Learn about Textiles, More Than One Type of Fibers, and the Remarkable Textile Production

Avatar of Stephen McClelland
Updated on: Educator Review By: Michelle Connolly

The word textile generally means woven or knitted cloth. There are similar names for manufactured materials like cloth, textile, or fabric. Textiles are used for everything such as furniture, couches, and mattresses. Shelters such as tents and awnings are also made of textiles. 

Textiles are formed from fibers that can be animal-based, plant-based, or synthetic. This means that they can be made from natural fibers or man-made ones. There is a vast variety of textiles available, each with its use and design.

Textiles are commonly used for clothing. In the household, textiles are used to make towels, sheets, table linens, and carpets. There is a process to create textiles. Textile production is one of the main industries in the world. 

What is a Textile?

Textiles are materials formed from natural or synthetic fibers. They are often produced by weaving or knitting fibers together. Lace, felt, and various other kinds of cloth are considered textiles, too. Each textile is formed from fibers that have been turned into threads or cords and either woven or knitted together. 

There are two basic categories of textiles, natural and manmade. Natural textile is divided into plant-based textile and animal-based textile. They come from cotton, linen, or animal sources such as rabbit fur or even horsehair. Manmade fibers, also known as synthetic, are formed from various chemical compounds.

Animal-based fibers include:

  • Camelids
  • Feathers
  • Furs
  • Silks
  • Wools

Plant-based fibers include:

  • Cotton
  • Flax
  • Hemp
  • Jute
  • Nettle
  • Sisal

Man-made Fibers include: 

  • Acrylic
  • Kevlar
  • Nylon
  • Polyester
  • Rayon
  • Spandex

How is Textile Made?

Textiles all begin as various fibers. Fiber is a thin long hair-like material that has the suitable properties to spin it into a yarn. Fibers can be transformed into textiles through a variety of processes by spinning, Weaving, or the interlacing of fibers with one another. 

The processes can be done by hand or by machine. People often dye the thread before turning it into textiles. They can also dye or print designs on the cloth after it is made. Designs can even be added to a textile by bleaching areas and removing any dye from the threads.

There are three main steps required for fabric production. The first step is yarn, raw materials are turned into yarn and threads. Fibers are collected on a cylindrical tool called a bobbin. Nowadays, most of the spinning is done by the spinning wheel. 

The second step is called weaving. It involves joining these individual threads together to form the fabric. Weaving is made on a machine known as a loom and requires two sets of yarn. The two sets are called warp and weft. 

Warp is the thread that usually runs vertically. The threads usually go horizontally and pass over or under the warp to create the weaving pattern. The loom itself is managed by a computer. 

Here comes the final step, which is processing. Fabric is removed from the loom. Fabric in this stage is called greige. It seems nothing like the crisp white sheets or clothing. Fabric is treated with bleach to purify the color. Then, various chemicals are used to take off the oils or wax.

Here are some samples for textiles:

  • Brocade
  • Burlap
  • Calico
  • Canvas
  • Corduroy
  • Crepe
  • Denim
  • Eyelet
  • Fake fur
  • Felt
  • Flannel
  • Gingham
  • Herringbone
  • Lycra/spandex
  • Muslin
  • Organza
  • Paisley
  • Poplin
  • Polyester
  • Satin
  • Seersucker
  • Taffeta
  • Tartan
  • Terrycloth
  • Velvet

Working Conditions for Mill Workers

Working in a mill is considered a hard job. Workers have to work long hours. They work from 10 to 18 hours per day. They sometimes have to work overtime to meet the deadlines. This job is popular in developing countries.

They work in a deafening noise. There is dust and lint everywhere. They have to work in a high temperature and humidity. Children as well work in mills. They work as cleaners which is a very dangerous job. They have to crawl under the machines to clean.

Textile Art 

Textile art is an art that uses varying materials and fibers to produce decorative, artistic objects. Textile art goes back as far as 500,000 years ago. Domestic culture reflects in the prints of the clothes. As civilizations developed, the materials used to make textiles and art changed.

