Thursday, 1 June 2017

Textile Museum in Prato Italy

Museo del Testuto

Prato is a much overlooked holiday destination as it is near to Florence.  A short train journey takes you to Prato, a lovely town which is Tuscany's second city.  It has a connection to textiles dating back to the 12th century and is still involved in textiles today.  Of course it has a textile museum to celebrate this connection.

I love visiting textile museums. There is always something new to learn about textiles and this museum was no exception.

The Museo del Testuto was founded in 1975 but is now housed in an old textile factory.  The building is impressively large.

The internal courtyard

Here is the museum entrance. As usual there were many school children on visits to the museum.

The museum entrance

Inside the entrance there was a small but well stocked shop.  The books and materials were very tempting but had to wait until I had visited the museum itself.

The museum shop
The museum has a collection of ancient textiles as well as modern.  Their extensive archive covers contemporary fabrics from 1976 to the present day.
There are four main rooms.  The first is full of ancient textiles and the light levels have to be kept low to preserve the fabrics. There is a large area of materials and processes. There is a hall of Prato City showing how Prato became involved in textiles and what the processes were. Textiles from the 12th century until 1950 and finally the Prato Hall and the fashion system which covers the changes from 1960 to 2000.

It is quite a story. There are many old pieces of weaving equipment some of which seem to be in use, presumably for demonstrations.

An old loom

A warping frame

Materials and Processes.

One area was particularly impressive. the materials and processes were very well displayed and presented.  I have not seen a better example of interactive displays which are so informative.  the notices were also in English.

Nowadays, people do not know where nor how material is made. The boards were very useful but even more impressive were the handling samples.

Here you can seen a small part of the collection of handling samples.  Every material seem to be represented even artificial yarns.

It was here that I learned something new.  I had no idea that yarn could be made from the Broom plant, yet here it is in its raw form and with a sample of material.

The broom material, yarn and raw fibre.
A cloe up of broom fibre and yarn.


 Dyeing was also explained with impressive detail.

Cloth finishing

One process which is often overlooked is that of cloth finishing.  Again, there were a selection of fabrics showing the effects of different types of finishing process. I learned a lot from this section.

There were also a few colourful sample books on display. I would love to have access to their archive collection!

If you ever visit this part of Tuscany, do go to this museum.  It is a treasure house.  The town of Prato is overshadowed by its more famous neighbour, Florence, but a day trip there has made me want to see more.

I came home with a couple of books from the museum.

This book about tartan is in English and Italian.  It was published for an exhibition held in the museum.  It has an interesting historical background about tartan. The section that I was most intrigued with is about tartan as an inspiration for contemporary fashion design.

The other book is about Prato - its history and the stories of the people and places.

I am so pleased that I found this lovely book thanks to a very helpful assistant in the shop.

The town museum in the Palazzo Pretorio itself was stunning and delightfully quiet after the crowds in Florence.  The Palazzo Pretorio was the old city hall in the  town centre. It houses the the Civic Museum of Prato, which was reopened on September 2013.  The art collection was wonderful and beautifully displayed.

Here are the web addresses if you want to find out more.

Museo del Testuto Prato

They also have a YouTube presence.

Museuo del Palazzo Pretorio

We had a lovely holiday in Florence in March which is a jewel of a city but Prato was a revelation.

Happy textile adventures!

Advance Notice - Free Online Workshop on Band Weaving October 2017

In October  I will be presenting an online workshop for the Braid Society. Details have been posted in the Braid Society Newletter in June. This workshop is open to all.  However, you will need to join the Braid Society Yahoo group Braids and Bands if you want to take part. Check out the Braid Society Home page for details on how to join the yahoo group.

Do consider joining the Braid Society. The Newsletters and the journal Strands are excellent. Becoming a member has additional benefits.  Don't forget the International Conference to be held in Kyoto, Japan in 2019.

Joining the Yahoo group Braids and Bands

Braids and Bands is a discussion group moderated by the Braid Society and primarily exists to provide members with information about Braid Society activities. Non members of the society with a genuine interest in braids and bands are also welcome to join this group. Members can ask questions about any narrow ware technique, or share details of their latest project.  There is a presentation on the home page which gives step by step guidance for joining and using the service.
You do not need to be a member of the Braid Society to join the Yahoo group but do consider joining the Braid Society.  It will bring extra benefits such as a wonderful journal  Strands and contact with a knowledgeable group of people who are willing to help with any queries about narrow wares. Another advantage is that the online workshop will have additional material for Braid Society members only.

Further details about the workshop will be posted on my blog and on Braids and Bands.  The workshop will be spread over three weeks and will give examples of band patterns from countries around the Baltic.  The fourth week is for Braid Society members only and will have additional patterns and information.

An inkle loom, a standard heddle or a double slotted Sunna heddle can be used, if you want to join in. Notes will be available for download and queries will be answered on the Braids and Bands Yahoo group. On previous online workshops, useful tips are contributed by many people taking part. We all learn from each other.

I am busy weaving the samples for the online course at the moment and I can promise you a colourful journey!

Susan  J Foulkes  May 2017


Thank you Moni, for recommending the book the Merchant of Prato by Iris Origo.  I have just received the copy I ordered and I am delighted to find that it is a history book.  It is based on an astonishing cache of over 150,000 documents which came to light in 1870.  It paints a portrait of medieval life in Tuscany.  What a lovely find.

Susan J Foulkes June 2017


  1. I am currently reading "The Merchant of Prato" which explores the life of Fransceco di Marco Datini by Iris Origo. I highly recommend it. That Prato has such a nice museum I did not know and will make a point of visiting some day. Thanks for this post!

    1. I have just received the copy of this lovely book. Thank you again for recommending it.

  2. Thank you for the recommendation. I would love to read this book myself. Prato is such an interesting town.
    many thanks


  3. Thank you Susan! I am looking forward to the October class. I have learned so much from your classes. You are so generous with your time and expertise.


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