We’re at the beginning of our fall touring and have a few days off before our first gig in Cornwall Ontario. John and I had time for a visit to Almonte, which is just outside of Ottawa, to see some galleries and the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum. We’ve been stopping by this charming little town for years, but have never had time to visit the museum.
The main street is lined with galleries, antique shops and cafes all housed in historic buildings. Almonte was a woolen mill town, thanks to the Mississippi River (not the same one as down south!) flowing through it. The river drops off rather beautifully just in the middle of town, which leads to lots of power opportunities. Hence, the mills that dotted its banks.
On the main drag, there is a life-sized bronze statue celebrating an important local: the inventor of basketball! James Naismith not only invented it here in Almonte, but he was also in attendance at the Summer Olympic Games when it was first included in the sports played. What an accomplishment.
We visited General Fine Craft Art and Design where our friend Chandler Swain works and exhibits. There was a wonderful exhibit of Manitoban artists. Then we headed down the road to the Textile Museum in one of the old mill buildings.
Everyone around the museum was very busy – on Saturday and Sunday they hold their 19th annual Fibrefest, which features 50 fibre arts vendors, 20 vintage wear vendors and 10 button vendors, as well as exhibits and events like a lamb race! I’m sorry we won’t be able to stick around for that. If you’re in eastern Ontario on September 13th and 14th (2014), you’ll enjoy the visit.
The main floor of the museum is reserved for special exhibits. On this day, it featured a wonderful exhibit from Japan:
This exhibit was designed to fit into the space. All different techniques of working with many different fibres, and each piece was wrapped around one of the columns in the room. They drew me in to see the exquisite detail on each piece.
At the end of the room was a wall of touchable samples, describing the techniques used for each piece.
It was amazing, how many technques I’d never heard of before – lots of weaving, some rust dyeing, machine embroidery, acid use to eat away denim, origami, and even one featuring real goose feathers embedded between layers of fine fabric. It was beautiful.
Upstairs is a permanent exhibit well worth visiting. It takes use through the stages from sheep shearing to fabric, using the machines they used to use at the mill. It’s a well organized exhibit, with lots of videos (narrated by my old friend “Reverend Ken” Ramsden!) explaining the process.
The exhibits here change regularly but not the wool section. To plan your visit, the events calendar is here.
I think it’s worth spending a whole day in Almonte if you get the chance. We didn’t set foot in any of the antique shops, nor the two quilt shops!!!! Not bad, for a small town. I’m glad we stopped.