Last updated: May 11, 2019
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Long time ago, early humans discovered how to get fibers from wild plants, examples are wild flax, hemp, and nettles. Such fibers could be turned through spinning into thread and eventually made into cloth textiles. People started to weave fabric during the Neolithic Era, a period that began around 8000 b.c. Proof of early weaving comes from fragments of flax fibers found in Switzerland. In several cultures, people made cloth without weaving, by pounding sheets of bark to create a soft, flexible textile. The growth of agriculture led to the domestication of fiber plants, such as cotton, hemp, and flax.

At the same time as farmers were creating and discovering new and better methods of agriculture, life in other areas of work had changed little for hundreds of years. Near the beginning of the 18th century, the majority of the population still lived in small, rural settlements. Hardly any people lived in towns, as we now know them.

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The production of textiles calls for the capability to handle fibers, spin them into thread, and make cloth from the thread. Cloth can be created in a selection of ways, such as knotting, knitting, and braiding, but the largest part of cloth is made by weaving. More often than not, weaving is done on a loom that holds long threads (called the warp) under consistent tension so that other threads (the woof or weft) can be inserted over and under them. A lot of different types and patterns of weaving are workable, conditional on the fiber used and the composition of the threads. Ancient Egyptians wove their most primitive textiles from flax, which produced linen; in southern Europe, the earliest textiles came from wool; in China, from silk; and in India, Peru, and Cambodia, from cotton (Jerde, 1992).

A lot of people worked as producers of woolen cloth. The raw material is being cleaned, combed, spun, dyed and wove into cloth. They did this effort in their own houses. This kind of production has become recognized by the general term of the Domestic (or Cottage) Industry ( Kadolph & Langlord, 1997).

Work inside the Cottage Industry was generally divided up between the members of one family. The women and girls were in charge for cleaning the sheep fleeces, carding the wool and spinning it. The procedure of weaving was physically or bodily hard work and, customarily, it was the men who were in charge for it.

In general, like clockwork, each hand loom weaver’s cottage was visited by a cloth merchant. He would bring the raw material and carry off the finished cloth to put up for sale at the cloth hall.

The moment the new wool arrived, it was washed to clean out all the dirt and natural oil. Henceforward, it was painted or dyed with color and carded. This was the procedure of combing the wool between two parallel pads of nails, until all the fibres were lying the same way.

After that, the carded wool was taken by the spinner and, using a spinning wheel, the thread was wound onto a reel or bobbin. This part of the method was frequently carried out by the unmarried daughters of the household who were called spinsters. The word spinster still exists in English to denote an unmarried lady.

The spun yarn was then taken to the loom to be woven. Habitually, the loom was to be found on an upper floor in a weaver’s hut or cottage. There were big windows in the room to let in plenty of daylight. The loom was worked by both hand and foot movements. Working the loom was somewhat exhausting work, the reason why, by tradition, it was the work of the men of the household.

Wool was possibly the first animal fiber to be made into cloth. People started to raise sheep for wool about 6,000 years ago. Various kinds of wool, and mixtures of wool with other fibers, can be used to make tightly woven fabrics with even surfaces or more loosely woven fabrics with rougher surfaces. In a lot of Middle Eastern societies, traveling peoples beat wool into a matted fabric called felt, which they used to create clothing, saddle blankets, tents, and other useful items. Sheep-raising nomads in the Middle East also created carpets completed by knotting woolen weft threads onto a linen warp (Harris, 1993).

Woolens came to be the quality textile for European clothing during the Middle Ages, which went on from about the 5th to the 15th century. People still usually use wool for clothing, either as pure wool textiles or in blends with other fibers. Wool has a clear lead as a clothing fabric for the reason that it is warm, even when wet, and effortlessly accepts a wide range of color dyes.

