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Italian Renaissance Textiles

In Roman times, wool, linen and leather clothed the European population: the cotton of India was a curiosity that only naturalists had heard of, and silk, imported along the Silk Road from China, was an extravagant luxury. In the thirteenth century, the wool trade was the economic engine of the Low Countries and of Central Italy; by the end of the following century Italy predominated, though in the 16th century Italian production turned to silk.

Before the flowering of the Renaissance, the Medici and other great banking houses of Florence had built their wealth and banking system on their textile industry based on wool, overseen by the Arte della Lana, the wool guild: wool textile interests guided Florentine policies. Francesco Datini, the "merchant of Prato", established in 1383 an Arte della Lana for that small Tuscan city. The sheepwalks of Castile shaped the landscape and the fortunes of the meseta that lies in the heart of the Iberian peninsula; in the sixteenth century, a unified Spain allowed export of Merino lambs only with royal permission.

Plain weave is one of the three basic types of textile weaves. It is formed by the passing a weft or filling yarn over and then under a warp yarn. It is also called a Tabby as well as a Taffeta weave. A plain weave can be identified by its checkerboard like appearance. It is also known as one-up-one-down weave or over and under pattern. Satin weave and Twill weave are the other two main textile weaves.

Italy in the Renaissance had a thriving textile industry, primarily in the region around Florence. A jumbled set of lecture notes on this topic. Many complex weaves were used in Renaissance Italy, including elaborate brocades.

The Costume Dabbler has compiled a wonderful list of types of Italian fabrics in the Renaissance, some with places of origin. Jen Thompson has written a lovely article of the use of lower grade silks in the Renaissance.
Tags: italian renaissance, research
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