Textile Travel Tips and Tricks

Textile Encounters with Ansie van der Walt

Summer is in full swing down here in Australia. Beach, travel, holidays and long, lazy, carefree days are all the rage down under. It is the perfect time to plan projects, create calendars, and think about textile travel adventures.

I always research the needlecraft and textiles of a place before I travel there. It is a great way to make a connection with a foreign location. This year I am planning a personal textile tour. I want to make my whole trip just about meeting the local textile artists and visiting traditional studios and artisans. I haven’t made a final decision on a destination yet, but I’m leaning towards Indonesia or one of the Pacific Islands, being close to Australia and all that….

If textile travel is a new concept to you, or you don’t know where to start, here’s a few ideas on how to plan it:

Traditional Lao-Tai embroidery, Thailand

An organised Textile Tour

Quite a few travel companies offer specialised tours for textile lovers. Google is your friend here, as the best option for you will depend on where you are in relation to where you want to go. A tour departing from Sydney will not be much use if you are in the UK or the US. South America and Asia are two of the most textile-rich parts of the world with many different cultures and tribal traditions in relatively close proximity to each other but don’t dismiss Europe or North America either.

Accompany a Textile Artist or Researcher on a Specialist Tour

A much more personal and in-depth way of textile travel, where you live with the locals and immerse yourself in the local culture. Find someone you admire or want to learn from and travel with them. Again, do your own research about textile people in your area.

  • Kerryn James from The Adventuress regularly organises trips to Morocco to meet the artisans she works closely with.
  • Barbara Mullan takes small groups with her to Gujarat where she has close relationships with artisans.
Textile Travel Tips and Tricks
Aboriginal textiles, Tarnanthi Textile Fair, Australia

Retreats and Workshops

Weaving, indigo dye, block printing, silk embroidery – the list of specialist textile techniques is endless. Look at blogs, magazines and websites about the skills you want to learn and find a retreat offering these classes. If other people can do it for yoga or cooking, we can do it for textiles.

  • Threads of Life in Bali has several batik, indigo and other live-in workshops planned for 2017.
  • Bryan Whitehead offers traditional Japanese Indigo workshops at his studio outside Tokyo.
Textile travel can enable you to meet people like the Kikoy sellers on the beach at Malindi in Kenya
Kikoy sellers on the beach at Malindi, Kenya


Need I say more? Float on a boat with fellow needlework lovers, while making friends and learning a new skill.

Textile Travel Tips and Tricks
Kenyan Kikoys blowing in the wind

Craft for a Cause

The world is full of people in need. If you feel like you want to make a difference with your craft, you won’t have to look far. There are outreach groups, NGO’s, aid organisations, refugee centres, and community projects in every town and city where you can use your skill to help someone. Start local. The joy will spread far and wide.

If circumstances permit, we can all broaden our horizons, learn something new, spread some joy, and use textile travel to build bridges and foster new relationships. The world of textiles is an amazing place and I hope you get to experience it.

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