Dr Keireine Canavan PhD MDes MA RCA BA (hons)

Screen-shot-2011-06-21-at-15.31.27-e1308666720431-150x100.pngPrincipal Lecturer
t: 02920 416634/7
w: alsaduweaving.wordpress.com


Specialist Subject Areas

  • textile educator (textile history, constructed textile design and colour dyeing)
  • sustainability in the curriculum (including natural dyeing, sustainable fibre and materials & sustainable technology)
  • researcher and cultural expert, specialising in endangered tribal woven textiles & semiotics.
  • founder and academic lead for Sustainable Growing Futures, part of the Engineering Future Generation: Carbon Literacy research project.


PHD Dayak to Digital: Traditional woven ikat for contemporary knitted textiles. Heriot-Watt University
MDes in Textile Design + Computer Application, Heriot-Watt University
MA RCA in Knitted Textile Design, Royal College of Art, London
BA (Hons) in Woven Textiles, Liverpool University


I trained as a constructed textile designer, specialising in weave and knit under the auspices of leading textile designer, Marion Straub OBE at Liverpool (1976-1979). I continued my studies for an MA in knitted textile design at the Royal College of Art in London (1979-1981), before working in industry and designing knitwear for the Italian fashion house Missoni, and fashion brand Thierry Mugler. I established my own Keireine Knitwear brand and retail business in 1985, and returned to education in 1993 to complete an MDes degree: Textile Design with Computer Application at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland. This led me to combine hand and digital technology and in 2003 I achieved my PhD entitled ‘Dayak to Digital: Traditional ikat for contemporary patterned knitted textiles’ and was awarded the McFarlane Award for research excellence and contribution to the textile sector.

In 2004 I was appointed Programme Director of Textile at Cardiff Metropolitan University until 2021, and am currently Principal Lecturer, responsible for sustainability in the Cardiff School of Art & Design curriculum, including natural dyeing, sustainable fibre, materials and technology, as well as textile degree awards to PhD level. I contribute to the textile historical and theoretical curriculum across the School and externally examine PhDs at numerous universities, including the Royal College of Art, Heriot-Watt University, Middlesex University and London School of Fashion.

As textile educator and world specialist in traditional tribal weaving techniques and semiotics, I have published my doctoral research and continued my post-doctoral research with Al-Sadu Bedouin weavers in the Gulf countries, Iban Dayak backstrap ikat weavers in Maylay-Indonesia, and Patola weavers in NW Gujarat, India.

I am passionate about the nomadic lifestyle, camels and textile camel trappings. I return to Kuwait and the Gulf Region regularly, where I have resided for part of each year, with my family, since 2004.

Current research

My research focus is inspired by an interest in material culture and the oral history of endangered and declining ancient tribal weaving practices. Ethnographic authenticity and the semiotic coding of cultural heritage embedded in tribal ceremonial textiles drives my research in three main areas. (1) Al-Sadu Bedouin women weavers of the Middle Eastern deserts, focusing on the shajarah weaving technique and the semiotics of the tent divider or gata textile. (2) Iban Dayak warp ikat backstrap loom weavers and natural dyeing sourced from the jungles of Borneo, Malay-Indonesia. (3) Patola silk weavers of Patan in north-west Gujarat, India. Common lines of enquiry between these research areas have led me to study declining traditional hand weaving, spinning and natural dyeing techniques and intangible skills, and to record the silent lexicon of semiotic patterning.

I am currently working on the significance of these endangered and declining transferrable traditional, hand skills to contemporary, digital applications for use in the twenty-first century. I am writing a series of articles and book chapters, and recording a documentary to explore the value system of my findings.

