Summary

Engagement in sewing declined in the 20th century and became  seen as dowdy (Wall Street Journal, 23.1.1986).  The British Sewing Bee and Project Runway have contributed to a resurgence, with growing numbers sewing their clothing instead of buying fast fashion. Since the 1970s the reasons for home sewing have shifted from economic to creative, leisure, and psychological motivations. (Martindale and McKinney 2020) In the UK about 3.5 million people (5% of population) sew clothes (Lewis-Hammond 2014). OSCs are credited with facilitating growth of sewing. OSCs are participatory electronic textiles (e-textiles) sewing groups that use websites or apps. Open or membership OSCs share sewing outcomes, commentary and may have other characteristics. OSCs have not been subject to significant academic research.

During 2020, rapidly developed OSCs including ’For The Love of Scrubs’ ‘ScrubHub’ and ‘NI Scrubs,’ came to public attention. But  OSCs already existed. The Scrubs OSCs reverse emerging theory. Learning sewing techniques has shifted from belief mode to design mode (Lahti 2012). The standardised outputs of scrubs OSCs required  reversion to belief mode where knowledge transfer is based on instructions for a defined output without creativity (Slocum & Beard, 2005). The problem-solving goals and resources are defined – i.e.  make a scrub to a certain design.

Design mode is a less -structured process, and goals and resources are refined during the problem-solving with creativity deployed.  Covid scrubs OSCs are also atypical of the trajectory in their reintroduction of a survivalist imperative that had been absent from sewing since preindustrial times. (Kotler 1986) Post covid, independent of those standardised outputs of batch production, how have these groups adapted to individualism? How have moderator or management functions emerged? OSCs are like other online communities but appear to have specific characteristics and user profile. Some OSCs have specific shared tasks for community benefit. E.g., neonatal knitting products. Some have face-to-face parallels. Some OSCs are limited to a specific technique such as punch needle; other OSCs are linked to a brand e.g.  sewoverit.com downloadable dress patterns. Following review of literature, OSCs will be identified and analysed. Initial scoping may include content analysis.

The researcher will propose a methodology to investigate the ecology of OSCs and may include: What are  the communities of practice? What are the models of collaboration, management and leadership? Are there offline catalysts?  What is OSC longevity, growth, dispersion or failure? What are the expert learner dynamics?

Research may include social, environmental and economic. It is asserted that collaborative sewing has wellbeing impacts in post-traumatic settings. Perceptions of wellbeing may be researched. Some groups have a focus, e.g., women who have engaged with the criminal system (‘Changing Lives’). What additional meanings is carried in such OSCs? Stitching, embroidery and dressmaking online groups are credited with reaching new user groups. Forbes (7.9. 2020) asserted OSCs reduce work stress and identified millennials as the drivers. What is the intersectionality with technology and user motivations for use of mass media? Are OSCs typical of online communities? Who is the user? Why join? What is their  engagement? What is the relationship of craft consumption and successful project completion to continued participation (Watson and Shove 2008)? How loyal are they? What are the characteristics of passive / active agents?

With reference to existing theory of online communities, consider isolation and addiction. How does diversity, equality, internationality,  regionality, locality,  operate? How are OSCs monetised or sustainable? Is there commodification of community effort? How is consumer theory enacted? How are ethical or copyright issues navigated (e.g., cultural appropriation Pap Kochi Kimono 2018).

The research focus may narrow and use interviews, surveys or other research methods (with relevant ethical approval)  to understand the phenomenon. The suitable researcher may choose to collaboratively facilitate an e-textiles project in order to empirically explore topics of community, skill development, isolation, healing etc.


Essential criteria

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study.

We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master’s Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Research proposal of 2000 words detailing aims, objectives, milestones and methodology of the project

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • For VCRS Awards, Masters at 75%
  • Practice-based research experience and/or dissemination
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project

Funding and eligibility

The University offers the following levels of support:

Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,840 (tbc) maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £8,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Department for the Economy (DFE)

The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,840 (tbc) per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

  • Candidates with pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, who also satisfy a three year residency requirement in the UK prior to the start of the course for which a Studentship is held MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance.
  • Republic of Ireland (ROI) nationals who satisfy three years’ residency in the UK prior to the start of the course MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance (ROI nationals don’t need to have pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme to qualify).
  • Other non-ROI EU applicants are ‘International’ are not eligible for this source of funding.
  • Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Due consideration should be given to financing your studies. Further information on cost of living


The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

I am Dean and Professor of Fine Arts School, Shenyang University. I received my undergraduate in Graphic Design at Luxun Fine Arts Academy and Masters of Applied Art at Luxun Fine Arts Academy too. My research is about art and social actions.It is one of the best experiences for me to study PhD at Ulster in Belfast. No words can express how much I learned and gained from my supervisors and colleagues and how much I feel grateful to them. They have broaden my views and deepen my understanding about art and art practice. With their help, my work "Cyber Cocoon Kids" was exhibited at UN in New York in 2018, which was one of my proudest moment. What a luck that I am from China, Shenyang, sister city of Belfast. I love Belfast and I would like to contribute to cooperation of the two cities in the future. With this PhD experience, I put what I learned into practice.

Yong Xie - PhD by Published Works in Art and Design

I am a storyteller, photographer and researcher. In 2010 I graduated from University of Wales, Newport (BA Hons Documentary Photography). From 2010 - 2015 I was a trustee and curator of Third Floor Gallery in Cardiff, Wales.My proudest moment was when I was told I passed my Viva. It took a lot of hard work to get to that point. It was a moment of great relief and pride of accomplishment. I am not entirely sure what my favourite memory was, but I will never forget how a good meeting with supervisors made me feel, especially when they were pleased with yet another submitted chapter!I couldn't have got through this without my family. My wife Binta, my daughters Ewa and Kamila (who was born during the year two!!!), my mother and father, and my siblings. I would not be here without my supervisors Paul Seawright and Ken Grant whose constructive criticism helped me to succeed in producing strong research.

Nowicki Bartosz - PhD in Art and Design

The PhD training programme and regular supervision contacts have provided the direction and support necessary to ensure that I deliver a quality thesis in a timely manner.I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working at Ulster University and feel it has put me in a better position to sustain a full time career as an artist and academic in the years to come.

Jacqueline Wylie

Before taking on a PhD, I was a freelance photojournalist. Before that, I did a Degree in editorial photography at the University of Brighton, prior to that I was a British soldier. My research is based upon British soldiers' personal photographs and my research "question" was why is this area of "war photography" not acknowledged and without agency.I am most proud of getting through and obtaining my Doctorate. Having left school with no qualifications has not been easy, so achieving this has been one of the most important things to happen in my life. My favorite memory at Ulster University was when my fellow PhD researcher and I got through out Confirmation Viva; afterwards, we celebrated and went to a wonderful Belfast pub nearby. We were all so relieved! I could not have got through the PhD without the wonderful support and guidance of my supervisors; also Spike the librarian really helped me when I was having doubts about my abilities. If I could speak to myself at the start of my

Stuart Griffiths - PhD in Art and Design