In the 19th century, (when England was the leading textile producing country), realizing that large amounts of fiber were wasted as trim, a textile engineer named Garnett developed a special carding device to shred this waste material back to fiberous form. This fiber was used as filling material for pillows. The Garnett Machine, though greatly modified, today still retains his name and is a major component in the non woven industry.
Later on, manufacturers in Northern England began binding these fibers mechanically (using needles) and chemically (using glue) into batts. These were the precursors of today's non-wovens.
This art remained the same into the middle of the 20th century and patents as late as the 1930's depict such batts specially made to insulate railroad box cars in the U.S. Now in the 21st century, though some fillings and paddings are still made as they were in England almost 2 centuries ago, non-wovens have progressed beyond Garnett's dreams. Non-woven fabric was used between the Space Shuttle Discovery's heat resistant tiles and the spaceship's skin and non-wovens were part of the space suits worn to the moon. The limits to the use of non-wovens remains only in the imagination of man, and new innovations are developed on a steady basis.