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The Project Workshop Back to Our Traditions
in the Horažďovice Museum

In June 2009 the town museum will be opening its doors to anyone interested in visiting the interactive workshop called Back to Our Traditions. This project has been supported by the European Fund for Regional Development.

As the title suggests, the workshop premises are interactive and the traditional museum restrictions of not touching do not apply here. In fact it is quite the opposite – not only may things be touched – they must be touched. We believe that by touching various items of equipment and working tools, by handling them and using them to try out our skills we can gain valuable experience of what life was like in the past.

The life of our ancestors in the villages was busy in all seasons. Spring and summer meant hard work in the fields, meadows and around the house, and in winter there was household work and small domestic industries. It is quite hard to imagine how whole families spent their winters in one heated room where people both lived and worked. Light was provided by resinous wood, candles and petrol lamps. The room was used for spinning, bobbin lacemaking, and in addition there was a loom and wood for processing. Products that were made in these conditions were not only crafted with great skill but they were also of great aesthetic quality.

Our workshop demonstrates the processing of wood and wool, there is a loom for weaving and visitors can turn their hands to bobbin lacemaking. We also show films which demonstrate the work of true folk artists.

The programme of our workshop is accessible for families with children, adult groups and also school trips.

Spinning

Various types of materials were spun to make thread. The thread is made by spinning prepared material. The oldest technique is using a manual spinning handle and a weight (whorl). Whorls form the 2nd half of the 1st millennium BC, when Celts lived in this area, were found in archaeological digs in this region.

Whorl; 2nd half of the 1st millennium BC
Whorl; 2nd half of the 1st millennium BC

Using a spinning wheel was of course much faster than the spinning handle, and spinning wheels started to be used from the 16th century onwards. Flax was mainly used, both for domestic use and for sale. But spinners worked also with wool and hemp fibres. Spinning wheels can be divided into two types, depending on their construction: vertical and horizontal depending on where the thread reel is situated. Spinning wheels could be found in every household and they were always a part of a dowry. Every woman, from the poorest one to the queen would spin. Depending on the wealth of the family the bride came from, spinning wheels were either plain, made of wood, or wooden but richly decorated, carved and even painted. Also the whorl used for the thread was decorated in various ways.

The tradition of wool spinning lasted a very long time in this region. Even in the 1960s you could find women spinning in the villages surrounding Horažďovice, in some villages the tradition lasted longer than in others. New spinning wheels were also made at that time.

You might like to try some wool spinning. It is much easier than spinning flax. Shorn sheep’s wool was put on an implement called a carder, a piece of wood with iron nails, which is clamped to a bench and the wool is first combed and then spun.

Each of you can have a go at carding wool and then turning the spinning wheel. Not everyone will be able to use the thread they spin during their first visit. As it is often the case, what appear to be the simplest tasks are the hardest to do.

Weaving

Weaving is the oldest method of textile production and it has followed the same principle for 4,000 years when warp threads are woven through with a filling pick. We have a spindle weight dating back to the second half of the 1st millennium BC in our museum, when the area was inhabited by the Celts. The age of the find documents how old weaving is.

Spindle weight; 2nd half of the 1st millennium BC
Spindle weight; 2nd half of the 1st millennium BC

Flax, hemp and wool were used for weaving in the Šumava Mountains and their foothills. Weaving flourished till the mid 19th century in this region. Once factory manufacturing came in, people could not make money weaving, although people still made enough for their families and weaving was practised till the first half of the 20th century.

Linen was distinguished according to the quality of processing which again depended on the quality and types of the prepared threads. A whole range of materials came off the looms: from fine, nearly see-through linen to rough and robust fabrics. The regional speciality was so-called šerka, a very firm and good quality cloth made of wool and flax. It had a variety of uses and thanks to its colours it looked at its best when used for female skirts.

