Visiting the blue printers and linen weavers
Where new ideas meet old crafts, there’s room for truly great material. This is certainly true in the Mühlviertel region, long renowned for its fine linen and vivid blue prints. Let’s delve into the textile heart of Upper Austria.
Fun with experimentation
In Gutau, a small town in the lower Mühlviertel region with 2,700 residents, a castle, a dyer’s museum and other local highlights, there’s the relatively new “Zeugfärberei” (Fabric Dyeing Workshop) located in a former school. Entering through an unassuming side door leads you to the “Experimental Workshop for Blue Printing, Screen Printing and Textile Dyeing”, as indicated by the sign above the door.
From the entrance, it’s clear: The fabric dyers are more committed to experimentation than to tradition. This approach stems from conviction but also practical necessity. “When we started, we didn’t have the traditional printing blocks needed for classic blue printing,” recalls Janina Wegscheider, who, alongside Maria Steiner and Martin Lasinger, forms the core of the Zeugfärberei.
So, they experimented with screen printing, old pattern rollers and batik techniques. This led to the creation of distinctive pieces, infused with charm and echoes of the Mühlviertel region’s long tradition of blue printing. Linen weavers and blue printers have always lived in symbiosis here: the farmers cultivated flax, wove linen from its fibres and brought it to the blue printers for dyeing.
A second life for fabrics
The Zeugfärberei team prints and dyes on used fabrics sourced from flea markets, usually cotton or linen, or on new Fairtrade T-shirts. They spent a long time perfecting the mix for the dye vat, the indigo bath that gives blue printing its characteristic colour. Similarly, finding the right formula for the resist paste, which is applied to the fabric before dyeing to create the white in the blue, required extensive experimentation. “After three years, we’re finally getting the sense that it’s working,” Janina says with a smile, as she dips a thick fabric into the vat.
Blue printer, Zeugfärberei
On the last Sunday of every month, the Zeugfärberei hosts an open experimental workshop (11.00 am to 6.00 pm). For a voluntary donation, visitors can dye, print, sew, enjoy coffee, observe and learn. No registration or prior knowledge is needed, and materials are available on-site.
For those interested in learning more about traditional blue printing, a trip to Bad Leonfelden is recommended. There, the Blaudruckerei Wagner blue printing workshop has been operating for nearly 140 years. Karl and Maria Wagner’s family-run business prints and dyes on linen using wooden blocks and strictly by hand.
Where all the threads come together
For those with a passion for weaving, linen or textile techniques in general, the Textilen Zentrum Haslach is a must-visit. Here, the long history of Mühlviertel-style linen weaving is being enriched with a new chapter. Housed in the Vonwiller family’s former Jacquard Weaving Mill, you’ll find the Museum of Weaving, the “Manufaktur Haslach” — a socio-economic enterprise processing sheep wool — and the “Weberie”, where high-quality fabrics are produced in small batches. The Textile Kultur Haslach association, also based here, organises workshops, special exhibitions and the highly acclaimed annual Weaver’s Market. The Textile Centre is also a hub for students, thanks to a partnership with the University of Art and Design Linz.
From flax to linen
The Mühlviertel region may be picturesque, but it can also be a harsh region with poor soil and heavy rainfall. This made it an ideal place for flax cultivation, a low-maintenance, highly useful plant, cultivated here since the 13th century.
In the winter, women would spin the fibres into yarn, and the men would weave it. Over centuries, this blossomed into a flourishing industry with global trade relationships. However, the rise of cheap cotton imports and mass production in the 20th century led to its decline. After a low in the 1970s, things have been looking up in recent years, with several smaller, sometimes exclusive, weaving companies emerging stronger from the crisis.
From flax to flaxseed oil
Flax provides more than just fabric material. Its seeds, a by-product of linen production, are used to produce a highly valuable oil. Cold-pressed linseed oil is particularly prized for its rejuvenating properties. The Koblmiller family has mastered this process for over 650 years in their Mühlviertel Oil Mill. Theresa Koblmiller runs the idyllically located business at the Steinere Mühl river. Linseed oil is the mill’s flagship product, but they also press oil from sesame, hemp, poppy, pumpkin seeds and thistle seeds.
