The craft of knitting, which was once commonplace across these territories, is to a great extent still preserved to this day. Visitors are introduced to the history of knitting techniques, whereas the exhibits serve as an illustration of a craftsman’s workroom.
Fulling – the process of cleansing and felting the cloth – is an age-old craft. It was known by the ancient Egiptians, as well as by Greeks and Romans who fulled the cloth with their feet
From the Middle Ages, there is evidence for cloth-making in Piran (1284), Ljubljana (1329), Maribor (1367), Kamnik (1428) and Škofja Loka (1560). Another record mentions people from Rezija, selling cloth around Friuli in 1577.
In Carniola, particularly in Upper Carniola, the first wool manufactories appeared as early as in the eighteenth century. One of the oldest cloth mills in Austria of that day was the one in Selo near Ljubljana, established in 1724.
The rise of the local cloth-making was made possible by the well-established tradition of sheep breeding. Cloth mills were usually built near streams and rivers; Some of the fullers went on to dye the cloth with natural, vegetal colours.
The craft began to go to ruin at the end of the nineteenth century, due to the strong competition of the cheaper, industrially produced cloth; in the middle of the twentieth century, it died out entirely.
The Fulling Mill at Libia
The water-driven stamp mill and mangle, exposed here, were acquired in 1961 from Lepa Njiva near Mozirje. The approximate age of these devices is indicated by year 1818 etched into the mangle’s spindle. The farm was called ‘Vavhar’ or ‘Firbar’. Its last owner, Ivan Keber, was still active in the fifties of the twentieth century. The income from fulling was not enough for the family to survive; it was merely a supplement to farming. His customers were bringing him cloth, sackcloth and the like from vicinity, as well as from faraway settlements. In return, they received a number; on the day of Saint Acacius fair, on June 22, Ivan Keber brought the fulled and felted cloth to Šoštanj and delivered it to his customers.
The final room in this section provides an insight into the development of tailoring in Slovenia. The introduction of sewing machines came quite to these lands; however, their advent revolutionized the domestic craft which grew rapidly to become the industrial scale production of ready-to-wear clothes.
The reconstruction of a mid-20th century hatter’s workshop displays the manufacturing procedures used as well as the evolution of hat – and straw-hat – making in our country.
The first task in the manufacture of any such traditional cloth was to pre-treat the basic raw material. This involved cleaning (de-greasing) wool before preparing it on a carding frame. In the case of hemp or flax, the fibre first had to be extracted from the plant through a long series of processes, which included retting, drying, crushing and beating; after which the fibres were combed using hackles.
After the fibres had been sorted and aligned, came spinning, a process which – basically speaking – has not changed a great deal over the centuries. Spinning using an archetypal spindle and distaff is still practised in Slovenia’s southern region of Bela Krajina to this day. The first step in the development of more technologically advanced spinning was the invention of the spinning wheel, which only began to enjoy widespread use in Slovenia during the 19th century. Upon the invention of the Spinning-Jenny in 1767 a whole series of technological improvements took place, and today spinning is divided into a variety of operations that are performed by any number of complex specialist machines.
Spinning and weaving are two of the oldest crafts.
A diverse array of looms have also been used for weaving over the ages. The most elementary device is the weaving board used for making ribbons and belts. The oldest looms in Slovenia also emanate from Bela Krajina region. Known as tara, these vertical wooden handlooms were used for making aprons and bags. Visitors are encouraged to experiment in weaving patterns for themselves using replica looms.