Portal:Textile arts

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The Textile arts Portal

Portrait illustrates the practical, decorative, and social aspects of the textile arts
The textile arts are those arts and crafts that use plant, animal, or synthetic fibers to construct practical or decorative objects. Textiles cover the human body to protect it from the elements and to send social cues to other people. Textiles are used to store, secure, and protect possessions, and to soften, insulate, and decorate living spaces and surfaces.

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). Yarn can then be 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 referred to as textiles.

Textiles have been a fundamental part of human life since the beginning of civilization. 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: cotton gin, the spinning jenny, and the power loom mechanized production and led to the Luddite rebellion.

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Emir of Bukhara, Mohammed Alim Khan
Credit: Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky

Alim Khan wearing ceremonial robes in an early color photograph by Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky shot in 1911. Lavish silk and embroidery is symbolic of rank in many cultures.

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Bess of Hardwick, Countess of Shrewsbury by Rowland Lockley
Elizabeth Hardwick, or Hardwicke, Countess of Shrewsbury, known as Bess of Hardwick, (15271608) was the third surviving daughter of John Hardwick of Hardwicke in Derbyshire. She was married four times, firstly to Richard Barlow who died in his teens; secondly to the courtier Sir William Cavendish; thirdly to Sir William St. Loe; and to lastly to George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, sometime keeper to the captive Mary, Queen of Scots. An accomplished needlewoman, Bess hosted Mary at Chatsworth House for extended periods in 1569, 1570, and 1571, during which time they worked together on the Oxburgh Hangings. In 1601, Bess ordered an inventory of the household furnishings including textiles at her three properties at Chatsworth and Hardwick, which survives, and in her will she bequeathed these items to her heirs to be preserved in perpetuity. The 400-year-old collection, now known as the Hardwick Hall textiles, is the largest collection of tapestry, embroidery, canvaswork, and other textiles to have been preserved by a single private family.

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Scarf with hexagonal granny squares

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Courtier exchanging elaborate clothing for sober dress demanded by Edict of 1633
Sumptuary laws (from Latin sumptuariae leges) are laws which attempt to regulate habits of consumption. Black's Law Dictionary defines them as "Laws made for the purpose of restraining luxury or extravagance, particularly against inordinate expenditures in the matter of apparel, food, furniture, etc.". Traditionally, they were laws which regulated and reinforced social hierarchies and morals through restrictions on clothing, food, and luxury expenditures. In most times and places they were notoriously ineffectual. Throughout history, societies have used sumptuary laws for a variety of purposes. They were an easy way to identify social rank and privilege, and often were used for social discrimination. This frequently meant preventing commoners from imitating the appearance of aristocrats, and sometimes also to stigmatize disfavored groups. In the Late Middle Ages sumptuary laws were instated as a way for the nobility to cap the conspicuous consumption of the up-and-coming bourgeoisie of medieval cities, and they continued to be used for these purposes well into the seventeenth century.

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Charles Dickens
"Is that his child?" said Madame Defarge, stopping in her work for the first time, and pointing her knitting-needle at little Lucie as if it were the finger of Fate.

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