Sunday, April 17, 2016

Textile Power

Last weekend I went to visit our Textile Museum - as I do now and then. It's been three years since they moved to new premises, and they've had a number of different exhibitions since then, but it's taken them all this time to get the basic one with all the old heavy textile industry machines re-opened. In the old premises, the machines were all gathered in one huge hall, very high in ceiling. While that did perhaps give an impression of what it might have been like to work in such a place, at the same time it was hard for visitors to get an overview of all the steps in the manufacture. 


In the new exhibition, entitled Textile Power, they have chosen to display machines in a more logical order so that you can better follow the process, from the first steps in refining the fibres, to the final products. 

 




 

Various machines combing and spinning the cotton into thinner and thinner threads.


This is a jacquard loom, weaving patterened ribbons using a technique involving punch-cards that was sort of a predecessor to computer technology.


This is a knitting machine which at the end of the process spits out a complete glove with five fingers. 



Seeing these patterns displayed reminded me of my mum, because she used to sew most of our clothes at home herself, back in my childhood and youth




The exhibition also spotlights the conditions for the textile workers in the factories, and how much our whole society and industry has changed in the last hundred+ years. It is easy to forget that only about a century ago, most factory workers in Sweden were still living and working in conditions not all that different from the present-day countries where, in fact, most of the production now takes place - i.e. mostly in Asia. (Low wages, long hours, large families in crowded living quarters etc.)

BorĂ¥s is still a town with a strong textile focus, and home to various businesses to do with fashion, design and clothes. We have the Textile Museum and also a Textile College; and various companies working with fashion design and smart textile inventions for the future; and shops and mailorder companies selling lots of clothes. But nowadays not much of the actual production takes place here. That has all been moved abroad to far-away places where workers are still living in conditions no longer regarded as acceptable in Sweden... The exhibition at the museum reminds us of that.


Collage52

Once upon a time, the colour of the water in the river running through this town would shift from day to day, depending on what pigments they were using in the dyeing works at the moment. Nowadays, our river has been cleaned from the old toxic substances from the dyeing industry. A couple of years ago, when a new walk was opened along a part of the river near one such place, as a reminder, they installed lights there that can shift colour. (I wonder if future generations will remember the reason?) 


At the museum, they also had this display of A Teenager's Wardrobe from 1950, 1980 and 2010. Another powerful reminder of how consumption has increased. Born in 1955 myself, I can relate to this. I have a lot more clothes and shoes now than I did back around 1980. (And it's not because of never getting rid of old things.)

At another station in the exhibition, visitors are asked to look at the labels in their clothes to check where they were made. It was not very practical for me to do that just then and there - but I gave it some thought when I got home. The only item I had on that was actually made in Sweden was my socks...



In this recent photo, I'm wearing leggings and skirt made in China, and t-shirt and sweater made in Bangladesh... An inspection of my wardrobe showed the majority of my clothes to have been made in those two countries + India. (Not really surprised, but have to confess I've never really given it much thought.)

Yesterday, I went shopping for a (rain)coat. The one I fell for and bought was neither cheap, nor on sale; and for a change it's from Denmark. Well - er - at least the label says "Danish design and fine processing", and also claims to meet "high ethical standards and health requirements"... Whether that actually means it was made in Denmark, I can't tell from the labels... Really, being a "conscious consumer" is not made easy!!!



(herluf-design.dk)


Anyway, besides being water repelleant and breathable and washable... this coat is also reversible! Which means it can be turned inside out and worn that way instead (mauve outside and dark purple inside), still with pockets and buttons etc in the right places. So it's really two coats in one. I love that, and also the flexible collar, which can also be pulled up over your head and used as a hood. It really is a very smart design. So I hope I'll be able to use it for several years to come.

 
The exhibition really did set me thinking a lot about these topics. If only it were as simple as paying a bit more for a certain item and knowing the money would end up in the right pocket. Or buying less, and be sure that this would improve the environment... But it's never quite that easy - is it...?


Instead, it's all more like this room in the exhibition, where they had turned the manufacturer's office into a giant board game... Two steps forward, three steps back etc.



Now I'm curious to know what you think....
For example:
How has your wardrobe changed over the years?
Do you buy things on impulse, or do you plan your purchases carefully?

And do you check labels to see where things were made??

Through My Lens

Mosaic Monday
 

22 comments:

  1. I like your new rain coat, it looks gorgeous and maybe (or not) it was made in Denmark. I do check labels to see where things are made. My favorite socks are Wigwam brand, made in the city where I grew up (Sheboygan Wisconsin). I like to support local or national workers. That was a nice tour of the fabric museum.

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    1. Thanks Terra. In the climate we have where I live, good overgarments is one of the things worth investing in... :)

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  2. Interesting blog. I'm sure none of my clothes are American made, the only one I'm sure of our my jeans and they came from Jordan. I'm not sure there are any American made clothing items anymore. In ways I have fewer clothes than when I worked. Had to dress up then. Now I own one dress, lots of pants, jeans and tops.