China’s main involvement to world clothing has been the advance of silk thread and cloth. By 3000 bc the Chinese had domesticated silkworms, supplying them mulberry leaves and unwinding their fresh cocoons to create long strands of silk fiber. This fiber was spun into thread, and the thread was woven into cloth. By 1500 bc complex weaving methods had been made, using thread dyed in many colors. Silk is shiny, soft, and lightweight but warm, and it can effortlessly be dyed. Silk cloth dug up from tombs dating from the 2nd century bc consists of gauze (thin, with a loose knot woven fabric), twill (fabric with a woven design of parallel diagonal ribs), damask (fabric woven with patterns on both sides), brocade (heavy fabric woven with an complicated raised design), and plain cloth embroidered with different stitches. Farm women in China of the period were required to raise silkworms and create silk as part of their regular household duties.

Silk was used in China, and it was also sold abroad along the Silk Road; this earliest trade route linking China and the Roman Empire was named after the primary export carried on it. The silk trade, carried out between western Asia and the Mediterranean as early as ad 200, caused great prosperity to ancient China and supported the economies of towns along the route. China kept the technology of silk production secret; the ancient Greeks thought that silk grew on a special tree in China. Christian monks at last broke China’s monopoly on silk production in the 400s, when they smuggled silkworm eggs to Syria on their return from China.

Domesticated cotton first came into common use in ancient India in 3000 BC. A great deal of Indian cotton cloth had a simple weave to gain benefit from the material’s lightness and airiness; it was then dyed and printed physically using wood blocks that had patterns cut into them. Indian textiles have some bearing on textiles of other regions from antiquity through the modern era.

One type of printed cotton fabric, called calico by Europeans (after an Indian textile center named Calicut), was sold overseas from India to Europe in large quantities in the 16th century. Imported Indian cotton developed into very stylish and destabilized the European woolen cloth industry. This helped out fire up the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century, as Europeans attempted to improve ways of producing cotton cloth by machine more economically than it could be made by hand in India.

Textile manufacturing is one of the oldest of man’s technologies. So as to create textiles, the first necessity is a source of fiber from which a yarn can be made, principally by spinning. The yarn is processed by knitting or weaving, which transforms yarn into cloth. The machine used for weaving is the loom. For decoration, the process of coloring yarn or the finished material is dyeing.

Usual textile processing consists of 4 stages: yarn formation, fabric formation, wet processing, and fabrication.

The three major types of fibers consists of natural vegetable fibers (examples are cotton, linen, jute and hemp), artificial or man-made fibers (those made unnaturally, but from natural raw materials like rayon, acetate, Modal, cupro, and the e lately developed Lyocell), synthetic fibers (a subset of man-made fibers, which are rooted in synthetic chemicals instead of arising from natural chemicals by a purely physical process) and protein based fibers (such as wool, silk, and angora).The materials intended for clothing differ around the world. A number of textiles are better matched to a specific climate. For instance, knitted wool is more helpful in cold climates, and thin woven cotton is more practical in warm climates. For most of history, the textiles people used relied on the raw materials accessible nearby, such as flax in Egypt, cotton in India, and silk in China. Beyond concerns of utility and availability, though, people are likely to obtain regional or national identity from their most distinctive textiles, as they do from their characteristic foods. Hence, a European businessman describes himself partly by his woolen suit, an Indonesian farmer by his cotton sarong (skirt of brilliantly colored cloth, worn wrapped about the waist). For a number of years, silk-wearing Chinese people detested wool, which they deemed the fabric of uncultured people. Nowadays, such concerns of identity have faded along with international trade and international cultural exchange.

The Industrial Revolution was the most important technical or technological, socioeconomic and national change in late 18th and early 19th century Britain. In the course of that time, an economy founded on manual labor was changed by one controlled by industry and the manufacture of machinery. It started with the mechanization or the automation of the textile industries and the growth of iron-making practices, and trade expansion was allowed by the introduction of canals, better roads and then railways. The establishment of steam power (fueled chiefly by coal) and powered machinery (mostly in textile manufacturing) strengthened the remarkable increases in production capacity. The improvement of all-metal machine tools in the first two decades of the 19th century made easy the creation of more production machines for manufacturing in other industries (Stearns ; Hinshaw, 1996).

