A guide to studying Textiles at university - including what to expect, reasons to consider it, application tips and a careers overview.
What is Textiles?
Textiles is one of the largest industries in the world, independent of fashion or interior design. Textiles is essentially about the construction of cloth through weaving or knitting, which may have decorative elements supplied through print and embroidery. Textiles is often thought of as soft materials (fabric), but it often incorporates /makes use of hard materials too, i.e. wood, metal, glass and paper, particularly in the surface design sector. There is a strong connection between textiles and fashion design, interior design, surface design, illustration, craft and costume design. Watch this section on the video from 02:42 – 06:18
What might you study on a Textiles university degree course?
The majority of universities offer between one or all four of the core areas of print, embroidery, weave or knitting, which can be applied to fashion, interiors, craft and textile art. Some universities choose to focus on one or two areas, usually with applied textiles, while others offer a broader approach.
The intended function and use of textiles is an important factor to consider and can differ from one institution to another, for example:
- Large scale manufacturing, usually referred to as Textile Design
- Textile crafts for small scale, bespoke products
- Surface design which includes wallpaper design, stationery and interior products
- Smart textiles which can incorporate smart properties, for example, embedded electronics, textiles with highly sustainable properties or are innovative - addressing the future of textiles in a global sense
- Technical textiles which include fabrics used in sportswear, automotives and medical scenarios.
Sustainable and / or ethical practices are also covered in most courses, but may be a more fundamental aspect in some.
There is a range of different options and the facilities available at universities differ, therefore it is important to research the university courses to find the most suitable for you.
If you decide to go for a joint honours course then it is important to know that a course which includes ‘with’ in the title usually lets you know that it will be an 80-20 split, for example, Textiles with Fashion Design lets you know textiles will be the major focus of your study. If you choose a course which includes ‘and’ in the title, this will be a 50-50 split, for example, Textiles and Fashion Design studies both subjects equally. Watch this section on the video from 06:18 to 10:09
What to expect on a Textiles degree course
All Textile courses will offer workshop and practice as core elements of the course. The majority of courses teach through a blend of course based briefs, personal direction briefs or as live briefs with industry partners and/or competitions. Courses will offer specific context for the production of textiles or a range of contexts, for example, textiles for fashion, textiles for interiors, galleries, education, public spaces or craft. Drawing is at the heart of textile design and will be taught to develop ‘textile thinking’. Theory often consists of one or more of the following: design history, research and writing skills, sustainability and the ethics of textile production. If you have a particular interest, you should ask course providers what is covered and in what depth.
Most Textiles courses are BA Bachelor of Arts, but some offer a different twist with a BSc Bachelor of Science. Some courses epitomise a particular style or brand identity but others have little to no ‘house style’ and students will drive the ambition for the look, direction and style of their work. Some courses will offer work placements, these placements may be through multiple two week placements or a full sandwich year in industry. Watch this section on the video from 10:09 – 13:18
What careers can a Textiles degree lead to?
Textiles is a vast industry therefore there are numerous options open to Textiles graduates at local, national or international levels. Some examples of career paths are:
- Textile Designer for print, weave, knit, embroidery, carpet, non-woven, surface (e.g. wallpaper and glass) for the fashion and interior industries
- Technologist for textiles, colour, garments, automative industry, medical etc.
- Studio based embroiderer, weaver, knitter, dyer, printer
- Textile production and forensics
- Design management
- Self-employed or freelance maker, designer or artist
- Art therapy
- Education Watch this section on the video from 13:18 to 14:31
Advice and tips for Textiles university course applicants
It is important that prospective students research what university courses offer; course information is given on university websites and through social media. Students should attend open days if possible, to get a feel for the university and ask questions of staff and current students and view the facilities.
Your application form needs to demonstrate your interests, particularly your creativity. You should say what subjects and whose work inspires you. You need to show that you are engaged with things going on around you, this could be socially or politically and could include books, films or exhibitions that you have connected with. Be selective with your portfolio, but try to demonstrate the breadth of work you do, for example, how you engage with colour or techniques that you have tackled. Textiles is such an open field that you may have a proportion of work that is not directly textile related, if you are unsure check with tutors what they expect at an open day. Do not be afraid of letting your personality shine through.Watch this section on the video from 14:31 to 16:39