Textile artists use various techniques to create works of art using threads and fibres sometimes in combination with paints or dyes. Textile art comprises weavings, embroideries, tapestries, fiber arts, carpet design and felting. Some of the earliest pieces, apart from animal skins and furs, were made with felting in which animal fibers (such as wool) are binded together using moisture and heat. This is a very simple way to create textiles. However, most textiles begin by creation of yarn by spinning and plying fibers together. In order to make cloth or fabric, the yarn has to be knotted, looped, braided or woven to a larger piece of flexible material. Cloth can be used for example making clothes and soft furnishings. Textile can be further adorned by using artistic techniques for decorating fabrics such as dyeing, printing or embroidery. In addition to these, tablet weaving and lace-making, sewing, knitting, crocheting, quilting, pleating as well as tailoring are considered techniques of creating textile arts.
Textiles have been weaved since the beginning of human civilization and the art, methods and materials have developed immensely during textile arts’ history. In the past, due to the difficulty obtaining fabrics and dyes which often had to be brought from distant countries, only the wealthy were able to enjoy colourful and vibrant textiles not only in their clothes but also their furniture, walls and floors of their palaces. Since industrialisation and technological advances textiles have become more readily available to consumers.
The appreciation of textiles as art has increased during the past century. In the 1960s and 70s especially female artists started to reclaim the field, previously considered as “women’s crafts”, and transformed it to fine art. The distinction between textiles as a craft and textiles as fine art has become less clear as artists have boldly and variedly utilised different techniques, both inventive and traditional, in producing their art. Decorative textile objects that are not meant for practical use are called fiber art or textile art.
Textiles allow an enormous amount of freedom and flexibility to artists to fulfil their creative expression. The techniques are vast and there are practically no limits as to what can be produced or what kind of an effect can be created by utilising textiles as an art media.