Makers Space Profile #4: AUT’s Textile and Design Lab

Makers Space Profile #4: AUT's Textile and Design Lab

TEXTILES are everywhere: you can see, touch and feel them, you can also make them do things. But there’s a lot that goes into these textiles coming to life: from visualizing to materializing, thinking to rethinking, discovery to rediscovery, each step is crucial and ongoing until the result is achieved. And what’s also crucial is for the textile artist or the researcher to have access to a setting that’s conducive to innovation, where ideas can flow. 

Through our “Makers Space Profile” series, we focus on such settings where artists, technologists, designers, and researchers are creating textiles. This time we are featuring Auckland University of Technology’s Textile and Design Lab. We reached out to the Lab’s Manager Peter Heslop and the Loom Incharge Mitali Nautiyal to find out all that’s has going on at the Lab!   


Auckland University of Technology’s Textile and Design Lab was established in 2006 to cater for students, researchers and commercial partners to help them convert their ideas into tangible textile outputs.  Initially, the lab invested in Shima Seiki flat bed knitting technology and digital textile printing, and whilst acquiring additional knitting and printing resources over subsequent years, it has also added needle felting and weaving to its portfolio.  ‘A weaving loom was on our wish list for some time’, says manager, Peter Heslop. ‘Funding was made available to the lab a few years’ ago but finding the right loom option for us was the tricky bit’, he adds.  After numerous communications with Tronrud Engineering’s Vibeke Vestby and discussions with other educational and research institutes around the world, the lab opted for a TC2 loom that offered complex design capability, require minimal maintenance and would be relatively easy to operate.


The loom was commissioned in January 2020 with the aid of Vibeke and local handweaver, Agnes Hauptli, who continues to share her vast knowledge of weaving with the lab’s staff.  PhD student, Mitali Nautiyal, who studied textiles before moving to New Zealand in 2019, has since taken ‘ownership’ of the loom, which has been put to continuous use for some of the lab’s research partners and postgraduate students, as well as running several weaving workshops. ‘We have had workshop participants from as far afield as Canberra in Australia as well as the South Island of New Zealand’, says Heslop. The workshops are normally run over two days; the first covers weaving theory and design, including the use of Adobe Photoshop functions applicable to the TC2 loom.  The second day is a practical hands-on session for participants to weave their own designs under the supervision of Mitali. Participants then have the option to book additional time on the loom to further develop their ideas.  Full details of our workshop programme can be viewed here.

Workshop presenter Mitali Nautiyal (left) with participants Liz Perry (centre) and Kathryn Stewart (right)


‘The TC2 loom is easy to operate, and it is compatible with both natural and synthetic fibres’, says Nautiyal.  ‘The lab has been providing consultancy to emerging designers and research organisations, which has resulted in a slew of new products ranging from the use of robust Romney wool to the most delicate and luxurious modified fine wool’ she adds.

Weaving workshop participants Vivienne Stone (left) and Leona Wang (right)

PhD student, Leona Wang, has recognized the growing demand for smart textiles and has been using the loom to experiment with ways to combine technology into woven textile materials.  The lab has also been developing fabrics for a commercial research partner using innovative wool yarns in various structures so the performance of these woven materials can be evaluated.

Prototype smart woven fabric by PhD student, Leona Wang

The addition of the TC2 loom has created numerous new opportunities for the university’s research students and commercial partners alike.  ‘We’re now looking forward to optimising the use of the loom without the inconvenience of sporadic lockdowns that we have had to endure since commissioning the loom last year’, says Heslop.