Weaving was a male job. The loom was not in operation all year round. In summer it lay folded down in the attic and it was moved to the living area in winter. Preparatory work for weaving, such as reeling the threads and making the warp, was done by the whole family, including children. Weavers had their own pattern books which they created over the years. The library in the Town Museum shows two of these pattern books, written and drawn by hand. One dates from 1720 and the other one from 1751. Both pattern books belonged to the weaver Protiva from Horažďovice and his family.

Pattern book, front page; 1720
Pattern book, front page; 1720

Along with slowing down of the craft of weaving, the growing of flax began to disappear. It was brought back to life during the Second World War when it was mandatory to grow flax and whole plants had to be handed in. The versatile hemp, despite the fantastic qualities of hemp fibre for weaving, has become a banned plant.

The loom in our workshop dates back to the middle of the 19th century and the jacquard extension is from the end of the 19th century. The loom in itself is quite a complex machine and by adding the extension we make it even more complicated. On the other hand it allows us to have a go at weaving as using the loom with the extension is far easier than weaving just on the loom itself.

You can use the computer program available in our workshop and on our website to combine various colours and woven structures.

Bobbin Lacemaking

Bobbin lace started to be made in Italy at the end of the 15th century. Lace was used to decorate the clothes of the nobility and wealthy people. From Venice bobbin lacemaking started to spread across the borders of the town and the country and in 1587 we have the first lacemaking documented in the Šumava.

The development of lacemaking was closely connected with the mining colonisation of the border mountainous regions. All mountainous regions became well known centres of bobbin lacemaking. And the same applied to the Šumava. Bobbin lace was made by both women and men, and even by children. Bobbin lace was a symbol of wealth amongst the gentry from the 16th to the 18th centuries in Bohemia. Folk costumes started to be decorated with simple lace at the end of the 18th century. Firstly, lace was used to decorate clothes used for various ceremonies and only gradually people started decorating their everyday clothes as well.

Bobbin Lacemaking
Bobbin Lacemaking

In the 18th century, in particular during the reign of Maria Theresa, bobbin lacemaking was supported by the state. In 1753 lacemaking was declared a free profession and the first lacemaking school was founded in Prague by Maria Theresa in 1767. Bobbin lace was made of various materials; flax, cotton, even nettles and metal threads. Metal laces were one of the oldest bobbin made laces. They were used to decorate golden and silver hats, to hem the more expensive pieces of textile, for example embroidered silk scarves, throws and textiles used for religious reasons. Technical development was a catastrophe for bobbin lacemaking. Lace started to be manufactured and many lacemakers lost their livelihoods. Nevertheless, bobbin lace has survived and new generations still learn this amazing art. Lacemaking is no longer a means to make a living, but the creative process of lacemaking provides many with a lot of pleasure.

There is a display of ready made lace in the workshop, both old lace and new. For people interested in bobbin lacemaking we have several patterns available to try, starting with a simple chain pattern for beginners to more complex patterns for the more experienced lacemakers.

Wood Production

Wood was present in any human activity in the Šumava Mountains and their foothills. Wood has accompanied people from birth till death, and provided a livelihood for many families.

Domestic wood production was wide spread in particular in villages and took away work from the town craftsmen that were united in guilds. Small producers were able to sell their products in the markets without an apprenticeship certificate, and the only measure of their success was the quality of their products and the price. Often they specialised in a couple of products, and over time they became true masters. People would walk miles to buy products from the best makers.

Kitchen implements
Kitchen implements

The production of wooden shingles, clogs, tools like shovels, rakes, flails, hollowed implements such as small troughs and tubs, and cooper products such as barrels and butter tubs was the most wide-spread. The production of kitchen implements was also extensive and spoons, wooden spoons and ladles were made. Since this production was not technically demanding, seasonal workers such as bricklayers and others, who were out of work in winter, would spend their winters making these implements.

Wood was clamped into a bench which had various regional names, but most often it was called dědek (grumpy grandpa). Metal tools for wood processing were made by blacksmiths.

You might like to carve a small spoon in our workshop using the prepared semi-finished product made of lime wood.

 

 

 

Tento projekt Návrat k tradicím je spolufinancován Evropskou unií.
Projekt je spolufinancovan Evropskou unii