The date of the Industrial Revolution is not precise. Eric Hobsbawm stated that it started in the 1780s and wasn’t totally felt until the 1830s or 1840s, whereas T.S. Ashton believed that it took place around between 1760 and 1830 (in effect the reigns of George III, The Regency, and George IV).

The results extended all through Western Europe and North America, finally having an effect on the greater part of the world. The effect of this transformation on society was considerable and is repeatedly compared to the Neolithic revolution, when mankind discovered agriculture and gave up its way of life.

The first Industrial Revolution fused into the Second Industrial Revolution in 1850, when technological and fiscal progress put on drive with the growth of steam-powered ships and railways, and afterward in the nineteenth century with the internal combustion engine and electrical power generation.

The reasons of the Industrial Revolution were complicated and continue as a subject for discussion, with some historians considering the Revolution as a consequence of social and institutional transformations caused by the end of feudalism in Britain after the English Civil War in the 17th century. As national border controls grew to be more efficient, the spread of disease was decreased, consequently putting off the epidemics widespread in earlier times. The fraction of children who lived past infancy rose considerably, resulting to a larger labor force. Technological improvement was supreme, particularly the new invention and improvement of the steam engine.

The industry most often connected with the Industrial Revolution is the textile industry. In previous times, the spinning of yarn and the weaving of cloth took place normally in the home, with the majority of the work done by people working alone or with family members. This arrangement lasted for many centuries. In 18th-century Great Britain a series of astonishing improvements lessened and then substituted the human labor necessary to create cloth. Each development resulted dilemma elsewhere in the production process that caused more developments. Together they made a new system to supply clothing.

In the early 18th century, British textile manufacture was derived from wool which was processed by individual artisans, doing the spinning and weaving on their own premises. This system is called a cottage industry.

British historian Eric Hobsbawm sharply characterized English industrial history: “Whoever says Industrial Revolution says cotton.” Rapid industrialization changed the lives of English men and women after 1750, and transformations in cotton textiles were at the heart of this process.

The production and export of a variety of cloths were very important to the English economy in the 17th and early 18th centuries. Before the Industrial Revolution, textiles were made under the putting-out system, wherein merchant clothiers had their work done in the homes of artisans or farming families. Production was restricted by dependence on the spinning wheel and the hand looms; increases in production called for more hand workers at each stage.

In 1733 in Bury, Lancashire, John Kay created the flying shuttle — one of the first of a series of inventions that was to push Britain to being the leading industrial power of the 18th and 19th centuries. The flying shuttle improved the width of cotton cloth and speed of production of a single weaver at a loom. Struggle by workers to the supposed danger to jobs postponed the extensive introduction of this technology, albeit the higher rate of production made an increased demand for spun cotton.

In 1738, Louis Paul improved the drawing roller method to twist and spin yarn.

In 1764, James Hargreaves invented the spinning jenny which increased the spun thread production capacity of a single worker — at first eight-fold and consequently much further. Sources credit the initial invention to Thomas Highs, who had a daughter named Jenny for whom the creation might have been named. Industrial unrest and an unsuccessful attempt  to patent the invention until 1770 forced Hargreaves from Blackburn, but his lack of defense of the idea permitted the idea to be exploited by others. As a consequence, there were more than 20,000 Spinning Jennies in use by the time of his death.

Fig. 1. Above is a model of the spinning jenny in a museum in Wuppertal, Germany. The spinning jenny was one of the innovations that caused the revolution.


