Sunday, March 13, 2011

V1C3 Heritage of the Weaver's Art

A little history about textiles:

     The first cloth, in prehistoric times was felted animal fibers.  It is unknown when the technology of woven fibers evolved.   There have been paintings discovered in 8,000 year old Egyptian tombs of nomads dressed in woven robes featuring geometric designs.   Even prior to that time cloth was loosely woven with fibers that had been crudely twisted together.  As need and innovation progressed, distaff and spindle developed to spin the fiber more evenly and uniformly; a loom was developed to hold warp thread so the woof thread could be drawn through.  Loom innovations continued with many different models creating more ease in the weaving so the work would be completed more efficiently.

     Weavers developed different weaves-- a plain weave, a twill weave, and a satin weave.  Plain weave is simply a the woof yarn woven over and under, twill is where the woof passes over two or more warp yarns before woven over and under and satin is where the warp is over a number of woof yarns before being passed through.  These weaves are still basic for fabrics in the natural fibers: cotton, wool, flax and silk as well as synthetics.

     The creation of fabrics before synthetics and in history was vital to a nations industry and trade.  In fact there were draconian laws passed to protect the process of production and sourcing.  In China it was death by torture to share the secret of silk making outside of the country.  In the Middle Ages, the penalty for smuggling wool out of England was exile and even the nobility were instructed as to how many garments they may own.   Regulations covered every step of manufacturing: standards of quality, conditions of sale, manner of use and guilds were highly policed.   In Flanders, sellers were not allowed to consult with potential buyers -- so much that their physical proximity or careless cough would be interpreted as communication.

     While the natural fibers have been in use for centuries, the advent of the 20th century saw the creation of synthetic fibers.  The first synthetic created was rayon in 1911.  This was made by weaving long filaments of cellulose molecules.  These are very smooth fibers and produced a very tight flowing lustrous weave much like silk which was very good for evening gowns and linings, but not much else until other processes were developed to provide a texture to the fibers.   One of the reasons for the popularity of synthetics is their easy care but may be more difficult to work with or to sew and do not breathe as well in warm weather.  The solution has been to make a blend of synthetic and natural fabrics to get the best of both worlds.

The designs: circles, squares and stripes:

Geometric shape and design of the fabric is the key to a classic style.   Patterns and repetitions of patterns can be seen-- the most common is the stripe and herringbone but there are many other shapes. Squares and stripes are most common in tailored looks while circles and waves, more fluid.  It seems a continuum of more tailored and very structured shape on one and and those with more ease and drape with the more round shapes such as paisley on the other and while one may mix them, they will land in between.   As designs are larger, they must be carefully matched --for example, plaids.  After choosing a shape or design, the next step is to choose fiber content and texture.  Personally, I choose first the fiber and texture and then choose a design when I am planning a project but I can see that when one is designing a garment, they may want to choose the design first.

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