The Handweaver's Guide to Providence! June 30, 2014 07:00

Craftland is super excited that the Handweavers Guild of America will be bringing its Convergence Conference to Providence from July 14 – 19th. 

I am a weaver myself and before coming to Craftland, I worked for years designing jacquard fabric for the home furnishings industry in a Fall River mill that has since closed. This makes me extra excited that weavers from all over the country will be descending on Providence for a week in July. I predict there are going to be a lot of people in fabulous scarves walking around town. (Although pack your light ones, it’ll be hot here in July!) 

I also love visitors exploring my city. With that in mind, I’ve put together a Providence guide for all you visitors, with ideas of things to do, places to eat and unique shops to hit while you’re in town. 

Things To Do
First stop and not to be missed, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. This conference is well timed because the RISD Museum (pronounced riz-dee) has just reopened after a substantial renovation and now includes the new Angelo Donghia Costume & Textiles Study Center. This is a dedicated room just for textiles, with drawers full of items that you can open and gawk over. Some pieces are also out in a larger gallery, like this gorgeous Fortuny yardage.

Another spot to hit (that you’ll need to drive to) is Slater Mill in nearby Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Slater Mill is known as the Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution and is designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. It has three historic structures that you can tour, and has a gallery with rotating exhibits related to the textile industry. 

There is something you should know about Rhode Island. We're the smallest state. If you’re visiting from some place like Texas, you’ll probably find yourself thinking that our entire state is about the size of Houston. One of the quirks that comes with being so small, is that anything that is a 20 minute drive is considered “further afield” and possibly requires a packed lunch. I say this because some of you may think I’m nuts for saying these things are “far away” but these 2 places are well worth the excursion.

First the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts (about 70 miles away). I love this museum for its collection of old looms. Call me geeky, but I love seeing a jacquard loom running on punch cards. 

Also, the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts, 45 miles away. This has some exhibits on display that are in conjunction with the conference, so well worth the drive. 

Places To Shop
Providence is set up with lots of different neighborhoods, all unique and worth visiting. The conference is taking place downtown, and we’re a little biased, but we think it’s the best neighborhood. We're located on Westminster Street with lots of unique, independently owned shops, our neighbors Queen of Hearts and Homestyle both have a unique selection of items, and Symposium Books has an extensive design section. Check out this handy Downtown Neighborhood Guide.  

Thursday nights are fun in this neighborhood because most shops stay open late, and we have an outdoor movie showing in Grants Block. Bring a blanket, and hang out for the evening. Known as Movies on the Block, the Thursday night you're in town they'll be showing The Great Escape. You may all be on Providence's popular Gallery Night Trolley that evening, but why not finish off the night with a movie and drinks. 

Other neighborhoods worth walking around are Wayland Square on the East Side of town, Wickenden Street over in the Fox Point neighborhood, Hope Street (which includes shops like Kreatelier and Frog & Toad, that I think you weavers will enjoy) and Thayer Street, our college town strip. Also on the East Side is a shop called The Paper Connection, which is full of handmade, specialty art papers used in weaving, clothing and sculpture and also a collection of paper textile objects and books. Also, Providence’s “Little Italy” neighborhood, Federal Hill is a fun place to stroll around if you love a good Italian Market. (You might want to bring a cooler with you to take some food home!)

Places to Eat
As you may have heard, Providence is a food lovers heaven. There are almost too many good places to name, so I'm just going to mention of few of my faves located in the neighborhood of your conference:

Ellie’s Bakery is my favorite lunch spot and has the best sandwiches in town, hands down. They're also well known for their sweets. If you love macarons, then you must stop in. 
Livi’s Pockets, located in The Arcade, is one of our best kept secrets for a tasty, fast lunch. 
Small Point Cafe makes for a good morning coffee stop, but also makes great sandwiches for lunch. 

A few other neighborhood faves you should check out if you're going to be taking your time: Local 121Gracie’sBravo Brasserie, Figidini and Rosalina.

Lastly, I know you weavers spend a lot of time sitting on a loom bench, and I’m sure you have tight, sore necks and possibly some low back pain? Hmmmm? Just me? Why not treat yourself to a spa treatment at the Biltmore Spa? 

And please, visit Craftland!!! Stop in and say hi! All our items are handmade by independent artists. Your purchases help artists like you make a living, and help us keep our community of creative people vibrant. Have fun in Providence!