Viewpoint

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I don’t do many purely opinion based blogs and posts as I prefer to use my time to offer support to teachers and students through resources and ideas. To be honest I am also not always comfortable giving my viewpoint as I feel there are always so many sides to an argument and I would rather just get on with doing it rather than talking about it! I am however asked my opinion a lot on a range of things related to D&T, and teachers say my opinions help shape their own thoughts, even if it means they don’t agree with me. This page is therefore somewhere where I will post the occasional opinion piece, often based on things that I have been asked to write for other forums and blogs. The page will probably be quite textiles biased as that is my specialist area and what I get asked my opinion on most. 

'This is an Exciting Time for Textiles’ & Other Quotes from the University of Leeds

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Last term, as part of a course on technical textiles delegates visited the textiles department at the University of Leeds. We heard Dr Parik Goswami talk with humour and passion about medical textiles, watched Dr Andrew Hewitt show how amazing non wovens are, and were given a tour by Dr Mark Sumner of some of the amazing textiles facilities at the university, where his focus is on fashion and sustainability.

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Delegates were set the task of collecting inspirational quotes from the three lecturers and these quotes are a powerful reminder of the importance of textiles as seen by a Russell Group university who are world leaders in textiles research and innovation (so much so that we weren’t allowed to take photos because some of the work is so top secret).

Who says it’s a dying industry?

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                                                     (Dr Parik Goswami)

The University of Leeds has a long history of textiles, indeed, part of its origins stemmed from the local textiles industries wanting to compete with the rapid development of new technologies in Europe. Whilst the university recognises that it is a changing industry they embrace the changes and are playing a key role in research and development. Key quotes that were mentioned were:

‘It’s a massive industry’

‘SO many areas in textiles – don't be limited to fashion design’

‘Textile research can have more impact than any other subject’

’25 kilos of non wovens in an average car’

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Science and textiles go hand in hand

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A key theme during the visit was the importance of science within the modern textiles industry but in an applied way rather than as a pure scientist. This again links back to the increase of science at keystage three and four. Key quotes that were mentioned were:

 ‘…..everything from wound dressings to bullet proof vests’ (Dr Goswami)

‘If you can understand the basics of textile science, you can create anything from a football to dialysis fibres’ (Dr Goswami)

‘….to do applied science you don’t need to be a scientist….these people have a lot to contribute to science (Dr Goswami)

‘We need to teach our students something new…..something cutting edge….’ (Dr Goswami)

‘There are all sorts of funky things you can do with fibres…..non wovens is the future’ (Dr Hewitt)

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                                          (Dr Parik Goswami & Dr Andrew Hewitt)

Collaboration is the key

In particular it was interesting to hear Dr Goswami talk about the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration between departments rather than textiles working in isolation and this is very linked to the ‘broader materials’ approach at keystage three and four. Whilst like me they felt the GCSE D&T 2017 D&T content is far from perfect, they did feel the focus on materials in their broader sense, along with a focus on science and technology is key to future developments in textiles. Key quotes that were mentioned were:

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                                                     (Dr Parik Goswami)

‘Work with people from other disciplines….biologists linking with textiles technologists’ (Dr Goswami)

‘….design thinking….. that means not seeing materials as something limiting….we ask people, in an ideal world what would you want?’ (Dr Goswami)

‘Try to speak the same language no matter what your specialism’ (Dr Goswami)

 ‘Students should understand the links between technology and design and innovation and creativity’

‘….it’s about what students need to learn not what I want to teach’


Challenging gender stereotypes

The passion the three lecturers had for textiles was incredibly inspiring. It was particularly inspiring to hear three men talk about textiles in such a passionate way and it really proves that the barriers within schools to boys doing textiles can and should be challenged.

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On the second day of the course back at the National STEM Learning Centre teachers spent the day doing experimental work and a range of practical activities to help them put what they had learnt at the university into the classroom in easy and affordable ways.

At a challenging time within D&T the visit was a welcome reminder of the importance of textiles and how, despite the government’s focus away from the Arts, a top Russell Group university with an international reputation embraces both it’s historical origins within textiles as well as its future in this area moving forward.

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                                                     (Dr Parik Goswami)

Find out more about the technical textiles and other courses run in conjunction with the University of Leeds and The National STEM Learning Centre


Contact:     Tel 01159 607061    Mob 07972 749240   Email julie@julieboyd.co.uk

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The Changing Face of Textiles

This post first appeared on the D&T Association website 

I know many fellow textiles specialists are concerned about how textile fits in to the new GCSE fearing a reduction in creativity and the loss of the unique nature of textiles as a material area. I completely agree it’s important to retain everything that is special about textiles, but I also support the broader focus that the new single GCSE offers. Rather than restricting creativity, the new GCSE has the potential to allow us to focus both on the traditional elements of textiles, as well as offering us new opportunities should we choose to be a little more adventurous and want to be creative in new ways.

