"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, "kilims, "hooked rugs, and "coverlets) all fall under the category of textile arts.
From early times, textiles have been used to cover the human body and protect it from the elements; to send "social cues to other people; to store, secure, and protect possessions; and to soften, insulate, and decorate living spaces and surfaces.
The persistence of ancient textile arts and functions, and their elaboration for decorative effect, can be seen in a "Jacobean era portrait of "Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales by "Robert Peake the Elder (above). The prince's "capotain "hat is made of felt using the most basic of textile techniques. His clothing is made of woven cloth, richly embroidered in "silk, and his "stockings are knitted. He stands on an "oriental rug of "wool which softens and warms the floor, and heavy "curtains both decorate the room and block cold drafts from the window. "Goldwork embroidery on the "tablecloth and curtains proclaim the status of the home's owner, in the same way that the felted fur hat, sheer "linen "shirt trimmed with "reticella lace, and opulent embroidery on the prince's clothes proclaim his social position.
Traditionally the term art was used to refer to any skill or mastery, a concept which altered during the "Romantic period of the nineteenth century, when art came to be seen as "a special faculty of the human mind to be classified with religion and science". This distinction between craft and "fine art is applied to the textile arts as well, where the term "fiber art or textile art is now used to describe textile-based decorative objects which are not intended for practical use.["citation needed]
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