Toronto Time Warp and Weft: Textile History

July 23, 2014 | Muriel

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"The history of the world can be traced in textiles - the rise and fall of civilizations, their
world views and systems of belief are woven into each warp and weft."
~ from "The Eternity Code" exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada

I really felt as though I was travelling back to the time of the Incas and Coptic Egypt
when I went to see the exhibition, "The Eternity Code: Archaeology, Textiles and Preservation," on now at the Textile Museum of Canada until September 21st.

Made for kings and highranking nobility, a Peruvian rainforest feather tunic, still

stunningly vibrant with its yellow, orange and blue feathers from tropical birds, is
one of the most extraordinary garments I have ever seen.  Also on display at the
exhibition are many examples
of Peruvian weaving, and I was amazed to learn
that every known weaving
technique was used in pre-Hispanic Peru.

Peruvian Featherworks      Peruvian Four-Selvaged Cloth      Coptic Egypt

Heartbreaking, though, were the children's linen and wool tunics from Coptic Egypt. 
These tunics have survived because they were also used as burial shrouds, and
since the soil they were buried in was so dry, it preserved the textile.  I read an article in
the Toronto Star recently about a "perfectly preserved" 2,000-year-old shroud that
has been returned to Peru from Sweden.  It is so intricate and colourful that, "experts
still do not fully understand how the shroud's creators achieved the combination of
sewing techniques and pigments."

Textiles really are, as the exhibition says, "among the most vulnerable sources of
archaeological knowledge." When they do survive, and there is evidence of woven
textiles dating at least as far back as 27,000 BCE, they are remarkably revealing.
New technology enables researchers to even discover what the diet of a llama
or alpaca in Incan times was, based on the yarn spun from their fleece!

5000 Years of Textiles            World Textiles           Textiles
Eager for some more textile time travel, I went up to the fourth level of the Michael
Lee-Chin Crystal at the Royal Ontario Museum to see the exhibition on display there,
"Cairo Under Wraps: Early Islamic Textiles."  There are some rare examples of clothing
on display, many
intended for the royal household, and the decoration on them consists
mainly of Arabic inscriptions. 

Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto shall be my next destination, to see an outdoor
quilt exhibition, "Quilts at the Creek," 
which will be on during August 16th and 17th. 
I shall also be sure to look at the pioneer spinning and weaving techniques, which the Peruvians had already perfected so many years ago.

   Textiles of the Islamic World     Fashioning Fabric     Repair Cafe

This summer, for free, you can go on your own or take a friend or your family, to
the Textile Museum of Canada,
the Royal Ontario Museum and Black Creek Pioneer
Village, with a Sun Life Financial Museum + Arts Pass
, available at Toronto Public

If you would like to learn how to repair and extend the life of your own clothing for
the future, you may be interested in going on August 9th from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
to the Repair Caf
é at the Toronto Reference Library.