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ULITA seminar: Heritage, Diversity and Regional Innovation in Textile Technologies

The Centre for Heritage Research

In collaboration with the Creative Minds Project, Yorkshire Museums Libraries and Archives Council and the University of Leeds International Textiles Archive. (ULITA)

Thursday 14 April 2005 - 4.30pm-6.30pm at ULITA


  • Dr Janet Greenlees (Centre for History of Science Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester)
  • Abbas Dehghani (Department of Mechatronics, University of Leeds)
  • Professor Michael Hann (Director of ULITA)

"19th and 20th Century Textile Technologies and their International Influences in Northern England", Janet Greenlees, University of Manchester, Centre for History of Science Technology and Medicine

The history of textile technology is familiar to many people from secondary school lessons, with inventions such as Hargreaves? spinning jenny (1764), Arkwright?s water-spinning frame (1769) and Crompton?s mule (1779). While these inventions were vital to the industrial revolution and provided part of the impetus for it, they were by no means the only textile machines that revolutionized the manufacture of cotton and woollen cloth. Unfortunately, later inventions have been marginalized in history. Yet, these machines had a large impact on the international textile industry, and, the choices manufacturers? made helped determine their industries future. This paper will examine some of the key technological developments in textile manufacturing during nineteenth and twentieth centuries and consider the importance of technological choice in the face of international competition to the British cotton and woollen industries and how this influenced industrial demise.

The key theme in the story of British textile technology is one that left Britain. While the developments were initially made in Britain and quality, durable machines built, other countries soon surpassed Britain in machinery innovation. While British engineers modified the machines already installed and increased speeds and productivity, they did not design new machinery to revolutionize the industries. The key international influence to British textile technologies during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was foreign countries development of new machines that allowed them to be more competitive and in some cases, surpass Britain in her own markets. Where Britain failed was not in their lack of adoption of these machines, but in their lack of adaptation of these machines or in the development of new ones to improve their industry.

"Smart Textiles and contemporary manufacturing processes in the Yorkshire region", Abbas Dehghani, University of Leeds, School of Mechanical Engineering (Mechatronics Research)

Textile industries have gone through a number of changes in the recent years due to global economics and are moving towards more competitive products. One of the changes especially in America and Europe has been the attempt to develop textile materials with more functionalities i.e. technical textiles. Smart or intelligent textiles refer to textile products where the expectation is to have some intelligent functionality in them. The presentation will look at aspects of smart/intelligent textiles: passive, active and very intelligent textiles. Some examples in areas such as medical, health monitoring, protective clothing, building and civil structures and in the automotive industry are given. Some aspects of current research and development in the university will also be covered. In the region and nationally textile manufacturers are moving towards producing technical textiles in order to grow in ever competitive markets today.

"The Establishment University of Leeds International Textiles Archive (ULITA) and an Introduction to the Current Exhibition: Patterns of Culture ? Techniques of Decoration and Coloration", Michael Hann, University of Leeds International Textiles Archive (ULITA)

The Leeds International Textiles Archive owes its origins to a museum of textiles founded in 1892, with financial assistance from the Clothworkers? Company. The collections were intended primarily as a teaching aid. Over the next hundred years, the constituent collections grew mightily, and now comprise over 300,000 items, including natural and man-made yarn samples, weaves, embroideries, tapestries and knitted samples, as well as other designed items, and a collection of more than 20,000 glass negatives and slides, depicting designs, and machinery used in wool manufacture. The Archive was initially European in emphasis, and included material from Britain, France and Italy. Pattern books (which included designs and technical specifications) formed a major component and these stimulated the design ideas of generations of students. The Archive?s international dimension was always implicit, not only in continental Europe, but also in the main Asian, African and American textile producing areas. With the coming of the Second World War the collections went into hibernation, and were dispersed. However, in the 1980s, the present Director (the presenter of this paper) started a programme of organising, consolidating, cleaning and storing the collections in appropriate conditions. He also re-started collecting, gathering many outstanding examples of Pakistani textiles in that country?s North West Frontier Province. He also collected in Indonesia, acquiring beautiful examples of batik and ikat. The European dimension of the collection was also expanded, with significant additions of knitted material, the Tibor Reich collection (noted designer of furnishing fabrics in the post war period) and of yarn and fabric samples of man-made material. A programme of exhibitions was started and the chapel of St Wilfred, the former chapel of the Leeds Boys? Grammar School on the University?s Western campus, was acquired to house the collections and to create an exhibition space.

This paper traces the development of the Archive from its humble beginnings in the early 1890s. The constituent collections are illustrated and the recent re-housing project is described. Particular attention is focused on the current exhibition Patterns of Culture ? Techniques of Decoration and Coloration, an exhibition of resist-dyed and block-printed textiles.



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