raising sheep, working in cotton fields), not just
as a fashion statement but as necessity.
In the early 1800s, a group of weavers near
Nottingham, England, did not take kindly to the
changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution. With
the introduction of mechanization, weavers who
formerly worked as independent contractors were
driven out of business or forced to work in factories. A guerrilla army of resisters started breaking
into factories or using internal sabotage to destroy
the mechanized looms. They became known as
Luddites, a term we use today to label those who
resist technological progress.
Many other expressions also have their roots in
woven cloth. For example, before red tape meant
bureaucracy, it referred to the handwoven tape,
made on small looms and dyed red, that bound
official documents from the crown. Revolting against
the crown’s red tape, both American colonists,
and 150 years later native Indians led by Gandhi,
refused to buy British cloth that was heavily taxed
and instead made their own homespun clothes.
When sailing ships dominated trade — from
about the 15th to the mid-19th century — the sails
OPPOSITE: In legend, the spider taught African weavers,
who today create brilliant Kente cloth. LEFT: English
police offered rewards to catch rebellious Luddites.
TOP: Gandhi's wife taught him to spin. He encouraged
Indians to weave rather than buy British cloth. ABOVE:
Inventor William B. Stout drives the first fiberglass car.
Until the Industrial Revolution —
the great divider between the time
when we knew how stuff was made
and modern times, when most
don’t have a clue — people made
their own clothes, or at least
participated in some way in
making their own clothes.
were made by thousands of people spinning yarn,
and thousands more weaving the yarn into cloth.
Without that cloth, we wouldn’t have been able to
move anything from one continent to another.
Today, even airplanes rely on weaving technology.
Modern structural composites are made by weaving
fiberglass and other high-tech fibers, then infusing
the web with plastic or other materials to create
a lightweight, durable structure for boats, planes,
and all kinds of modern vehicles.
Many early manufacturing mavericks got their