What is D&T Textiles?


Use the drop down headings under the main ‘D&T: Textiles’ menu to see other resources

D&T Textiles

D&T textiles is one of the material areas that comes under the heading of Design and Technology in schools. It consists of curriculum learning related to anything to do with textiles materials and techniques. It has a bias towards the technological side of textiles and in particular has strong links to the textiles industry. It has strong links to art textiles (and they are often the same thing) but differs in that the focus is on functional products designed for real people with a real purpose. 

Students who study D&T textiles learn a wide range of textiles skills, some very traditional, and others linked to new technology using exciting machines and computer linked systems. They learn about and use a wide range of textiles materials, including modern and smart materials that have been engineered to have high tech properties. They also design and make a wide range of products which might include high tech performance wear, footwear, fashion items, interior products or pretty much any other product that is made out of textiles materials. Students also learn about the modern textiles industry keeping up to date with high tech developments in materials and machinery. 

Students use a range of different equipment in D&T textiles. As well as the traditional sewing machine they use overlockers, a traditional industrial machine, and computerised embroidery machines, as well as high tech machines such as laser cutters and 3D printers. Where possible they use equipment and machines similar to or the same as those used in industry as well as learning about those that are difficult to access in a school situation. They also regularly use a range of computer software for designing.

At keystage 3 and 4 (age 11-16) D&T textiles is closely linked to the other materials areas in D&T (such as the use of woods, metals, plastics). Students can specialise in textiles as a material but they will also learn about the cross over between material areas, about designing and manufacturing generally, as well as about the wide range of technological developments in our ever complex world. From 2017 this is tested at GCSE by a single GCSE qualification known as Design and Technology or via a range of vocational routes. At post 16 (age 16-18) students can choose to focus on textiles in more depth if they wish, for example through an A level Fashion and Textiles qualification, a vocational qualification, or they can maintain their broader focus on materials via a Product Design qualification. All of these GCSE and A level routes (and vocational equivalents) enable students to study textiles, and other areas of design, at a higher level. 

Find out more about the textiles industry

Find out more about the different sectors and career areas in the textiles industry by visiting my website for textiles students 

Find out what the University of Leeds, a Russell Group university, say about the importance of textiles

Textiles in Schools: The next generation

The modern textiles curriculum couldn’t be more different from traditional ‘needlework’ lessons. Students are as likely to learn about making bullet proof vests as they are about making dresses. They handle high tech, engineered fabrics designed by the army and NASA alongside traditional materials. Career routes embrace skills in science, maths and engineering as well as traditional design and manufacturing skills. Things have definitely changed in the classroom!

Click here to find out why Professor Dias, from Nottingham Trent University, describes textiles as being at the forefront of the second industrial revolution

Academic Rigour and Challenge

Textiles is part of ‘Design and Technology’ (D&T) alongside Resistant Materials, Graphics, Food, Electronics and Engineering. Although often perceived as a ‘soft’ subject where you ‘make’ things, it has great academic rigour that surprises many with a breadth of knowledge that would challenge many science, business and ICT students. 

Students learn traditional skills but design for real life contexts other than themselves. They work with traditional and modern materials, industrial machinery and software with opportunities for creativity, innovation and quality previously unobtainable in classrooms. They work as designers and manufacturers researching, experimenting, problem solving and decision making helping them understand the world, and the impact of their choices; something that is crucial for the future.

High Tech Materials

In textiles opportunities are exciting with engineered materials competing with traditional ‘hard’ materials like metal for strength and durability but with the advantage of flexibility and low weight. Did you know Formula 1 racing cars are made from 85% textiles materials? Not just the obvious stuff like seats but the chassis and suspension which are made from twill weave carbon fibre fabric that starts off on a roll like a dressmaking material.  

As well as technical ‘performance’ materials there are others that are ‘intelligent’ reacting to heat, light and touch. Electronic sound and light modules can also be integrated into products. Traditional techniques still exist but are more exciting because of these new technologies. A zip, for example, can link to electronic modules making it into a switch when it’s opened and closed. This technology has potential for both fun and functional products designed to meet real people’s needs such as clothing to monitor health. This gives exciting new dimensions in the classroom taking creativity to a new level. 

In addition there is an increasing blurring of boundaries between materials, with many textiles materials replacing traditional metals and plastics because of their superior strength to weight ratio. Equally many non traditional materials are also being used in textiles and fashion products.

Boys do Textiles too!

The scientific and technical content of the modern textiles curriculum has encouraged more boys to study textiles and, whilst numbers lag behind girls, it’s a growing trend. D&T material areas, including textiles, draw on knowledge from across the curriculum, especially maths and science, requiring pupils to apply knowledge in practical ways. Students use maths to draft patterns to fit body shapes and consider the science behind engineered fabrics before using them. This couldn’t be further away from the pink fluffy hearts image of textiles which is why many boys (and girls) see textiles as the material of the future. 

Textiles is a super power!

This is a tongue in cheek video featuring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson showing that there’s more to being a superhero than you might think. Scorpio, The Rock's superhero character designs and makes his own outfits, impressing all those around him with his attention to detail. There’s also a great quote from the video which is ‘being a superhero is a skill but designing is a talent’. 

(Via Emma Cooper on the GCSE D&T New Spec Textiles Facebook group)

Moving Forward 

D&T as a subject was born in 1989 so it is a relatively young subject. Many adults still think of their own ‘ CDT', ‘sewing' and ‘craft' lessons without awareness of the huge technological changes. The economic downturn generally means that many parents in particular think of textiles as a dying industry which couldn't be further from the truth. The curriculum changes at KS3, 4 and 5 only confuse things further for parents with the education landscape in D&T changing once again.

Educating the community is therefore a key feature of any good textiles department so that parents and students don't approach GCSE, A level, degree and career choices with incorrect negative stereotyped views. Over the next few years, for example, it will be as common for anyone interested in textiles to use electronic modules and technical materials as naturally as they currently use sequins and denim.

With an increasingly high tech and complex world we need D&T in schools to develop the designers, makers and technologists of the future as well as helping citizens of the future to understand and embrace the world around them. This means all aspects of the textiles community has to recognise and embrace new technologies whilst also cherishing traditions of the past. The next generation of textiles has truly begun. 

Careers in Fashion &  Textiles

Click here to find out about a free resource on careers in the fashion & textiles industry

Take a look at this video on the future of fashion and textiles (it’s a long one but shows how fashion and textiles is changing)

Click on the links for other information that might be of interest:

How textiles revolutionised human technology - article about the importance of textiles in the past and the future

Beyond cushions bags and hats - a presentation originally produced for the D&T Association on ideas for updating the textiles curriculum 

Modern, smart and electronic textiles - a resource pack to buy to help teachers update their curriculum

Electronic materials and components to buy - buy the resources needed to integrate electronics into textiles

A world without textiles

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