I decided on this title for my blog because I am a dreamer, and I am in the Manchester Fashion Institute at Manchester Metropolitan University and doing weaving of sorts.
Living in the utopia of my dream, Manchester Met and my cross-faculty team of Science and Engineering and Manchester Fashion Institute made it a reality. The science and engineering department are globally renowned for their innovative and maverick approaches to new ideas, encouraging innovation from their students. The MFI also leads the way as the heart of textile innovation on an international scale. The strength of the support from my team of supervisors taught me ‘Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts’
I had no background in microbiology, no background in chemistry, not much experience in textiles; however, I do have a lifelong knowledge of horses and a fantastic idea in tying them all together. After all what I am is an inventor. Science and engineering and MFI believed in me, encouraged me, held me up but also held me to account on the standard of my work. I have never in my work life experiences encountered such support. And now, in the third year of my PhD I have designed a new blended natural fibre textile with the capabilities to protect and treat wounds in equines.
My PhD is on the modification of existing synthetic textiles using silver enriched zeolites to kill associated bacteria produced by the condition insect bite hypersensitivity (IBH) in equines. The initial research provided a methodology base line, with which to explore the possibilities of producing a more sustainable solution in the way of a natural fibre textile for protection blankets, that also provide healing capabilities.
My research first investigated synthetic textiles to create a baseline methodology. The synthetic fibres were modified in the chemistry lab, with two different silver enriched zeolites. Associated bacteria of the disease was introduced in the microbiology lab. The aim of the research was to determine which zeolites were most effective in stopping the proliferation of the selected bacteria. Samples from three existing commercial horse blankets used to protect against IBH were functionalised with two commercial zeolites, one synthetic and the other mineral namely zeolite beta and chlinoptiolite referred to as (LTB and LTC). To study the functionality of the zeolites on the selected textiles, a number of timed assay models were developed showing the bactericidal and bacteriostatic capabilities of silver enriched zeolites. The results showed that both LTB and LTC were effective in both bactericidal and bacteriostatic functions, however LTB the commercial natural zeolite was more effective than the commercial synthetic LTC zeolite. Further research will see modification of the new natural fibre blended textile incorporating the use of LTB silver enriched zeolites.
The Research Support Award enabled me to develop a new natural fibre blend, have it spun and woven ready for modification to produce the ultimate healing protection blanket for horses that suffer from IBH. The Natural Fibre Company in Cornwall were intrigued with the concept of the chosen fibres, with the funding enabling the very first sample to be made and The Natural Fibre Company was so inspired they provided industry funding for a substantial amount of yarn to be produced for my first prototypes to be made.
The Research Support Award also enabled me to attend an intense one on one course at the Huddersfield Textile Centre of Excellence to learn about weaving on a small scale and on an industrial scale. This allowed me to produce some of the very first samples woven on my own hand loom. Each step brings me closer to the final concept of my initial idea. What a fantastic journey; and that is what a PhD is meant to be! A fantastic life changing journey of growth, confidence, and academic acumen. The many courses and workshops offered by the university in academic writing are second to none and invaluable, especially for some one like me who is very creative and struggles with words.
I had only ever presented my work in front of my supervisors but was encouraged to present at the PAHC end of year symposium in May 2022, 9th Annual Postgraduate Arts & Humanities Centre Symposium Incorporating the MA/PhD Collaboration Award “Bad fences make bad neighbours”: transcending disciplinary constraints in post-graduate research. I was reluctant in presenting my work and I was incredibly nervous, consumed with imposter syndrome. The process of preparation for this conference was invaluable and a huge learning curve, but also made me realise the plethora of life skills I already have, that until now I have underestimated. The feedback I received and the whole experience of presenting was exhilarating, and a light switch went on, I had never felt so at home. My supervisory team were proud of me, and that affirmation gets me through the difficult times.
In addition to the benefits the RDF have provided me with; it has opened many other doors of opportunity. The Huddersfield Textile Centre of Excellence have invited me to sit on the panel of Business champions where over £450,000 of monies will be distributed to up-and-coming sustainable businesses. I have also been invited to apply and present my work at this event! Good times! The Natural Fibre Company are sitting on the word go, waiting to start the manufacturing of the new protection blanket. None of these opportunities were even on my horizon when I embarked on my PhD, it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and life changing.