In 1771, Richard Arkwright made use of waterwheels to power looms for the manufacture of cotton cloth, his creation becoming known as the water frame. The water frame was created from the spinning frame that Arkwright had made with (a different) John Kay, from Warrington. (The original design was probably by Thomas Highs, again.) This he had patented in 1769 Initial efforts at driving the frame had used horse power, however, the improvement of using a waterwheel required a site with a ready supply of water. This first cotton mill was a factory similar to the Soho Manufactory. Arkwright safeguarded his investment from industrial competitors and potentially troublesome workers, and created jobs for which workers’ accommodations were constructed, resulting to a considerable industrial community. Arkwright extended his operations to other areas of the country.

In 1779, Samuel Crompton of Bolton mixed elements of the spinning jenny and water frame to set up the spinning mule. This created a stronger thread, and was fitting for mechanization on a grand scale. The same as with Kay and Hargreaves, Crompton was not able to take advantage of his invention for his own advantage, and died a pauper.

In 1784, Edmund Cartwright created the power loom, and made a model in the subsequent year. His first undertaking to develop this technology was unsuccessful, even if his advances were acknowledged by others in the industry. Others such as Robert Grimshaw (whose factory was ruined in 1790 as part of the growing reaction opposed to the mechanization of the industry) and Austin made the ideas better.

In 1803, Thomas Johnson created the dressing frame which allowed power looms to function constantly, and this stimulated the take-off of steam-powered weaving such that by 1823 there were projected to be 10,000 power looms in operation in Great Britain.

The use of water power to drive mills was rapidly accepted by many entrepreneurs, and one example is Samuel Greg. He linked with his uncle’s firm of textile merchants, and, on taking over the company in 1782; he wanted a site to set up a mill. Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire still exists as a well preserved museum, having been in use from its construction in 1784 until 1959. It shows how the mill owners abused child labor, taking orphans from nearby Manchester, but also manifested that these children were housed, clothed, fed and provided with some education. This mill also reveals the conversion from water power to steam power, with steam engines to drive the looms being installed in 1810.

Use of the spinning wheel and hand loom limited the production capacity of the industry; however, numerous incremental developments improved productivity to the extent that manufactured cotton goods became the dominant British export by the early decades of the 19th century. India was succeeded as the leading supplier of cotton goods.

Gradually, individual inventors improved the competence of the individual steps of spinning (carding, twisting and spinning, and subsequently rolling) in order that the supply of yarn fed a weaving industry that itself was expanding with enhancements to shuttles and the loom or ‘frame’. The production of an individual laborer improved considerably, with the outcome that these new machines were seen as a danger to employment, and early inventors were attacked and their creations were ruined. Time and again the inventors were not successful to use their inventions, and fell on misfortunes.

To make the most out of these developments it took a class of entrepreneurs, of which the most famous is Richard Arkwright. He is attributed with a list of inventions, but these were in fact created by people such as Thomas Highs and John Kay; Arkwright supported the inventors, patented the ideas, funded the initiatives, and safeguarded the machines. He made the cotton mill which led to the production processes together in a factory, and he created the use of power – first horse power, then water power and finally steam power – which caused cotton manufacture a mechanized industry.

Working conditions in the early British textile factories were cruel. Children, men, and women worked 68-hour work weeks on a regular basis. Frequently, factories were not airy or open and became very hot in the summer. Worker health and security policies were not observed. Workers who experienced unbearable injuries from work were merely sent home without any remuneration. The only better thing for these circumstances is that other work for inexperienced, landless persons was less constant all through the year and from year to year, and offered less opportunity for earnings growth for those who adapted well to the work.

Textile factories arranged workers’ lives much in a different way from craft production. Handloom weavers labored at their own speed, with their own tools, and inside their own cottages. Factories arrange hours of work, and the machinery within them created the pace of work. Factories resulted in people working together inside one building to work on machinery that they did not own. Factories also improved the distribution of labor. They reduced the number and extent of tasks and included children and women within a common production process.

