Last updated on June 22nd, 2022
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 / 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.
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
/ Photo by Isabelle Fish
Les Traboules of Lyon are a labyrinth of tunnels and passageways connecting the weaving workshops / Photo by Isabelle Fish
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.
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 / Photo by Isabelle Fish
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.
Discover What to Wear, Where
Ten of the most stylish and practical travel bathing suits for fuller figures, recommended by women travelers.
Contributing writer and former fashion designer Diana Eden shares her tips for older women to find the perfect swimsuit for travel.
These 15 fashionable bras will fit women travellers of all shapes and sizes who are looking for support, comfort and convenience on their next adventure.
Plan Your Trip
Get started with resources recommended by the JourneyWoman community
Book Your Flights
Find Somewhere to Stay
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.
Looking for a Tour?
Head to the Women’s Travel Directory to find a woman-friendly tour around the world.
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!