The Koblmiller family has collected equipment from former oil millers to create a small museum. Both the museum and the Mühlviertler Ölmühle can be visited by appointment (for groups of ten or more).
Culinary Delights at the Kulinarium
The cuisine of the Mühlviertel region has also been influenced by flax: If you’re in the area, you must try the Leinölerdäpfel (flaxseed oil potatoes). A particularly great place to enjoy this dish is at the Kulinarium Vonwiller in Haslach. Elke and Günther Wolfmayr serve this regional speciality with plenty of healthy oil and bold seasoning, accompanied by bread or salad. Definitely worth a try!
Flaxseed oil potatoes recipe
For 4 people:
- 1.5 kg potatoes
- 1/4 litre milk
- 1/8 litre cream
- Flaxseed oil to taste
Boil the potatoes with their skin, peel and slice thinly. Pour hot milk over them and stir gently. Refine with cream, season with salt (and possibly pepper) and mix with linseed oil. Note: do not overheat the linseed oil, as it loses its valuable nutrients. Serve with an extra drizzle of linseed oil and, if desired, chives or cress.
For over 160 years, specifically since 1853, the Leitner family in Ulrichsberg has been producing linen of the highest quality and for the most demanding customers. Not just classic bed and table linens, but also fine pyjamas, bathrobes, dresses, curtains, upholstery fabrics and accessories for the home and bath are made here and shipped worldwide. While many weaveries in the Mühlviertel region had to close over the decades, Friedrich Leitner managed to break into big cities and international markets in the 1990s.
Linen and more can be purchased directly on-site at Leitner Leinen in Ulrichsberg. There is a factory sale, and tours through the company (weaving studio, sewing department) are offered upon interest. The factory sale is open Monday to Friday from 9.00 am to 12.00 pm and 1.00 pm to 5.00 pm, and on Saturday from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm.
Diese Reportage wurde von Silvia Pfaffenwimmer recherchiert und verfasst.
Blue printing experiences
Discover the art of blue printing at Handblaudruckerei Wagner. During a guided tour, learn how the fabrics are prepared and dyed, and see how the blue-printed fabrics are transformed into unique clothing items and decorative elements.
The “Färberhaus” in Gutau, operational until 1968, was a hub for dyeing and producing the coveted blue print. When the last master dyer, Margarethe Krennbauer, retired, the dye house was transformed into the Färbermuseum Gutau.
Every year, on the first Sunday in May, dyers from Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria, along with linen weavers and artisans, gather in Gutau for the traditional Färbermarkt.
Discover and sample precious oils
Tour of the Mühlviertler Oil Mill
The Mühlviertler Oil Mill has been producing high-quality linseed oil for over 600 years, as well as hemp oil, sesame oil, thistle oil, poppy seed oil and sunflower oil. A tour provides insights into the production and the museum mill offers a glimpse into bygone times.
Located in Niederwaldkirchen, farmgoodies collaborates with about 20 organic farmers in the region to produce cold-pressed oils. They specialise in producing organic local food products. Open for direct sales from Monday to Saturday, 8.00 am – 12.00 pm.
Gasthaus Vonwiller in Haslach, an inn lovingly managed by siblings Elke Pröll and Günther Wolfmayr, is a wonderful place to sample Leinölerdäpfel, made with flaxseed oil from the Mühlviertel Oil Mill. A visit here pairs perfectly with a trip to the oil mill. Open daily except Wednesday.
Tracing elegant materials
Aesthetics and quality are the hallmarks of Leinenmanufaktur Leitner in Ulrichsberg. Here, exquisite fabrics are crafted into timeless bed and table linens. Visitors can shop and take a tour through the weaving and sewing departments.
Textile Centre Haslach
The heart of the Mühlviertel region’s textile history beats right here: from the region’s textile history and production, to organising the Weaver’s Market, to textile courses for beginners and professionals and art projects. Guided tours offer an up-close experience of fabric creation.
Weaver’s Market Haslach
Each July, the Stelzen district in Haslach transforms into a haven for fine yarn enthusiasts. At this well-known market, nearly 100 textile creators offer exquisite, handmade products for sale. Held every July.