Historical Perspective of Textiles

Textiles - A Historical Perspective
Govt. College of Engineering and Textile Technology,
Serampore, West Bengal, India
Email: uhossen@gmail.com 

The earliest technologies primarily used human hands as the main tools. Thesewere supplemented by other ancillary tools as revealed by archaeological excavations, which yield artifacts made of stone, bone etc. Textiles are an important source of reference for the cultural studies because of their universality. Textiles have always draped the body, whether human/deities/animal, floor and furniture. Unlike stone, clay, metal etc. textiles were traditionally made from biodegradable materials.
Women spinning with a wheel in early century
Textiles are indispensable part of human civilization. Textiles serve the individual, the home and the country. We are all aware that the prime needs of man are food, clothing, shelter.

The word Textile comes from the Latin word ‘Textilis’ and the French word “Texere” pertaining to weaving or to woven-fabric.

It covers all the woven materials whether made of wool, cotton, silk, jute, rayon or other manmade fibres. The variety of materials is simply tremendous. Textiles are so much a part of our daily lives that it is not unusual that we take them for granted. The fabrics that clothe us can be considered a part of us, just as the air we breathe and the environment that surrounds us. In fact, textiles have created a stimulus for man’s indigenousness.

Today, cotton is an integral part of textiles. There are 23 different varieties of cotton. It was a piece of cotton stuck to a silver vase and some spindles discovered in excavations which revealed that the spinning and weaving of cotton was known to the Harrappans, nearly five million years ago.

References to weaving are found in the Vedic literature. Method of spinning, the "arious materials used etc. are also mentioned in these ancients scripts. The history of Textiles is told many times over in the epics, the Puranas, the Graeco- Roman sources of Indian history and the classical Tamil Sangam Literature. Various techniques of weaving, designing, needlework etc. have survived through the centuries. 
The foundations of the textile trade began as early as the second century Be. Kalyan, a port, is place in that time from where textiles were exponed. A variety of fabrics, including cotton brocade, is mentioned in Chinese literature as Indian products exponed to China.

Hoard of block printed and resist dyed fabrics, mainly of Gujrati origin, found in the tombs of Fostat, Egypt, are the proof oflarge scale Indian export of cotton textiles to the Egypt in earlier times. They were exported in the early medieval times. Some of these motifs were found similar to those mentioned in the Western Indian manuscripts in the 13th century. There are others, which have resemblance to the block printed fabrics, in Gujarat.

The silk fabric was a popular item of Indian exports to Indonesia · around the 13th century, where these were used as barter for spices. Towards the end of the 17th century, the B~itish East India Company had begun exports of Indian silks and various other cotton fabrics to other countries.

These included the famous fine Muslin cloth of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. The trade in painted and printed cottons or chintz, a favourite in the European market at that time, was extensively practised between India, China, Java and the Philippines, long before the arrival of the Europeans.

Before the introduction of mechanised means of spinning in the early 19th century; all Indian cottons and silks were hand spun and hand woven, a highly popular fabric, called the khadi.

Textile Designing
Textile is the base element of garments and it can also be a spirit of a home or office as it can change the look of an interior layout. It combines the love of colour, painting and drawing with the hands on satisfaction of working with fibre and cloth to make patterns in painted and printed forms.


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