworm. This is spun into a smooth, shiny fabric prized for its sleek texture.
Plant textilesGrass, rush, hemp, and sisal are all used in making rope. In the first two, the entire plant is used for this purpose, while in the last two, only fibres from the plant are utilized. Coir (coconut fibre) is used in making twine, and also in floormats, doormats, brushes, mattresses, floor tiles, and sacking. Straw and bamboo are both used to make hats. Straw, a dried form of grass, is also used for stuffing, as is kapok.
Cotton, flax, jute, hemp and modal are all used in clothing. Piña (pineapple fibre) and ramie are also fibres used in clothing, generally with a blend of other fabrics such as cotton.
Seaweed is used in the production of textiles. A water-soluble fibre known as alginate is produced and is used as a holding fibre; when the cloth is finished, the alginate is dissolved, leaving an open area
Tencel is a man-made fabric derived from wood pulp. It is often described as a man-made silk equivalent and is a tough fabric which is often blended with other fabrics - cotton for example.
Mineral textilesAsbestos 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.
Synthetic textilesAll 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.
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 fibre that stretches easily and 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.
Production methodsWeaving 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.
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.
- Good, Irene. 2006. "Textiles as a Medium of Exchange in Third Millennium B.C.E. Western Asia." In: Contact and Exchange in the Ancient World. Edited by Victor H. Mair. University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu. Pages 191-214. ISBN 978-0824828844
- Fisher, Nora (Curator Emirta, Textiles & Costumes), Museum of International Folk Art. "Rio Grande Textiles." Introduction by Teresa Archuleta-Sagel. 196 pages with 125 black and white as well as color plates, Museum of New Mexico Press, Paperbound.
- David H. Abrahams, "Textile chemistry", McGraw Hill Encyclopedia of Science -- available in AccessScience@McGraw-Hill, [http://www.accessscience.com, DOI 10.1036/1097-8542.687500], last modified: February 21, 2007.] (Subscription access)
- Textile Information and Advice Textile News.
- Global Textile and Clothing Trade Textile and Clothing Information and Reporting.
- The Museum of International Folk Art
- Weaving document archive
- [http://www.textile.fr:81/site/home_en.asp union of textile industries]
- Textiles Nanotechnology Laboratory at Cornell University
- Bolivian indigenous textiles
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- Textile Technology - Textile Machinery, News and Directory
- Tex.in - Textile & Apparel Directory & WWW Database
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