Exploring Taiwan and the National Palace Museum

When Taiwan was discovered by Portuguese sailors, they gave it the name, ‘Ihla Formosa’ meaning ‘beautiful island.’ It’s an apt name for a place that, even in November, is still about 30 degrees and is host to some beautiful landscapes and fantastic flora and fauna. I love how you see orchids absolutely everywhere too and I really miss the delicious pineapple that is just as ubiquitous and also makes its way into cakes and sweets.

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Leeds Market and City Museum

When I’m visiting somewhere new, I take a multipronged approach to trying to uncover the local craft scene. The first stop is usually Ravelry’s wonderful Yarn Shop finder, an essential part of planning any local roadtrip. Digging into the forums for local groups can be a great way to discover more hidden gems as well, particularly as there are a lot of long-running craft shops that predate the Internet and still don’t have a web presence.

The second part is usually hammering my search engine of choice with the names of various crafts and the city. This often has varying levels of success, as again, it is dependent on the shop having a good online presence. Yelp can be really useful when there’s a local crafter who has put up their ‘top 10’ list of places to see. Unfortunately, it’s only as useful as what people have contributed and it’s not so popular outside of big cities.

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This week’s adventure was to Leeds, home to the Royal Armouries Museum (not to be missed) and a historical centre for the wool trade. If you don’t have a car and aren’t planning on venturing much further than the city centre, Leeds conveniently has rather a lot of crafty goodness one place, Leeds Kirkgate Market.

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Museum of Fine Arts and Futuristic Textiles

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston boasts a collection that covers every continent, spanning over nearly three thousand years. It’s an impressive feat for a museum that only covers three floors yet still manages to cover every discipline in the fine arts.

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The MFA also do free entry on some Fridays as part of the ‘Free Fun Friday’ program, which means you have no excuse for not popping in for a quick visit. Whereas the Victoria and Albert museum might take you several lifetimes to see all of it, you can see all of the MFA in a few hours so it really is a breakneck speed tour through civilisation.

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Lowell and the New England Quilting Museum

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Lowell is a city to the north west of Boston which birthed the American Industrial Revolution. As you walk around, you can still see the mills and textile factories that housed the first ‘power looms’ in America that automated large parts of the weaving process and manufactured the coarse cottons that take their name from the city.

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After the Great Depression and decline of the textile industry, Lowell became something of an economic wasteland. However, now, Lowell has been transformed a National Historical Park, which is a slightly confusing name because the Park part refers to part of the city itself. A huge amount of effort has been made to preserve the history and make for an interesting and informative visit.

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London Adventures III: Victoria and Albert Museum

The trip to London concluded to one of my favourite museums, the Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum. Whenever I’m in London, I always try and visit the V&A and I’ve still only seen a small fraction of the incredible collection they have.

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Everything about the V&A is fabulous – the building, the exhibitions, the entire scale of the museum. If you can think of it, they probably have a collection on it. I’ve seen everything from a collection of locks and locking mechanisms, to armour for animals alongside more traditional pieces of art.

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As it is a British national museum, entrance is absolutely free. You do have to pay to see the special exhibitions (tickets are around £15 for non-members) they have but that is it. They have an extensive gift shop and cafes if you want to support the work they do, which I would wholeheartedly encourage. There are few museums with collections as extensive and varied as the V&A’s.

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