Why We Love the Textile Museum

As Associate Editor of Handwoven I’ve had the joy of reading and writing about the Textile Museum at George Washington University many times. Located in Washington, D.C., the museum gets some of the most extraordinary exhibits, and as much as I enjoy writing about them I know there’s nothing quite like going and seeing the textiles and tools on display in person.

I got the chance this past Thanksgiving week to do just that while in D.C. for a few days on vacation. Completely by accident we ended up staying at a hotel walking distance from the Textile Museum (it was completely not planned at all *wink*) so on a chilly November afternoon we made the trek to the museum to check out the Bingata! Only in Okinawa exhibit I’d written about previously.

The Bingata! Only in Okinawa exhibit in person.

The Bingata! Only in Okinawa exhibit in person.

Now I had previously oohed and aahed over the press images I’d been sent, but nothing prepared me for how beautiful these pieces were in person. Getting to see the actual cloth and to get close enough to see how the threads interact and the details of the dyeing was amazing. The children’s robes were also a revelation; seeing how small they were, and yet so detailed and beautiful, reminded me that this wasn’t cloth for the masses. Bingata was reserved first for royalty and then for other elites—in other words, the kind of folks who could afford to spend a fair amount of money on a robe that might only be worn for a few months.

One of the child’s robes on display at the Textile Museum. This one features plum blossoms, bamboo, and other botanical designs as well as a mabayu tassel on the collar which was meant to protect the wearer from evil. Photo courtesy of the Textile Museum.

One of the child’s robes on display at the Textile Museum. This one features plum blossoms, bamboo, and other botanical designs as well as a mabayu tassel on the collar which was meant to protect the wearer from evil. Photo courtesy of the Textile Museum.

I can’t say enough good about this museum—visiting it was a dream come true and if I’m ever back in the D.C. area it will absolutely be on my to-visit list. During this trip I also spent a considerable amount of time at various Smithsonian museums and I have to say that while the Textile Museum is smaller, I enjoyed the exhibit every bit as much as those housed in the larger institutions. So if you’re taking a trip to Washington, D.C., make sure to plan in some time to visit the Textile Museum. It is well worth the visit and you’re pretty much guaranteed to see something spectacular!

More information on the museum, its exhibits, and how you, too can visit can be found at their website.

—Christina


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