A textile is a flexible material consisting of a network of natural
or artificial fibres (yarn or thread).
Yarn is produced by spinning
raw fibres of wool, flax, cotton, hemp, or other materials to produce
long strands. Textiles are formed by weaving, knitting, crocheting,
knotting, or felting.
The related words fabric and cloth are often used in textile
assembly trades (such as tailoring and dressmaking) as synonyms for
textile. However, there are subtle differences in these terms in
specialized usage. A textile is any material made of interlacing
fibres, including carpeting and geotextiles. A fabric is a material
made through weaving, knitting, spreading, crocheting, or bonding that
may be used in production of further goods (garments, etc.). Cloth may
be used synonymously with fabric but is often a piece of fabric that
has been processed.
Alpaca textiles at the Otavalo Artisan Market in the Andes Mountains,
4 Sources and types
5 Production methods
7 See also
9 Further reading
The word 'textile' is from Latin, from the adjective textilis, meaning
'woven', from textus, the past participle of the verb texere, 'to
The word 'fabric' also derives from Latin, most recently from the
Middle French fabrique, or 'building, thing made', and earlier as the
Latin fabrica 'workshop; an art, trade; a skilful production,
structure, fabric', which is from the
Latin faber, or 'artisan who
works in hard materials', from PIE dhabh-, meaning 'to fit
The word 'cloth' derives from the
Old English clað, meaning a cloth,
woven or felted material to wrap around one, from Proto-Germanic
kalithaz (compare O.Frisian 'klath', Middle Dutch 'cleet', Dutch
'kleed', Middle High German 'kleit', and German 'kleid', all meaning
Main article: History of clothing and textiles
The discovery of dyed flax fibres in a cave in the Republic of Georgia
dated to 34,000
BCE suggests textile-like materials were made even in
Textile machinery at the Cambrian Factory, Llanwrtyd,
Wales in the
The production of textiles is a 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.
Textiles have an assortment of uses, the most common of which are for
clothing and for containers such as bags and baskets. In the household
they are used in carpeting, upholstered furnishings, window shades,
towels, coverings 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, handkerchiefs, cleaning rags, transportation
devices such as balloons, kites, sails, and parachutes; textiles are
also used to provide strengthening in composite materials such as
fibreglass and industrial geotextiles. Textiles are used in many
traditional crafts such as sewing, quilting and embroidery.
Textiles 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.
Sources and types
Textiles are made from many materials, with four main sources: animal
(wool, silk), plant (cotton, flax, jute), mineral (asbestos, glass
fibre), and synthetic (nylon, polyester, acrylic). The first three are
natural. In the 20th century, they were supplemented by artificial
fibres made from petroleum.
Textiles are made in various strengths and degrees of durability, from
the finest microfibre made of strands thinner than one denier to the
Textile manufacturing terminology
Textile manufacturing terminology has a wealth of
descriptive terms, from light gauze-like gossamer to heavy grosgrain
cloth and beyond.
Animal textiles are commonly made from hair, fur, skin or silk (in the
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 a wax mixture known as lanolin (sometimes called
wool grease), which is waterproof and dirtproof.
Woollen refers to a bulkier yarn produced from carded, non-parallel
fibre, while worsted refers to a finer yarn 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
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
Qiviut is the fine inner wool of the muskox.
Wadmal is a coarse cloth made of wool, produced in Scandinavia, mostly
Silk is an animal textile made from the fibres of the cocoon of the
Chinese silkworm which is spun into a smooth fabric prized for its
softness. There are two main types of the silk: 'mulberry silk'
produced by the Bombyx Mori, and 'wild silk' such as Tussah silk.
Silkworm larvae produce the first type if cultivated in habitats with
fresh mulberry leaves for consumption, while Tussah silk is produced
by silkworms feeding purely on oak leaves. Around four-fifths of the
world's silk production consists of cultivated silk.
Grass, 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.
Fibres from pulpwood trees, cotton, rice, hemp, and nettle are used in
Cotton, flax, jute, hemp, modal and even bamboo fibre are all used in
Piña (pineapple fibre) and ramie are also fibres used in
clothing, generally with a blend of other fibres such as cotton.
Nettles have also been used to make a fibre and fabric very similar to
hemp or flax. The use of milkweed stalk fibre has also been reported,
but it tends to be somewhat weaker than other fibres like hemp or
The inner bark of the lacebark tree is a fine netting that has been
used to make clothing and accessories as well as utilitarian articles
such as rope.
