Structures, Products, Themes Knitting Interlacing

Structures, Products,
Textile technology is one of the oldest and most basic
technologies. We need its products and feel them next
to our skin. They are both useful and beautiful. Textile
technology has existed ever since our earliest ancestors,
the hunters and gatherers, carried food in basket-woven
containers. Textile technology was the first industrialised
technology and the first technology to use information
technology to control production.
Regardless of the materials employed, textile technology
is characterised by its structures: clothing is produced in the
same way as technical textiles.
Textile technology relates to the past (industrialisation),
the present (fashion, consumerism) and the future:
technical textiles are steadily gaining in importance. Textile
technology is globalised: a world-wide division of labour has
already become reality in textile technology.
Knitted fabrics are produced by continuously interlocking
loops of yarn. Knitwear is more flexible than woven fabrics,
and will mould itself to the body. For this reason knitting
technology is very suitable for products worn next to the
skin (underclothes) or inside the body (medical technology).
Woven fabrics are produced by interlacing two material
systems. Woven fabrics are firmer than knitted ones.
Thus official dress (men’s or women’s suits) and robust
textile products such as air bags are woven. Braided textile
structures like shoelaces or cable sheathing are also
interlaced. They are firm yet flexible.
Production and consumption have increased as a result
of a worldwide division of labour: the south tolerates
low-wage industrial work and long machine running times
whereas the north is driven by development of high
technology. The example of India is used in the exhibition
to show the changing relationship between the First and
Third World in the textile sector.
Textile technology and information technology are closely
interrelated. Textile technology, in particular weaving
technology, has been “digital” for millennia: the warp is
lifted up to allow the weft to pass through (on) or left
down (off). Jean Marie Jacquard first employed the digital
principle in production in 1805: he used a punched card
to control every single weft on a loom. Today weaving
patterns designed on the computer are directly
implemented on a computer-controlled loom.
Textile technology and structure:
Both the mini dress (1965) and the
pan scrubber are knitted.
Even this braiding machine for
surgical sutures (1950) conveys the
Raw materials and human labour: in her piece
poetry of braiding in the harmony
“Work in an Indian Embroidery Factory” (1999),
created by reverse motion.
the artist Rachael Howard reflects on the South’s
contribution to textile consumption.
Textile technology in time and space:
Knitting and weaving techniques,
past and present, here and all over
the world. Everyday items, often made
and used by women. Women with
containers in Papua New Guinea (1976)
and in Cologne (1947).
Mahatma Gandhi at
the spinning wheel.
Punched cards were first used to
Textile technology and material:
A woollen mini dress and a metal
pan scrubber. Circular knitting machine
for pan scrubber production, around 1920.
control production in textile technology.
Weaving is the textile
technique that has been refined
more than any other over the course of
millennia. Preparation for weaving: Twisting on
new warps (1937). Drawing by E. Bindewald.
Today information technology enables
worldwide division of textile labour.
Embroidery machine controlled by
a punched tape (1928).
The most important non-knitted or non-woven textile surfaces are felts and fleeces. The fibres are “shaken together”
by means of steam, glue or needles until they have become
interconnected. The history of these “composite fibre fabrics”
goes back as far as the Middle Ages (felt boots). Today they
are employed in technological applications (fuel filters or
insulation and sealing materials in construction).
Beginning in the 18 th century, the textile technique of making
artificial flowers for the aristocracy and the upcoming
bourgeoisie flourished for a period of only 200 years before
declining again before World War II. This exhibition section
documents the power of imagination and effort that went
into the production of objects which, although fairly
insignificant, were perceived as beautiful.
Historic and contemporary felt
and straw hats are the focus of
the exhibition section “Hats”.
Ladies’ hat with inlaid felt flowers:
an item produced during a demon-
stration in the exhibition.
Felt “Daffodil” (2000) by Karin
Wagner. Textile objects as
traditional expressions of
“femininity” are often manipulated in unusual and humorous
ways by female artists.
Today hats are no longer status symbols, but rather
fashionable accessories made of felt (for winter) or straw
(for summer). Industrial hat manufacture has greatly
declined in importance; hat production, however, lives on
in imaginative hat-making and millinery.
The exhibition emphasises manual labour and machine work
as its central theme, and describes production locations.
consumerism rag press women’s drawers videos global wall hanging
embroidery machine Gandhi export cloth dioramas digital ribbon loom
card punching machine computer workstation interlacing wire loom
braiding machine knitting wire knitting machine
flat bed knitting
machine materials high-tech yarns felt plate felting machine carding
machine transparencies hats hat band sewing machine straw braid
sewing machine flowers punching die embossing press transparencies
Like hat-making, flower production
is a craft that cannot be fully
Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin
Text by Anna Döpfner
Trebbiner Straße 9, 10963 Berlin
Photographs courtesy of Kirchner,
Tel +49.30.90 254-0
Kienzle, Fischer, Howard,
into flowers with stamens (top)
Fax +49.30.90 254-175
Cardenas, Schröder Hat Factory,
and stems (left).
[email protected]
The Archive of Art and History.
mechanised. The silk is punched,
dyed, embossed and assembled
Both mass production and
the closure of a hat factory
are documented by photographs
Tuesday – Friday
9 – 17.30 hours
The cover illustration shows
10 – 18 hours
a piece by Patricia Waller,
“Dangers in the Home”.
in the exhibition.
lubricating machines.
Unlike the “soft” felt used
in fashion, “hard” felt meets
the high demands of technological
Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin
Felt gear for