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History of Textiles--an Overview

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T
extile weaving is, with architecture, among the oldest of the arts, and dates from the earliest periods of history. It was understood in Egypt, and records are found showing that it was practiced at a remote period in the Far East.

The Chinese developed the silk looms and wove brocades of such beauty that they are cherished as museum pieces and used for inspiration to this day.

For a long time the secret of the origin of silk fiber was carefully guarded. Silk cocoons were eventually smuggled into India in the headdress of a Chinese prince and from there into Byzantium. India learned silk weaving from the expert weavers of China. The Greeks and the civilized people of the Near East also developed textile production.

Monuments of Assyrian and Persian sculpture and Greek vases show draperies of figured fabrics. On the vases of the sixth century B.C. are found striped patterns with designs of winged horses and chariots. Since then all races have learned the art, and it has followed the course of civilization from the East to Europe and America. This influence can especially be noted in stone fireplace designs (http://www.ferche.com/).

The product of the silk worm and its cocoon was well known to the Romans, and silk cloth was first produced in Europe about the sixth century A.D., although up to about the year 1000 it was still mainly a product of the East. Persia, Syria and Egypt were the great weaving countries during the Middle Ages.

Following the crusades, eastern workmen were brought to France and Italy. Palermo in Sicily became the greatest silk manufacturing city in the world, due to conquests in Greece and the introduction of Greek silk weavers into Sicily who were brought to the capital to instruct in their arts. The royal workshops were operated by Greek weavers.

After 1300 we do not hear as much of Sicilian silks because of the flourishing weaving industry of upper Italy. Scarcely less renowned were Granada and Seville in Spain. The export of Spanish silks began as early as the ninth century.

Ancient Woven Wallhanging

At the beginning of the twelfth century, Malaga and Seville also became weaving centers. Spanish silks held their own up to the Renaissance and in the next hundred years or so weaving was introduced into Flanders, Germany, Holland and Great Britain. By the thirteenth century the Italian weaving industry was fully developed.

The eastern competitors of Italy were being weakened by invaders. By the beginning of the fourteenth century, velvets were extensively produced at Genoa. At the same period the silks of Damascus were famous, and gave their name to the modern word "damask."

In the middle of the fifteenth century, looms were established in the city of Lyons, France, and it has remained to this day one of the largest producers of textiles in the world. The industry in France made slow progress against Italian competition and with the exception of tapestry weaving it was not until the reign of Louis XIV that the weavers of France surpassed those of Italy. This was analogous with the French designs of fireplace accessories (http://www.ferche.com/) that portrayed these intricate tapestry designs.

Simple and plain velvet fabrics were known in Italy long before the year 1400. According to the Italian revenue records of 1500, cloths of silk, satin damasks and velvets, plain and cut, were made in a way unknown to the ancients. In 1539 the famous Gobelin tapestry factory was founded in France by Francis, the First. In 1690 the Beauvais Tapestry works were established.

By 1750 thousands of looms were working in England using silk that had been brought from China and India. In the seventeenth century, a great number of weavers left France with the exiled Protestants after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. England, Holland and Switzerland profited by this event. In the early nineteenth century the Austrians became great manufacturers and imported labor from Lyons and Genoa.

China has been preeminently the silk-producing country, Egypt the great country for linens, India for cottons, and Flanders for wool. In recent years England has replaced Flanders as a producer of the raw wool, and the United States has become the cotton producing country of the world.

Sarah Martin



Sarah Martin is a freelance marketing writer based out of San Diego, CA. She specializes in home improvement, interior design, fireplace accessories, and stone fireplace designs. For the best in the hardwood moulding industry, please visit http://www.ferche.com/


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