Refashioning disability: the case of Painted Fabrics Ltd, 1915-1959

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This 7,000-word book chapter was commissioned in 2015, for a volume of essays designed as a postgraduate teaching resource, by Professor Penny Sparke and Dr. Fiona Fisher at Kingston University. This was published in the prestigious Routledge Companion series. As part of the section IV of the volume on “Designing Society: Empathy, Responsibility, Consumption and the Everyday,” this chapter reconsidered the hidden history of disabled designers and makers in the history of design.
The chapter takes as a case Painted Fabrics Ltd, a textile manufacturer based in Sheffield, which was one of the many charitable enterprises created in the wake of the First World War to employ disabled soldiers. Rather than offering a conventional reading of the history of this company, its workers, its products, and its context in the interwar refashioning of disability from the discourses of Victorian cultural philanthropy, this chapter offers an interrogation of the relation of disability to design through the lens of the new disability studies. It reveals how modern design made a unique and critical contribution to the social construction of disability as a subject identity. It draws on the firms previously unused archive.
Printed Fabrics Ltd was, however, not a unique enterprise. It was part of a whole host of charitable organisations that were created to support the mass of veterans that survived the First World War with an unprecedented range of horrifying physical and psychological disfigurements and disabilities. This chapter, therefore, offers a new and unique interrogation of the interrelationship of masculinity, disability, craft and interwar modernity using both unpublished archival material and fresh theoretical frameworks that draw upon design history, gender and sexuality theory and disability studies. It is part of a wider project looking at the role of disability in design industries in modern Britain and Ireland.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Design Studies
EditorsPenny Sparke, Fiona Fisher
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781315562087
ISBN (Print)9781138780507, 9780367201685
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 21 Jun 2016


  • Disability
  • Textiles
  • Design History
  • First World War


Dive into the research topics of 'Refashioning disability: the case of Painted Fabrics Ltd, 1915-1959'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this