Textiles / Textile Definition: Definitions for the Clothing & Textile Industry

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A textile is any kind of woven, knitted, knotted (as in macrame) or tufted cloth, or a non-woven fabric (a cloth made of fibers that have been bonded into a fabric, e.g. felt).

Textile also refers to the yarns, threads and wools that can be spun, woven, tufted, tied and otherwise used to manufacture cloth. The production of textiles is an ancient art, whose speed and scale of production has been altered almost beyond recognition by mass-production and the introduction of modern manufacturing techniques. An ancient Roman weaver would have no problem recognizing a plain weave, twill, or satin.

Many textiles have been in use for millennia, while others use artificial fibers and are recent inventions. The range of fibers has increased in the last 100 years. The first synthetics were made in the 1920s and 1930s.

Textiles can be made from a variety of materials. The following is a partial list of the materials that can be used to make textiles.

Animal origin


   Angora rabbit hair

   Camel hair




   Vicuana hair

Wool : divided into woollen and worsted


   Bark cloth has various uses, and is used in sheets.

   Coir: the fiber from coconuts.


   Grass, rush and straw

   Hemp (mostly used in rope making)



   Linen, made from flax

   Nettle: processed in a similar manner to flax.


   Seaweed: a water soluble fiber (alginate) is produced. This is used as a holding fiber in the production of certain textiles: when the cloth is finished the alginate is dissolved, leaving an open area.


Derived from plant products

  • Paper


Asbestos: now has very limited uses.

Glass fibers can be used in the manufacture of textiles for insulation and other purposes.

Metal fiber, metal wire and metal foil have some uses in textiles, either on their own or with other materials (see, for example, goldwork embroidery).

A vast range of man-made fibers can be used in textile manufacture, including:

Acrylic fiber


Spandex, tactel, lycra and other 'stretch' fabrics

Nylon fiber

Polyester fiber

Polypropylene (comes under various common trade names such as Olefin or Herculon)

Rayon fiber

Ways of making textiles


usually by hand.

threads which are added to the surface of a finished textile.

fibers are matted together to produce a cloth.

by hand or on knitting machines.

Knotting, including macrame: used in making nets.

again both hand made and machine made.

Pile fabrics

carpets and some rugs

Velvet, velveteen, plush fabrics and similar have a secondary set of yarns which provide a pile.

Weaving the cloth is prepared on a loom, of which there are a number of types. Some weaving is still done by hand, but the vast majority is machine made.


where the natural or original color of the textile is removed with bleach.

adding color to textiles: there is a vast range of dyes, natural and synthetic, some of which require mordants.

Waterproofing and other finishing.


Uses of textiles

Textiles have been used in almost every possible context where their properties are useful. In cleaning

Bags and other means of carrying objects

Balloons, kites, sails, parachutes and other transport use. Early airplanes  used cloth as part of the construction.



Furnishings, including towels and table cloths


Industrial and scientific uses, including filtering


Rugs and carpets



Learn about Textile Recycling.

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Textile & Clothing definitions and Glossaries:

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