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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, 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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Detail of The Family of Henry VIII, now at Hampton Court Palace
Credit: Unknown author (public domain)

Henry VIII of England, flanked by his third wife Jane Seymour and their son, the future Edward VI, is seated on a throne beneath a tapestry baldachin or cloth of state woven with Henry's monogram and coat of arms.

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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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Knitta on utility pole

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Detail of a Byzantine silk with a pattern of quadrigas (four-horse chariots) in roundels, from the tomb of Charlemagne, Aachen.  Musée National du Moyen Age, Cluny, Paris
Byzantine silk is silk woven in the Byzantine Empire (Byzantium) from about the 4th century until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.

The Byzantine capital of Constantinople was the first significant silk-weaving center in Europe. Silk was one of the most important commodities in the Byzantine economy, used by the state both as a means of payment and of diplomacy.[1] Raw silk was bought from China and made up into fine fabrics that commanded high prices throughout the world. Later, silkworms were smuggled into the empire and the overland silk trade gradually became less important. After the reign of Justinian I, the manufacture and sale of silk became an imperial monopoly, only processed in imperial factories, and sold to authorized buyers.[1] Byzantine silks are significant for their brilliant colours, use of gold thread, and intricate designs that approach the pictorial complexity of embroidery in loom-woven fabric.[2] Byzantium dominated silk production in Europe throughout the Early Middle Ages, until the establishment of the Italian silk-weaving industry in the 12th century and the conquest and break-up of the Byzantine Empire in the Fourth Crusade (1204).

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The Scarlet Letter
Her attire, which indeed, she had wrought for the occasion in prison, and had modelled much after her own fancy, seemed to express the attitude of her spirit, the desperate recklessness of her mood, by its wild and picturesque peculiarity. But the point which drew all eyes, and, as it were, transfigured the wearer--so that both men and women who had been familiarly acquainted with Hester Prynne were now impressed as if they beheld her for the first time--was that SCARLET LETTER, so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom. It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by herself.
"She hath good skill at her needle, that's certain," remarked one of her female spectators; "but did ever a woman, before this brazen hussy, contrive such a way of showing it? Why, gossips, what is it but to laugh in the faces of our godly magistrates, and make a pride out of what they, worthy gentlemen, meant for a punishment?"
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  1. ^ a b Laiou, Angeliki. "Exchange and Trade". In Laiou (2002), p. 703
  2. ^ Schoeser (2007), p. 27
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