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Timeline of clothing and textiles technology

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This timeline of clothing and textiles technology covers events relating to fiber and flexible woven material worn on the body. This includes the making, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, and manufacturing systems (technology).

Fibers and fabrics[edit]

Flax flowers

Tools and machines[edit]

Ancient and prehistoric[edit]

Mittens done in "nålebinding"
  • c. 28000 BCSewing needles in use at Kostenki in Russia.
  • c. 6500 BC – Approximate date of Naalebinding examples found in Nahal Hemar cave, Israel. This technique, which uses short separate lengths of thread, predated the invention of knitting (with its continuous lengths of thread) and requires that all of the as-yet unused thread be pulled through the loop in the sewn material.[13] This requires much greater skill than knitting in order to create a fine product.[14]
  • 4200 BC – Date of Mesolithic examples of Naalebinding found in Denmark, marking spread of technology to Northern Europe.[15]
  • 200 BC to 200 AD – Approximate date of earliest evidence of "Needle Knitting" in Peru, a form of Naalebinding that preceded local contact with the Spanish.[16]
  • 298 AD – Earliest attestation of a foot-powered loom, with a hint that the invention arose at Tarsus.[17]

Medieval period[edit]

Early modern period[edit]

Eli Whitney's original cotton gin patent, dated March 14, 1794

Late modern period[edit]

A copy of Barthélemy Thimonnier's sewing machine from about 1830
  • 1830 – Barthélemy Thimonnier develops the first functional sewing machine.
  • 1833 – Walter Hunt invents the lockstitch sewing machine but, dissatisfied with its function, does not patent it.
  • 1842 – Lancashire Loom developed by Bullough and Kenworthy, a semi automatic Power loom.
  • 1842 – John Greenough patents the first sewing machine in the United States.
  • 1844 – John Smith of Salford granted a patent for a shuttleless rapier loom.[citation needed]
  • 1846 – John Livesey adapts John Heathcoat's bobbinet machine into the curtain machine
  • 1847 – William Mason Patents his "Mason self-acting" Mule.
  • 1849 – Matthew Townsend patents the variant of latch needle which has been the most widely used needle in weft knitting machines.
  • 1855 – Redgate combines a circular loom with a warp knitting machine
  • 1856 – Thomas Jeacock of Leicester patented the tubular pipe compound needle.
  • 1857 – Luke Barton introduces a self-acting narrowing mechanism on S. Wise's knitting machine.
  • 1857 – Arthur Paget patents a multi-head knitting machine called "Paget-machine".
  • 1859 – Wilhelm Barfuss improves on Redgates machine, called Raschel machines (named after the French actress Élisabeth Félice Rachel).
  • 1864 – William Cotton patents the straight bar knitting machine named after him ("Cotton machine").
  • 1865 – The American Isaac Wixom Lamb patents the flat knitting machine using latch needles.
  • 1865 – Clay invents the double-headed latch needle which has enabled to create purl stitch knitting.
  • 1866 – The American Mac Nary patents the circular knitting machine (with vertical needles) for fabrication of socks and stockings with heel and toe pouches.
  • 1878 – Henry Griswold adds a second set of needles (horizontal needles) to the circular knitting machine enabling knitting of rib fabrics as cuff for socks.
  • 1881 – Pierre Durand invents the tubular pipe compound needle.
  • 1890s – Development of the Barmen machine


  • 1889 – Northrop Loom: Draper Corporation, First automatic bobbin changing weaving loom placed in production. Over 700,000 would be sold worldwide.
  • 1900 – Heinrich Stoll creates the flat bed purl knitting machine.
  • 1910 – Spiers invents the circular bed purl knitting machine.
  • c. 1920 – Hattersley loom developed by George Hattersley and Sons.
  • 1924 – Celanese Corporation produces the first acetate fiber.
  • 1928 – International Bureau of Standardization of Man Made Fibers founded.[24]
  • 1939 – US passes Wool Products Labeling Act, requiring truthful labeling of wool products according to origin.[25]
  • 1940 – Spectrophotometer invented, with impact on commercial textile dye processes.
  • 1942 – First patent for fabric singeing awarded in US.[26]
  • 1949 – Heinrich Mauersberger invents the sewing-knitting technique and his "Malimo" machine.
  • 1955 – Research begins on multi-phase weft insertion. Successful examples will not exist until the 80s and late 90s.[27]
  • 1956 – Du Pont Introduces a process for spinning sheaf yarn, a precursor to air-jet spinning.[28]
  • c. 1960s. Existing machines become outfitted with computerized numeric control (CNC) systems, enabling more accurate and efficient actuation.
  • 1960 – US passes Textile Fiber Products Identification Act, dealing with mandatory content disclosure in labelling, invoicing, and advertising of textile products.[29]
  • 1963 – Open-end spinning developed in Czechoslovakia.
  • 1965 – Dunlop Rubber awarded patent for polyurethane sheets fused together using ultrasonic vibrations, a precursor to fusing of coated textiles.[30]
  • 1968 – Control device for the knives of a pleating machine patented in Germany.[31]
  • 1979 – Murata manufacturing demonstrates air splicing of yarn.[32]
  • c. 1981 – Air jet spinning enters the US market.[33]
  • 1983 – Bonas Machine Company Ltd. presents the first computer-controlled, electronic, Jacquard loom.[34]
  • 1988 – First US patent awarded for a "pick and place" robot.[35]

