I have been avoiding posting because I had delusions of grandeur about posting all about my day off in Washington, DC a couple weeks back. (My main strength as a procrastinator is well know among my circle of friends and family.)
So, here goes. My favorite museum in the whole world is the Textile Museum (link on the side there). First off, it's in a beautiful area of DC. It's right off Dupont Circle along Embassy Row - 2320 S Street, NW. The first time I walked over there from the Metro, I was amazed at all the black cars with smoked windows. Each big, stone house has a plaque with the name of its country and a flag flying out front. Many of them say they're private residences and I can't help wondering who lives there and what the inside of the houses look like.
The Textile Museum was once a house itself and covers 3 levels. I wasn't all that interested in the Mamluk and Andalusian Rug exhibitions currently there, but only because I'm not crazy about old rugs. What I love about this museum is that everything is so beautifully displayed. It's very obvious that the people who set up these exhibits really care about the textiles and know a lot about them as well. The notes about each piece are well thought out and point out what's special about the textile at which you're looking. They also will reference other pieces in the gallery and how they all combine to show progression through a geographical area or time frame.
[As a side note, I went to the Vincent Van Gogh Face to Face exhibit a couple of years ago and was extremely disappointed not to find a detailed write up of each piece. I wanted to know why he painted certain things and where he was as an artist. Pretty much all I got was the year he painted it. Not a whole lot of new knowledge about Van Gogh there!]
On the second floor there is a permanent hands on exhibit. You can move from station to station and try out all different kinds of textiles "stuff." You can weave a little, learn about the life cycle of silk worms, compare the structures of several different pieces and on and on. When I was wandering through, there was a group of high school/college-age young women with note books who were furiously writing things down and playing at each station. It was a lot of fun to watch them discovering things. I think I forget about what it was all like when it was new.
Then, of course, I hit the gift shop - which I thought was way too small! They did have a couple of large book shelves that I parked myself in front of and plowed through the books. I managed to buy "A History of Hand Knitting," a book with Anatolian knitting charts, and a couple of the Museum's textile journals from years past (and some other stuff that I've already forgotten).
They also have a lot of textiles for sale in the shop. There were silk kimonos, kinte cloth ties, pillows, hooked rugs, straw woven bags, even textile inspired mouse pads. I was overwhelmed after spending some time in there - all those colors and ideas. It was very inspiring.
Bottom line is, if you're in DC for any length of time - take yourself to the Textile Museum. It's worth the trip - I promise.