KPU history students create textiles from the past
Students in HIST 3310 were given a hands-on assignment rather than an essay
Last semester, Kwantlen Polytechnic University students in HIST 3310: The Fibre of Society – Textile Production in Global History, were given the option to recreate textiles from the past instead of completing a final paper.
Tracey Kinney, a history instructor at KPU, has been running this course for over 20 years and came up with the topic.
“I developed [the class] at the Richmond campus as a way for students in the fashion program to cover history. We had a combination of history and fashion students, so that is how it came to be,” Kinney says.
Students were asked to pick an era of clothing from the 1600s to the present. Two students got particularly close to replicating the textiles from their chosen time period.
Eronmon Okojie’s project was on Irish lace embroidery.
“Eronmon started off trying to use the actual thread and found that it was too thin and could not work with it. Her big takeaway was how incredibly skilled these people were, because they were working with thread that was half the size of what she was using,” Kinney says.
Priya Atwal, another student in the class, focused on replicating Kashmiri embroidery for the assignment. Atwal used “traditional transfer techniques to add the pattern to the cotton fabric,” reads KPU’s history webpage.
Kashmiri embroidery is a type of needlework from the Kashmir region of India that uses a single long stitch to make designs. Atwal used pencil to copy over the design as ballpoint pen would not have existed during that time.
Kinney has been passionate about this class since day one and feels a personal attachment to the course.
“It’s something that’s really close to home, because my own family is connected to the cotton industry,” Kinney says. The whole reasoning for this course, other than that I wanted to do it, was clothing apart from food, is one of the oldest human needs.”
“In looking at textiles and the way that textiles are used, trace the whole arc of human history. [Clothing] is central to everybody’s lives, and cultural and religious expressions.”
This course is also unique because it is one of the few offered at KPU where students from different programs can be in a class together.
“The course itself has the strangest prerequisites you have ever seen, basically you have to be a third year student to take it. All of the assumptions I would have for a class full of history students don’t apply,” Kinney says.
“We do a lot more hands-on or smaller assignments,” she says. “It’s just finding a balance so that everybody can show off the skills that they have … [and] demonstrate them in different ways.”
Kinney hopes KPU will offer more cross-over courses in the future, so students can mingle and meet new people outside of their programs.
“They’re great courses because they bring people together and have these cool experiential, hands-on elements. [It is] definitely something I would love to see more of,” she says.
Kinney also says this was the last time the textile course was offered as she is retiring soon.
“The course will probably go away, but not the idea of experiential courses. Those are here to stay for history.”
She says the history program is working on an experiential course right now in collaboration with the brewing program focusing on a history of beer and brewing.
“It’s a really different way of thinking about learning, and everybody benefits from that.”
To learn more about this course and see the students’ work, visit https://wordpress.kpu.ca/textilehistory/.