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History of Textile Designing Craft Before the Industrial Revolution

Post nineteenth century ushered in an enormous transformation in the production and consumption of textiles primarily due to the industrial revolution. However, before the advent of the industrial revolution, textile designing was done in a completely different way professionally done through manually driven looms or other means. In this paper, I will demonstrate the history of textile designing craft before the industrial revolution and then try to bring out a few differences between the two.

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Even before the industrial revolution, the textile-designing industry was playing with various forms of textiles such as silk and cotton. Silk was weaved through handlooms and patterned silk textile was created. This however, was immensely expensive. The process of weaving patterns in silk too was very critical as two craftsmen had to warp the loom with thread in order to bring out any weaved design in the silk textile and two craftsmen had to weave it. Hence, velvet and silk that were patterned were of a rare kind and made only in a few centers in Europe (Quinn 11). In pre-industrialized Europe, patterned silk was the most expensive and coveted textile and textiles like brocades and damasks were pricey. Most of these expensive textiles were made in the Italian Mediterranean region from the middle ages through the renaissance (Jenkins 1090). This region remained a dominant force in the luxury textile-making region till the seventeenth century. Venice and Florence were renowned for velvets and embroidery made with gold and silver thread. In the seventeenth century, Genoa became the producer of polychrome floral velvet designs with large floral patterns weaved in the textiles following the pomegranate motif (Geijer 153; Santangelo 63). This textile produced in the pre-industrial era was not only used for clothing fashion but also for furnishing and was better known as jardinière velvet (Birrell 479). A large part of the silk weaving was done in France as Paris is one of the affluent markets of the rich textiles. An effort was made by Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1643-83) aimed to support and organization textile industry in France (Steele 21; Jenkins 679). Lyon then was one of the most important textile trading centers in France. Production was essentially supported through spinning, dyeing, and printing such as wooden block prints. In the late seventeenth century, with the annulment of the Edict of Nantes and the production center shifted from France to England, which invariably brought forth some changes in the pattern and design of the silk produced (Schoeser 235; Schorsch 46). The English silk textile designers deviated from the prevailing floral French pattern towards the more realistic floral specimen. One of the noted designers of silk in this period in England was Anna Maria Garthwaite (Abbott 272).

In the eighteenth century, a Frenchman named Philippe de Lasalle (1723-1804) a textile designer invented a removable semple that helped in weaving in larger patterns, which could be used for soft furnishings (Hafter 139). However, the French revolution seriously affected the silk weaving industry and the change in fashion towards simpler clothes led to the diminishing of the silk industry all over Europe.

Lace too was an expensive textile, secured for sumptuous consumption in the early European culture. In the seventeenth and the eighteenth century, the fashion in lace changed from simple geometrical edge of lace changed to three-dimensional needle lace a hallmark of the Baroque period. Italy monopolized the production of expensive laces in the seventeenth century. Venice was famous for gros point lace a unique and exquisite variety (Palliser 44; Powys 12). A few of the better-known laces were bobbin lace, etc (Powys 15).

Prior to the industrial revolution textile designing was a labor-intensive activity, in their houses using simple handlooms. The important textiles then produced were silk, wool, traditional fibers and then cotton. With technological innovation and the advent of spinning wheels and carding systems, textile production shifted from its labor-intensive small home-based looms to power looms.

Textile design has changed over time. One instance can be seen using the example of typography. During the seventeenth and the eighteenth century, the typography used was of various types such as fell types, Caslon, Fleischmann, Baskerville, and modern Romans. These were engraving techniques used using physical pressure with the help of block. However, with the advent of the modern industrialization and printing machines, these were pressed into metal plates and the machine engraved the typography. Similarly, in case of textiles, production was essentially handloom-based where laborers used to weave the designs in the textiles. Presently the looms have evolved tremendously. From the earlier versions of backstrap looms or warp weight loom developed in ancient times. Then the looms evolved into drawloom and handlooms. In the eighteenth century, flying shuttle was developed. However, with industrialization there arose power looms that could weave silk, cotton, or any other form of textiles. These looms were larger and therefore moved from the household premises of the weavers to the larger factory premises. The first power loom was patented by an Englishman named Edmund Cartwright that revolutionized textile production (Aspin 19). By the mid-nineteenth century, textile production shifted from labor-intensive production to machine-intensive production with one person capable of operating four looms. Further, with the invention of the jacquard loom by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1801 the manufacturing of textiles for intrinsic patterns using power looms became much easier as this loom was capable was making complex patterns like brocade, matelasse, and damask (Bradley 238). The jacquard loom replaced the drawloom and increased the speed of production. This loom also allowed to creation of graphical masterpieces on textiles with the use of prints made on paper. This process also made the use of draw boys redundant, and the weaver no longer required an assistant to pull the pattern cord. Therefore, the use of power loom in making both plain and patterned textiles incremented the speed of production considerably. The jacquard loom was also adapted to making laces and making pictorial patterns in laces was made possible (Essinger 112).

Textile dyeing technology too changed considerably with the advent of the aniline dyes, which was the first produced synthetic dye. Earlier all textile dyes were derived from natural sources such as plants, insects, and minerals, however, aniline dyes were artificially created coloring agents.

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The paper is a clear demonstration of the transformation of the textile designing and production industry through the sixteenth until after the industrial revolution. The change in the looms from handlooms to power looms brought forth a new era of textile manufacturing which was more machine intensive than labor intensive.

Works Cited

Abbott, Mary. Life Cycles in England, 1560-1720: Cradle to Grave. London: Routledge, 1996. Print.

Aspin, Chris. The Cotton Industry. London: Osprey Publishing, 2004. Print.

Birrell, Verla Leone. The textile arts, a handbook of fabric structure and design processes: ancient and modern weaving, braiding, printing, and other textile techniques. London: Harper, 1959. Print.

Bradley, Carolyn G. Western World Costume: An Outline History. New York: Courier Dover Publications, 2001. Print.

Essinger, James. Jacquard’s Web: How a hand-loom led to the birth of the information age. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2004. Print.

Geijer, Ágnes. A history of textile art. London: Sotheby Parke Bernet, 1973. Print.

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Hafter, Daryl M. “Philippe de Lasalle: From Mise-en-carte to Industrial Design.” Winterthur Portfolio, 12 (1977): 139-164. Print.

Jenkins, David. The Cambridge History of Western Textiles 2 . Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print.

Palliser, Bury. A history of lace. London: Sampson, Low, Son, and Marston, 1869. Print.

Powys, Marian. Lace and Lace Making. Toronto: Courier Dover Publications, 2002. Print.

Quinn, Bradley. Textile Futures: Fashion, Design and Technology. London: Bloomsbury, 2010. Print.

Santangelo, Antonino. A treasury of great Italian textiles. London: H. N. Abrams, 1964. Print.

Schoeser, Mary. Silk. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007. Print.

Schorsch, Anita. The Art of the weaver. London: Universe Books, 1925. Print.

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Steele, Valerie. Paris Fashion: A Cultural History. New York: Bloomsbury, 1988. Print.

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