Textile Design and Textile Designers
Have you ever checked out a clothing store’s lovely colored fabrics? Did it make you wonder who decides which cloth will be woven out of wool or cotton and what color it will be? These details are up to a textile designer.
Creating and producing the structure and appearance of a fabric is known as textile design. Textile designers visualize how they want a fabric to look and feel and then bring the vision to life. These highly skilled designers might choose a particular pattern for certain fabrics or they might experiment with weaving different types of thread together to create a custom look. Other desired effects might be achieved by specifying what dyeing method to be used or what fabric to dye.
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Each culture has distinct textiles, go-to colors, favorite patterns, and beloved fibers, depending on the time period and location. Just as today, style trends come and go. Read on to explore some of textile design’s high points in history. Although the names of the earliest textile designers were eventually forgotten with time, their efforts and impacts on the textile design world linger on.
Textile Design: A Brief History
Textile design dates back thousands of years – as early as 5000 BC – beginning with silks and cottons from China and India. Upon the development of trade networks between Asian, Middle Eastern, and European countries, textiles proved to be valuable commodities. Despite a lack of knowledge around the specifics of who designed the first textiles, it is apparent someone was in control of which colors, fabrics, and patterns were being used.
Advancements in textile design techniques such as improved dyeing processes gave way to new textile markets in Europe by the arrival of the 14th century. Methods created in one area of the world eventually made their way to other locations. For instance, damask, a weaving method that creates monotone designs visible through reflection and sheen, first appeared in China. By the 14th century, Italy was specializing in high quality damasks.
England and France increased their number of cotton imports woven, painted, and printed in India during part of the Baroque Period (1620 to 1660). Cotton products produced in India, known by their generic name as Calico, were originally created in Calcutta. Typical patterns included geometric designs and tiny flowers. This same period also saw a major rise in the silk industry, especially in France where skilled artisans created lovely patterned silk textiles.
Vintage Mid Century Scandinavian Textile Design
Traditionally, textiles in Scandinavia often featured geometric patterns and were typically used for a variety of household functions. Scandinavia has a long tradition of red and blue striped fabric, sometimes with flower-like shapes or stylish animal forms. It is not uncommon to find older Scandinavian fabrics featuring rows of identical designs or grids covering the entire fabric. Thanks to a hefty supply of linen, wool, and cotton, natural materials were used for a host of goods.
For example, Ekelund Weavers — a Swedish, family-owned company — has been producing fabrics with contemporary and traditional patterns for over 400 years. With crisp, clear, colorful, designs inspired by nature, their creations are stunningly beautiful without being overly cluttered or fussy. All their items are beautiful as well as useful, with common items including table runners, dishcloths, and towels.
Several women weavers and designers in Scandinavia’s early 20th century began getting noticed for their work. Among the most notable was Marta Maas-Fjetterstrom, a Swedish weaver who gained notoriety for her rug patterns and designs. Her nature inspired designs featured geometric colors and shapes that reflected the tones and light of summer. In 1919 she initiated her own weaving workshop and became highly sought after.
Following World War II, Scandinavian textile design — and a good portion of interior design — gained popularity throughout the USA and parts of Europe. Designs began to become more contemporary, bolder, and with more vibrant colors. Still, these designs stayed true to their Scandinavian roots, maintaining nature-inspired elements and stylized, clean, crisp geometry made up largely of natural materials.
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