Textile Travel: Five Places to See Stunning Artisan Crafts in India and Europe

by | Jun 8, 2022

Indian women embroidery
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Last updated on March 30th, 2024

Featured image: Village women from the Hodko region demonstrating embroidery / Photo by Isabelle Fish

Threading our way through textile destinations

By Isabelle Fish, Founder, Rue Pigalle Artisanal Journeys 

It’s never easy to return home after a fabulous trip – we long for the places, the people, the discoveries.  I prolong the experience by bringing back “souvenirs” in my satchels and stay connected to the wonderful memories. 

I gravitate to textiles – easy to pack, light (unless you are bringing back full bolts of fabric). Textiles often tell the story of the place and its people, require extraordinary skills and patience to create and can be easily incorporated in your home environment. Oh the joy of transforming yardage into cushions, tablecloths, dresses…!

Let me share here some textile galleries and workshops I discovered on my travels.  (Note: Rue Pigalle is in our Women’s Travel Directory; learn more here.) 

India’s breathtaking textile museums 

Textiles of India was the theme of my trip to India in 2019 – I regularly pull out the trip photo album to relive my impressions of this extraordinary country. 

Young women wearing traditional red embroidered dress from the Gujarat

Young women wearing traditional red embroidered dress from the Gujarat / Photo by Isabelle Fish

Jaipur’s Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing, located in a gorgeous Haveli, has everything you need to know about block printing. Artisans are on site for demonstrations and workshops can be booked.  The Anokhi showroom is the perfect place to enjoy lunch and do a spot of shopping. 

I fell in love with the scarves, embroideries and blankets of Andraab. Co-owner Mubashir shared the deeply moving story of his family and how he and his brother have worked tirelessly to revive the heritage of Kashmir. It is a luxury product but one well worth investing in if you are a textile lover. 

If you find yourself in the Kutch region and visit Bhuj, don’t miss the Living and Learning Design Center. The textiles and costumes collection is breathtaking. 

Closer to home in Canada

Closer to home in Toronto, the small but comprehensive Textile Museum of Canada always has some interesting exhibitions exploring contemporary issues through textiles. For a more grandiose setting don’t miss The ROM’s textiles collection, one of the largest in the world.

Entrance of the Textile Museum of Canada

The Textile Museum of Canada / Photo by Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

France’s fashionable history 

I was very fortunate to grow up near Lyon in France, the capital of silk weaving. The history of the Canus and the weaving workshops, the invention of the Jacquard loom, the architecture of the traboules (a labyrinth of passageways and tunnels) will keep you busy for days. Although the building is currently undergoing a large renovation, the Musee des Tissus website is a comprehensive source of information to prepare your trip.

In Paris, textiles are well represented at the Musee Yves Saint Laurent, and of course at the Palais Galliera, a treasure of architecture housing a collection tracing the history of fashion from the 18th century to the most contemporary designers.

Lace is one of the most fascinating techniques in textiles. There are many, many different kinds of lace. Calais and the north of France are the epicentre of the trade which you can learn about in the Cite de la Dentelle museum in Calais.

Yves Saint Laurent Museum, “Dreams of the Orient” gallery

Yves Saint Laurent Museum, “Dreams of the Orient” gallery
  / Photo by Isabelle Fish

Les Traboules of Lyon are a labyrinth of tunnels and passageways connecting the weaving workshops

Les Traboules of Lyon are a labyrinth of tunnels and passageways connecting the weaving workshops / Photo by Isabelle Fish


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Italy’s textiles are a source of joy

Italy is another great source of joy for the textile lover. My recent visit to Venice was an opportunity to discover the marvellous world of Mariano Fortuny, a Spanish designer of the early 1900s who dressed the rich and famous from his Venetian palazzo. In addition to the museum, it is possible from time to time to visit the showroom and gardens by appointment. 

Still in Venice, not to be missed is the atelier of Luigi Bevilacqua on the Gran Canal. The roots of the Bevilacqua family in the textile world date back to 1499. Indeed, in that year Giovanni Mansueti painted The capture of St. Mark in the synagogue, mentioning the names of the noblemen who commissioned it: one of them was a certain “Giacomo Bevilacqua, weaver”. The actual Tessitura was founded by Luigi Bevilacqua in 1875, after recovering some looms and machines once used by the Silk Guild of the Republic of Venice. But according to some documents some Bevilacqua weavers were already there in the 18th century.

Palazzo Fortuny Venice

Palazzo Mariano Fortuny, Venice / Dimitris Kamaras, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It takes four years for a Bevilacqua weaver to be fully trained and allowed to work on a client order

It takes four years for a Bevilacqua weaver to be fully trained and allowed to work on a client order  / Photo by Isabelle Fish

Weaving in the UK

Ending our textile tour in the UK, in the north Dovecot Studio in Edinburgh is a jewel of a place. The weaving studio is simply astonishing. 

In London, the V&A has made it a specialty to produce sumptuous textile and fashion exhibitions. Unparalleled in their scope and pizzaz, they are hugely popular, requiring advanced purchase of tickets (or special connections to access the behind the scenes). 

I am a big fan of London Fashion + Textile museum. Smaller than the V&A and different in its focus, it is the only UK museum dedicated to showcasing contemporary fashion and textile design. The exhibitions are always engaging and you leave with your mind buzzing with ideas and concepts to mull over. Located on the South Bank, it’s a short walk to Borough Market where you are guaranteed a good, fun lunch. 

Our upcoming trip to Somerset and London includes a visit to the private studio of a weaver as well as a special experience at the V&A textiles gallery.

The looms room at the Queen Street Mill Museum in Burnley

The looms room at the Queen Street Mill Museum in Burnley  / Photo by Isabelle Fish

Isabelle Fish portrait

Isabelle Fish is a fine crafts insider and the founder of The Club, by Rue Pigalle, a club for women patrons of crafts. She leads women-only tours that explore the world through the prism of crafts. Each journey is unique, featuring access to fascinating ateliers, behind-the-scenes gallery tours, conversations with industry experts, and hands-on activities. You do not need to be a member of The Club to join the tours.

Search for a tour to a textile museum right here!

Discover What to Wear, Where

Plan Your Trip

Get started with resources recommended by the JourneyWoman community

Book Your Flights

Use tools like Expedia or Google Flights to look up the best flight prices. Being flexible with dates can save you even more money.

Find Somewhere to Stay

Find a hotel on Expedia and earn points towards free stays. Hotels.com offers a free night stay for every 10 nights booked.

Looking for an apartment or something more long-term? Check out VRBO.

Insure Your Trip

Travel insurance is more important than ever. Compare plans and policies for the best coverage for your trip using Insure My Trip.

Traveling for an extended amount of time? SafetyWing offers ongoing coverage on a month-to-month basis, and World Nomads offers coverage for extended trips.

Looking for a Tour?

Head to the Women’s Travel Directory to find a woman-friendly tour around the world.

Travel Extras

Why not brush up on a new language before your trip with Babbel.

Don’t forget your JourneyWoman branded accessories while you’re on the go!

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