Textile arts are those arts and crafts that use plant, animal, or synthetic fibers to construct practical or decorative objects.
Textiles have been a fundamental part of human life since the beginning of civilization, and the methods and materials used to make them have expanded enormously, while the functions of textiles have remained the same. The history of textile arts is also the history of international trade. Tyrian purple dye was an important trade good in the ancient Mediterranean. The Silk Road brought Chinese silk to India, Africa, and Europe. Tastes for imported luxury fabrics led to sumptuary laws during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The industrial revolution was a revolution of textiles technology: the cotton gin, the spinning jenny, and the power loom mechanized production and led to the Luddite rebellion.
The word textile is from Latin texere which means "to weave", "to braid" or "to construct". The simplest textile art is felting, in which animal fibers are matted together using heat and moisture. Most textile arts begin with twisting or spinning and plying fibers to make yarn (called thread when it is very fine and rope when it is very heavy). The yarn is then knotted, looped, braided, or woven to make flexible fabric or cloth, and cloth can be used to make clothing and soft furnishings. All of these items – felt, yarn, fabric, and finished objects – are collectively referred to as textiles.
The textile arts also include those techniques which are used to embellish or decorate textiles – dyeing and printing to add color and pattern; embroidery and other types of needlework; tablet weaving; and lace-making. Construction methods such as sewing, knitting, crochet, and tailoring, as well as the tools employed (looms and sewing needles), techniques employed (quilting and pleating) and the objects made (carpets, hooked rugs, and coverlets) all fall under the category of textile arts.
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