August 23, 2022

Belgium - Texture - The Flax Museum

You will probably have to get used with me talking about textiles, be Romanian Blouses, museums, workshops, examples... cause this is my interest now. So when I've heard that there is a flax museum in Belgium, no less, I made it possible for me to visit it.

It is not close to Luxembourg (even though a two hours drive is close), but unless you are a textile passionate as myself, I don't see the point of going to the museum form Luxembourg. BUT if you go to the Belgian seaside, a detour is doable and in the process you go far away from the Brussels traffic so win-win situation, in my eyes.

To be honest, I found out recently about the existence of Belgian linen and I was as surprised about it as I was of Irish linen. Somehow in my head linen was sourced from the Baltic States, especially Lithuania. But it makes sense and it also makes me dive even deeper into the world of natural fabrics. If you know a comprehensive book about linen, please point it my way.

They say that the North Sea Region (Caen in France, going through Belgium coast and ending in Amsterdam) with it alternation of rain and sun, makes it ideal for growing flax, even more, that in 2020, 80% of the flax produced in the world came from here. They are making linen here for more than 160 years. 

So first thing first, I use "flax" and "linen" terms and I understand flax as the plant and fibre and linen the product. There are different types of linen and I think that the Belgian one is more for household consumption than for clothing, so maybe that is why it was never on my radar and judging by their prices I would say, it wouldn't be very soon. 

Now on the museum. It is in the town of Kortrijk in an old flax distribution centre, the entrance ticket is 6 euros and the visit can last from one hour to depending how enthusiastic you are about linen and textiles. The museum has three rooms on three floors, the first one is The Wonder Room and I have to say I've enjoyed that the most.

What you see today is the result of merging two collections, the flax tools and memorabilia belongs to Bert Dewilde, who started collecting them in 1960, and opened a museum in 1982. The second collection came into being because of the donations of finished products made from flax. So, Annick Dewilde put together what you can admire in the third room.

I've liked the tactile difference between fibres, I enjoyed looking through the lenses at different fabrics and admired the objects made from flax that are not at all textiles. 

The second room, the Lys Room, tells the history of the flax production in the region, it shows the heavy machinery used in the industry, you can read testimonials, see movies, is the most extensive room to visit. I've liked some of the tools used in the flax production and found the display interesting. 

The third room, The Treasury, depicts objects made out of lace, cause if you say Belgium, than the first textile that comes to one's mind is lace. If you've ever ended up in a lace museum or lace shop, the third room will look a bit poor, only a few displayed items, interesting description, I admit, but they are only a few. What I found more interesting was the movie and the legends and the explanations of scenes embroidered on lace. So if you make it there, be sure to listen to the explanations, they are in the middle of the room, you can't miss them.

The shop, on the other hand was disappointing, to me. Yes they have a lot of books about the topic of the museum, but most are in Flemish, they have some towels, but not many, and for the embroidery enthusiast they have linen threads made in China :( I found only one bobbin of Belgian linen, 9 euros, and had to have one, even though I can't use it in embroidery, but maybe I can use it in putting the whole blouse together, in sewing the blouse, maybe. 

This is from the first room, the ground floor one and this and the next picture display I confess I've liked the most. This one shows you the different fibres, natural and synthetic and you can touch the fabric resulted from those fabrics. I've touched for the first time a fabric made of wool, which was not knitted. 
In my region, in Romania, IaČ™i, people of old times would wear blouses and not only made of wool from a certain sheep, they would spin the wool well so that the fibre was thin enough for looming. Unfortunately the craft is lost, or at least I don't know of any person making this process by hand, so to at least feel the wool fabric to me was precious. 

Next thing was seeing through microscope different fabrics. Very interesting!

Objects made from flax, this was a cocoon, which to me looked alien like, but who knows what our future holds... 

On the second floor, Ilinca liked this children's house

Postal bags made of flax

A belt

Lace bobbin

Spinning wheel

From the third floor

My linen bobbin, made in Belgium. They had white as well, but I plan to use it when I'll make another hemp blouse.

Normally I would say to go on my Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu but lately all the changes that the platform is putting in place are not to my liking. I don't have tone of time to spend there either, so...we'll see.