UAPB faculty introduce youth to textile sciences, apparel design at ASC TinkerFest

Will Hehemann School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences

mg0861Faculty of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Merchandising, Textiles and Design (MTD) program recently introduced local students to the concepts of textile sciences and apparel design at TinkerFest, held at the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas. The event encouraged local youth to get artistically creative with different types of design material and explore the science behind them.

“This year’s TinkerFest was a big success,” Dr. Lenore Shoults, executive director for the ASC, said. “The collaboration with faculty from UAPB added hands-on science and fun for all ages.”

At the event, young participants learned about the basics of textiles and clothing design. Demonstration topics included fiber carding, wool spinning, garment draping, fiber identification using a microscope and mask making.

“It was inspiring to see the number of children and student participants – ranging from 4 to 18 years old – who were eager to be introduced to the science of textiles,” Dr. Kaye Crippen, professor of the MTD program, said. “I learned so much from working with these eager students about how to teach my own students at UAPB by encouraging them to use the simple powers of observation.”

Dr. Crippen said demonstration topics hosted by UAPB encouraged participants to consider the complexity of the clothing they wear and all the components that go into the production of everyday apparel. Students examined various fibers including cotton and wool, comparing their textures, colors and lengths.

“In my years as a teacher of textile sciences and fashion, I often associate the interest in learning about textiles through fashion with young women students,” Dr. Crippen said. “However, after seeing the number of boys who showed up to TinkerFest eager to learn more about fabrics and textiles, I decided that young men can be equally interested in the subject as well as science in general. Two young boys were excited to examine each other’s knit shirts using a small hand-held magnifier.”

Participants learned how to examine fibers under the microscope and how to prepare a longitudinal microscope slide. After observing various unknown fibers through the microscope lens, they used a fiber identification chart to guess the fibers they were looking at.

Dr. Crippen showed students how to use a bench card, a device that attaches to a table and allows fibers to be inserted at one end and become more aligned or parallel as they pass through card drums. This process known as ‘carding’ is used to untangle and straighten raw fibers to form a continuous length of non-woven material called a batt.

“This is the same procedure fibers go through in standard industry practice when they are processed using multi-million dollar equipment,” she said. “This demonstration allowed students to see how wool fibers that were initially going in many directions later come out of the machine more parallel.”

Using an electronic spinner, students transformed strands of wool taken from a batt into strings of yarn. To help the students visualize how fiber is turned to fabric, Dr. Crippen used a homemade kit to produce samples of felt.

“Felt, the first fabric used by man, is made from wool using heat, friction and moisture to cause the inward telescoping of fibers,” she said. “The students were able to witness the process of fibers becoming entangled to form a thicker fabric.”

To show the students how fabrics are turned into garments, Yunru Shen, instructor for the MTD program, demonstrated the processes of draping and pattern making.

Dr. Crippen said it is important for students to understand the concept of textile production as a science with many practical applications and opportunities in industry.

“Although much of America’s fiber production moved off-shore as garment production moved to Asia, some manufacturers are returning to the U.S.,” she said. “Today the revolution occurring in textile science is in the field of nanotechnology, which is used as a finish to allow clothing to be worn longer without washing. Other revolutionary changes include the production of smart textiles and apparel. These areas currently represent great opportunities for careers in the textile science industry.”

For more information on the MTD program at UAPB or to schedule a tour of the facilities, contact Dr. Kaye Crippen at (870) 575-8367 or

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