Let’s have a look at some of the most notable global textiles: 

Batik: Indonesia

Batik is the technique of adding dye-resistant wax to the cloth before the dyeing process to create unique patterns and designs. The methods of traditional batik go back to Egypt, China, India, and Japan but it is the traditional Indonesian batik that is most valued around the world.

Canting is used to draw the pattern on the fabric. Patterns are first drawn with pencils, then with hot wax. First, the wax is added. Then, the dye is added to the wax. It is left to dry. Finally, wax is added to the parts of the fabric to keep the colour. 

Batiks which are made by craftsmen are more expensive than those made by machines. Traditional designs are worn by certain classes or for certain purposes. For example, the bride and the groom wear sido Mukti. 

How to Make a Batik Craft

Supplies needed:

  • White or light-coloured bag
  • Washable white glue
  • Fabric paint
  • Pencil
  • Plastic wrap


1- Get the white bag

2- Sketch the desired design on the fabric

3- Place plastic wrap under the fabric in case the glue seeps through

4- Apply the white glue along the lines of the design

5- Let the glue dry

6- Prepare two or more colours of fabric paint on the palette.

7- Paint the fabric 

8- Let the paint dry

9- Remove the glue by soaking in water or by peeling off the dry glue.

10- Iron the fabric after it dries.

Mola Applique: Panama

The mola is one of Panama’s best-known handicrafts. The layers of glowingly-coloured fabric form animals or geometric shapes, and are used to decorate the blouses of Kuna women. Guna women have been sewing mola blouses since the beginning of the 20th century.

How to Make a Mola Craft:

 Supplies needed:

  • Sheet of paper
  • Pencil 
  • Glue 
  • Sketch
  • Scissors


1- Outline the animal onto the sheet of paper

2- Cut the outline out

3- Trace the figure onto another paper

4- Cut out one of the figures slightly smaller than the first, and glue them together

5- Create layers of shapes to glue onto the figure

6- Glue the figure onto the background

7- Decorate the background with additional geometric shapes

Fair Isle Knits: Scotland

Fair Isle knitting is probably the most commonly recognized knitting technique. It is characterized by particular patterns and specific tools. It is derived from a tiny island in northern Scotland. 

How to knit a fair isle:


– Set of knitting needles

– Skeins of yarn (different colours)


1- Start Your Fair Isle Knitting Swatch: 

2- For the first row of the pattern, knit one stitch in the background color.

3- Leave a tail for weaving in and simply begin knitting

4- Change Back to the First Color

5- Continue on the chart and change colours when needed

6- Check Your Work on Purl Rows

7- Finishing Your Fair Isle Project

Adinkra Cloth: Ghana

Adinkra cloth is the traditional funerary dress of the Asante peoples of Ghana. It is one of the most beautiful patterns to come from Africa. They are made by hand, stamped with traditional symbols. By the time, the Ashanti people used the cloth to express their attitudes toward depicted figures, record historical events, represent popular proverbs, or simply tell a story.

If the cloth is used in funerary time, it must be dyed red, russet brown, or a dark blue-black. Adinkra cloths that remain white or are printed on a brightly colored fabric are designated “Sunday adinkra,” and are not used during funerals, but rather as festive dresses for a variety of special occasions. 

There are many Adinkra symbols and each of them has different meanings. A design with four spiraling forms expanded from the center represents the maxim: “A ram fights with his heart and not his horns,” suggesting that strength of character is more important than the weapons one uses.

How to make an Adinkra

Supplies needed:

Fun foam sheets/ kitchen sponge

Acrylic paint


Large paper

Handouts of real symbols


1- Cut out the design and glue it onto a square of thick cardboard.

