Textiles Museum

Tilburg - Noord-Brabant


The (sheep's) wool arrives as compressed bales of different quality. To ensure a homogenous quality, wools from various bales are mixed.

Woollen Blanket Factory

                                    1900 - 1940


 After the mixing of the wool the fibers still point in various directions. To be able to spin a thread all fibers need to point in the same direction what is achieved by combing the wool on a teasel machine. Pins on the teasel machine pull the fibres in one direction and a thin fleece (a) is produced. At the end of this process the fleece is cut into strips (b) and rolled on a pirn (c). The wool is now ready to be spun.

The production of woven fabrics predominantly was a cottage industry until its automation in the second half of the 19th century during the Industrial Revolution.

The textile industry has played a pivotal role in the Netherlands. In the 15th century Leiden was the centre of the broadcloth industry. The cotton and linen industry in Twente boosted immediately after Belgium was separated from the Netherlands in 1830. Tilburg has expanded from a couple of neighborships to a city thanks to the woollen fabrics industry.

Every single machine needed for the production of blankets in this textiles factory were steam operated and still are in the museum nowadays located in the old factory buildings.

Below artists' expressions using natural fibers. Whether these are as comfy as a woollen blanket? I for one doubt it.

At home a special comb was and is used for teaseling. The above is on display at Museum Elburg.

The time-clock used to punch time of arrival and departure of the workers of the old factory.

Two old scales.

A total of 437 yards is coiled on the drum. The process repeats itself with the yarns being attached a little further down the drum. After repeating this process ten times, the required number of 1980 threads has been reached. They are put on the loom in one move and the actual weaving can commence.

The jacquard head has been named after French inventor Joseph M. Jacquard (1725 - 1834) and has inspired without a doubt the Parisian firm Gavioli, being the first using book music for barrel organs.

The green  variety of the woven red dishcloth.





Step 3. The wagon moves back to its original position and winds the threads on cardboard bobbins. The machine is operating fully automatic, thus explaining its name.

Dipsacus fullonum

Hand and automated weaving have one thing in common, there needs to be tension on the  warp threads. This can be achieved by using weights.

Commonality between weaving loom and barrel organ

Insigna of Dutch royal honorary titles


Tufting is an automated technique to create carpet or tapestry whilst with the manual 'rug hooking' the yarns are fasted with a knot as shown on the drawing.

'Earth Matters'

Wood fibers


 Pine needles

Next the felting mill will soften the fabric and create a fleece like surface. To achieve this result, the drum of the felting machine is covered with the flower heads of the Dipsacus fullonum (aka wild teasel) which have little barbs that will untangle the scales.

In both the English and Dutch language a saying exists to point out that something is repetative: "Partying is the warp and weft of a student's life".

Semi or fully automated weaving

The Mullekom (on the left) is a pedal (bicycle) operated weaving machine.

A fully automatic weaving machine (on the right).

Rug hooking

The Textiles Museum in Tilburg weaves the ribbons which are an integrated part of the distinctive insignia belonging to orders awarded by the Dutch monarch, e.g. Knight of Oranje Nassau.

Knitting machines

Designs for both weaving and knitting are nowadays created on the computer (as is to be expected).

Wildly creative

The production of woven textiles is an ancient craft that dates back centuries. The oldest known textile dates back to 5000 B.C.

Textile production requires raw materials such as fibers from either plants (e.g. flax stalks or seads of the cotton plant) or from  animals (e.g. fleece of sheep, llamas or the cocoons of the silk carterpillar).

The fibers are first cleaned, untwined and bundled by using a teasel and thus preparing the fibers for spinning. The thread obtained by the spinning process will be bleached or colored and ultimately used for knitting or weaving.


The spinning is done on the Selfactor in three steps: Step 1. The fleece is pulled from the pirns by rolling the wagon backwards; Step 2. No more fleece is added but the wagon continues rolling backwards stretching the fibers while at the same time twisting them at high speed: the actual spinning.


A lot of mathematics are required when creating the warp. The weaving of a blanket requires a warp of 78 inches. To reach this width a total of 1980 threads is needed side by side on the  loom.

Winding all 1980 threads cannot be done in one go. On the spinning frame 198 bobbins are placed. The yarns are guided through the v-shaped reed one by one (to prevent tangling) and subsequently attached to the drum.


Just weaving is not going to produce a warm soft blanket; the fabric is still very loose and both the warp and weft are showing clearly. In order to condence the woven fabric (which will providing more warmth), it is treated with warm water, washing sodium and ammonia. Through the moisture, warmth and rubbing, the opened scales interlock again and the cloth shrinks. This process is called 'fulling'.

Using a jacquard weaving machine to weave complex patterns. On the weaving machine a jacquard head is attached and is accommodated with carton cards with punched holes. The jacquard head and the holes combined, decide which warps go up and which ones go down. During the weaving process the cards are changed to make the pattern to grow.

Ornamental yarns are not spun but are created by winding thin filament around a thick core. And of course this is no longer done by hand as shown here.

Using a tufting machine, little groups of yarn are inserted next to eachother on a primary base (gauze). The needle is placed on the grid and air pressure shoots the bunch of yarn (tuft) through the gauze. A small rotating knife cuts the yarn at the required length. The yarn is now bend in a u-shape through the gauze.

Knitting also can be done by machines - either creating a tapestry or carpet or creating something round with a small or  knitting machine.