Timeline of clothing and textiles technology

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This timeline of clothing and textiles technology covers the events of fiber and flexible woven material worn on the body; including making, modification, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, and systems (technology).

Historical timeline

Ancient and Prehistoric

  • Prehistoryspindle used to create yarn from fibres.
  • (unknown) – loom.
  • c. 28000 BCSewing needles in use at Kostenki in Russia.
  • c. 27000 BC – Impressions of textiles and basketry and nets left on little pieces of hard clay.[1]
  • c. 25000 BCVenus figurines depicted with clothing.[1]
  • c. 8000 BC – Evidence of flax cultivation in the Near East.[2]
  • c. 6500 BC – Approximate date of Naalebinding examples found in Nehal Hemar cave, Israel. This technique, which uses short separate lengths of thread, predated the invention of knitting (with its continuous lengths of thread) and requires that all of the as-yet unused thread be pulled through the loop in the sewn material.[3] This requires much greater skill than knitting in order to create a fine product.[4]
  • c. 6000 BC – Evidence of woven textiles used to wrap the dead at Çatalhöyük in Anatolia.[2]
  • c. 5000 BC – Production of linen cloth in Ancient Egypt, along with other bast fibers including rush, reed, palm, and papyrus.[5]
  • 4200 BC – Date of Mesolithic examples of Naalebinding found in Denmark, marking spread of technology to Northern Europe.[6]
  • c. 3000 BC – Breeding of domesticated sheep with a wooly fleece rather than hair in the Near East.[2]
  • 200 BC to 200 AD – Approximate date of earliest evidence of "Needle Knitting" in Peru, a form of Naalebinding that preceded local contact with the Spanish.[7]
  • c. 200 AD – Earliest woodblock printing from China. Flowers in three colors on silk.[8]
  • 247 AD – Dura-Europos, a Roman outpost, is destroyed. Excavations of the city discovered early examples of naalebinding fabric.
  • 298 AD – Earliest attestation of a foot-powered loom, with a hint that the invention arose at Tarsus.[9]
  • 500 to 1000 AD – spinning wheel in use in India..[citation needed]
  • 500 AD – jia xie method for resist dyeing (usually silk) using wood blocks invented in China. An upper and a lower block is made, with carved out compartments opening to the back, fitted with plugs. The cloth, usually folded a number of times, is inserted and clamped between the two blocks. By unplugging the different compartments and filling them with dyes of different colors, a multi-colored pattern can be printed over quite a large area of folded cloth.[8]
  • 600 AD – Oldest samples of cloth printed by Woodblock printing from Egypt.

Medieval history

  • 1000's AD – Finely decorated examples of cotton socks made by true knitting using continuous thread appear in Egypt.[4]
  • 1275 – Approximate date of a silk burial cushion knit in two colors found in the tomb of Spanish royalty.
  • 1493 – the first available reference to lace is in a will by one of the ruling Milanese Sforza family[10]
  • 1562 – Date of first example of use of the purl stitch, from a tomb in Toledo, Spain, which allows knitting of panels of material. Previously material had to be knitted in the round (in a tubular form) and cut it open.
  • 1589 – William Lee invents stocking frame, the first but hand-operated weft knitting machine.

Modern Era

Early modern period

Late modern period

  • 1833 – Walter Hunt invents the lockstitch sewing machine but, dissatisfied with its function, does not patent it.
  • 1842 – Lancashire Loom developed by Bullough and Kenworthy, a semi automatic Power loom.
  • 1842 – John Greenough patents the first sewing machine in the United States.
  • 1846 – John Livesey adapts John Heathcoat's bobbinet machine into the curtain machine
  • 1847 – William Mason Patents his "Mason self-acting" Mule.
  • 1849 – Matthew Townsend patents the variant of latch needle which has been the most widely used needle in weft knitting machines.
  • 1855 – Redgate combines a circular loom with a warp knitting machine
  • 1856 – William Henry Perkin invents the first synthetic dye.
  • 1856 – Thomas Jeacock of Leicester patented the tubular pipe compound needle.
  • 1857 – Luke Barton introduces a self-acting narrowing mechanism on S. Wise's knitting machine.
  • 1857 – Arthur Paget patents a multi-head knitting machine called "Paget-machine".
  • 1859 – Wilhelm Barfuss improves on Redgates machine, called Raschel machines (named after the French actress Élisabeth Félice Rachel).
  • 1864 – William Cotton patents the straight bar knitting machine named after him ("Cotton machine").
  • 1865 – The American Isaac Wixom Lamb patents the flat knitting machine using latch needles.
  • 1865 – Clay invents the double-headed latch needle which has enabled to create purl stitch knitting.
  • 1866 – The American Mac Nary patents the circular knitting machine (with vertical needles) for fabrication of socks and stockings with heel and toe pouches.
  • 1878 – Henry Griswold adds a second set of needles (horizontal needles) to the circular knitting machine enabling knitting of rib fabrics as cuff for socks.
  • 1881 – Pierre Durand invents the tubular pipe compound needle.
  • 1892 – Cross, Bevan & Beadle invent Viscose.
  • 1890s – Development of the Barmen machine


See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Stone Age clothing more advanced than thought" by Gloria Chang, February 3, 2000
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Cambridge History of Western Textiles p. 39-47
  3. Barber 1991.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Theaker 2006.
  5. Cambridge History of Western Textiles p. 30-39
  6. Bender 1990.
  7. Bennett & Bird 1960.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Shelagh Vainker in Anne Farrer (ed), "Caves of the Thousand Buddhas" , 1990, British Museum publications, ISBN 0-7141-1447-2
  9. D.L.Carroll Dating the Foot-powered loom: the Coptic evidence American Journal of Archaeology 1985 vol. 89; 168-73
  10. Reigate, Emily (1986). An Illustrated Guide to Lace (1988 ed.). WoodBridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors Club. p. 11. ISBN 1851490035.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Barber, E. J. W.; Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages with special reference to the Aegean; Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1991; ISBN 0-691-03597-0 (Barber 1991)
  • Barber, Elizabeth Wayland, Women's Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times, W. W. Norton & Company, new edition, 1995 (Barber 1995)
  • Bender Jørgensen, Lise; 'Stone-Age Textiles in North Europe' in Textiles in Northern Archaeology, Textile Symposium in York, North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles Monograph 3, NESAT III; London Archetype Publications, 1990; ISBN 1-873132-05-0.
  • Bennett, Wendell C. & Bird, Junius B.; Andean Culture History; Handbook Series No. 15; second and revised edition; ©The American Museum of Natural History; A publication of the Anthropological Handbook Fund, New York, 1960
  • Jenkins, David, ed.: The Cambridge History of Western Textiles, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-521-34107-8
  • Theaker, Julie. 'History 101' in www.knitty.com
  • Offermann Peter, Tausch-Marton, Harald: Grundlagen der Maschenwarentechnologie. VEB Fachbuchverlag, Leipzig, 1978
  • Spencer, J. David: Knitting Technology. Pergamon Press, Oxford, 1983. ISBN 0-08-024763-6
  • Modig, Niels.: Hosiery Machines. Meisenbach, Bamberg, 1988. ISBN 3-87525-048-6

Further reading