Togetherness: close up of knit textile showing "togetherness"

Study of Textiles

Within the School of Human Ecology, two programs are offered that specifically focus on textiles; the Textiles and Fashion Design Degree and the Textiles and Design Certificate. Both programs utilize the resources of the Center for Design and Material Culture, particularly the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection, Ruth Davis Design Gallery, and Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery.

Textiles and Fashion Design Program

The UW Textiles and Fashion Design (TFD) program offers a comprehensive approach to textiles and fashion, focusing on materials and use, as well as the study of history, science, and design.

Student cuts cloth in classroom

Textiles and Design Certificate

The Textiles and Design Certificate is open to any students from any majors, and offers a fundamental understanding of textiles and fashion design.

Students in design studies course

Past Collection-Intensive Courses


Design Studies 699: Independent Study: Textiles and American Politics

Course Description:
This year-long, 4-credit course used the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection as the basis for training in curatorial research and outreach on the relationship between textiles and American politics. Students conducted a thorough survey of the collection to identify objects that are relevant for this topic; drew key themes from this extensive sample of textiles; conceptualized an exhibition structure; and devised related public outreach events. Students focused on what practices of making, consumption, and display “activates” textiles to make them political; the relationship between politics, patriotism, and history; and acts of participation and representation as the intersection of textiles and political expression.

Students in Chinese Textile Course examine textiles

Art History 576/876: Needle, Thread, Silk and Tapestry uses HLATC’s Chinese textiles as a lens through which to analyze Chinese history and art.

Course Description:
Why should we include textiles when discussing Chinese art history? What is the relationship between textile and other media such as painting, mural, sculpture, and various decorative arts? How do we start treating textile as an object of research?  Based on the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection and recent scholarship on Chinese textile art, this course will discuss the major types of textiles and the discourses on textiles in the early modern China and introduce students to the analytical languages, methods, and issues for studying Chinese textiles. We will examine the multivalent roles of textiles in Chinese art and material culture—as artistic mediums, sign-bearing objects, structural and performative elements in religious and secular spaces, social agent, and objects of mobility in global exchange.

What are textiles?

Textiles are objects of design, and subjects of material culture study. On the one hand, textiles are intimate and personal: we wear them on our bodies, we sleep under them, we use them to make our homes more private. On the other hand, they reflect larger cultural traditions; technological development over time; and trade, or other forms of exchange, that can reach a global scale.

Our Textile Resources

Our unique resources allow for both specific understanding of textile, and broad thematic considerations of their place in the world.