There were many things about my recent trip to Prague that didn’t quite go according to plan. The antiques shop, famous for their stash of antique lace was closed for unexpected reasons, as was one of the museums I had wanted to see, and the whole country went into a ‘State of Emergency’ thanks to You Know What. However, despite my best laid plans going to waste, I found some unexpected gems, including the Museum of Decorative Arts, and completely fell in love with a city that I’m just going to have to go back to.Read More »
I’ve blogged before about how a country’s textile history often shaped its social and cultural history, as well as infrastructure and landscape, and Switzerland is no exception to that. While perhaps most famous for the St. Gallen embroideries and lace (and you can see some fantastic examples of that at the local textile museum), Switzerland also has a rich history of silk and cotton production and even passementerie, particularly in the Basel region.
I think I should be very careful about ever complaining about have a few too many demands on my time on my blog again…. Apparently, life decided to take that as something of a challenge and pile things on to an extent that definitely crossed the ridiculous threshold and in a way that will also mean lots of big changes up ahead… Just when I was thinking of getting a bit settled!
Kiel is a charming city in the north of Germany, only about an hour and half from Denmark, with plenty of beautiful waterfronts. Maybe inspired by the slightly… brisk weather during the winter though, it also seems to be home to a surprising amount of spinning, weaving and wooly goodness.
Given the historical importance of textiles to the town and its interest in trying to preserve as much of its history as possible, it probably comes as no surprise that St Gallen has a wonderful museum dedicated to textiles with regularly changing exhibitions if you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend regularly.
My first adventure of 2019 was to St Gallen, a Swiss town famous for its bustling textile trade and, if you want to be fair to all the official Swiss languages, otherwise known as Sankt Gallen/Saint-Gall/San Gallo/Son Gagl. As you might guess, its history in the embroidery, lacemaking and fashion industries has left a footprint of the city of great interest to anyone with a passing interest in textiles, crafts and art and this charming little place has plenty more feasts for the eyes as well.
I really love visiting museums. Where else can you cross a thousand years of history in a few hundred metres, or from central London to deepest Patagonia? I have a sentimental fondness for the V&A in London, and have been to some other great places, such as the breathtaking National Palace Museum in Taipei to the highly specialist Quilt Museum in Boston. Luckily for me, Seoul has a great blend of museums at both ends of the spectrum, from the expanse of the National Museum of Korea, or several, small gems of textile history.
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.
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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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.
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.