Textile arts

arts and crafts that use plant, animal, or synthetic fibers and fabrics to construct practical or decorative objects

Textile arts are those arts and crafts that use plant, animal, or synthetic fibers to construct practical or decorative objects. Textiles have been a fundamental part of human life since the beginning of civilization, and the methods and materials used to make them have expanded enormously, while the functions of textiles have remained the same. 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: the cotton gin, the spinning jenny, and the power loom mechanized production and led to the Luddite rebellion.

A photochrom of an elderly Irish woman using a spinning wheel, a device for spinning thread or yarn from natural or man-made fibers.


  • Rosey Grier, immortalized in needlepoint - and by my own hands to boot! If anyone would have told me that I would go from football to needlepoint, I would have laughed in their face. In fact, the whole thing started as a joke, but it's turned into one of the most enjoyable and satisfying things I've ever done. I try to turn other guys on to needlepoint wherever I go - from the dude sitting next to me on a plane to the guy working behind the scenes on a movie set. 'Smile all you want,' I tell them, 'but if you try it once, you'll keep on coming back for more,' and that's the truth brother.
  • To the education of her daughters Lady Bertram paid not the smallest attention. She had not time for such cares. She was a woman who spent her days in sitting, nicely dressed, on a sofa, doing some long piece of needlework, of little use and no beauty, thinking more of her pug than her children, but very indulgent to the latter when it did not put herself to inconvenience...
  • I thought with myself some days ago, Here I shall go home to my poor father and mother, and have nothing on my back, that will be fit for my condition; for how should your poor daughter look with a silk night-gown, silken petticoats, cambric head-clothes, fine holland linen, laced shoes that were my lady's; and fine stockings! And how in a little while must these have looked, like old cast-offs, indeed, and I looked so for wearing them! And people would have said, (for poor folks are envious as well as rich,) See there Goody Andrews's daughter, turned home from her fine place! What a tawdry figure she makes! And how well that garb becomes her poor parents' circumstances!--And how would they look upon me, thought I to myself, when they should come to be threadbare and worn out? And how should I look, even if I could purchase homespun clothes, to dwindle into them one by one, as I got them?--May be, an old silk gown, and a linsey-woolsey petticoat, and the like. So, thought I, I had better get myself at once equipped in the dress that will become my condition; and though it may look but poor to what I have been used to wear of late days, yet it will serve me, when I am with you, for a good holiday and Sunday suit; and what, by a blessing on my industry, I may, perhaps, make shift to keep up to.
  • "Is that his child?" said Madame Defarge, stopping in her work for the first time, and pointing her knitting-needle at little Lucie as if it were the finger of Fate.
  • My mother, who disliked me from the bottom of her heart, deliberately did everything, it seemed, that would strengthen and intensify my unbounded passion for freedom and a military life. She wouldn't let me walk in the garden. She wouldn't let me be away from her for even half an hour: I had to sit in her bedroom and make lace. She herself taught me to sew, to knit, and seeing that I had neither the desire nor the ability for this sort of work, that in my hands everything tore or broke, she became angry, lost control of herself, and beat me very painfully on the hands.
    • Nadezhda Durova; Translated by Mary Fleming Zirin (1989). The Cavalry Maiden: Journals of a Russian Officer in the Napoleonic Wars. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0253205492.
  • "Yes, nowadays everything is being mortgaged, or is going to be." This said, Kostanzhoglo's temper rose still further. "Out upon your factories of hats and candles!" he cried. "Out upon procuring candle-makers from London, and then turning landowners into hucksters! To think of a Russian pomiestchik, a member of the noblest of callings, conducting workshops and cotton mills! Why, it is for the wenches of towns to handle looms for muslin and lace."
  • 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.
  • By the side of a wood, in a country a long way off, ran a fine stream of water; and upon the stream there stood a mill. The miller's house was close by, and the miller, you must know, had a very beautiful daughter. She was, moreover, very shrewd and clever; and the miller was so proud of her, that he one day told the king of the land, who used to come and hunt in the wood, that his daughter could spin gold out of straw. Now this king was very fond of money; and when he heard the miller's boast his greediness was raised, and he sent for the girl to be brought before him. Then he led her to a chamber in his palace where there was a great heap of straw, and gave her a spinning-wheel, and said, 'All this must be spun into gold before morning, as you love your life.' It was in vain that the poor maiden said that it was only a silly boast of her father, for that she could do no such thing as spin straw into gold: the chamber door was locked, and she was left alone.
    • Brothers Grimm, Rumpelstiltskin. Quoted in Edgar Taylor, (1872). German Popular Stories and Fairy Tales, as Told by Gammer Grethel. Bell & Daldy, Page 68.
  • O what a tangled web we weave / When first we practise to deceive.
  • The King's colours were white and black, which he always wore in honour of the Duchess of Valentinois, who was a widow. The Duke of Ferrara and his retinue had yellow and red. Monsieur de Guise's carnation and white. It was not known at first for what reason he wore those colours, but it was soon remembered that they were the colours of a beautiful young lady whom he had been in love with, while she was a maid, and whom he yet loved though he durst not show it. The Duke de Nemours had yellow and black; why he had them could not be found out: Madam de Cleves only knew the reason of it; she remembered to have said before him she loved yellow, and that she was sorry her complexion did not suit that colour. As for the Duke, he thought he might take that colour without any indiscretion, since not being worn by Madam de Cleves it could not be suspected to be hers.
  • Asked if in her youth she had learned any craft, she said yes, to sew and spin: and in sewing and spinning, she feared no woman in Rouen.
    • Joan of Arc, Court record, (1429). Quoted in Wilfred Phillips Barrett, Thomas de Courcelles, Guillaume Manchon, Pierre Cauchon, Pierre Champion. The Trial of Jeanne D'Arc, Page 43, Gotham House. (1932)
  • He entered large halls where the carpets were of silk, the lounges and sofas covered with tapestry from Mecca, and the hangings of the most beautiful Indian stuffs of gold and silver. Then he found himself in a splendid room, with a fountain supported by golden lions. The water out of the lions' mouths turned into diamonds and pearls, and the leaping water almost touched a most beautifully-painted dome. The palace was surrounded on three sides by magnificent gardens, little lakes, and woods. Birds sang in the trees, which were netted over to keep them always there.
  • Then, going off, she sprinkled her with juice, / Which leaves of baneful aconite produce. / Touch'd with the pois'nous drug, her flowing hair / Fell to the ground, and left her temples bare; / Her usual features vanish'd from their place, / Her body lessen'd all, but most her face. / Her slender fingers, hanging on each side / With many joynts, the use of legs supply'd: / A spider's bag the rest, from which she gives / A thread, and still by constant weaving lives.
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