Brief History of Weaving

Carpet Weaving in Northern India

Archaeological evidence shows that weaving has been a part of human daily life since the beginning of time. Fragments of very fine linen and woolen cloth have been found in prehistoric graves in countries as far apart as China and Peru.

Photo: Precolumbian textiles in Cusco, Peru

[ Image ]

All members of the family were involved in the production of clothing, rugs and decorative tapestries to provide warmth and inspiration in the home environment whether that was a castle or a tent.

Complex designs have been produced on equipment which was often portable, tied to a tree or the mast of a ship to create tension for the weave.

19th Century Cottage Loom

In the 18th and 19th century weaving in the western world became industrialised causing great social change as family members, including children were employed by the factories.  Cottage industry weaving ceased to exist.

Today the industrial production has been transferred to Eastern countries such as China, Korea and India where labour costs are cheaper than in the west. Carpet production is often done by small children whose exploitation is currently under investigation by organisations like the United Nations.

In western countries, traditions have been lost and now the same thing is happening in developing countries where the lure of factory work is economically irresistible.

By introducing the simple skills of weaving into curriculum work, we can keep our own local traditions alive and introduce other social and creative topics in a very practical way.

One example of this was in a recent pilot project in Kilmarnock where primary pupils were introduced to weaving on a frame loom.
The teacher discovered a new context for studying the history of the town and its people.  Weaving carpets had been one of the main local industries until near the end of the 20th century. The children were introduced to local knowledge in their own families and discovered people who could tell them about working in the carpet mills.

For more information on weaving in the curriculum check out

Notes for Busy Teachers

Weaving In The Scottish Curriculum for Excellence

Warp Weighted Looms

Weaving Equipment

How to Weave

For information on Textiles in the Andes mountains read the article by Simon Ross-Gill on the Arran Knitting Company website. Simon reports from Cusco, Peru.

Textiles of the Andes