I suppose that I have always thought of textiles as the fabrics that surround us every day of our lives.
This is a huge collection alone, from the clothes we wear to the soft furnishings, carpets and decoration in our homes.
In some parts of the world textiles are the difference between providing an income, being able to feed your family or having to live in poverty.
Textiles in their basic form are materials made by the main processes of weaving, felting, knitting or bonding. There are other processes like crochet and lace making as well. Before man invented these processes he used animal hides and plant material for his needs.
Traditionally we have used natural fibres, cotton, wool, silk and linen to produce the textiles we need but in the early 1900’s manmade fibres were produced commercially for the first time. Now we can mix the two to produce textiles that give us the best characteristics for their required use. We use elastane for its elasticity in denim jeans for example and Kevlar® for its strength and durability which is used in my motorcycle clothing and boots. Less common natural fibres are also now being developed like hemp, coir, sisal and bamboo.
We also talk about the ‘fabric of a building’, the materials that a building is constructed of. So are these materials textiles as well? They certainly can be bonded, and woven metal is used to prefabricate and strengthen them. Manmade fibreglass and natural wool are used for insulation products and traditionally wattle and daub was used to construct walls.
The only things that I would not consider to be textiles are gases and liquids as they have to be contained within another structure to be used. However I am sure that someone will be able to correct me and show me that they can be textiles too!