Acetate is used to increase the shininess of certain fabrics such as
silks, velvets, and taffetas.
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.
Lyocell is a synthetic fabric derived from wood pulp. It is often
described as a synthetic silk equivalent; it is a tough fabric that is
often blended with other fabrics – cotton, for example.
Fibres from the stalks of plants, such as hemp, flax, and nettles, are
also known as 'bast' fibres.
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 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. Glass fibres are woven and coated
Teflon to produce beta cloth, a virtually fireproof fabric which
replaced nylon in the outer layer of United States space suits since
Metal fibre, metal foil, and metal wire have a variety of uses,
including the production of cloth-of-gold and jewellery. Hardware
cloth (US term only) is a coarse woven mesh of steel wire, used in
construction. It is much like standard window screening, but heavier
and with a more open weave.
Minerals and natural and synthetic fabrics may be combined, as in
emery cloth, a layer of emery abrasive glued to a cloth backing. Also,
"sand cloth" is a U.S. term for fine wire mesh with abrasive glued to
it, employed like emery cloth or coarse sandpaper.
A variety of contemporary fabrics. From the left: evenweave cotton,
velvet, printed cotton, calico, felt, satin, silk, hessian, polycotton
Woven tartan of Clan Campbell, Scotland
Embroidered skirts by the Alfaro-Nùñez family of Cochas, Peru, using
traditional Peruvian embroidery methods
Synthetic textiles are used primarily in the production of clothing,
as well as the manufacture of geotextiles.
Polyester fibre is used in all types of clothing, either alone or
blended with fibres such as cotton.
Aramid fibre (e.g. Twaron) is used for flame-retardant clothing,
cut-protection, and armour.
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 have also been used to create synthetic fabric.
casein fibre cloth was developed during
World War I
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.
Carbon fibre is mostly used in composite materials, together with
resin, such as carbon fibre reinforced plastic. The fibres are made
from polymer fibres through carbonization.
A. C. Lawrence
Leather Co. c. 1910 Peabody, Massachusetts, US
Textile manufacturing and
Top five exporters of textiles—2013
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 mechanized.
Knitting, looping, and crocheting involve interlacing loops of yarn,
which are formed either on a knitting needle, needle, or on a crochet
hook, together in a line. The processes are different in that knitting
has several active loops at one time, on the knitting needle waiting
to interlock with another loop, while Looping and crocheting never
have more than one active loop on the needle.
Knitting can be
performed by machine, but crochet can only be performed by hand.
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
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
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 or mechanical, or adhesives can be
Bark cloth is made by pounding bark until it is soft and flat.
Textiles are often dyed, with fabrics available in almost every
colour. The dyeing 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 220 CE in China.
Textiles are also sometimes bleached, making the textile pale or
Brilliantly dyed traditional woven textiles of Guatemala, and woman
weaving on a backstrap loom
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
Eisengarn, meaning "iron yarn" in English, is a light-reflecting,
strong material invented in
Germany in the 19th century. It is made by
soaking cotton threads in a starch and paraffin wax solution. The
threads are then stretched and polished by steel rollers and brushes.
The end result of the process is a lustrous, tear-resistant yarn which
is extremely hardwearing.
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.
Bangladesh University of Textiles
Bangladesh textile industry
List of textile fibres
Realia (library science)
Textile manufacturing (terminology)
Textile Research Centre, Leiden, the Netherlands
Textiles of Lampung / Mexico / Oaxaca
Timeline of clothing and textiles technology
Units of textile measurement
List of fabric names
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Wikiquote has quotations related to: Textile
Look up cloth in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Textiles and Fabrics.
Fisher, Nora. Rio Grande Textiles (Paperbound ed.). Museum of New
Mexico Press. [year needed] Introduction by Teresa
Archuleta-Sagel. 196 pages with 125 black and white as well as colour
plates. Fisher is Curator Emirta, Textiles & Costumes of the
Museum of International Folk Art.
Good, Irene (2006). "Textiles as a Medium of Exchange in Third
Millennium B.C.E. Western Asia". In Mair, Victor H. Contact and
Exchange in the Ancient World. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.
pp. 191–214. ISBN 978-0-8248-2884-4.
Arai, Masanao (
Textile Industry Research Institute of Gunma). "From
Art Moderne: Popular Textiles for Women in the First Half of
Twentieth-Century Japan" (Archive).
Textile Society of America
Textile Society of America, January 1, 1998.
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