Learn About Textiles

The Textile Museum of Canada supports lifelong learning by offering opportunities for active engagement through public programs and self-directed exploration with our online resources.

We have public programs, online resources and Learning Hub staff readily available to help you dive deep into our exhibitions or learn more about your own textiles and how to care for them. 

Recordings of our rich variety of programs, workshops, artist spotlights, and collection spotlights are also available!

Please keep an eye on our What’s On page for upcoming programs!

Learning Hub Hours

The Learning Hub is home to our Textile Reuse Program, reference library, and activities for all-ages! The space is open during regular Museum hours; Hands-on activities including tapestry weaving, rug-hooking, and yarn painting are always subject to availability, on a first-come first-serve basis.

01. Textile Learning Hub

We are excited to welcome you to the Textile Learning Hub on the second floor! The Learning Hub offers activities that link the Museum Collection, exhibitions, textile making and the library together in a hive of exploration, research, discovery and creation.

Our newly renovated space is home to studio activities, workshops, a reference library, and our reimagined Reuse Program.

Since September 2021, our Reuse Program has provided access to affordable textile materials for makers and artists. This is made possible by generous donations, and our volunteers who help with sorting and pricing every week. What began as our More Than Just a Yardage Sale in 2005 has evolved into a program dedicated to diverting textile waste from the landfill.

As of September 2023, our customers have repurposed more than 10,000 lbs of fabric, yarn, thread, lace and more!

If you’re interested in donating, you can learn more HERE!

You can continue learning without leaving the comforts of home. Our educational demos, Sustainable Textile Teach-in series, and past workshop recordings are now available online!

Information Requests

Please email us at library@textilemuseum.ca
with specific information requests.

02. Library

The Library at the Textile Museum of Canada offers a unique reference collection of resources about textiles and textile traditions from around the world, including over 4,500 books, 20 journal titles, numerous subject files, and a small collection of DVDs and videos.

Our Library is open to the public for research during the Museum’s Open Hours, and our online catalogue of books and periodicals can be accessed anywhere in the world. This was made possible with the support of the William R. and Shirley Beatty Charitable Foundation. 

The renovation on the Museum’s second floor has positioned the Library to be a key part of the new Textile Learning Hub, closely integrated with our education and collection activities.  

Since 2022, the space adjacent to the Library in the Learning Hub provides a comfortable reading centre for visitors to access magazines, periodicals and materials relating to current exhibitions. Here, the Museum’s online collection of 15,000 textiles is available to access through a computer terminal.

A photo of Leah Sanchez leading an activity with school children. There is a quilted pride flag in the background.

03. Public Programs

We are offering a rich variety of hybrid online and in-person programming such as workshops, artist talks and tours, as permitted by provincial COVID-19 guidelines.

Our programs extend beyond our walls, across Toronto. We facilitate workshops for families and youth at Toronto Public Library branches and partner with social agencies through our Community Makers program to develop workshops that meet the needs of the communities that they serve.

04. Education Guides

The Textile Museum of Canada offers a range of educational resources to complement your visit and extend the learning experience.

Our digital resources provide opportunities to engage with rich content, including the Museum’s award-winning online projects, current and past exhibition resource guides, and our online collection.


The Secret Codes

The Secret Codes: African Nova Scotian Quilts brings together historic and contemporary quilts from makers connected to Nova Scotia, embodying the stories and voices of the community. Curated by David Woods, this exhibition includes more than 35 quilts and a selection of 8 paintings that highlight the various functions of quilts over time: as decorated blankets in the home, as possible codes of communication for enslaved people seeking freedom, as records of family history, as a celebration of Black women and culture, and as inspiration for other art forms.

Organized by BANNS (Black Artists Network of Nova Scotia)


A Collection of Traditionally Crafted Masks Demonstrating Resiliency through a 21st Century Pandemic. In March 2020, Métis artists Nathalie Bertin and Lisa Shepherd co-created the Breathe project, inviting people around the world to create hand-crafted masks in any traditional medium authentic to their culture and artist practice. The vision for the project was that these masks would become artifacts representing a significant moment in human history.

Padina Bondar: Refuse

Featuring works created by artist and designer Padina Bondar, this exhibition is what Padina describes as “a display of magic that results in combining traditional tools and techniques with modern-day technology and engineering.” From hand-spun plastic waste to couture quality bobbin lace and embroideries, weaves, knits, crochet, and embellishments made of disposed materials, this new narrative will challenge systems, change perspectives, and inspire change.

Gathering: Community Stories Through a Global Collection

Grounded in community participation, the installation presents over 40 pieces from the Museum’s permanent collection of over 15,000 objects from around the world.

Gathering explores themes related to migration and diaspora, the search for comfort in the domestic and familial, reclamation of ancestral traditions through contemporary artistic responses, and the relationship between textiles and the environment.

u.n.i.t.y. : Simone Elizabeth Saunders

Oct 12, 2022 – Jan 29, 2023

This exhibition features tufted artworks exploring personal history, Afro-diaspora, and Black sisterhood. Saunders’ portraits of singular figures are each a montage of powerful, inspirational Black bodies that collectively surface a strong and resilient community.

ᑕᑯᒃᓴᐅᔪᒻᒪᕆᒃ Double Vision: Jessie Oonark, Janet Kigusiuq, and Victoria Mamnguqsualuk

Feb. 16, 2022 – Mar. 23, 2023

This exhibition profiles a family of three artists from Nunavut, shining a light on the artform of nivingajuliat, appliquéd wallhangings, conceived by seamstresses in Qamani`tuaq (Baker Lake) in the 1960s.