Textiles materials and techniques: new meets old

The reality of the 21st Century textiles industry is that there’s a huge blurring of lines between materials, and it’s often hard to categorise materials and products as we have in the past. Materials such as polypropylene and polyethylene have long been considered plastics, but are now also commonly used as textiles fibres (take a look at Helly Hansen’s base layer sport products, as well as products sold in high street stores such as Ikea). 

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Traditional textiles techniques are still essential but new ones are developing, for example, woven and knitted metal fabrics, such as Tacott, a stainless steel and brass knitted fabric with uses from architecture to fashion. Another example is Ki-ori Tennage, a woven material based on a Japanese tradition that uses wood in the fabric warp. Both are soft, flexible fabrics that can be stitched on a sewing machine.

Refusing to be bound by traditional boundaries

This broader approach to materials was illustrated by a recent visit to the degree shows at my local university, Nottingham Trent, where the textiles, product design, furniture design and graphic design courses all fully embraced a range of materials. 

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                                     (work by Dariusz Gabrielczyk & Tingling He)

In a clear nod towards the changing nature of textiles, the Textile Design degree show was titled ‘Shift’, which the handbook explained was based on the shifting perceptions about textiles. The course leader commented that students 'refuse to be confined by traditional boundaries', saying that 'As textile designers work in increasingly multi disciplinary teams, new paradigms for practice are emerging'. The creative and varied work on display included garments with laser cut ply corsets, garments with copper integrated into ruffles to give them structure and form, embroidered plastic dresses, bags made of sheets of acrylic joined with embroidery, and furniture with highly embellished fabric surfaces.

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                                     (work by Georgia Nichols & Kathryn Bell)

To further emphasise this ‘shift’, a job advertised recently for a Textile Design Engineer listed the Textile Design degree mentioned above as the required qualification. The role was described as engineering, working in the design department in an automotive industry, creating innovative automotive fabrics. Not only does this engineering job require a creative textiles qualification, the job outline also lists key skills we use in the textiles classroom all the time such as knitting, weaving, dying, finishing, fabric testing, and aesthetics.

Textile Design Engineer Job at Lear Corporation in Guildford, GB | LinkedIn

The changing nature of materials in design was also reflected in work from the Product Design course. In schools the term product design has been hijacked and narrowed down to refer to a resistant materials curriculum but the work at NTU reflected the wider nature of product design, with a large number of products made of mainly textiles fabrics, including garments. This mix of materials was also reflected in the graphic design courses where many students had interpreted their ideas through textiles.

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There are many other courses that are embracing textiles and fashion in new ways. The Fashion Futures degree at Manchester Met is a fashion degree focusing on future technology and innovations, and the Textile Science and Technology degree, also at Manchester Met, is a textiles degree with an emphasis on physics, chemistry and engineering, including a focus on apparel and other textiles areas. Even in more traditional fashion courses knowledge of textiles science is seen as an advantage. Dr Mark Bradshaw, Textiles Subject Leader in the School of Design at De Montfort University, says their wide range of fashion and textiles courses rely on a detailed understanding of the technical side of textiles. He says this is the basis of designing and manufacturing, and a key to employability. He welcomes newer elements of the GCSE, particularly the broader materials focus, along with the new content on forces and electronics, as being relevant to the modern textiles industry and to courses the university runs.

An exciting future

These developments in textiles don’t mean traditional routes are less valid, nor that these textiles traditions are less important in our classroom. It’s important to recognize that both the design industry generally, as well as the fashion and textiles industry, are changing, and that increasingly young people will have opportunities to push the boundaries, as well as having opportunities to use materials in new ways. This is exciting and it’s important it’s reflected in our classrooms and that students understand the wide range of options open to them. This is especially the case for boys who often aren’t as interested in traditional fashion and textiles routes, but also for girls who want to study a creative subject that also gives them an edge in a competitive jobs market.

The change in GCSE D&T enables our curriculum to reflect more of what is happening within the industry. It will also enable students to make more of an informed choice at 16 about whether they want to continue a broader product design route, or whether they want to specialize in one material area. If they choose the latter they will be better informed of the wider use of materials within their specialist area, and the need to be open minded about celebrating both the traditional and new ways of doing things.

I will write more in the future about what this ‘shift’ might actually look like in the classroom, and how it can be both manageable and exciting, both for textiles specialists, as well as non specialists who are interested in developing the use of textiles in their own classroom.


Contact:     Tel 01159 607061    Mob 07972 749240   Email julie@julieboyd.co.uk

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