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Portal:Textile arts

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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, knitted 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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Chief Anotklosh (Taku) wearing a Chilkat blanket, Juneau, Alaska, ca. 1913
Credit: W.H. Case

Chilkat weaving is a traditional form of weaving practiced by Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, and other Northwest coastal tribes of Alaska and British Columbia. Chilkat blankets are worn by high-ranking tribal members on civic or ceremonial occasions, including dances.

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Betsy Ross depicted with American flag
Betsy Ross (January 1, 1752 – January 30, 1836) was an American woman said to have sewn the first American flag which incorporated stars representing the first thirteen colonies. She has attained legendary status in American culture although even in the most recent scholarship "many details [about her life] are conjecture based on research." A Pennsylvania native born to a Quaker family, she was a middle child from a large family who was apprenticed to an upholsterer after basic formal schooling. During her apprenticeship she met and married another apprentice named John Ross, eloping with him when she was 21 to avoid objections over the difference in their religious backgrounds. They married in New Jersey and opened an upholstery business together. The business suffered with the outbreak of war and her husband joined a militia, soon becoming one of the early casualties. Her meeting with George Washington is not well documented. Oral tradition maintains that she was responsible for at least one key design decision of the Americn flag by demonstrating that a five-pointed star was not too difficult to produce. She is known to have remarried a sea captain in 1777, to have had two daughters by her second husband, and to have lived to the age of 84. There is some dispute about whether the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia really was her actual residence, and in 1975 when she was to be reinterred no bones were found beneath her headstone.

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Bead crochet

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Extent of Silk Road
The Silk Road, or Silk Route, is a series of trade and cultural transmission routes that were central to cultural interaction through regions of the Asian continent connecting East and West Asia by linking traders, merchants, pilgrims, monks, soldiers, nomads and urban dwellers from China to the Mediterranean Sea during various periods of time. The trade route was initiated around 114 BC by the Han Dynasty (114 BC), although earlier trade across the continents had already existed. Geographically, the Silk Road or Silk Route is an interconnected series of ancient trade routes connecting Chang'an (today's Xi'an) in China, with Asia Minor and the Mediterranean, extending over 8,000 km (5,000 miles) on land and sea. Trade on the Silk Road was a significant factor in the development of the great civilizations of China, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Indian subcontinent, and Rome, and helped to lay the foundations for the modern world. The first person who used the terms "Seidenstraße" and "Seidenstraßen" or "Silk Road(s)" and "Silk Route(s)", was the German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen in 1877.

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Charlotte Brontë
The hour spent at Millcote was a somewhat harassing one to me. Mr. Rochester obliged me to go to a certain silk warehouse: there I was ordered to choose half-a-dozen dresses. I hated the business, I begged leave to defer it: no—it should be gone through with now. By dint of entreaties expressed in energetic whispers, I reduced the half-dozen to two: these however, he vowed he would select himself. With anxiety I watched his eye rove over the gay stores: he fixed on a rich silk of the most brilliant amethyst dye, and a superb pink satin. I told him in a new series of whispers, that he might as well buy me a gold gown and a silver bonnet at once: I should certainly never venture to wear his choice. With infinite difficulty, for he was stubborn as a stone, I persuaded him to make an exchange in favour of a sober black satin and pearl-grey silk. “It might pass for the present,” he said; “but he would yet see me glittering like a parterre.”
Glad was I to get him out of the silk warehouse, and then out of a jewellers shop: the more he bought me, the more my cheek burned with a sense of annoyance and degradation. As we re-entered the carriage, and I sat back feverish and fagged, I remembered what, in the hurry of events, dark and bright, I had wholly forgotten—the letter of my uncle, John Eyre, to Mrs. Reed: his intention to adopt me and make me his legatee. “It would, indeed, be a relief,” I thought, “if I had ever so small an independency; I never can bear being dressed like a doll by Mr. Rochester, or sitting like a second Danae with the golden shower falling daily round me.
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