Embedding my research, and teaching and sustainability interests has enabled me to found the Sustainable Growing Futures project as part of the Engineering Future Generation: Carbon Literacy research project. The Sustainable Growing Futures is a collaborative Cardiff Metropolitan University research enterprise to develop interactive technology, growing gardens to provide academic information and also to produce natural dyes sources (fabric dyes, paints and inks), fibres and materials (paper making, flax processing for linen and rope making) and robotics for agricultural technology (automated, precision CNC FarmBot, and soil generated microbial fuel energy). Future, sustainable developments will include the circular filtration of waste water and aromatic plants for aromatherapy research.

Principal Publications, Exhibitions and Awards

2023 London Craft Week: The Crafts of Qatar Caravane Earth Foundation. Video. Cromwell House, London.

2023 Caravane Earth Foundation: Woven Voices: material patterns, symbols and motifs of al-Sadu weavings in the Gulf countries.

2022 L. Joubert (edit). Craft Shaping Society: Educating in the crafts – the Global Experience. Book One. Chapter 7: Traditional Bedouin al-Sadu weaving solutions. Pp1013-114.

2021 Porch, L., Canavan, K., Cazeaux, C., Treadaway. C. Textile: Cloth & Culture. Caring Through Cloth: textiles and the trauma of stillbirth. Taylor & Francis (Routledge)

2020 Amity Project: Education in the Asia Pacific region series: issues, concerns and prospects. Education in the Crafts. Traditional Bedouin al-Sadu weaving and new solutions. Springer Pubs. Book chapter.

2018 All Things Arabia: Arabian Identity and Material Culture. Al-Sadu Weaving: Significance and Circulation in the Arabian Gulf. Zayed University, Abu Dhabi UAE. Chapter review. Bucknell University Press.

2017 World Ikat Textile Seminar WITS conference paper: Dayak to Digital: a modern integrity of the old. Kuching, Sarawak.

2017 Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar: Imperial Threads- motifs and artisans from Turkey, Iran and India. Visiting scholar and keynote lecture: Al-Sadu to Digital: traditional Bedouins weaving for contemporary textiles. Qatar.

2016 Seminar for Arabian Studies 2016: special session. Keynote delivery. Al-Sadu weaving in Kuwait: lost meanings and future prospects. British Museum, London.

2016 Selvedge the fabric of your life. A Voice in the Desert. Issue 63. Journal article.

2015 Mohammad, A., Littlewood, J., Canavan, K., Carey, P., AEI 2015: Birth & Life of the Integrated Building.
Responses of Kuwaiti Government dwelling occupants regarding their perception, preferences and behaviours.

2014 BBC World Service: World Have Your Say. Consultant contribution to BBC World Service Language Roadshow: Cardiff with Nuala McGovern & Jason Mohammed BBC Wales.

2014 Mohammad, A., Littlewood, J., Canavan, K., Carey, P., Mediterranean Green Energy Forum. University Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah, Fez, Morocco. Design Philosophy of the Traditional Kuwaiti House. 16-20 June 2014 2013 Canavan, K., Alnajadah, A. Textiles: The Journal of Cloth and Culture (Berg) Bloomsbury Pubs. Material symbols of traditional weavings of Kuwait. Issue Vol 11, No 2, London.

2013 Camel Conference @ SOAS 2013: Camel Trappings & the Tassel. School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS) London.

2013 Camel Cultures of the World: Research Papers. The association between Bedouin Al-Sadu weaving and the camel. SOAS Publications, London.

2013 WEFT World Eco-Fibre Textile: Endangered Textile Traditions Seminar UNESCO/ World Craft Council: Al-Sadu Textiles from Kuwait: lost meanings and future prospects. School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS) London.

2012 Glamorgan Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers. Cardiff UK

2011 WIRAD Cardiff Metropolitan University -WIRAD Lecture Series: Unwritten Narratives of Bedouin Women Weavers of the Arabian Gulf.

2011 Goldsmith’s London University: ‘Material Matters’ Seminar: Materialising Symbols – Lost Voices.

2011 Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah Lecture Season 16: Weaving in the Arabian Gulf: Historical traditions and future prospects. Apr 2011.