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    1. Janet: I very rarely have to dress up either. I mostly wear jeans or similar, and when I do wear a skirt or dress, they too are usually of "casual" fashion.

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  3. These are wonderful machines. I could spend a day or two with them just admiring the ingenuity in their construction and automation.

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    1. Yes Adrian, they are well worth some contemplation! :)

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  4. What a lovely coat. You will enjoy wearing that.
    Yes, I have far too many clothes, and more than I have ever before owned in my life. I live in the tropics so my clothes must stand up to a lot of washing and strong sunlight. Mostly they come from China.

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    1. Thanks Louise. As my town has the reputation of being the rainiest city in Sweden, I'm sure I'll have plenty of occasions to use that coat! And that's also why I wanted a "nice" one of good quality :) ...

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  5. This post has given me a lot to think about...I know for sure that none of my clothes are made locally on the island.
    Locally produced clothing is very expensive and so most folks will end up purchasing overseas or online.
    Those old textile machines are huge, but I'm sure if they were put to work they'd spring back to life immediately...they were made to last.
    Love your new raincoat.

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    1. Virginia, I think they do keep those machines in the museum in working shape and also run demonstrations of them sometimes on guided tours. I know they did that in the old premises; and now they also have the Textile College in the same building and I think learning about the old techonology is also part of the education for those students.

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  6. I just simply love every photo you posted today and agree with virginia that this is a lot to think about. what you describe here is exacty what we have in the USA... and all my clothes and sheets and towels, in fact every thing in my house there is nothing made in the USA.. from coffee pots to clothing . India, China, are the top two, Mexico and the Philippines are next... my husband was born in 1936 and he and his five siblings and parents worked in the clothing factory across the street from their house. his dad had a day job his mom sewed all day and at night the entire family cleaned the factory. bob started work at age 6 and that is the reason he took early retirement at age 62. i told him he had worked enough... with all that work they barely had enough to survive. my closet in the 50's was almost bare as was my mothers. our house was full of patterns to and she made all of our clothes but not daddy's.

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    1. Sandra, from the comments I've got here so far it seems like Asia is where they produce clothing for the whole world nowadays!

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  7. Hello, what a great exhibit. I am sure most of my clothes were not made in the USA. The raincoat is pretty. I lvoe the mosaic with the colorful reflections on the the water. Happy Monday, enjoy your new week ahead!

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Eileen. It's interesting to get response back from other parts of the world!

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  8. A fascinating journey in this industry!

    Donna@GardensEyeView
    and LivingFromHappiness

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    1. Glad you found it interesting, Donna!

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  9. Like Donna, I found this post a fascinating journey - under so many aspects!
    I've known for many years that my way of buying clothes is not meeting high ethical or environmental standards. But I'm afraid I have become somewhat cynical about the whole thing - after all, most of the "big names" have their clothes produced in the same factories and sweatshops as the cheaper brands, with the difference that the expensive labels have a much bigger margin on each item.
    Of course I have way too many clothes, with a special weakness for dresses, but I am not going to apologize for that - I love clothes, I love fashion, and it is one thing I like to spent my not-quite-so-hard-earned money on. Yes, times were different back then; my Mum often relates stories from her childhood and youth, and I remember well how it felt when I earned a lot less money than I do now, and really had no choice but to buy cheap clothes.

    Your new raincoat is great, and I am sure it will keep you as dry as it will keep you stylish on a rainy day :-)

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    1. As you will have gathered, Meike, that exhibition gave me a lot to think about too (or this post would not have been written) - but no easy answers. Most of my life I never even entered the more expensive shops, knowing I could not afford their things anyway - even on sale. And living on a pension now, I still couldn't - if not for the inheritance from my (very economical) parents allowing me now and then to think more of quality and not just the price.

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  10. What a fabulous tour - I was fascinated by the machines and what they could do. I'm not much of a wardrobe collector - a few basic pieces and a bit of a splash now and then and I'm set for years to come. I like quality and timeless design.

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    1. The best way to go really, JoAnn - but not always easy to find those items that you'll be happy with for years to come... :)

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  11. I read this a day or so ago but decided that the answer to your first question was too difficult for a quick response but I'm afraid that it's no easier now. 21 years ago I retired from 'public official' life and since then I have hardly worn a suit except for formal occasions. For years I only wore roll-neck sweaters/shirts in the winter and open-necked shirts in summer. Then came my New Zealand life and a completely different wardrobe. I never owned a pair of jeans until about 7 years ago. How one dresses makes a huge statement about the person and how the person feels.

    My purchases can be either planned or impulse or even planned and impulse. Where something is made is not, generally speaking, something I take into consideration: quality is not dependent upon place of manufacture and comparative wages in the industry tend to be poor everywhere. We would rather pay a premium for fashion labels than for higher wages in Bangladesh.

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  12. Graham, I think what that basic exhibition at our textile museum primarily tries to do is make us think twice about our modern day "wear and tear" habits, from a global and environmental (and historical) perspective. While I can't say I was ever much tempted by the most luxurious glitter and glamour, it still gave me some food for thought. :)

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