Textile Functions: A Panacea For Uninformed Textiles Students Of Tertiary Institutions In Nigeria

By | July 24, 2014
Print Friendly, PDF & Email


1Mrs  Christiana Terrumun Adugh

2Mr. John Faeren Anyam


1Department of Home Economics

College of Education, Katsina-Ala, Benue State.

2Department of Fine and Applied Arts,

  College of Education, Katsina-Ala, Benue State.




This article presents a brief description of the words textile and textiles from the traditional setting and evolution of the terms and the miss understanding of these terminologies by the textiles students in tertiary institutions. It points to the universal functions of textile in the service of the society in general. The article also suggests three basic training approaches for the textiles students to prepare them for the 21st country global challenges.   



           Art as an expression and art as a service are two sides of the same coin.  “A work of art may be an expression of the artist’s inner vision and yet be useful to society “ (Uzoagba, 1982). The same source added that:

In applied arts, care should be taken not to suppress the artist as visionary and to use him only as a craftsman. To compel an artist merely to copy what already exists and to forbid him to make any contribution of his own is to deny him the freedom without which he cannot be, in any serious sense of the word, an artist at all.

Textile, as applied art according to Agu (2001) has an assortment of uses, the most common of which are for clothing and containers such as bags and baskets (Anyam, 2010). Window shades, towels, covering for tables, beds and other flat surfaces, carpeting, upholstered furnishing, window shades towels, are the uses of textile, and also in art (Wangboje, 1989 ).

In the work place, textile is used in industrial and scientific processes such as filtering, miscellaneous uses include flags, backpacks, tents, nets, cleaning devices such as handkerchiefs and rags; transportation devices such as balloons, kits sails and parachutes, in addition to strengthening in composite materials such as fiberglass and industrial geotextiles (Hilton, 1994). Textile that is primarily used for its performance or functional properties is known as technical textile (Wikipedia, 2010). The industrial fabrics that are used for various industrial applications are also classified as technical textiles. As such, technical textiles are the high performance fabrics that are basically used for non-consumer applications. Some textile specialists also include finished products such as ropes or tarpaulins and parts of other products such as tyre card for tyres or cover stock for diapers in the definition of technical textile

According to World Encyclopedia, the word textile comes from the Latin textile “Woven”, which in turn comes from the Latin verb textere “to weave”, which originally applied only to Woven fabrics during the Middle Ages.  However, it is now a general term for fibres, yarns and other materials that can be made into fabrics. This term also includes fabrics produced by interlacing, and woven material or any other construction method.

The history of textile is an integral part of history of civilization. Archaeological evidence showed that these fibres were in existence thousands of years before written records. Early history also showed that these fibres  according to Wikipedia (2011) were derived from plant and animal life. Examples are; cotton, flax, jute, sisal, straw, kapok, asbestos, glass, wool, silk, etc. Cotton has been the most widely used textile fibre. The word “cotton” is derived from the Arabic word QUOTON or QUTUN, which means a plant found in a conquered land. The origin of cotton is not known but archaeological information suggested that it was grown in Egypt about 12,000 B.C. Most authorities agreed that cotton was produced in India about 3,000 B.C, while other authorities, according to Hall (1969) quoted India 1,500 B.C and Egypt 1,200B.C.  However, Hall added that reliable data now shows that cotton was indigenous to the land of the East, West, and North Africa, Asia, North and South America and West Indies.

An experience with the Textiles students in colleges and tertiary institutions in Nigeria shows that the majority of the students use the word “TEXTILE” and “TEXTILES” interchangeably. To them, textile is singular while Textiles is plural. Although the two words are closely related, they do not mean the same thing in scope and content. A corresponding and glaring example of this is shown in research methods, where there is what is known as “statistics” and “statistic”. The two words are closely related, yet not the same in scope and content: for statistics is data collection while statistic is the end result. In like manner, textiles is a subset of the universal set textile.