Water Life: Aïda Muluneh

April 27th – September 25th, 2022

This exhibition features bright colourful photographs that address the issue of living without access to clean water on women and girls in Ethiopia in an Afrofuturist style.

Printed Textiles from Kinngait Studios

December 7, 2019 – January 29, 2022

Printed Textiles from Kinngait Studios presents a collection of graphic textiles produced in Nunavut in the 1950s and 60s.

Anna Torma: Permanent Danger

Aug 7, 2020 – Mar 20, 2021

Anna Torma’s large embroideries are complex expressions of her experiences of family, immigration, joy, and the act of creation.

Beads, they’re sewn so tight

October 10, 2018 – May 26, 2019

Beads, they’re sewn so tight, guest curated by Lisa Myers, was an exhibition of work by four contemporary artists who innovate in the field of beading and quillwork.

05. Caring for Your Textiles

Textiles are sensitive to their environment.

The conservation department at the Textile Museum of Canada safely and ethically cares for our collection.

Light can fade and degrade textiles as they age. Humidity can cause mould growth and break down the fibres. Dirt and liquids can stain them easily. Moths and other insects eat woollen garments and damage any adjacent materials in the process, both natural and synthetic. Poor storage can cause textiles to stretch out of shape, causing permanent structural damage.

The work of the conservation department can be found throughout the Museum but it can be hard to spot because it’s done behind-the-scenes. Our Conservator is responsible for the care and safekeeping of the objects in our collection, as well as any pieces we are displaying that have been loaned to us. This is achieved through a variety of methods including monitoring the environment inside the Museum, adjusting light levels for textiles in the galleries, and using display methods that are safe for every piece.

Conservation tasks help us keep our textiles in the best condition possible but sometimes treatment is required. When this happens, we use stable, archival materials that will help increase the textile’s longevity without sacrificing the integrity of the object.

We also strive to improve the storage of our collection and have recently undertaken several projects to upgrade storage of textiles with challenging care requirements. As these are done behind-the-scenes we are finding new ways to share this information with our visitors including highlighting the role of conservation in our galleries, social media, and blog posts.

We receive conservation inquiries from visitors who want to learn how to take care of their own textiles. A rare antique collectable, a treasured family heirloom, a favourite item of clothing or home décor–all have challenges to safe care. We also receive requests for information about general museum conservation. We have collected some of our favourite resources for our visitors. This list should not be considered exhaustive:

The Canadian Conservation Institute is a federal institution that has a variety of information related to museum conservation and preservation on their website. Specifically, CCI Notes are small bulletins that discuss a variety of object care issues, from how to properly roll textiles to the effects of the environment on historical objects.

The National Parks Service in the United States has a similar resource called Conserve O Grams. If you are looking for more specific information or are interested in how museums care for their objects, have a look at the NPS Museum Handbook, Part 1: Museum Collections.

The Costume Committee for the international conservation body ICOM has compiled an excellent web workbook covering many aspects of caring for and working with costume, lace, and other textiles. It is also a good resource to assist you if you are trying to identify a piece of “mystery” clothing you have inherited that you’re not sure how to look after it.

There are several useful books subject conservation, ranging from beginner’s guides to from to texts containing in-depth information on textile conservation. A few examples include:

Preserving Textiles: A Guide for the Nonspecialist by Harold F. Mailand and Dorothy Stites Alig. Published by the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

The Textile Conservator’s Manual, Second Ed. By Sheila Landi. Published by Butterworth-Heinemann.

Unravelling Textiles: A Handbook for the Preservation of Textile Collections by A. Brokerhof, Foekje Boersma, and S. Van Den Berg. Published by Archetype Books.

Laundry: The Whys and Hows of Cleaning Clothes by Robert Doyle. Published by Sartorial Press.

Some of these titles are available for reference in the Museum’s H.N. Pullar Library or are for sale in the Museum Shop.

Are you looking for a trained professional to perform work on an antique textile in your own collection? Do you have a rare carpet that requires careful cleaning? Unsure where to buy archival supplies to store your precious piece in? Curious how old the textile you recently inherited is, and if it’s valuable? Although we can’t verify the work of the individuals and companies listed below, we have collected their contact information in one place to assist our visitors.

Private Textile Conservators

The services of a professional conservator should be considered for particularly valuable, damaged or fragile pieces. Specialized knowledge covers techniques to repair textiles, preventive steps to help prolong the lifespan of fragile objects, and proper framing methods. Conservators can be found through online directories. See a list of local professionals below. You may also refer to the Canadian Association of Professional Conservators, a non-profit association dedicated to maintaining high standards of professional conservators across Canada.

Textile Conservators in the Toronto Area

Elizabeth Griffin, M.A.C. 416-203-1015  or elizabeth.griffin@primus.ca
Ada Hopkins 416-979-7799, ext. 241 or adarachelhopkins@gmail.com

Antique Carpet Specialists

Companies in the Toronto area who provide antique carpet cleaning and repair:

Persian Rug Specialist 416-654-7111
Royal Antique Rugs  416-488-2029
Turco Persian Rug Co. 416-366-0707

Conservation Supplies

Some of the supplies used to safely store antique textiles can be found at fine art stores, but often they must be purchased from online specialty archival suppliers. A few examples include:

Carr McLean


Museum staff are not able to offer financial appraisals or valuations of objects. This policy is in accordance with the Canadian Museum Association (CMA) and Internation Council of Museums (ICOM) Code of Ethics. We encourage you to have your textiles appraised by a certified appraiser.