Visit of the historical museum Bielefeld, Germany

For a long time I wanted to visit this museum in Germany. It is located on the old terrain of the Ravensberger spinning mill, which used to be one of the biggest flax spinning mills in Europe (in the 19th and 20th century). As the title says, it’s a historical museum – meaning it displays the history of the city from B.C. to the end of the last century. Because the linen production played such a big role in the area around Bielefeld, the material frequently appears in different spots around the exhibition space.

One of the most impressive objects for me was the handspun yarn of a ten year old female student from 1850 (picture to the right). Her craft school in Bielefeld tried to prove the superiority of handspun yarn over machine spun yarn with it. I was stunned because it is so incredibly fine. The yarn is around 15000 meters long and weighs just 110 grams. This comes down to a fineness of nm 136/1 or 227 lea. It’s not worth talking about my own handspinning attemts here. (As a side note: until 1844 the finest machine count was around 40 lea). Of course her beautiful work didn’t stop the industrialization from happening and the machinery ultimately achieved same results in fineness.

The museum also holds another treasure (at least for me). A Mackie and Sons wet spinning machine for flax. It is a fully functional mini-version of the machines that stood in the mill when it was still running. This small machine was used to teach the craft of linen spinning at the Bielefeld vocational school. I can’t say more to it, it is a real beauty!

Note: The museum put quotes of former workers on the floor in front of the spinning machine. They highlighted the awful working conditions (in relation to payment and health) of the workers at the mill. Sadly, a practice we nowadays just moved to other countries. I reckon it is time for a change.

I found out about the machine from where Konrad Gutkowski posted a video of the machine running. Thank you!

Recorded on March 19, 2015
Historisches Museum Bielefeld
Bielefeld, GERMANY
Konrad Gutkowski
Creative Commons License

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