Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textile Narratives & Conversions: Proceedings of the 10th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, October 11–14, Toronto, Ontario


Copyright 2006 by the author.


The temporary or supplementary thread has been employed as a supportive structure in the manufacture of utilitarian and decorative woven textiles for over a hundred years. First developed by wool cleaners and finishers during the mid 19th century, the technique has been repeatedly employed to aid innovative yarn and fabric development by some of the textile industry’s leading engineers. The devoré technique, also known as burn out, developed from this temporary thread process during the late 1880s. The popularity of devoré with textiles engineers reached its peak in the 1920s when a period of high decoration coincided with innovation in new artificial fibers such as viscose rayon and cellulose acetate. The post war resurgence in textile engineering and fashion designing during the Art Deco period engendered numerous highly decorative devoré and temporary thread processes that utilized metallic, rayon, wire and latex threads.

Fabric Innovation from Established Processes

The devoré procedure of chemically removing single or multiple fibers from a constructed fabric can be traced to the wool cleaning industries of the mid to late 19th century and the carbonizing treatment, employed to remove plant debris trapped within wool fleece. By treating wool in sulphuric acid solution, contaminating plant matter was reduced to dust when the wool was heated. The earliest forms of woven devoré follow the same principle of destruction, only the plant matter was replaced with cotton threads constructed within a wool woven textile.

Initially it was American and European yarn manufacturers who recognised the economic potential of the temporary thread technique. Delicate wool fibers were twisted (spun) with a cotton thread which acted as a secure rigid guide during fabric construction. The earliest forms of fabric patterning using carbonizing treatments favored localised thread removal using printed carbonising pastes, whereupon cotton or linen threads previously twisted with wool or silk threads, and used for the warp or weft (or both), were burnt away revealing delicate lace-like open work effects.