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Students Earn Scholarships, Design Inclusive Textile Products Through Cotton Incorporated Competition

Close up of cotton design

By Sarah Stone

Six Wilson College of Textiles students are wrapping up the semester with scholarships after winning the “Cotton for Universal Design” competition, sponsored by Cotton Incorporated as part of the Cotton in the Curriculum grant program. 

The competition, which was open to fashion and textile design (FTD) students enrolled in select courses, challenged entrants to determine ways that cotton products could be used to improve quality of life for children, young adults and older adults using Universal Design principles. Universal Design, which many scholars argue began at NC State, aims to create products that are accessible to people with a wide range of abilities but also appealing to any consumer. 

Winners were chosen by a panel of judges, including Professor Lu Liu, who specializes in Universal Design. 

“The students all came up with beautiful work,” Professor Liu, who also heads the graphic and industrial design departments at the College of Design, says. “The beauty of Universal Design is that it is not designed only for people with disabilities. It is something that everybody will enjoy.”

Each entry had to include product mockups, photos of cotton fabric samples, and market research indicating how the product would both appeal to consumers and support their chosen customer demographic. 

“I often just have that energy to create something but it seems kind of random. So it was really exciting to think about creating something for a specific group and for a specific need,” second place winner Anna Stuffelbeam says. “And that helped me think outside of my normal design process.”

Student awards and cotton yarns and fabrics were supported by the Cotton in the Curriculum grant, along with a speaker series and a design workshop held earlier in the year.

“Through these grants and competitions, the Wilson College forges a close relationship with industry,” Cotton Incorporated Senior Vice President of Global Supply Chain Marketing Mark Messura says. “And as a prospective student, or as a parent of a prospective student, that’s a huge advantage. You have a program that is technically sound but it’s also connected to the industry. So that’s ensuring that graduates are market-ready.”

Below, read more about the first, second and third place winner’s creations in their own words. 

Chloe Belton

First Place | Mature Years | “Seeking Peace”

four pillows stacked
pillow and blankets on display

My inspiration was based on depression and anxiety among widowers. So the feelings they go through, the transitions through their home and how they are dealing with that, and how to make them feel more welcomed and comfortable in their situation. 

A lot of my research was on a personal basis because it’s something my family’s going through right now. I also did some research on certain colors that can help with stimulating relaxation, or any way to soothe widowers. Colors like white, blue, pink, I found to be really soothing for them. 

fabric designs by Chloe Belton

Anna Stuffelbeam

Second Place | Younger Years | “Gooseberry”

Anna Stuffelbeam fabric detail
Anna Stuffelbeam design display

I was inspired by looking into different needs for children with autism, attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I was kind of looking at the tactile interest, so adding some dimension to the wovens. I also found some research on different products that were specifically made for this group already and looked at what was missing there. I found that the group really preferred cotton as a fiber.

When I look at colors and patterns, I’m often looking at nature and pictures that I took myself in nature. There’s one specifically of Cape gooseberry that has some different variations and that inspired me for color and texture. 

Anna Stuffelbeam design detail

Milo McKnight

Third Place | Younger Years | “Deaf That”

pillow by Milo McKnight

My focus was to support young D/deaf and hard of hearing people in connecting to their communities and developing their cultural identity. Some goals of my collection include designing with “deaf space” in mind to solve common barriers, working towards preventing and reducing fatigue associated with navigating inaccessible environments, and emphasizing and encouraging the priorities of comfort and empowerment in the home.

Many of us must depend a lot on lip reading in the hearing world. This means spending a great deal of time very focused on one small area and putting together partial words. Naturally, eye fatigue and eye strain becomes a big part of this experience. Many people who use hearing aids and/or cochlear implants struggle greatly with migraines and other symptoms of listening fatigue. I designed products to provide both comfort and relief related to these common experiences.

Milo McKnight design display

Additionally, I wanted to focus on the development of Deaf identity and community connection, in those who may find themselves more isolated. American Sign Language, and hearing aid/cochlear implant motifs are used to provide a sense of familiarity, and pride throughout the collection.

The Deaf community and culture greatly values supporting one another and is filled with a lot of vibrancy and life, as people are given the space to express themselves naturally in their own language. We are proud to be who we are, and my hope with this collection is that it will empower others to see themselves positively and embrace their own deaf identities in whatever way that looks like for them.

Milo McKnight design detail