2011 Sinclaire, R., Textiles and Fashion: materials, design and technology. Canavan, K., Chapter 22. Applications of textile products. Woodhead Publications, London.

2011 Gulf Conference: Aspirations and Challenges in the Gulf Conference. University of Exeter.

2011 Kuwait Textile Arts Association: Camel Trappings and Contemporary Textiles.

2011 Camel Conference SOAS: AlSadu Trappings, Decoration & the Dromedary.

2010 Oral History Society Conference V&A Museum: The Language of Al Sadu.

2010 Material Matters: DIGIT Joint textile research exhibition with C. Treadaway, P. Lawrence, H.Watkins. Howard Gardens Gallery.

2010 Kuwait Textile Arts Association: Discovered Through Translation: Gata.

2009 American University of Kuwait Communication & Language of Textiles. (Nov)

2003 Canavan, K. Dayak 2 Digital – Traditional Ikat for Contemporary Knitted Textiles. Heriot-Watt University. MacFarlane Prize 2003.

Teaching Awards

2023 Entrepreneur Educator of the Year. Entrepreneurship Award 2023.

2022 ​SLTA Lecturer of the Year Award 2022.

Supervision of Doctoral Research (titles or broad areas of investigation)

PhD Completions:
2023 Loulwa Al Refai
2022 Mohammad Alhazim. Design philosophy of traditional Kuwaiti house.
2006 Cathy Treadaway. Digital Imaging Technology on the Creative Practice of Printed Textiles and Surface Pattern Design. Cardiff School of Art & Design. UWIC.
2006 Heather Prosser. Llangorse Textile Cardiff University. MPhil.

PhD External Examiner:
2022 Royal College of Art, London. ‘The al-Sadu tent divider, the veil and the materiality of privacy: The construction of Muslim women’s self-identity through the printed opacity of ‘soft dividers’. Rana Al-Ogayyel.
2021 London College of Fashion. Cultural Custodians? Safeguarding Eri Silk weaving in the Ri Bhoi District of Meghalaya, Northeast India. Marie-Louise Meynell.
2020 Middlesex University. Key concepts in contemporary Islamic art. Sondos Balsouh.
2019 Middlesex University. A Grapheme Synaesthete’s A-Z of Colour. Gwen Fereday.
2018 Manchester Met University. ‘Coded Cloth’: Generative design as a digital process for jacquard weave design, towards reanimating historical jacquard pattern archives. Michelle Stephens.M
2018 Heriot-Watt University. Decolonising Design & Heritage in Craft Development Discourse. Chamithri Greru.
2015 Cardiff Metropolitan University. Sarah Younan. Internal Examiner.
2014 Heriot-Watt University. Markers and Meaning of Authenticity: Narratives of Mosuo, Bhutan and Harris Tweed Weavers. Joseph Lo.
2011 Heriot Watt University. Achieving visual narration using photochromic dyes on a textile substrate in the style of French Impressionist films. Carol Banks.
2010 University of Wales Newport. Using the traditional textile ‘Sadu’ as an element of the ancient traditions & representing it in the development of the concept of visual culture in Kuwait. Musaed M. Alberhairi.
2005 Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. Investigating Patterns, Motifs and the Reproduction Techniques of Ikat Limar. Norwani Md. Nawawi.

PhD Director of Studies/ Supervisor:
2018 Caring through cloth: textiles and perinatal loss. Lisa Porch.
2020 London College of Fashion. Cultural Custodians? Safeguarding Eri Silk weaving in the Ri Bhoi District of Meghalaya, Northeast India. Marie-Louise Meynell.
2020 Reclaiming lost traces of history & culture into a sovereign North African fashion aesthetic. Nada Koreish.
2023 Lace. Simone Pain.
2023 Traditional Welsh fibre production. Adrienne Titley.

PhD Internal Progress Assessor - current:
Rebecca Durbin
Jemima Woolley