Textiles researchers go Dutch with electrifying fabrics

  • Published: 12 Feb 2019

Two postgraduate researchers from the University of Dundee are to showcase the links between crafting and wellbeing at a major international conference.

Two postgraduate researchers from the University of Dundee are to showcase the links between crafting and wellbeing at a major international conference.

Textile designers Sara Nevay and Lucy Robertson, from the University’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, will host a workshop at next month’s Research Through Design conference in Rotterdam.

The pair have been working with volunteers throughout Scotland to establish how the use of both traditional and electronic ‘e-textiles’ can impact on wellbeing, and as they prepare to address research peers in the Netherlands, both hope that taking their ‘e-textile Playground’ workshop overseas could potentially open up new avenues of research.

“When you are researching it can become quite easy to stick to the route that you find yourself on, so it will be interesting to hear what our peers have to say about our studies,” said Lucy.

“The workshop will be discussion-driven and we hope to hear from others what wellbeing means to them and how crafting can impact upon that.

“By bringing in other people and letting them use the same materials we have been working with, we can develop new ways to incorporate e-textiles into our project. The conference will also give us a chance to visit other workshops and see what researchers and practitioners across Europe are doing, so it is an exciting opportunity for us.”

Utilising volunteer crafters, Sara and Lucy have been hosting workshops since last summer to examine how a person’s sense of wellbeing responds to creating a fabric bird using a kit of traditional and e-textiles. Unlike traditional fabrics, e-textiles conduct electricity allowing them to power lights and sounds. Sara and Lucy record individual responses before and upon completion of the task to establish how the crafting experience has affected a person’s mood.

The findings have been fed in to their respective PhD projects, with Sara examining how e-textiles can help support older adults who experience loneliness, and Lucy looking at how sonic textiles can help people living with dementia.

With socialising a key aspect in positively contributing towards a person’s mental health, the pair hope that their studies could influence small lifestyle changes that could help to transform a person’s welfare.

Sara added, “Working with the public has been fascinating, and it will be interesting to see how research peers view what we are doing.

“We are continuing to host our sewing sessions and they have helped our research to evolve since we started in 2017. While the core activity remains the same, we are asking different questions relating to health and wellbeing and are also benefitting from gaining more hands-on experience with e-textiles, which has helped us to develop the way we teach others to use them.

“Health and wellbeing are critical issues in modern society and the work we are carrying out can hopefully identify ways in which we can help to address these.”

The Research Through Design conference takes place in Rotterdam from Tuesday 19 to Friday 22 March.

“When you are researching it can become quite easy to stick to the route that you find yourself on, so it will be interesting to hear what our peers have to say about our studies. The workshop will be discussion-driven and we hope to hear from others what wellbeing means to them and how crafting can impact upon that."

Lucy Robertson