Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hand-Made in Spain, for Peasants and Queens

Royal Tapestry Factory / Real Fábrica de Tapices
04/16/12 - Calle Fuentarrabía, 2

We have the same taste
Just last weekend, I finally entered the renowned house of espadrilles Casa Hernanz (Calle de Toledo, 18), accompanied by two friends.  After determining our place in the ragged line, we mentally recorded the styles and colors we wanted to try.  The espadrilles (or, as the Spanish call them, alpargatas) may not be stitched entirely by hand, but they are made the old way, and still a bargain. The pair in this picture was 12 euros. 

At the other end of the cost spectrum, the Royal Tapestry Factory fulfills custom orders at a dignified pace, much as it has done since the early 18th century, when King Phillip V started a factory in Madrid with the help of Belgian master weavers. The current factory, a brick building near the Atocha train station, has been in operation since the 1880s. It contains a museum with a half-hour guided tour for 4 euros.

The museum tour lets you watch highly-skilled artisans at work (no photos allowed, but you can view the process from home in this 3-minute video).  In fact, we stood inches from the blue-smocked workers. We observed their fingers flying, and heard the thump of their mallets as they tamped down woven threads.  My tour group of inquisitive middle-aged Spanish ladies even engaged the artisans in banter. 

Tapestry based on a Goya illustration, Royal Tapestry Factory

One can only guess at prices.  Four people will labor for two years to make a tapestry that covers an entire wall.  The carpets I saw were too gorgeous to tread upon, even in virgin alpargatas.


  1. Casa Hernanz we visited in February. About four customers waiting for service. I can't imagine the system in a busy period. Love the alpargatas in the photos. If I had seen them, I certainly would have bought.

    The Real Fabrica is a favorite place that I have visited a few times. No purchases there, but I remember reading a book by Dorothy Rodgers, wife of Richard Rodgers of Rodgers & Hammerstein, and she ordered carpets for their dream home in the country (NY or CT) from this factory. The book is old, and I believe it went to a library sale, but some people really do have those beautiful treasures in their home.

    Love your this purely for fun or do have another plan?☺

  2. Hi Kay--this blog is purely for fun! A way to organize my lovely free time while I'm in Spain (I do have a an administrative-type job, very part-time). Sadly, my year here is fast coming to an end, and I will return to Wisconsin to ponder the next chapter...