[No: LXXXIV | September 7, 2017 | By Viveka Hansen]

Local manufacturing of woollens, home weaving, imports of cloth, purchases from pedlars or coastal seafaring trade were all possible options for the citizens of Malmö in the early 18th century. Besides the trade, this study aims to focus on the weaving of broadcloth and similar qualities by locally active masters, journeymen and apprentices. A visit at the Swedish National Archive a few years ago, also gave new pieces of information regarding which types of cloth the professional weavers and dyers produced in Malmö 1744. The increased weaving of decorative interior textiles – in farming communities within this area of southernmost Sweden – will additionally illustrate this text.

Early 18th century portraits of ordinary people in the Nordic area is quite unusual. This painting dating 1701 is a rare example – purchased by Kulturen in Lund 1904 from the Malmö merchant Eugen Wingårdh. Maybe the illustrated farmers lived in the same area 200 years earlier. All three men are depicted in warm woollen clothing of wadmal or broadcloth, whilst a linen tablecloth covered the table. Oil on canvas, attributed to Magnus Jürgens. (Courtesy of: Kulturen in Lund, KM 14554, Creative Commons).

Quotes are translated from Swedish to English.

Wars, high taxes and epidemics made daily life difficult and obstructed trade in Malmö during the two first decades of the 18th century. Even if many people died in widespread illnesses during the winter 1709/1710 and 800 to 1,000 individuals lost their lives in the plague in 1712, it is still possible to trace textile activities from several perspectives in local historical documents. For instance, giving evidence for that goods were offered for sale by the itinerant pedlars from Västergötland as well as various other cloths could be found in small-ware shops at the market place Stortorget in 1710.

The prolonged Great Northern War (1700–1721) also subdued all sort of trading activity in periods, as a consequence, the ships preferred to avoid Öresund and the Malmö merchants had their goods delivered to Trelleborg on the south coast instead. This affected among others the merchant Frantz Suell the Elder, who in 1717 imported printed calicoes and silks via Rostock on the Baltic Sea coast to be sold in his Malmö shop. Another transport route for textile wares to Malmö was the inland coastal trade, foremost from the former Danish areas Halland and Bohuslän. This merchandise primarily included linen and wadmal, basic assortments of textiles possible to produce in home environments. The demand was substantial for these types of fabric, used for clothes and interior furnishing alike.

Fabric samples which originate from the woollen manufacturer Johan Cornelius Ledebur in Malmö, 1744 (Ledeburska Fabriquen). Despite the plastic film, these colourful samples demonstrate some of his workshop’s assortment of broadcloth in various weaving techniques and printed flannels. Riksarkivet [Swedish National Archives], Stockholm. (Photo: Viveka Hansen).

Sven T Kjellberg’s thorough research in the 1940s of the woollen manufacturers in 18th century Malmö, also mentioned Johan Cornelius Ledebur who in 1739 started his business together with Jöran Falkenblad and Jacob Hegardt. Their manufacturing included a wool area, weaving rooms and spaces for packing – staffed with 39 workers. Ledebur died as early as in November 1743, even if his name still existed on the accounts of cloth samples the following year. It seems to have been difficult to find enough locally qualified weavers, the manufacturers therefore employed several Germans and Dutchmen as Kjellberg noted: ‘…the master Jacob Berendt and the journeymen Johan Berg and Jacob Meiding, sock weaver master Conrad Egidius Mejer and the wool specialist Christoffer Knebel.’

The woollen manufacturing was active as early as in the 1680s (described in the previous post of this series) and continued to be so during the whole period lasting 1700 to 1750. At times with more than one establishment. Overall, the trade seemed to be very changeable: owners often stayed for short periods only, unsuitable choices of premises, poor profitability, difficulty finding the correct staff as well as child labour and educational ambitions for an orphanage. Some years were however more optimistic, as for instance in 1709 when a substantial order from the cavalry regiment in Skåne included fabric for 2,000 coats. The early 1730s up to the 1750s was regarded as a flourishing period for the woollen trade in Malmö with a large number of employees from a wide selection of vocations – unskilled boys and workmen, carders, spinners, fullers to specialist dyers, master weavers, journeymen and apprentices.

From the mid-18th century the weaving of interior textiles also increased substantially in the countryside close to Malmö. See two examples of such skills and traditions on bedcovers below, woven for dowries etc uses by daughters, mothers and other female individuals in well-to-do farming families.

This impressive bedcover was woven in brocaded on the counted thread technique on a hemp warp and woollen weft, dated “1743” in chain stitching. Traditional in colour as well as in patterns with deers, peacocks, birds and trees of life. Woven in two identical pieces and stitched together with a middle seam, by an unknown woman – with the initials “KOD” – in a farming community close to Malmö. 200 cm x 127 cm, Bara district, Skåne, Sweden. (Courtesy of: Malmö Museum, MM 029355, Creative Commons).

A close-up detail of another bedcover, dated a few years later in “1746” with the initials “KMD”, demonstrates that the skilled female weavers in the farming villages around Malmö often used the same type of patterns and choice of natural dyes for various weaving techniques. This time-consuming weave was made in a tapestry type “rölakan” on linen warp with woollen weft. 213 cm x 116 cm, Hököpinge village, Oxie district, Skåne, Sweden. (Courtesy of: Malmö Museum, MM 002452, Creative Commons).

Previous post in this series:
‘Professional Weavers and Child Labour in Malmö – 1650 to 1700’.

– Hansen, Viveka, ‘Fyra sekel Malmö textil – 1650 till 2000’, Elbogen pp. 23-91, 1999. (A large number of primary and secondary sources were studied for this article. For full Bibliography etc; please see the Swedish article).
– Kjellberg, Sven T, Ull och Ylle, Malmö 1943. (Woollen manufactures in Malmö, pp 647-695, quote translated from Swedish to English).
– Riksarkivet [Swedish National Archives], Stockholm, Sweden (Kommerskollegium. Kammarkontoret. “Industrivävnadsprover A-Ö”. Study of textile sample book from 1744).


– Hansen, Viveka, ‘Woollen Manufacturing & Home Weaving – A Study from 1700 to 1750’, TEXTILIS (September 7, 2017); https://textilis.net/ (Accessed: Day/Month/Year)