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. We are establishing critical dialogue around participatory textile making methods, collating examples of best practice and arguing for their value in research. We are disseminating this knowledge to academic and non-academic audiences and hope to 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 is exploring 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 is funding network activities structured around three key events that respond to the research questions:

  • A 2-day Case Study Workshop at Clayhill Arts, Somerset, in April 2019 brought together researchers using participatory textile making across a 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 in June 2019, with input from researchers, ‘critical friends’ from associated academic fields, project commissioners and professional textile practitioners, focused on investigating the validity and effectiveness of these new methodological approaches for research contexts.
  • A 1-day Study Day (date and format tbc) 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.

Outputs of the network to date include:

  • a double special issue of the Journal of Arts & Communities, with 15 case study articles critically discussing research projects that involve participatory textile making
  • the Stitching Together Good Practice Guidelines, aimed at facilitators of participatory textile making workshops and projects in diverse settings
  • two videos, available on the home page, which provide an introduction to the network and to the use of participatory textile making in academic research
  • a growing collection of online case studies, describing a diverse range of participatory textile making projects in practice and research contexts
  • a guest post for the Social Research Association blog

Derby Museums, who are currently working on the exciting development of Derby Silk Mill into a new Museum of Making, are an external partner of the network.

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.