What is D&T Textiles?

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D&T Textiles

Textiles exist in schools under either the umbrella heading of design and technology (D&T) or the umbrella of art and design (and sometimes under both). These two areas of textiles are strongly linked (and it is often hard to tell them apart), although they are different to each other in the way they are tested in schools at GCSE and A level. Many of the resources on this website focus more on D&T textiles, but only because of space and time, rather than because one is more important that the other. Although targeted more at D&T textiles, many of the resources on the website are just as relevant to art textiles.

Mixed materials

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) so this means all students learn a little bit about all materials. At GCSE students can specialise in one material, for example textiles, but they will also continue to learn about other materials, as well as learning about designing and manufacturing generally, and about the wide range of technological developments in our increasingly complex and technological world. The advantage of this broad approach is that, whilst students can focus more on one material as a specialism, there is also the flexibility for them to consider other materials, along with opportunities to combine materials and use new and emerging technologies, such as 3D printing. This reflects the real world of design where often the use of materials and techniques can’t always be classified under just one material heading, for example these wood veneer lampshades by designer Jane Blease that are decorated with hand embroidery. 

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At post 16 (age 16-18) students can choose to focus in more depth on one material area, for example through an A level D&T Fashion and Textiles qualification, or they can maintain their broader focus on materials via a Product Design qualification. Art and design based qualifications are also available, although as these aren’t D&T based qualifications they have a different focus. All of these GCSE and A level routes enable students to study textiles, and other areas of design, at a higher level. 

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. There is a big focus on designing functional products for real people with a real purpose that solve real problems, as well as a strong focus on how the modern textiles industry works. D&T textiles has strong links to art textiles, so there are lots of opportunities for creativity, with one of the main differ in that the focus is on 

Metals in textiles 2

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.


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 textiles materials. They also learn some of the basics about other materials, such as woods, metals, polymers and paper and boards because of the cross over with how materials are used in our modern world. Career routes embrace skills in science, maths and engineering as well as traditional design and manufacturing skills. Things have definitely changed in the classroom!

Textiles products


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

Although often perceived as a ‘soft’ subject where you ‘make’ things, design and technology 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, use industrial machinery and software, and have 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!

Developments in the D&T curriculum, and particularly at GCSE, means that all boys and girls studying D&T have to learn about textiles to a basic level. This is challenging the gender stereotypes often associated with textiles in schools as boys understand more what textiles actually is and that it isn’t just all fluffy hearts and dresses.


Moving Forward 

Design and technology has changed a lot over the years. Many adults still think of their own ‘CDT', ‘sewing' and ‘craft' lessons without awareness of the huge technological changes that have taken place within the subject. Many also interpret the changes in manufacturing industries worldwide as an indiction that manufacturing, and particularly the textiles industry, are dying industries which is untrue. Whilst many changes in industry are significant, this is the natural evolution of an industry that never stands still.  

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Educating the community is therefore a key feature of any good D&T department so that parents and students don't approach GCSE, A level, degree and career choices with incorrect negative stereotyped views. In the future, for example, it will be as common for anyone interested in textiles to use electronic modules, technical materials and non textiles materials as naturally as they would use traditional materials such as 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

Article about the work of textiles and fashion designer Dr Mark Liu who promotes the importance of STEM alongside traditional fashion & textiles technologies. Dr Liu's website is also worth a look. 


A world without textiles




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’. 


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