My practice-based PhD looks at how emotional experience can be designed into digital Jacquard woven textiles using digital coding as a co-design tool. The iterative process between theory and practice creates a constant conversation and exploration which responds to the research’s aim and objectives.

Part of the practice evolves through the interaction of participants, seeing them co-design textiles which can elicit emotional experience. The participants are invited to attend a 6-session-study in order to co-design a digital jacquard woven textile loaded with emotional experience. The six sessions are divided into three categories: ‘How sensory perception of woven textiles can elicit emotional experience’ (includes three sessions), ‘The arousal of emotional experience during the co-design process’ (includes one session), and ‘The holistic textile’ (includes two sessions). Before the final session can be completed, a set of new woven textiles need to be produced. As handweaving is a time-consuming process and due to the time restrictions of my MMU VC scholarship (three years), in an early stage of the research I thought that I would produce the textile samples using Manchester School of Art weaving workshop facilities, and the final textile using industrial equipment to resemble the textile design process of weaving mills. In the end though, due to Manchester Metropolitan University not having the facilities to produce Jacquard woven textiles using industrial equipment for investigation, I had to outsource the production and find a partner to produce the final textiles.

After considering several places and their requirements to produce the research’s final textiles, TextielLab was found to be the most favorable option. TextielLab, based in Tilburg, The Netherlands, allows textile practitioners and researchers to experiment with industrial equipment to produce unique textiles without the industry requirements of mass-production.

The first contact with TextielLab was in 2018 to understand their requirements in order to submit an application for weaving production. After some technical and COVID-19 issues the visit to TextielLab was scheduled during the first part of October. Sadly though, like most things recently, this research also suffered the fast-changing situation of COVID-19. Due to travel restrictions I could not fly, therefore missing the visit to TextielLab. After overcoming the disappointment of a long-term plan disrupted – and thanks to the brilliant staff at TextielLab – the activity was successfully carried out using online platforms to communicate and produce the textiles.

The bright side of using online platforms such as Teams and video calls is that I could conduct the activity from a different country. Marjan Van Oeffelt, the weaving technician, kindly explained each step of the process and introduced me to the team to make me feel very welcome over a video call. We spoke every morning to set up the day’s work and what was required from both of us. After that she would be working on the computer preparing the files and creating samples so that I could feedback with the changes required.

It’s important to mention that when weaving, a lot of decisions are made next to the loom through touching the fabric to see what works and what doesn’t. Therefore one of the downsides of this ‘online process’ was the inability to discuss and feedback in person on the technical aspects of the textiles. Another point to stress is that in my research, the tactile sense is of high importance when developing the textiles with the participants. After five sessions with each participant I had the tacit knowledge of what they liked and disliked, and therefore at some points it was hard to explain with words over the video call and because I was not able to touch the textiles. To overcome the tactile-less online process, Marjan fed back to me her personal and professional experience and the technical aspects of what she literally felt. For instance, if the weave structure did not provide enough texture due to its pick per inch (density), or if the yarns were not working well due to their thickness, she would explain this through descriptive words as well as showing me on the video.

A week after the ‘online’ production, I got a parcel from TextielLab with my final textiles. When analysing the textiles, most of them felt exactly as I expected from the description given by Marjan.

Finally I am able to say that the research can proceed with the final session and therefore produce data to finalise the study.

Overall I have to express my gratitude to TextielLab in adapting their traditional system in order to produce my textiles, with a special thanks to Marjan and her expertise. I also would like to express my gratitude to my supervisors, Dr. Annie Shaw and Dr. Susan Atkin, who supported me with their creativity – in these COVID times where new ways of doing are required – and knowledge to make sure that I could produce my textiles. Finally, I am thankful to the Graduate School for the financial support through the Research Support Award.

Gina was funded through the Manchester Metropolitan Graduate School’s Research Support Award to complete her textile production. The next deadline for Research Support Award applications is Friday 15 January 2021 at 5pm. Find out more by visiting the PGR Development Moodle area.

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