School of Design

ULITA – an Archive of International Textiles

The Projects

TeachingPackCollage‘World Textiles and Yorkshire: Past and Future’ is an eighteen-month project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the W.W. Spooner Charitable Trust, undertaken by the University of Leeds International Textiles Archive (ULITA) and their associated partner South Leeds City Learning Centre of Education Leeds. The aim of the project is to encourage school children and adults, of all ages and backgrounds to increase their knowledge of textiles. A total of nine schools and community groups participated. With the emphasis on design and ‘making’, and with guidance from specialist tutors, one-hundred-and-seventy students researched, designed and manufactured items. Selections of these are presented in this exhibition, with each display cabinet highlighting the various ways in which the project was interpreted by different groups. Each group were given an insight into an aspect of the history or future of textiles and were tasked with producing outcomes as material for the exhibition, and to talk about their project to another group. Images recorded during the practical workshops will be used to illustrate a commemorative brochure, teaching packs, and a dedicated space on the ULITA website.

Inspiration was drawn from several sources including from the Collections of the University of Leeds International Textiles Archive (ULITA). The tutors allowed the participants the freedom to pursue their own interests within the project, thus the outcomes are many and varied, but reflect each group’s enthusiasm and each individual’s response. The project has allowed the participants to experiment with ideas, to use unfamiliar, traditional and cutting- edge techniques, to work together with their peers, and to speak confidently about their project results and experiences.

The Projects

ASHA Neighbourhood Project

The six ladies of ASHA Neighbourhood Project, who began learning to sew garments in September 2007, took up the challenge of completing a waistcoat using fabrics which were unfamiliar to them. The ladies traditionally use very thin, fluid, slippery fabrics, such as silks, but in this project they incorporated woollen fabrics into their design … read more »

Gomersal Church of England School Project

Twenty-eight children from year five made felt by hand in a series of workshops. They learned about traditional production and the use of felt, and made flat test pieces, a bag or a mobile phone cover using different three-dimensional techniques, and finally worked together on a collaborative piece which will hang in an alcove behind the altar in their local church … read more »

Hanson School Project

The girls in year ten worked on the project ‘Fashion of the Future’ and produced garments under the headings of ‘Performance’, ‘Recycled’, ‘Reused’, ‘Vintage Remake’, and ‘Ethnic’. The students were allocated fabrics/textiles in the various categories by the tutors and they designed, styled and manufactured their products, using a moulage technique … read more »

Ingram Road Primary School Project

The year three children from Ingram Road Primary School pursued the topic of ‘The Egyptians’, relating back to the Egyptian children’s garments held in one of the constituent collections at ULITA, and continuing on with the work done in school on this popular subject … read more »

Joseph Priestley College Project

The ladies of the Joseph Priestley College Enrichment Group used the Elizabethan ruff as a starting point for their project. As their primary interest is in hairdressing, the large ruffs suggested a frame surrounding the whole head … read more »

Morley High School Project

Twenty boys and girls from year eight took part in the project, taking ‘Fashion of the Present’ as their theme. In response to their research of Mondrian, current designers and High Street trends, they designed and made garments which they would be happy to wear … read more »

New Bewerley Community Group Project

The ladies and gentlemen of the group were allowed a free choice of topic within the brief for their individual responses to the project. The results have shown great variety, from a corset based on Indian pattern design, to Japanese kimonos, a Japanese screen using current fabric printing and heat pressing techniques and finished with hand painted details and symbols, a 1920s outfit for a child, to a modern interpretation of a draped Egyptian dress … read more »

Quarry Mount Primary School Project

Twenty-five children from years three, four and five took part in craft workshops on feltmaking. They learned about the history and uses of felt, and made test pieces before making a personal three-dimensional container, progressing to making individual tiles and letters for the collaborative piece entitled ‘Challenge Racism’ … read more »

Woodkirk High Specialist Science School Project

The year eight students took ‘Fashion of the Future’ as their project topic. Having researched current designers, the students’ designs included an evening dress, school uniform, pyjamas and ‘rock-and- roll’ outfits … read more »


The project has been successful in delivering a series of fun workshops to nine groups, each with different challenges. Tutors have provided a framework which has allowed the participants to pursue diverse interests within the topics, using textiles as the source of inspiration. Some of the outcomes are site specific, and will themselves become part of the local heritage of the groups.


World Textiles and Yorkshire, Past and Future, on the catwalk at the White Rose Shopping Centre in Leeds

Images recorded during the project will illustrate a brochure, and complement the text in teaching packs which are being developed, and made available as free downloads from a dedicated space on the ULITA website (

An exhibition, World Textiles and Yorkshire: Past and Future, of crafted items from schools and community groups in West Yorkshire was on display in the dedicated exhibition space at ULITA, the University of Leeds Textiles Archive, in June and July, 2008. All the participants came to ULITA to view the results of their hard work, and many commented on how well the items looked when ‘properly’ displayed.

A further development of this project is a relationship with a major retail outlet in West Yorkshire, the White Rose Shopping Centre in Leeds. Selected items were displayed in glass ‘pods’ around the centre, and a catwalk slot within their fashion show took place in September 2008 much to the enjoyment of all who took part. The project thus had the potential to reach a much wider audience and viewing base of thousands of people.

We were fortunate to have specialist tutors both in the traditional and cutting edge areas of textiles, who have not only encouraged the students in the making of their textile related pieces, but have also made them aware of some of the ethical considerations that are facing the world of textiles today.

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