The Stitching Together project aims to develop improved critical understandings of participatory textile making as an emerging methodological approach to research by creating a sustainable network of researchers, project commissioners, professional textile practitioners and enthusiast maker groups. It will establish critical dialogue around participatory textile making methods, collate examples of best practice and argue for their value in research. The network will disseminate this knowledge to academic and non-academic audiences and prompt new participatory research initiatives. 

The familiarity of textile making processes such as sewing and knitting means these activities are accessible to participants and researchers in varied contexts across a range of disciplines, from clinical medicine and occupational therapy to community building and sustainable development. Researchers using participatory textile making activities are gaining rich insights into questions of artistic, scientific, social, material and cultural value. The associated practical, ethical and conceptual challenges are encountered in research and non-research contexts, indicating scope for knowledge exchange to enhance impact and promote good research practices. 

In summary, the network will explore three research questions:

  • How is participatory textile making being used as a new methodological approach to research?
  • What issues does this raise for the validity and effectiveness of the research?
  • How do participatory textile making projects engage and impact participants?

The grant will fund network activities structured around three key events that respond to the research questions:

  • A 2-day Case Study Workshop at Clayhill Arts, Somerset, will bring together researchers using participatory textile making across the range of disciplines to examine ways in which this new methodological approach is being used in research contexts.
  • A 1-day Critical Reflection Workshop at the Arts University Bournemouth, with input from researchers, ‘critical friends’ from associated academic fields, project commissioners and professional textile practitioners, will focus on investigating the validity and effectiveness of these new methodological approaches for research contexts.
  • A 1-day Study Day at Derby Museum & Art Gallery will be dedicated to exploring how these participatory textile making activities engage and impact volunteer participants. Enthusiast maker groups will be invited to join network discussions on the ethics of volunteer participation, co-creation of works and participant representation in research outcomes.

While spaces at the first two events are limited by the resources available via our grant, the final event will accommodate a larger number of attendees. Knowledge exchange between all stakeholder groups at this event will facilitate new lines of collaborative research enquiry. The network will produce outcomes accessible to academic and non-academic audiences invested in participatory making activities.

Project partner Derby Museums will participate in the network and host the Study Day. The project will inform the team’s action research work in the process of the significant development of Derby Silk Mill into a new Museum of Making, due to open in 2020. 

Stitching Together is supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: history, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, languages, design, heritage, area studies, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98 million to fund research and postgraduate training, in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits and contributes to the economic success of the UK but also to the culture and welfare of societies around the globe.