Humans have used textiles (materials composed of fibers) in various forms for thousands of years.
The majority of textiles are woven, and the earliest evidence of weaving comes from impressions of textiles, basketry and nets made on small pieces of clay that date back 27,000 years, though weaving on a practical scale developed around 5,000 years ago in Egypt.
Within interiors, textiles are generally apparent in the form of soft furnishings and window treatments. Although alternatives to textiles do exist, they are still the obvious choice when a flexible material is required for furniture manufacture or to provide control of light at a window. Their flexibility and pliability mean that they are comfortable in use and easy to work with.
But textiles are not just a practical solution to a need; they introduce a tactile quality that adds another dimension to the palette of materials associated with a decorative scheme. They can do great things for our senses; they catch and turn light, and they create dramatic shift s of light and shade, introducing rich texture as they hang in folds.
Fabric can be used within the scheme to tell a story: shimmering surfaces of crushed velvet stir memories of grass waving in the breeze, while almost invisible sheers tell a story of soft mist on a summer morning. Fabric can be a way of capturing delightful experiences from real life and can allow those moments to become a part of the organized composition of an interior scheme.
They have a vital part to play in communicating the mood that you want to capture.
For practical purposes, woven textiles (fabrics) are categorized by the origins of the fibers that make the yarn from which they are made:Natural fibers are derived from vegetable and animal sources and include fabrics such as cotton, linen (from the flax plant), silk, wool and horsehair.
These are fabrics that look and feel quite different from one another, but generally, they resist dirt reasonably well. Their natural origins make them popular with designers. Man-made fibers are manufactured from processed natural sources. Rayon, acetate and viscose all come from cellulose obtained from wood, although they are all produced using slightly different processes.
They were developed to imitate silk and for this reason, they are still in widespread use. Natural silk has several drawbacks and these substitutes perform better in most respects.
Synthetic fibers are derived entirely from chemicals, often petrochemicals. Nylon, polyester and acrylic are all examples. Although practical fabrics, they can pick up dirt easily.
How the fibers are woven will control the look of the fabric to a large extent. The names canvas, satin, twill, and damask all refer to the method of weaving and have become the accepted name of the fabric that results. These types of weave can introduce pattern into the fabric, though the pattern may also be applied after weaving by printing or sewing.
Textiles can easily be used to revitalize old pieces of furniture. The carved wooden frame of this chair has been repainted with a silver finish and upholstered with leather that shows an unusual sheen. The form of the chair is traditional, but the materials used have a contemporary edge. Revitalizing old pieces in this way is also a good environmental choice.
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