When you got up this morning, you likely threw off the bed covers. Then, you went into the bathroom where you stepped on a floor mat or throw rug. After leaving the bathroom, you probably put on some clothes. Then, you had your breakfast at a table sat down at a table that may have been covered with a tablecloth. While traveling to work, you probably sat on a bus, car or train seat. Once at work, you may have transitioned to an upholstered office chair.
Those bed, chair, floor, and table coverings (along with your clothes) are all examples of textiles. Textiles are materials made of natural or synthetic fibers.
Fibers in Textiles
Textiles are made up of fibers which can be animal-based, plant-based, or synthetic.
Animal-based fibers include:
- Silks, and
Plant-based fibers include:
- Nettle, and
And with the advent of modern technology, there are many synthetic fibers, or man-made fibers, that have been used to make textiles, including:
- Rayon, and
Manufacture of Fibers
Fibers can be transformed into textiles through a variety of processes. One of the earliest processes was by spinning, which involves twisting and winding fibers together to make a string or yarn. Weaving, or the interlacing of fibers with one another to make a mesh is another method for producing textiles. By comparison, felting is the process of using a combination of heat, moisture, movement, and pressure to create a mat or sheet of fibers.
If that last process is hard to imagine, think about someone with a head of long hair who neglects to brush it. Most likely, their hair will develop bunches of tangles that will eventually become flattened and matted, an end result of what happens to the fibers in felting.
End Uses & Examples
The end use of a textile depends on its fiber content. For example, cotton terrycloth may end up as a bath towel. Textiles can also be dyed and embroidered to produce decorative rugs and even wall-art. They can even be found in the fabric in the ceiling of your car. Actually, a car's entire body may be made of glass fibers!
Other end uses of textiles include bullet proof vests, duct tape, mountain-climbing ropes, and the carbon fiber shaft of a golf club. Textiles are even used in medicine. For example, they can be used to make artificial arteries, the parts of your body that carry oxygenated blood.
Let's review. Textiles are materials made of natural or synthetic fibers. These fibers can be animal-based (silk and wool), plant-based (cotton, flax, and hemp, among others), or synthetic (Kevlar, nylon, polyester, rayon, and spandex, among others).
Manufacturing processes used to convert fibers into textiles include in felting, spinning, and weaving. Textiles can keep you warm in winter, may be found in the car that you drive, and even save your life when used in medicine.