How has it evolved in current time?[edit]

The 20th century marked a new age of fashion production. The invention of the computer and robotics are the two most significant technological breakthroughs since the First Industrial Revolution. Digital technologies have introduced laser cutting, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, and robotics, allowing for the automation and digitization of many production processes.

Computer-aided design and manufacturing helped enhance fashion design and production, from fabric weaving decisions and digital printing to becoming fully automated. Computer technology allows more creative use of colors, shapes, and patterns with more detail.

Treatments, dyes, and finishes[edit]

  • 500 AD – jia xie method for resist dyeing (usually silk) using wood blocks invented in China. An upper and a lower block is made, with carved out compartments opening to the back, fitted with plugs. The cloth, usually folded a number of times, is inserted and clamped between the two blocks. By unplugging the different compartments and filling them with dyes of different colors, a multi-colored pattern can be printed over quite a large area of folded cloth.[8]
  • 600s – Oldest samples of cloth printed by woodblock printing from Egypt.
  • 1799 – Charles Tennant discovers and patents bleaching powder.
  • 1856 – William Henry Perkin invents the first synthetic dye.
  • 1921 – Georges Heberlein, of Switzerland, patents a treatment of cellulose with sulfuric acid to create organdy.[36]
  • c. 1945-1970 – Antimicrobial research enters a "golden" period. By the 1980s, antimicrobial treatments for textiles are developed and implemented in manufacturing.[37]
  • 1954 – Fiber reactive dye invented, with better performance for dyeing cellulosic fiber
  • 1961 – Du Pont assigned patent for yarn fasciation.[38]
  • 1967 – Dow Chemical Co patents method for treating textile materials with a fluorocarbon resin, offering water, oil, and stain repellency.[39]
  • 1970 – Superwash acid treatment of wool creates a more durable material that does not shrink in laundry.
  • 1979 – US DoD's Natick Labs grants multi-millions of dollars for research in chemical and biological protection garments.[40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Roberts, Siobhan (9 April 2020). "Early String Ties Us to Neanderthals - A 50,000-year-old fragment of cord hints at the cognitive abilities of our ancient hominid cousins". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
  2. ^ Hardy, B.L.; et al. (9 April 2020). "Direct evidence of Neanderthal fibre technology and its cognitive and behavioral implications". Scientific Reports. 10 (4889): 4889. Bibcode:2020NatSR..10.4889H. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-61839-w. PMC 7145842. PMID 32273518.
  3. ^ a b Lambert, Joseph B. (2008-08-06). Traces of the Past: Unraveling the Secrets of Archaeology Through Chemistry. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0786725731.
  4. ^ a b c Jenkins 2003, pp. 39–47.
  5. ^ Roche, Julian (1994). The International Cotton Trade. Cambridge, England: Woodhead Publishing Ltd. p. 5.
  6. ^ Jenkins 2003, pp. 30–39.
  7. ^ Bernstein, Richard (13 January 1999). "BOOKS OF THE TIMES; Silent Giants as Guides on an Ancient Thoroughfare". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 August 2017.
  8. ^ a b Shelagh Vauinker in Anne Farrer (ed), "Caves of the Thousand Buddhas", 1990, British Museum publications, ISBN 0-7141-1447-2
  9. ^ Pedersen & Nosch 2009, p. ix.
  10. ^ Reigate, Emily (1986). An Illustrated Guide to Lace (1988 ed.). WoodBridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors Club. p. 11. ISBN 1851490035.
  11. ^ Le Robert: Dictionnaire historique de la langue française (in French). Vol. 1. Dictionnaires Le Robert. 2000. p. 352. ISBN 2-85036-532-7.
  12. ^ MacLochlainn, Jason (2011). The Victorian Tailor: An Introduction to Period Tailoring. St. Martin's Griffin. p. 49. ISBN 9780312642334.
  13. ^ Barber 1991.
  14. ^ a b Theaker 2006.
  15. ^ Bender 1990.
  16. ^ Bennett & Bird 1960.
  17. ^ D.L.Carroll Dating the Foot-powered loom: the Coptic evidence American Journal of Archaeology 1985 vol. 89; 168-73
  18. ^ Lakwete, Angela (2003). Inventing the Cotton Gin: Machine and Myth in Antebellum America. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 1–6. ISBN 9780801873942.
  19. ^ Smith, C. Wayne; Cothren, J. Tom (1999). Cotton: Origin, History, Technology, and Production. Vol. 4. John Wiley & Sons. pp. viii. ISBN 978-0471180456. The first improvement in spinning technology was the spinning wheel, which was invented in India between 500 and 1000 A.D.
  20. ^ Pacey, Arnold (1991) [1990]. Technology in World Civilization: A Thousand-Year History (First MIT Press paperback ed.). Cambridge MA: The MIT Press.
  21. ^ Baber, Zaheer (1996). The Science of Empire: Scientific Knowledge, Civilization, and Colonial Rule in India. Albany: State University of New York Press. p. 57. ISBN 0-7914-2919-9.
  22. ^ Habib 2011, p. 53.
  23. ^ Habib 2011, pp. 53–54.
  24. ^ "HOME". BISFA - The International Bureau Of Standardization Of Man-Made Fibres. Retrieved 2023-01-31.
  25. ^ "Wool Products Labeling Act". 12 August 2013.
  26. ^ US 38302041A, Hanes Spencer Booe, published 1942-02-24 
  27. ^ Matsuo, 2008.
  28. ^ Basu, A. (1999). "Progress In Air-Jet Spinning". Textile Progress. 29 (3): 1–38. doi:10.1080/00405169908688877.
  29. ^ Jerde, 1992
  30. ^ US 3483073A, published 1965-07-24 
  31. ^ DE 1810719A1, published 1968-11-19 
  32. ^ Matsuo, 2008
  33. ^ Jerde, 1992.
  34. ^ "About us | Bonas". Vandewiele (which owns Bonas.com).
  35. ^ US 4872258A, Philip A Ragard, published 1988-09-22 
  36. ^ Color Trade Journal and Textile Chemist: Devoted to the Interests of the Manufacturers and Users of American Dyestuffs and Processors of Textile Fibers and Fabrics. Volume=11-12
  37. ^ Ventola C. L. (2015). "The Antibiotic Resistance Crisis, Part 1: Causes and Threats". Pharmacy and Therapeutics. 40 (4): 277–283. PMC 4378521. PMID 25859123.
  38. ^ US 3079746A, Jr Frederick C Field, published 1961-10-23 
  39. ^ US 3540924, Dow chemical Co, published 1967-12-15 
  40. ^ Wartell, MA; Kleinman, MT & Huey, BM (1999). Strategies to Protect the Health of Deployed U.S. Forces: Force Protection and Decontamination. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US).


