A brief his­tory of tex­tiles, from the Pa­le­olithic era all the way to to­day’s high-tech uses

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Decorating -

C. 32,000 BC The ear­li­est fab­rics that we know of were made by hu­man hand us­ing fi­bres from flax plants. C. 5,000 BC Ear­li­est known de­pic­tion of a boat with a mast, dat­ing from this pe­riod, has re­cently been found in the Per­sian Gulf. Cloth sails meant longer voy­ages. C. 4,400 BC The first looms were de­vel­oped in Egypt. C. 4,000 BC Silk was de­vel­oped in China, where they man­aged to keep the se­cret and re­tain the mo­nop­oly on its pro­duc­tion for around 5,000 years. C. 800 BC The an­cient Greeks de­vel­oped the warp­weighted loom, us­ing weights made of clay or stone to build up fab­rics thread by thread. C. 100 BC The Silk Road, a map of trade routes that had started around 300 BC, flour­ished, bring­ing fab­rics from all over the East to the West. 12TH CEN­TURY Wool be­came Britain’s most valu­able com­mod­ity, cre­at­ing for­tunes for some and even be­ing used to pay the ran­som for the re­turn of Richard the Lion­heart dur­ing the Third Cru­sade. 16TH CEN­TURY Lace be­came the most po­tent sta­tus sym­bol of the Euro­pean aris­toc­racy, so much so that laws were passed pro­hibit­ing com­mon­ers from wear­ing it. 18TH CEN­TURY The In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion was about more than coal and steel, as over the course of a cen­tury the spin­ning jenny, the wa­ter frame, the power loom and a host of other in­ven­tions ex­po­nen­tially in­creased the rates of tex­tile pro­duc­tion. 1858 It may have grown on Earth for be­tween ten and 20 mil­lion years, but, fi­nally, a sen­a­tor from South Carolina pro­claimed ‘Cot­ton is King’. 1862 Britain was home to two-thirds of the world’s me­chan­i­cal spin­dles and al­most half of all the coun­try’s ex­ports were yarn or cloth. 1951 The singer Bing Crosby wore a denim tuxedo made by Levi’s, un­in­ten­tion­ally paving the way for the denim jacket and chang­ing the course of fash­ion. 1969 Gore-tex was cre­ated by the Amer­i­can firm W.L. Gore and As­so­ci­ates from a finely stretched Te­flon bonded to ny­lon or polyester, al­low­ing for clothes to be breath­able and more durable in ex­treme con­di­tions. 2008 The global av­er­age for days spent wear­ing jeans was re­ported to be three and a half per week. 2015 Google de­vel­oped jeans with Levi Strauss & Co that func­tion like a touch­screen. Smart fab­ric has been her­alded as the wear­able tech of the fu­ture.

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