The early textile factories made use of a large share of children, but the share decreased over time. In England and Scotland in 1788, two-thirds of the workers in 143 water-powered cotton mills were represented as children. By 1835, the share of the labor force below 18 years of age in cotton mills in England and Scotland had declined to 43%. Approximately half of workers in Manchester and Stockport cotton factories surveyed in 1818 and 1819 started work at less than ten years of age. The largest parts of the adult workers in cotton factories in mid-19th century Britain were workers who had started work as child laborers. The progress of this experienced adult factory labor force facilitates to explain for the change from child labor in textile factories.

While earning from knowledge arriving from overseas, Britain was very defensive of home-based technology. Specifically, engineers with skills in building the textile mills and machinery were not allowed to leave their country mainly to the America.

Following the establishment of the United States, an engineer who had worked as an novice to Arkwright’s partner Jedediah Strutt escaped the prohibition. In 1789, Samuel Slater carried out his abilities in designing and constructing factories to New England, and he was almost immediately participated in reproducing the textile mills that assisted America with its own industrial revolution.

Local inventions stimulated this on, and in 1793 Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, a machine that improved the processing of raw cotton by over 50 times.

Many techniques can be applied to a fabric. Besides coloring and printing, other finishes to enhance its look and service consist of treatment to help crease resistance in such textiles as cotton, linen, and spun rayons, which do not have the suppleness of silk and wool. The most recent improvements in crease-resistant finishes are the supposed durable press, or permanent press, finishes. Over and above wrinkle resistance, these finishes reveal permanent creases where desired, as in slacks. Resistance to reduction or shrinking, discoloration, and soiling also may be supplied by different chemical treatments. Other finishing processes shield against slipping of threads or destruction by mildew, moths, or flame.

Textiles may be colored in several ways: The fabrics can be colored after weaving or knitting is finished (piece-dyed), the loose fibers can be colored or dyed in a vat (stock-dyed), or the yarn or filament can be colored before weaving or knitting is started (yarn-dyed). Synthetic yarns can be pre-colored too by integrating color pigments in the spinning solution prior to the extrusion of the filaments by way of the spinneret (solution- or dope-dyed).

The most important technique of printing designs on textiles is intaglio roller printing. In this method, the design is etched on copper rolls, a separate roll for every color in the design, the depressions are packed with printing paste, and the fabric then passes out of the rolls. One more method of printing fabrics is relief roller printing. In this method, the design is raised away from the surface of the roll, and the raised portions are roofed with ink. This is also called surface, peg, block, or kiss printing. Screen printing is completed with a design stenciled on a flat or roller screen. The screen is placed on top of the fabric and color is applied by squeegeeing it through the openings in the stencil. Hand-screen printing is being substituted by automatic machines.

After the industrial revolution in Europe, textile manufacturing observed growth of an industrial complex. Nevertheless, over the last 50 years the textile industry particularly in India has shown a remarkable accomplishment.

Nowadays the industry puts in approximately 14% to industrial production in the country, is projected to directly make use of roughly 35 million people aside from the indirect employment in allied sectors, accounts for a around 27% to the country’s exports, and is, in total, a significant economic engine for the nation.

To some extent, the very diversity, scale and extent of the industry which has been its strong point, has also been its weak point. Similar to the “six blind men exploring the elephant” majority of the people’s know-how and actions have incorporated only part of the industry, instead of its wholeness. Therefore, even the set of laws by the government and financial rules have never been able to sufficiently accomplish the extensively different needs of the diverse parts of the industry.

Nonetheless, during the last 10 years, the industry’s events, government rules over and above market events have started to meet, offering a number of growth opportunities for the sector nationally and in the global market. As the MFA quota-regime gets to an end, India particularly offers a lot of opportunities for buyers, suppliers and investors to link up with its textile industry, and to earn from the partnership.

The major outcomes of these transformations were massive increases in the production of goods per worker. One spinner or weaver, for instance, could currently produce several times the volume of yarn or cloth that previous workers had created. This wonder of increasing productivity was the most important economic accomplishment that caused the Industrial Revolution such a landmark in human history.

