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Deutsches Technikmuseum - Textile work

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The Websites of the donation Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin at a glance:


The donation contains six locations:

Textile work

Photo: head of a circular knitting machine for pan scrubber production

Knitting machine for pan scrubber production, around 1920

Structures, products, themes

Textile technology is one of the oldest and most basic technologies. We need its products and feel them next to our skin. They are both useful and beautiful. Textile technology has existed ever since our earliest ancestors, the hunters and gatherers, carried food in basket-woven containers. Textile technology was the first industrialised technology and the first technology to use information technology to control production.

Regardless of the materials employed, textile technology is characterised by its structures: clothing is produced in the same way as technical textiles.

Textile technology relates to the past (industrialisation), the present (fashion, consumerism) and the future: technical textiles are steadily gaining in importance. Textile technology is globalised: a world-wide division of labour has already become reality in textile technology.

Photo of a embroidery machine with three heads. Punched cards were first used to control production machines like this in textile technology

Embroidery machine controlled by a punched tape (1928)

Global and digital

Production and consumption have increased as a result of a worldwide division of labour: the south tolerates low-wage industrial work and long machine running times whereas the north is driven by development of high technology. The example of India is used in the exhibition to show the changing relationship between the First and Third World in the textile sector.

Textile technology and information technology are closely interrelated. Textile technology, in particular weaving technology, has been “digital” for millennia: the warp is lifted up to allow the weft to pass through (on) or left down (off). Jean Marie Jacquard first employed the digital principle in production in 1805: he used a punched card to control every single weft on a loom. Today weaving patterns designed on the computer are directly implemented on a computer-controlled loom.

Photo: two tapestries with the exhibitions´s floor plan, feltet

Feltet floor plan of the exhibition

Felt, hats and flowers

The most important non-knitted or non-woven textile surfaces are felts and fleeces. The fibres are “shaken together” by means of steam, glue or needles until they have become interconnected. The history of these “composite fibre fabrics” goes back as far as the Middle Ages (felt boots). Today they are employed in technological applications (fuel filters or insulation and sealing materials in construction).

Today hats are no longer status symbols, but rather fashionable accessories made of felt (for winter) or straw (for summer). Industrial hat manufacture has greatly declined in importance; hat production, however, lives on in imaginative hat-making and millinery.
The exhibition emphasises manual labour and machine work as its central theme, and describes production locations.

Beginning in the 18th century, the textile technique of making artificial flowers for the aristocracy and the upcoming bourgeoisie flourished for a period of only 200 years before declining again before World War II. This exhibition section documents the power of imagination and effort that went into the production of objects which, although fairly insignificant, were perceived as beautiful.

Image: the virtual European textile network-logo

Virtual textile route Berlin-Brandenburg

The department textile work of the German Museum of Technology is one of twenty stations in the virtual European Textile Network (ETN). The ETN features geographic and thematic routes, opening up European textile regions for virtual and real cultural tours (trails).