Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings, Washington, DC, September 18- September 22, 2012.


Copyright 2012 by the author(s).


Here are two extraordinary tales where ingenuity and knowledge of velvet technology served the military defense of England. Richard John Humphries of the Humphries Weaving Company is renown for his expertise on fine silk production for royal regalia and restorations. He told me how he acquired his lathe-turned, teak velvet bobbins. He had salvaged his velvetloom and velvet wire collection from the closure of the Warners mill in 1971. However, he had no velvet bobbins. One day a person from the War Department approached him with the theory that a cloth could shield the fuselages of aircraft and prevent heat-seeking missiles from locking onto them. The woven fabric would have polyester thread crossed with nickel-plated copper wire. First Richard tried warping with the polyester and inserting copper wire. However, the specifications were extremely exacting and the slight unevenness of the beat exceeded the tolerance level. In a stroke of genius, he switched, wound the wire on made-to-order bobbins, polyester for weft. Success, he wove these anti-radar shields for helicopters for years. Eugene Nicholson, former Keeper of Industrial Technology at the Bradford Industrial Museum, related that the Lister's Manningham Mills grew to prominence with the advent of its face-to-face velvet powerlooms. In WWII it developed a top-secret cloth crucial to Patton's decoy army. Listers, the King of Plush, modified its velvet technology, produced a double pile fabric that could be coated with rubber and inflated into 3-D forms. From aerial surveillance these balloons would appear to be military trucks and tanks.