Image courtesy SpindlierHades.
As useful as the web is for finding resources, sometimes it just can’t duplicate the experience of seeing them in person. This is especially true of non-written materials like textiles. Researchers are trying to create tactile pixels that would allow us to feel some textures on a screen, but in the meantime there are a lot of collections that are best consulted in person. Several do have a web presence, but there’s nothing like a visit for the true textile experience.
The Constance Howard Resource and Research Centre in Textiles is a valuable source of information for anyone interested in the traditional production or use of textiles. Based at Goldsmiths University Library, the collection includes:
traditional costume, folk art, social customs, textile materials, techniques and processes such as weaving and embroidery, domestic textiles and catalogues of international museum collections and textiles reference works. There is a substantial section on textile and fibre art…
The Constance Howard Centre also maintains a material archive and a textile reference library that includes rare books and first editions. Some photos of the material are available online, but a large portion of the collection remains strictly offline.
Not surprisingly, the Victoria & Albert Museum also has a large collection. The website is a great starting point, including subject hubs for forms of textile crafts like quilting and embroidery. They also have fun things like free 1940s knitting patterns. The textile archive collection is part of the larger Archive of Art and Design, housed near Olympia.
Expanding on the knitting theme, the University of Southampton houses a Knitting Collection and Knitting Reference Library. It includes examples of knitting equipment and completed knitting projects, as well as over 5,000 patterns.
More UK textile archives and libraries can be found through the UK Craft Council.
In the United States, the Textile Museum might be worth a visit. Its library has a large collection of textile samples and books about textiles. Both the museum and library are open to the public, and the website includes a convenient glossary of textile terms.