2- Paint the sponge stamp or the fun foam sheet with acrylic paint

3- Test the stamp

4- Simply print it on large paper and build up the design

Weaving: Guatemala

The art of weaving is one of the artistic and cultural Mayan traditions which lasts until the present times. In Guatemala, they practiced waist loom, which is a tool made of wood with two ends. 

One of the ends is tied to a tree or any object where the loom is firmly held, while the other end is wrapped around the knitter’s waist, who sits on her knees. In the time being, in Guatemala, it is mainly women who weave and dress in traditional dresses at the waist loom.

How to make Guatemala:

  • 1 cardstock paper 
  • Ruler
  • Colored paper
  • Scissors
  • Ribbon
  • Lamination sheet


  1. Fold the cardstock horizontally in half twice    
  2. Fold each half again in the middle                     
  3. Cut 4 lines horizontally
  4. Unfold the cardstock
  5. Cut the colored papers into strips
  6. Insert the colored strips into the slits using up and down technique
  7. Finally, laminate the cardstock paper to keep the strips in place

Kente Cloth: Ghana

Ghana has a great history of amazing textiles. The word kente means basket. It is a hand-woven cloth originally from the Ashanti Kingdom, in Ghana. It is one of the most remarkable textiles in Africa because of the popularity of colors and patterns.

It was worn by royalty and other highly respected people. Nowadays, it is worn by everyone, especially in special occasions. Men and women use the kente cloth but differently. Men wore the kente as toga while women the fabric as a wrap-around skirt, blouse, and shawl.

Kente colors are symbolic; they represent various ideas and concepts. Here is a list of colors and what they symbolize:

  • Black represents strong spiritual energy
  • Blue represents love, fortune, peacefulness, harmony
  • green represents plants, harvesting, growth, good health
  • Gold represents royalty, wealth, high status, purity
  • Grey reflects healing and cleansing rituals; associated with ash
  • maroon/purple represents mother earth; associated with healing and protection
  • Pink represents the female essence of life; mild, gentle, tender
  • Red represents strong political moods; bloodshed; death
  • Silver represents serenity, purity, joy; associated with the moon
  • White represents purification, healing; festive occasions
  • Yellow represents preciousness, beauty, holiness

How to make a kente:


  • Colored construction paper
  • scissors
  • Glue
  • Paint brushes
  • Thick white paper


  1. Draw stripes and patterns on the white paper
  2. Paint some designs on the construction paper, strips, or zigzag
  3. Cut the strips the long way
  4. Finally, weave, Insert the colored strips into the slits using over and down technique. 

What is E-Textile?

It is an interesting new field of electronics that uses electronics in textiles to add function, decoration, or both. It is also called smart textiles, wearable fashion, efashion, or smart fabrics. 

E-textiles could be embedded with sensors, batteries, LEDs, and hands-free computing devices, depending on the reason. Smart fashion is now popular even among people who don’t have a technical background.

E-textile would be of great use when it is applied as a medical device. Sensors can be embedded to track blood pressure, heart rate, or pulse pressure. Sensors can also be used to give notifications of any abnormal issues. 

E-Textile Projects

How to make a detachable patch:


  • Felt
  • Sewable coin battery holder with 2 positive and 2 negative pins
  • Sewable LED’s
  • Conductive thread
  • Sewing needle
  • Masking tape
  • Clear nail polish
  • Heart design pattern


  1. Trace around the design and cut out the pieces 
  2. Layout your components matching the positive + and negative – symbols with the little plus and minus at each end.
  3. Tape everything down
  4. Use a pen to draw in your circuit from the battery holder to each pin of the components
  5. Sew the circuit
  6. Make the thread tight over the pins and the battery
  7. Remember to remove the tape
  8. Flip the design over and use the nail polish to dab on the knots to keep them in place
  9. Insert the battery and check all of the lights 
  10. Add the cover, sew or glue it
  11. Decorate the cover
  12. Attach the patch to the piece of cloth (t-shirt, dress, denim….etc) or any toy

What Do You Know About Inca Textiles?

