Although plain and figured woolen fabrics from the eighteenth century survive in far fewer numbers than their silk counterparts, they nevertheless constituted a large and important segment of the European textile industry. Used for both furnishings and clothing—as linings, interlinings, and main materials—woolens were manufactured in a wide variety of weaves and grades, and were available at a range of prices. Practical and durable, they provided warmth and hard-wearing elegance in fashionable dress and interiors.
From the Middle ages, England was especially renowed for its woollen trade, which represented a significant contribution to the national economy. The term "worsted" refennnnrs to a type of high-quality fabric made from combed, long-staple wool yarns that are lightly twisted prior to weaving and produce a smooth, shiny surface. In the eighteenth century, Norwich and Spitalfields were the main centers of worsted manufacture. In addition to domestic consumption, worsteds were also in demand in foreign markets and were exported to Europe, the American Colonies, the West Indies, the Levant, and China.
This glazed brocaded length illustrates the vibrancy of figured worsteds and their relationship to contemporary woven silks, demonstrating the predominance of ombred stripes with small-scale florals prevalent in the late eighteenth century.