/ Haslach - a Weavers‘ Town

The historical market town of Haslach on the river Mühl situated in the tri-border region between Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic has been known as the centre of regional linen weaving since times immemorial. For centuries textile creative work has made its mark on the economic, social and cultural life of the people in these hills close to the Bavarian and Bohemian borders.


// The Textile Roots of the Town

The basis for linen weaving was flax which grew well on the otherwise not very fertile granite soil of the region. Moreover, the soft and lime-deficient water of the rivers was ideal for bleaching the finished linen cloth. Due to these particular geographical circumstances, farmers in the Mühlviertel began as early as the 13th century to cultivate flax, and in the winter months they spun and wove its fibres in their homes.

The initially modest production for personal use developed into a network of economically active full-time weavers and linen drapers who were organised in guilds, and before long their ware was sold far beyond the regional boundaries. Haslach as a market town in the tri-junction between Linz, Passau and Krumau soon played an important role. Cloth traded at Haslach was exported to far-away countries. This attracted well-travelled traders to Haslach, who in turn introduced new impulses from outside which led to a continual development of the town.

After the onset of industrialisation textile production shifted to small and medium scale structures, yet the woven wares of the Mühlviertel were still the most important export articles of the region. In 1950 there were still 23 weaving enterprises at Haslach. It has also been home to the Upper Austrian Textile Technical College since1883, which enabled Haslach’s image as a „historical weavers‘ market town“ to be nourished and cherished for a long time.

Although there are still some well-established weaving mills in the Mühlviertel, the global structural change of the textile economy in the last 30 years has not spared Haslach. In recent decades many businesses had to close down. As early as 1970 the local club for the maintenance of regional traditions set up a Museum of Weaving in the old school building in the church square to document local textile history with a collection of impressive objects. Thanks to these dedicated people rare specimen such as the „Brösel“ machine – a local forerunner of the Jacquard loom -, the damask hand loom with the famous table cloth „The Hunter’s Wedding“ telling a local legend, and the gigantic box mangle have been preserved for posterity, and continue to fascinate visitors to this day.

Around 40 years later, in 2012, the Museum of Weaving was transferred from the old school house to the Textile Centre Haslach and completely revised. Typically it was the closing-down of yet another weaving mill which had triggered this development.

// “Textile Kultur Haslach” as the Instigator

Thanks to the activities of the association “Textile Kultur Haslach” Haslach has established a reputation as a centre of textile excellence on quite a different level apart from its well-established tradition as a marketing place for linen weaves

In 1990 a group of local textile enthusiasts had the vision to create a platform for an interchange between diverse contemporary textile worlds and to further international exchange. The basic idea was to offer something positive in response to the extinction of businesses, and in a place with textile roots give new impulses by inviting textile creators and artists from home and abroad. This was to bridge the gap between art and the local industry; various activities in the public space were to stimulate a process of discussion with the local populace. Every year in July a big international symposium is held under the title “Textile Kultur Haslach” with all kinds of workshops - structured and experimental, exhibitions, and special lectures. The Weavers’ Market, well known far and wide, has 10.000 visitors in one week-end.

Once at best smiled at in the town, “Textile Kultur Haslach” has now firmly established itself as an accepted event. Today Haslach identifies itself with its textile roots in a new way, not least because the economic benefit can be no longer overlooked.

The extensive range of courses and events directed equally at experts and amateurs has put Haslach on the map again for textile lovers far beyond the country’s borders. Meanwhile, to continue spinning the thread of the Mühlviertel’s textile tradition in a novel way has become a new tradition for Haslach.