           In textile science, however, a textile is freely defined as any product made from fibres; thus the term refers not only to woven fabrics, but also to non-woven fabrics, knitted fabrics, and special fabric constructions. Any product capable of being woven or otherwise made into fabrics is referred to as textile fibre. These broad reciprocal definitions are now accepted and used by nearly everyone who works with fibres or fabrics at any stage of manufacture or processing. The immense scope of the textile industry makes it one of the largest in the word. But it is also one of the oldest (Joseph, 1977).  This article shall examine the functions of textile materials under the following:

1   Home environment;

2   Vegetation;

3   Human hair;

4   Classroom environment and

5   Automobile

Uses of Textile Materials

Textile fibres and the fabrics materials have almost limitless uses, and new applications are constantly being found. The uses of fibres, according to Hilton (1994) in clothing, home furnishings, and household textiles are familiar to everyone. But fibres are also used in the building trades and as insulation in appliance; they are used by industry for such products as filter cloths, pulley belts, and convey or belts; they are used in all forms of transportation, etc.

Home Environment:  The woven mosquito nets (steel, plastic or cotton) on windows prevent mosquitoes from entering into our houses and the nets round our beds prevent them from biting us. The toilet rolls are used in the toilet and newspapers (fabric material) are used for reading during relaxation. Wangboje (1989) added that rugs and plastic carpets are used for covering the floor and same mats also are used for floor cover, others for shoe rest, yet some others for sleeping. In the traditional Tiv homes, Anyam (2009) wrote that baskets are used for storing household dishes such as calabash-bowls, earthen ware plates, wooden spoons, etc; while the Kano sacks are used for grain storage. All these are textile works. (See Fig. 1:A-I)


Fig. 1: Home Environment.  A = House  B = Window Net	C = Upholstery  D = Newspapers   E = Bed    F = Basket    G = Basket    H = Rugs     I = Mat

Fig. 1: Home Environment. A = House B = Window Net C = Upholstery
D = Newspapers E = Bed F = Basket G = Basket H = Rugs I = Mat

Vegetation: The folded leaf used for moin-moin becomes a basket so that it is of textile, as well as the braided palm fronds used by the palm wine taper to climb the palm tree.

Human Hair: Rural and urban women are engaged in hair dressing activities such as, treatment of the hair: weaving, plaiting and braiding of hair. Traditionally, according to Fafunwa (1974) these hair styles are cultural inheritance and identity but today many people use them for fashion. These are all textile works. (see fig. 2. A-E)

Fig. 2: Hair styles.     A = Braid      B = Braid and Weaving     C = Braid     D = Weaving     E = Plaiting

Fig. 2: Hair styles. A = Braid B = Braid and Weaving C = Braid D = Weaving E = Plaiting



Classroom Environment: in the classroom, school students wear clothes as uniform and use textbooks for studies; use hymn books for singing and the shelves are full of assorted books (pulp materials) all these are some form of textile (see Fig.3. A,B).


Fig. 3: Classroom Environment.             A   =   Classroom                   B   =   Books

Fig. 3: Classroom Environment. A = Classroom B = Books

Automobile: Woven cloth is used to insulate the wire in the electrical system of automobile to prevent the shocking effect. Fabric is used to cover the entire car upholstery (seats) and within the rubbers of tyres is either woven steel of fibre glass cloth to give strength to the tyres (Anyam, 2010). The car silencer is filled with fibres and in this way enables the device to reduce the noise made by a vehicle’s exhaust. The fibres in the car filter and engine oil filter is to clean the air and engine oil respectively from unwanted particles while the woven material within the fan-belt rubber is to provide maximum strength to the belt. The seat-belt is a woven fabric which maintains flexibility and strength. (see Fig. 4: A-H).


