Seven centuries of Leiden Cloth

At the Lakenhal museum in Leiden, The Netherlands, seven centuries of Leiden Cloth is on display until mid 2016. On the global market, woollen cloth from Leiden guaranteed the highest quality available. The building ‘Laecken-Halle’ (Cloth Hall) was the center of trade where thousands of fine cloths were inspected, measured and pressed annually.




Last Saturday Nicole Roepers informed her guests all about Leiden Cloth. About the use of merino wool, from Spanish sheep, about the washing, about the poor circumstances how the weavers had to work in their own small houses. Children sorted the wool, women spun yarn and men wove the cloth on the loom. As Leiden Cloth is woven on looms with over 2,40 meter width, it was filling the entire house of the workers.

De Lakenhal
Left painting: The spinning, the shearing of the warp and the weaving 1594-1596 - Isaac Claesz van Swanenburg,
and right a loom, the crossbeams have been shortened as originally it was a two-person loom.

The fulling and dying 1594-1596 - Isaac Claesz van Swanenburg


When the cloth was finished the workers brought it to 'Laeken-Halle', for a quality mark in the form of a leaden seal that was attached to the fabrics, the cloth seal. The cloth was checked three times: one for texture, colour and fulling.

In the glory days local weavers made 180 different kinds of fabric from imported raw materials such as wool, cotton, flax and silk, from plain and simple to skilfully crafted colourful fabric.
This clothes lasted a lifetime, it was an expensive and labour-intensive process.



In the 17th century Leiden was the most significant and modern textile centre of the world.




In the early 19th century the production process changed dramatically with the advent of the steam engine. Workers are put together in large factories at mechanical spinning and weaving machines.
But Leiden failed to stave off competitors in the textile market. After seven centuries the cloth industry had disappeared from Leiden.



The museum is now breathing new life into Leiden’s famous woollen cloth by commissioning five designers to develop brand new woollen fabrics that will carry the old hallmark of ‘Leiden Cloth’. This new fabrics will be on sale in the museum shop in 2018.

Christie van der Haak created the first new collection. The second designer is Mae Engelgeer, she won the competition after an open call to textile designers, other nominees were Thomas Eurlings and Remi Velthoven. Mae Engelgeer cloth won because of her outstanding design, it reminds us of the early days when mostly blue and black cloth were produced and of the samples the masters kept but also of the quality of the fabric.



For more photos visit Patricia Reports

For more information on the exhibition visit De Lakenhal
Seven centuries of Leiden Cloth Seven centuries of Leiden Cloth Reviewed by Patricia Munster on 10:44:00 AM Rating: 5

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