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Meet Deborah Shulton: Leading Expert and Educator in Textile & Fabric

Deborah Shulton, is the lead instructor of the Textile Appreciation for online course. 

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M Hi Deborah, tell us a bit about yourself! How did you become an expert in your domain?

D I have been working in the Textile industry for over 30 years having originally got involved in Textiles by accident! I actually went to University to study engineering – realised I’d made a mistake- and so looked for a course at the same University that I could change onto without having to restart the year. There was a gap on the Textiles Technology course – I loved fashion – and the rest is history! After graduating I began working at Marks and Spencer as a fabric technologist – and I stayed there for 20 years. During that time I worked in many different ladies wear departments across different Textile industries. I was one of the founder members of the Autograph sub brand – which was introduced around 20 years ago and is still going strong. Working at M&S gave me the opportunity to work with leading specialists in the industry; visit fabric mills all over the world as well as work with leading designers. After 20 years I knew that I wanted to broaden my career and get involved in training. 

I decided to study for a Post Graduate Certificate in Education – this enabled me to develop training programmes in a way that made them interactive and engaging for different audiences – enabling attendees to learn the information using different techniques that catered for different learning styles. I now split my time between running training courses, and working as a textile consultant with retailers.

M You are teaching the Textile Appreciation course on MOTIF. Why did you want to create that course? 

D I work alongside many people (both junior and senior) in buying teams that have never studied fabrics to any level making it harder for them to do their job as effectively as they felt they could. I have always enjoyed taking the time out to explain what various textile terms mean and to pass on my knowledege of textiles in an easy to understand way and so that’s why I decided to create a textile course which covered many of the common questions I was often asked as well as explain misconceptions about fabrics that I often experienced with buying teams.

Once COVID happened – ‘in person’ training was obvioulsy difficult or event impossible to carry on with – and so I was keen to develop an online course that people could access while they were having to work remortely. I wasn’t sure how I would be able to take what I had taught so far as  essentially a hands on practical course – and turn it into an online course – however with the help of a very talented instructional designer, Ivy Shi, from MOTIF, we worked together to bring the online course to life. Having the Textile Appreciation online course also meant that this was now accessible to people all over the world that wanted to learn about Textiles. Alongside issues that have been caused by Covid – there are also growing requirements for retailers to develop more sustainable clothing – and so knowledge of what makes a fabric more or less sustainable is now more critical than ever – and this knowledge is intrinsically linked to having an overall understanding of textiles.

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M What are the benefits of taking the course?

D People that have taken the Textile Appreciation online course have a much clearer understanding of the things that influence cost, aesthetics and techical performance of Textiles. This knowledge really is fundamental when dealing with suppliers either developing products or negotiating costs. It also gives them the correct terminology to use when describing textiles – resulting in more effective communication and ultimately better sample hit rate.

                                                                                                               Textile Appreciation Online Course 

M Is this course best suited for individuals or teams? For which type of organisation?

D This course is well suited to buying teams and also groups of buyers / designers working across departments – and both scenarios work well, it really depends on the organisation. The content is relevant for most types of Textile industries of all sizes as it covers wovens and weft knits.

M How does this course differ from other courses? What is unique about it?

D In designing this course I have incorporated knowledge and exercises that are relevant to everyday scenarios that are common in buying departments – and this is based on my many years of working with different companies across various product types. Other textile courses may be more theoretical – whereas this course is designed to give information that can be used in people’s day to day jobs. I also believe that the level of interaction in his course, created through the various exercises, sets it apart from other online courses that are currently available.

... the level of interaction in his course, sets it apart from other online courses that are currently available."

M How did you build this course? 

D Working with the Instructional Design Team at MOTIF made the whole experience so much easier than I thought it might be! We started the process by going through each of the modules as I would do in person, and they would make suggestions as to the best format for communicate the information online. This has resulted in a multimedia training course that incorporates different techniques – catering for different learning styles. This included recreating practical exercises on screen and incorporating everyday workplace scenarios where the participant can apply the knowledge they have learnt and compare to other participants on group discussion boards. I invested a lot of effort to make a course that will benefit learners not only thanks to the depth of its content, but also from a learning experience perspective and I think it was well worth it.

M What were the challenges you faced during the course building?

D Textiles is obvioulsy something that you would touch and feel as well as look at – and so recreating that experience was a challenge! Obvioulsy trying to fit 30 years of Textile experience into 1 online course is impossible – and in the same way the course won’t answer every question that anyone may ever have about Texiles. However, it will give the learner the tools to go away and look up the information and be able to understand the terminology used in the information they find. 

M Could you share any advice to learners taking the course so they can make the most of it ?

D This course covers a lot of content – and each module builds upon the knowledge from the previous modules – therefore, rather than rush through, it’s important to absorb the knowledge in each module before moving on. The video links help to put some of the knowledge into context – and I would recommend watching these maybe more than once. Also the discussion boards give the opportunity to reflect on certain questions – and these can be used both online – but also can be taken off line by groups of people learning together. The course works well for individuals – but also for teams of people that work together – as group learning will lead to better understanding and communication when talking about textiles.

M To close on a more personal note, what does your wardrobe look like?

D A lot of black timeless pieces made of beautiful fabrics that have stood the test of time! I have some beautiful wool tailoring pieces that are older than I’d like to admit – but I still get them out time and time again. I mix these up with seasonal pieces in other colours and only very occasionally prints! I love silk – as it takes colour so vibrantly and I love cashmere for the same reason as well as it’s wonderful soft handle. My wardrobe has definitely become more relaxed over the last few years (as has most people’s) and so it’s taken me a while to find some great casual pieces that I’m happy with – but due to some of the thing’s I’m involved in I still get to wear my favourite wool tailored pieces regularly!

Textile Appreciation Online Course

Make smarter textile and fabric selection decisions.

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