Loughborough University
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Designing nonwovens: craft and industrial perspectives

posted on 2011-02-18, 10:55 authored by Faith Kane
Nonwovens form a significant and rapidly growing sector of the textiles industry. The nonwovens sector originally set out to provide economical alternatives to traditional textiles for functional product components such as interlinings and carpet backings. Through constant growth and development nonwovens are now considered as sophisticated engineered fabrics that economically meet specific functional needs. Since the 1970's, however, the potential to use nonwoven fabrics and technologies within design has been under consideration by textile researchers, textile artists and fashion and textile designers and makers. The resulting fabrics have found application in mass marketable products such as gift and flower wrap and as one-off designer products such as scarves. In comparison to traditional sectors of the textile industry such as woven textiles, however, in regard to design there seems to be little middle ground between these two production contexts. Further to this, the range of nonwoven technologies that have been explored by textile designers, makers and artists is relatively limited and focuses predominantly on the needle-punching method of manufacture to produce felt-like fabrics. This situation presents a potentially missed opportunity within the nonwovens sector of textile manufacture. The research presented in this thesis aims to identify and explore the undeveloped opportunities to design nonwoven materials from an aesthetic perspective using a specific range of production processes and materials. The work is set within the context of designer maker practice and as such considers both industrial and craft perspectives on the design and manufacture of nonwovens. In doing so the relationship between craft and industry within the sphere of nonwovens is brought into question and the opportunities and limitations of working as a designer maker within this sphere are explored. The development of textile products for niche, high-end markets is of growing importance within the European textiles industry. This research explores the potential to develop design-led nonwovens for high-end markets. The work was conducted using a practice led research approach which revolved around the development of innovative new fabrics suitable for high-end markets. The work focuses on the use of carding, needle-punching and thermal bonding technologies that utilize heat and pressure and subsequent decorative finishing processes including devore, embossing and laser cutting. The ability to design nonwoven fabric structures specifically for use in these processes formed a central part of the contribution to knowledge made within the work. In particular, the development of devore and laser techniques for nonwovens made from contrasting fibre layers or with decorative materials embedded within them. The fabrics produced evidence new design concepts within the sphere of nonwovens. The suitability of the designs for production within different manufacturing contexts was assessed through a series of interviews with nonwoven manufacturers and their suitability for the high-end markets was evaluated through a series of focus groups and interviews with textile and product designers. The qualitative nature of the analysis made provides a new perspective on the design value of nonwovens. The results of the research confirmed the aesthetic appeal of certain fabrics within the collections produced and their suitability for high-end markets. The findings identified key factors in regard to how value is attributed to nonwovens within this market and suggested that further research into developing high-value nonwovens is required. The work identified key issues that designers working with nonwoven technologies need to be aware of to enable designs that are relevant for commercialization to be developed.



  • Design and Creative Arts


  • Creative Arts


Loughborough University

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© Faith Kane

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University. This thesis in hard copy includes samples of fabric and is kept at the University Library, Loughborough University.

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  • en


Kerry Walton ; Terence Kavanagh

Qualification name

  • PhD

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

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