Why Your Makerspace Should Have a Textiles Department

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Most makerspaces I have visited offer woodworking, laser cutting, 3D printing, and circuitry departments. One area that most makerspaces often ignore and neglect are textiles. After recently talking about this with a colleague, I thought it would be a good time to make the argument for why your makerspace should have a textile department.

Even if you are a small makerspace running out of a public library, there are still many ways you can offer tools, supplies, and materials suitable for working with textiles and fibers.

The Many Benefits of Working With Textiles

The textile industry itself in the United States has been at a serious decline for decades, and so perhaps this is why we don’t appreciate all the benefits that can come with working with textiles. Here are some of the benefits of having a textile department.

Educational Benefits

Believe it or not, there is actually a lot of science, math, and critical thinking involved in textiles.

When dyeing fibers and fabrics, there is a lot of chemistry that needs to be taken into consideration for each type of fiber. Protein-based fibers are not dyed in the same way as plant-based fibers.

If you are sewing together pieces of fabric to make something you designed, you will find there is often a lot of complicated measuring and math involved.

Sewing, crochet, knitting, and spinning can also help us to develop and strengthen our fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

Textiles are Amazingly Eco-Friendly

Textiles can be amazingly eco-friendly when you incorporate the use of upcycled and recycled materials. You could make yarn out of plastic grocery bags and create sturdy baskets or tote bags and many other things.

You can also create all kinds of things by upcycling old clothes. An old t-shirt could become a blanket, a doll, rug or even be used in combination with other departments of your makerspace if your project could benefit from a stretch material.

The ability to transform everyday discarded items into something fantastic is often one of the greatest things about a makerspace – not to mention it makes projects very affordable. It is easy to get donations of fabric and old clothes to reuse and recycle into new creations, even purchasing outright is quite affordable thanks to bulk clothing recyclers who will sell to you by the pound.

Affordable and Accessible

When you have a textile department in your makerspace, you can help make textiles more affordable and accessible to many people.

Many things such as embroidery machines, sewing machines, long arm quilting machines can be very expensive and it’s difficult for most individuals to even see if they like using one before investing in one.

Spinning wheels for making yarn and weaving looms can easily be $500-$1200 – and again, it’s difficult for most people to even try one first to see if they might like using it.

If you’re working with dyeing fabrics and fibers, it’s usually best to have a dedicated space for that as well, which many people simply cannot do at their homes.

By offering these types of machines in your makerspace, you are able to introduce a whole new world of making that they may not have had access to otherwise.

As you can see, there are a lot of benefits to having a textiles department in your makerspace. Even if you are on a limited budget with limited space, there are still many ways you can incorporate textiles into your makerspace, whether you offer sewing needles, drop spindles or crochet hooks, and embroidery hoops.

What are your thoughts on textile departments in makerspaces? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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