Friday, November 21, 2008

Ancient Egyptian Garment Making

From its start in prehistoric Egypt, women were predominately in charge of textile manufacturing and garment making. Garment making was a household chore, but woman also worked for aristocrats in spinning and weaving shops. Every garment from the decorative dresses of queens and the elaborate, pleated kilts of the pharaohs to the simpler kilts and aprons of the common people were handmade by woman. The process of making garments is extensive even for the simplest of garment.

Most Egyptians wore garments made from linen. This type of fabric is light, airy, and allows freedom of movement, which are important characteristics because of the hot and sometimes humid climate of Egypt. The second choice of fabric is wool or cotton. Wool can be warm but it has natural oils that repel moisture. Ancient Egyptians also considered wool to be impure. Cotton is airy, but not as light as linen.

Linen is a fabric made from plant fibers. The plant fiber comes from flax plants that grow abundantly along the banks of the Nile. The flax plants are dried, combed, soaked, beaten, and dressed. The resulting fibers are then spun into thread. The thread is woven into linen fabric from which the garments are made.

The tools involved in garment making include knives (or scissors) and needles, both of these needed to be molded, shaped or craved. In predynastic times, knives were made out of stone and the needles were made from bones. However, during the Old Kingdom, they were both made out of copper. Then, in the Middle Kingdom, bronze replaced the copper. Knives and needles were molded. Surprisingly, the eyes of needles were not bored. They were "scratched out with a hard, pointed instrument, probably a stone." With these tools and linen, garments were fashioned to suit the needs of the people based on climate and the social status.

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