Inca civilization was considered the largest pre-Columbian civilization in the Americas. It had a population of between 6-14 million people. Inca weavers were the most skilled weavers in the Americas. 

Inca textiles were considered the most precious gifts. The basic colors used in Inca textiles were black, white, green, yellow, orange, purple, and red. Blue was rarely used. Colors have various significances.

Red represents conquest, rulership, and blood. Green reflects rainforests and agricultural growth. Black symbolizes death. Yellow represents maize or gold. These colors originated from natural dyes that were extracted from plants, minerals, and insects.

They used abstract geometric designs. They sometimes use snakes, birds, sea creatures, and plants. They sometimes have fixed designs for family groups. They also used tassels, brocade, feathers, and beads of precious metal or shell for decoration.

Indian Textile

Indian textile has a vast variety of fabric crafts. There are 29 states and 7 union territories each has its own unique craft. Fabrics like cotton and silk are used in textile. They trade the unique textile with the rest of the world. Here are some of the Indian textile crafts:

Dabu from Rajasthan

Dabu or daboo is an ancient mud resist hand block printing technique from Rajasthan. It is said that it is much like Batik, however, the technique is completely different for both. The process of printing dabu involves multiple stages of printing, washing, and dyeing.

Materials used for daboo printing:

  • Plain fabric
  • Mud
  • Gum
  • lime 
  • waste wheat chaff 
  • fast dyes
  • Printing blocks

Printing process:

  • Washing the plain fabric to get rid of any impurities
  • Hand printing carefully onto the fabric using blocks after dipping into fast dyes
  • Using mud resist 
  • Tapping over specific parts of the design
  • Drying the paste with colored sawdust
  • Drying out the fabric in the sun
  • Plunging the fabric into a bowl of dye
  • Drying the fiber again
  • Washing the fabric to remove any extra dye

Natural dyes are used like grey-brown, blue, and red. Natural dyes are made from fruits and vegetables. Various designs are used originated from nature like fruits and flowers. Geometric shapes are also used.

Indigo from Akola and Bagru

Indigo is one of the favorite Indian textiles for people. The flourishing deep blue dye is derived from inidgofera tinctoria plant. Craftsmen produce a small amount of indigo per day for the sake of quality.

The material used for Indigo printing:

  • Hand-block printing tables
  • A mixture of mud and tree gum
  • Deep blue dye

The process of Indigo printing:

  1. Washing the fabric and soaking it for 36 hours
  2. Drying the fabric to become soft and absorbable
  3. Placing the fabric on the hand block printing tables (or printing the carved hand-blocks after dipping them in a mixture of mud and tree gum)
  4. Dipping the fabric into the deep blue dye

Textile in Construction

Textiles became a part of the construction industry. Textile structures are used in a vast range of constructional applications. Here are some examples of using textile in construction:

  • Whitney Museum of American Art
  • DAR LUZ installation in Eindhoven
  • Tahari Showroom, New York
  • ‘Tubaloon’ textile sculpture for the Kongsberg Jazz Festival
  • Venezuelan pavilion
  • Hyparform vertical sails
  • Swiss pavilion at EXPO Shanghai 2010
  • Loro Parque open-air aviary on Tenerife
  • Architonic Concept Space at imm cologne 2008


The word textile generally means woven or knitted cloth. textiles are used for everything in our life, for example, towels and sheets. They are made up of fibers that can be animal-based, plant-based, or synthetic. There are two basic categories of textiles, natural and manmade. 

Textile Art reflects the cultures and civilizations of the countries. There are various global textiles like Indian, Indonesian, and Ghanian unique textiles. With the spread of technology all over the world, there are new fields of textile that appeared like E-Textile. 

Textile Art also reflects the unique cultures and civilizations of different countries, like India, Indonesia, and Ghana. 

Why not subscribe to our LearningMole Library for as little as £1.99 per month to access over 1000 fun educational videos.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *