By definition, a textile is a flexible material that uses a network of natural or artificial fibers blended or weaved together. Things like fabric used in clothing or accessories for the home like pillows and blankets are made this way. Yarns that are then used to knit, crotchet or otherwise make something else are produced by spinning raw fibers of wool, flax, cotton and the like into long strands that are then rolled into shanks or balls. In short, a textile is anything that is weaved, knitted, knotted, felted or crocheted into something that we then use for something else.
The word textile comes to us from the Latin and it means ‘to weave’. Weaving fibers into fabrics and yarns isn’t new by any means, and could date back to prehistoric times thanks to an archaeological find of dyed flax fibers in a cave that date back 34,000 years.
Back in the day, a spinning wheel was used to spin fibers into usable yarns and the weaving machine which took up an entire room in some instances was used to weave the weft and warp threads into fabrics. This had to be set up (which took a long time in itself) properly and then someone would use the trundle to inch by inch make the fabric. This was labour intensive and of course with the introduction of more industrialization to the world, the devices gave way to machines that could produce yarn and fabric at a much faster pace. Today yarn and fabrics are made in all colours and styles using a lot less human power and a lot more machine power.
The fibers used in textile production can be from animals (wool for example), plants (flax, cotton, etc.), minerals like asbestos or glass fiber and nowadays, synthetics like nylon and acrylic. Some textiles today are from a combination of sources and they can be manufactured in a variety of strengths and degrees of durability depending on what they will be used for.
Clothing, containers, carpets, sheets, towels, covers for beds, flags, bags, rags and so many other things available today are made from textiles. They can also be used to provide extra strength in composite materials like fiberglass and industrial geotextiles. Of course, they are also still used in various crafting ways, if you like to embroider, knit, sew or crotchet, you are using a textile in your work.