The Network is a child of the political changes that took place in Europe in 1989/90. At that time, there was also a sharp increase in cultural challenges. All cultural sectors were required to reappraise their content, historic sources and future forms of cultural production. The textile sector was no exception.

The Network was initiated by Beatrijs Sterk and Dietmar Laue in February 1990, publishers of the Textile Forum Magazine. Attracting 42 participants from 23 countries, the first conference was held in the East German town of Erfurt in June 1991. At that working meeting, the Network's tasks, still applicable today, were outlined and published in a brochure.

The second conference, held in Lausanne in 1992, discussed and decided the future structure of the Network. The intention was to establish a democratically organised, International Association as well as a Cultural Foundation committed to ETN's goals.

The Association was brought into being in April 1993, based in Strasbourg and under Council of Europe patronage. In the same year, ETN became the carrier network for textiles in the Council of Europe's Cultural Itineraries programme. In June 1997 ETN came under the umbrella of the Assembly of European Regions (AER).

Founders group of the European Textile Network 1993 (from left):
Julián Ruesgua Bono/E, Sevilla – publisher, Eulàlia Morral I Romeu/E, Terrassa – Director of the Textile Museum, Dietma Laue/D, Hannover – architect, Beatrijs Ster/D, Hannover – publisher, Michel Thomas-Penette/F, Strabourg – programme advisory/Council of Europe, Philippe Jeanloz/CH, Lausanne – public relations manager/Museum of Applied Arts, Egils Rozenbergs/Latvia, Jumala – artist, Janis Jefferies/GB, London – Professor of Art History/Goldsmiths´College, Norbert Zawisza/PL, Lodz – Director of the Central Textile Museum, Vibeke Vestby/NO, Oslo – Professor of Art at the University of Oslo (not on the picture)

From 1997 and until 2015 the Network's tasks were carried by ETN and supported by a documentation, information and coordination service (ETN/TFS Services) of the Textile Forum Service by Beatrijs Sterk and Dietmar Laue. At the 17th ETN conference in Leiden / NL held in May 2015 the transfer of ETN to Austria has been decided.

In a transition period from 2015 until 2019 ETN had its base in Madrid under the able presidency of Lala de Dios. In January 2020 ETN has been founded anew under Austrian law by Christina Leitner and Andreas Selzer and has its current seat at the Textile Centre Haslach, host of ETN conferences in 2009 and 2019.