  • Barber, E. J. W. Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages with special reference to the Aegean. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1991. ISBN 0-691-03597-0 (Barber 1991)
  • Barber, Elizabeth Wayland. Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times. W. W. Norton & Company, new edition, 1995. (Barber 1995)
  • Bender Jørgensen, Lise. 'Stone-Age Textiles in North Europe'. In Textiles in Northern Archaeology, Textile Symposium in York, North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles Monograph 3 (NESAT III). London Archetype Publications, 1990. ISBN 1-873132-05-0
  • Bennett, Wendell C. & Bird, Junius B. Andean Culture History. Handbook Series No. 15. Second and revised edition. ©The American Museum of Natural History. A publication of the Anthropological Handbook Fund, New York, 1960.
  • Habib, Irfan (2011). Economic History of Medieval India, 1200-1500. Pearson Education. ISBN 9788131727911.
  • Jenkins, David, ed. (2003). The Cambridge History of Western Textiles. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-34107-8.
  • Jerde, Judith. (1992). Encyclopedia of Textiles. Facts on File.
  • Theaker, Julie. History 101. (on the history of knitting)
  • Spencer, J. David. Knitting Technology. Pergamon Press, Oxford, 1983. ISBN 0-08-024763-6
  • Modig, Niels. Hosiery Machines. Their development, technology, and practical use. Meisenbach, Bamberg, 1988. ISBN 3-87525-048-6
  • Matsuo, T. 'Innovations in textile machine and instrument.' In Indian Journal of Fibre & Textile Research. Vol 33, September 2008, pp. 288–303.

Further reading[edit]