The English Industrial Revolution had significant end results for Americans. It encouraged cultivation of cotton in the South to meet increasing English demand for the fiber. The growth and proceeds of English textiles also caught the mind of American merchants, the more intuitive of whom wanted to manufacture cloth and not merely market English imports. However, the despoiled conditions and social disturbances in English mill towns made many Americans cautious of manufacturing. The alarming challenge was to bring in the innovations without bringing social troubles with them.

Over and above clothing and home furnishings, textiles are designed for such industrial products as filters for air conditioners, conveyor belts, life rafts, tents, swimming pools, automobile tires, mine ventilators and safety helmets. In a lot of applications, textiles with protective plastic coatings give better elasticity, lighter weight, and superior performance than metals. Even though all kinds of fiber are designed for such products, lots of industrial products use a mixture of synthetic fibers on a backing of cotton. The synthetic fibers give the fabric with mildew-proof, quick-drying properties, and the less costly cotton backing offers bulk and stability.

Several countries have passed legislation to require the identification of fiber content, irrespective of the fabric quality. In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) obligate the identification of the fiber content of all fabrics. In woolens and worsteds, the percentage of wool fiber must be recognized, and the label must assert whether it is virgin, reprocessed, or recycled wool. The term virgin wool is referred to wool that has never before been processed; reprocessed wool, to fiber improved from the processing of virgin wool; and reused wool, to fiber recovered from used wool products for example carpets and clothing. One more condition is that the terms mohair and cashmere be limited to fibers acquired correspondingly from the hair of the Angora goat and of the Kashmir goat. The term linen may be used merely to flax fiber.

Further rules of the FTC oversee textile finishes, specifically, shrink-proofing, flame proofing, and weighting, which includes adding metallic salts to fragile fabrics, like silks, to give more body. In textiles labeled shrink-proof, non-shrinkable, or preshrunk, the percentage of maximum reduction, as established by government-sponsored tests, must be selected on the label. The Flammable Fabrics Act of 1953 recognized safety standards with regard to the flammability of fabrics designed for wearing apparel. The act was widened in 1967 to take in fabrics used in interior furnishings. Merely very fine or loosely woven pile fabrics were found to show quick and intense burning. In 1973 supervision of the act was reassigned to the recently formed Consumer Product Safety Commission.



Fig.2. Below is the time table of Textile Manufacturing Industry (

Kay patented the Flying Shuttle.

Cotton mills were opened at Birmingham and Northampton.
Lancashire mill owners imported East India yarns to improve the quality of textiles

An angry mob of weavers wrecked Kay’s house.

Hargreaves designed the Spinning Jenny.
Arkwright designed the Water Frame.
An angry mob destroyed Arkwright’s mill at Chorely
Arkwright patented the Water Frame.

Hargreaves patented the Spinning Jenny.
Arkwright opened his mill at Cromford.
The first all-cotton textiles were produced.
Crompton designed the Spinning Mule.

Arkwright’s mill at Masson was opened.
Cartwright patented the power loom.
Cotton goods production was 10 times more than in 1770.
Samuel Slater brought textile machinery design to the US.

Arkwright’s steam powered factory was built in Nottingham.
Grimshaw’s factory in Manchester was destroyed by an angry mob of weavers and spinners.Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin.

Joseph Marie Jacquard invented a device using punched card to weave complex designs.
English textile mills were forced to close down as supplies of cotton from the US South ran short.

Horrocks invented the speed batton

Works Cited

Harris, J, ed. (1993). Textiles: 5,000 Years. Abrams.

Jerde, J. (1992). Encyclopedia of Textiles. Microsoft Encarta Reference Library: Facts on File.

Kadolph, S. J., & Langlord, A. L. (1997). Textiles. New York: Prentice Hall.

Stearns, P. N. & Hinshaw, J. H. (1996). The ABC-CLIO World History Companion to the Industrial Revolution. ABC-CLIO.

Bellis, M. (2006). Industrial Revolution- Timeline of Textile Machinery. Retrieved May 14,2006, from