Fig: 4. Automobile. A = Automobile B = Air filter C = Silencer D = Electric System E = Fan Belt F = Seat-belt G = Tyres H = Car upholstery


Textile work covers a broad range of hand and mechanical processes involved in:

  1. The change from fibre into fabric.
  2. The decoration of fabric according to Oguntona (1986) is done with ‘‘inks, dyes or pigments’’ or with other fibres or fabrics
  3. Manipulation of fibre or fabric into objects ( Fig. 5: A – H )



Fig. 5: Assorted head covers A = Bowler B = Fez C = Baseball cap D = Wooly hat E = Hausa cap F = Top hat G = Cap hat H = Stetson


The objective of textile work can either be functional, such as clothing construction, blankets or mats or non-functional, as in the case of aesthetic art objects. According to Wangboje (1982) these processes can be further defined by these examples (see also Fig. 5) below:

  1. Changing from fibre to fabric.

This process according to Hilton (1994) involves:

  1. Weaving; tapestry weaving, plaiting, coiling, twisting.
  2. Knitting; crochet
  3. Netting; lace making
  4. Decoration of fabric.
  5. Batik, tie-dye, dyeing
  6. Appliqué; reverse appliqué
  7. Embroidery; crewelwork, needlework.
  8. Patchwork, quilt making
Fig. 6: Fibre or fabric made objects A – C   =   Socks                         D   =   Ladies bag                        E     =   Babies plastic pants   F   =   Ladies shoes                    G   =   Shoes                                H    =   Bag

Fig. 6: Fibre or fabric made objects A – C = Socks D = Ladies bag E = Babies plastic pants
F = Ladies shoes G = Shoes H = Bag

  1. Manipulation of fibre or fabric into objects.
  2. Clothing; costume making
  3. Basketry
  4. Soft sculpture
  5. Furniture
  6. Furnishings; draperies, rugs, and blankets




            The end of World War II marked a dramatic change in formal art training the world-over. Specialized vocational training in the arts has become a paramount pursuit. Art training is centered mostly on the practice and performance of various branches of the visual arts, such as drawing, painting, sculpture, graphics, ceramics and textiles. However, the 21st century globalization which provides for capabilities of the human being has rendered professionalism obsolete. This is because it tends to narrow human capabilities only to a particular function in life. That is why textiles students in tertiary institutions should be given training beyond the mere practice and performance of the art. To ensure this, the following suggestions are made:

  1.  Textiles students in tertiary institutions should be given a comprehensive theoretical global functions of textile as a course.
  2.  Appropriate visual aids for textile functions should be provided during the theoretical classes.
  3.  Students should be taken an excursion to have the first hand knowledge of the practical functions of textiles.





Agu, C. A., Ugwu, B. A. (2001)  Creative  Concepts  in  Art.  Enugu:  Computer  Edge  Publishers.

Anyam, F. J. (2009) Innovation on Tiv Traditional Woven Fabrics: A Practical   Approach. Unpublished M.F.A. Textile Project in the department of Fine   and Applied Arts. University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Anyam. F.J. (2010) Textiles. Makurdi:: Koduag Publishers.

COE K/Ala (2005): FAA Departmental Handbook. Katsina-Ala: College Printer.

Fafunwa,A.B. (1974) History of Education in Nigeria. London: George Allen & Unwin  Limited.

Hall, A. J. (1969) A Student’s Textbook of Textile Science. London: ALLMAN & SON LTD.

Hilton,G. (1994) Textiles. Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson and Sons Limited. p

Joseph, M.L. (1977): Introductory Textile Science. United States of America: Halt, Rinehart and Winston.

Junior World Encyclopedia: Vol. 14 pp. 1147-1150

Oguntona,T. (1986)  Basic Textiles: Design Concepts and Methods. Zaria, Nigeria: Institute of Education, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

Uzoagba, I. N. (2000) Understanding Art in General Education. Onitsha, Nigeria: Rex Charles & Patrick Ltd.

Wikipedia (2010) Man -made Fibres. Htt : // www. Teonline. Com/knowledge-centre/  study – technical -Textiles. html.

Wikipedia  (2011) Natural Fibres. https: www. Google.com.ng/output=Search Bsclient= Psy-ab68=textilefibre

Wangboje, S.I. (1982): A Textbook on Art for Junior Secondary Schools. Ibadan, Nigeria: Evans Brothers  (Nigeria Publishers) Limited.

Wangboje, S.I. (1989): A  New Course in Art for Junior Secondary Schools. Ibadan, Nigeria: Evans Brothers  (Nigeria Publishers) Limited.


Copyright License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, PO Box 1866, Mountain View, CA 94042, USA.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *