Science Stitches is a Wellcome Trust funded Proof-of-Concept Public Engagement project.

The main goal of this project is to raise awareness for the importance of cancer prevention and screenings, as well as cancer research, bringing cancer research closer to communities in deprived areas – involving Textile’s pupils. This will be achieved by using fashion as an efficient way of communicating science.

Creating awareness for cancer screenings and cancer prevention is a pressing need, especially in deprived areas, where screening attendance is lower, and cancer incidence is higher. By engaging initially with young pupils, we aim to raise awareness from an early age and help to bring these discussions into their home. As people in deprived areas are more likely consumers of fast-fashion, we also want to generate awareness for the need for sustainable fashion and more sustainable practices. We wanted to convey these messages using a media that wouldn’t be considered inaccessible or intellectual, thus creating a barrier for the knowledge transfer. So, by using fashion, and allowing the pupils to create everyday items of clothing, we aim at making knowledge and art feel more accessible.

During this project, the pupils will interact with various early-career researchers, working in various fields of cancer research at Cardiff University. This has included lab-tours, where the pupils learned more about cancer research, visit labs and even perform experiments.

After the lab tour, pupils started researching textiles’ techniques, in order to recreate some of the science they had seen. Their final garments will be inspired by a cancer research project. During this time, pupils had a talk by textile artist Claire Cawte, on sustainable fashion. During this workshop, they also learned more about the artist, her techniques, and how to use natural fibres and dyes.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the project was redesigned to focus on targeting years 1/2 medical undergraduate students, at Cardiff University. The project brings early-career cancer researchers together with undergraduate students, through embroidery and creativity.

In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing restrictions, many undergraduate students had to self-isolate and living alone, not attending physical classes and able to connect with new colleagues, and often in a new city, had strong negative effects on their mental health. To overcome/attenuate the effects of isolation, and stimulate creativity, we will distribute embroidery kits to medical students, based on cancer research projects. These will come with materials, instructions and an original drawing, as well as a lay summary of the research, and bio of the researcher. However, no kit will have the exact same materials, and we will stimulate the participants to create unique pieces. Medical students have often reported feeling disconnected from basic science during their studies. Hence, by bringing research projects to them, in a creative way, we aim to stimulate their interest and engagement with science during their studies. Nonetheless, the main aim of this project is to help improve the mental health of medical undergraduate students during periods of isolation, by providing them with a creative outlet and opportunity to interact with scientists.