The Museum of Printed Textiles

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In 1833, a group of textile manufacturers based in and around Mulhouse formed an Industrial Society known as the "Societé Industrielle". They decided to collectively archive the designs they produced. In order to complement their own personal collections they added designs from other countries, and from earlier times. This collection grew in importance to become what is today the premier collection of printed textiles in the world. The original purpose of this design collection was to inspire artists and designers of the time by introducing them to new and different patterns and styles. This long established history of sharing ideas continues today in the form of the textile research room, the S.U.D. More than 3 million samples are housed here, spanning three centuries of design history. In addition to the S.U.D the library of around 9000 volumes welcomes researchers and students.


In 1880, in order to house a part of the Industrial Society's ever growing collections the impressive museum Rue des Bonnes Gens was built. Many of the items in the growing collection were bought or donated by local manufacturers who belonged to the Industrial Society. In 1955 an association was formed in order to run the museum. Today, 6 million samples including 50,000 textile samples, and pieces ranging from bedcovers to lengths of cloth span the history of printed textiles from the 18th Century to the present day. The Museum's premier collection is still housed in the original building, which was entirely renovated in 1994, providing a beautiful new environment for these priceless works.


The Museum's vocation is to understand and make known to as many people as possible the history and technique of printed textiles. Decorative Art Museum, Industrial Museum, Local History or Museum of Fashion, the Museum of Printed Textiles is situated somewhere between memory and creation. To accomplish it's mission the Museum's first priority is to preserve the history and practice of printed textiles. Secondly, to share this with as many people as possible. Focusing on every aspect of the art and craft of textile design, the Museum's rich history in qualitative as well as quantitative terms is it's strength. The many, varied and innovative services to the public include : Temporary exhibitions, publications, demonstrations of hand and machine printing techniques, creative workshops for children and adults. Guided tours are available in English, French German and Italian. The Museum Shop and tea room are open to the public free of charge.

Guided Tour

Room 1 Introduction

Ranging from a sumptuous 18th Century decorative hanging, to a mass produced T Shirt used for advertising purposes, the art and craft of textile printing covers a vast area. To define textile printing as "the reproduction of a design or decoration", using an implement charged with a dye paste, is obviously too simple. To decorate a fabric involves today as in earlier times, the skills of a large number of dedicated craftspeople. The processes used are often laborious, and in earlier times, dangerous. Artists, designers, engravers, chemists and printers have worked together throughout the centuries and the fruit of their labor, as well as being useful and decorative result, holds an important place in the sociological hierarchy of it's time.

Room 2 The "Indiennes"

This room invites the visitor to study at close range the very first decorative textiles using the mordant technique which skillfully uses metallic salts to fix the colors onto the cloth. Printed onto a lightweight calico, these decorative panels were brought into Europe at the end of the 16th Century. Discovered by a population used to wearing heavy woolen, linen and highly embroidered silks, the freshness, and brightness of the designs, coupled with the lightweight cloth quickly seduced the European market, in terms of both decorative and apparel textiles.

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