A textile (often called cloth or fabric) is a flexible artificial material made up of a network of natural or artificial fibers (thread or yarn) formed by weaving or knitting (textiles), or pressed into felt. The words fabric and material are commonly used in the textile assembly trades such as tailoring and dressmaking, as synonyms for cloth. However, they are words with much more general meanings. The term is also used to describe a particular type of hardback bookbinding, originally meaning that the surface of the cover was made using "cloth".
Classes of textiles include woven, crocheted, knitted, knotted (as in macramé) or tufted cloth, and non-woven fabrics such as felt. Materials made from fibers such as fiberglass, carbon fiber, and ceramic fiber which are infiltrated by a matrix of another material are considered fiber-reinforced composite materials.
The production of textiles is an ancient craft, whose speed and scale of production has been altered almost beyond recognition by mass-production and the introduction of modern manufacturing techniques. However, a Roman weaver would have no problem recognizing modern plain weave, twill or satin.
Many textiles have been in use for millennia, while others use artificial fibers and are recent inventions. The range of fibers has increased in the last 100 years. The first synthetics were made in the 1920s and 1930s
Sources and Types
Textiles can be made from a variety of materials. The following is a partial list of the materials that can be used to make textiles. In the past, all cloth was made from natural fibers, including plant sources such as cotton, flax, and hemp, and animal sources such as wool, hair, and silk. In the 20th century, these were supplemented by artificial fibers such as polyester and rayon.
Cloth is most often used in the manufacture of clothing, household furnishings, and art such as tapestry. Before the advent of woven cloth, the functions of textiles were fulfilled by furs and skins.
Cloth is most often but not always dyed, with fabrics available in every color. Colored designs in fabric can be created by weaving strands of different colors (plaid) and adding colored stitches to finished fabric (embroidery), but also by using various printing processes on finished fabric. The hobby of machine embroidery has become popular in the last few years, thanks to less expensive home embroidery machines.
Since the 1990s, finishing agents have been used to strengthen fabrics and make them wrinkle free.
Types of Cloth
Cloth is made in many various strengths and degrees of durability, from the finest gossamer fabrics to sturdy canvas sails. The relative thickness of fibers in cloth is measured in deniers. Microfiber refers to fibers made of strands thinner than one denier.
Fibers Derived from Animals
Angora rabbit hair
Wool: divided into woolen and worsted
Bark cloth has various uses, and is used in sheets.
Bamboo fiber from bamboo.
Coir: the fiber from coconuts.
Shell of Coconut
Grass, rush and straw
Hemp (mostly used in rope making)
Linen, made from flax
Nettle: processed in a similar manner to flax.
Seaweed: a water soluble fiber (alginate) is produced. This is used as a holding fiber in the production of certain textiles: when the cloth is finished the alginate is dissolved, leaving an open area.
Fibers Derived from Plant Products
Piña (pineapple fiber)
Glass fibers can be used in the manufacture of textiles for insulation and other purposes.
Metal fiber, metal wire and metal foil have some uses in textiles, either on their own or with other materials (see, for example, gold-work embroidery).
Spandex, tactel, lycra and other 'stretch' fabrics
Polypropylene (comes under various common trade names such as Olefin or Herculon)
Crochet – usually by hand.
Felt – fibers are matted together to produce a cloth.
Knitting – by hand or on knitting machines (see stocking frame).
Knotting, including macramé: used in making nets.
Lace – again both hand made and machine made.
Pile fabrics – carpets and some rugs
Velvet, velveteen, plush fabrics and similar have a secondary set of yarns which provide a pile.
Weaving – the cloth is prepared on a loom, of which there are a number of types. Some weaving is still done by hand, but the vast majority is mechanized.
Bleaching – where the natural or original color of the textile is removed by chemicals or exposure to sunlight.
Dyeing – adding color to textiles: there is a vast range of dyes, natural and synthetic, some of which require mordants.
Embroidery – threads which are added to the surface of a finished textile for ornamentation.
Waterproofing and other finishings.
Bobbinet is a type of tulle netting similar to warp knitting.