WorkingsRaw Materials: Protein fibresRaw Materials: Cellulosic fibresRaw Materials: Synthetic fibresMaking textiles without threads: felt and bark clothMaking Thread: combing, carding and spinningAdding ColourMaking textiles without looms: braiding, knitting, knottingLaceMaking textiles with loomsTextiles to clothe the worldPutting the pieces together: piecing and quiltingEmbroiderySurface PrintingResist Patterning: batik, plangi, ikatMaking Baskets

Loincloth panel

Before most fibres can be made into cloth, they must be spun into yarn, also known as string or thread. The simplest method is to pull a wad of fibre apart while twisting in one direction until it gets longer and thinner. If the piece is sheep wool it will elongate and stick together very easily. If you twist to your left the yarn will be Z-spun – if to the right, S-spun. Often two or three strands are twisted together again (plied) in the opposite direction of the spin to make the yarn stronger.

Where was this textile created?

World map preview image

Making Thread: combing, carding and spinning

Loincloth panel
South America: Western South America, Peru; Chancay influenced by Chimú
Pre-Spanish; Late Intermediate Period -Late Horizon, 1000 - 1550
Camelid hair and cotton, in slit tapestry technique
27 cm x 33 cm
Gift of Thomas Kalman
T84.0292 Textile Museum of Canada

Textiles such as this front panel of a loincloth were included in burial sites on the coast of Peru, often in bundles of cloth wrapping the bodies or as offerings in the graves. Ancient American people were skilled in all kinds of textile making. This panel shows their proficiency in spinning raw fibres into thread. The cotton warp threads are so thin they can barely be seen, and the fine weft (pattern) threads are made of two threads plied together for strength.

Some highly developed civilizations, such as those in Ancient Peru, did not have the wheel or a written language – but the world has never known a complex civilization without string.

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