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Mojca Šifrer Bulovec

Linen dyeing in the Škofja Loka area

Linen dyeing in the Škofja Loka area goes back a long way, since this area has always been known for having a well-developed linen trade. The first depictions of linen dyeing are found in the church in Crngrob on the Holy Sunday (Sveta Nedelja) fresco, which was painted in the period between 1455 and 1460. In written sources, the linen-dyeing trade in the Škofja Loka area was first mentioned in 1673, when dyers from the towns of Škofja Loka, Tržič and Radovljica joined the Ljubljana branch of the Kranj-based guild of dyers. In rural areas, linen dying as a cottage industry was also widespread among the farmers who were not guild members.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, most of the local dyers’ workshops were located in Škofja Loka (five in 1752, six in 1840), while individual workshops were also found in the Poljane Valley in Gorenja Vas and Žiri, and in the Selca Valley in Železniki and Selca. The local dyers broadened their knowledge in Czechia, Moravia, Germany and Austria. At first, they were only focused on dyeing the linen and later – in the 19th century – they also started printing various patterns on it.

A decline in home-based linen-making from the mid-19th century onwards and the increasing popularity of industrially manufactured goods resulted in a gradual decline of the dyers' trade. The last active dyers in the Škofja Loka area were France Pokorn from Škofja Loka and Miklavž Oblak from the village of Gorenja vas, who both stopped working before World War I.

Photo: A pattern sampler that used to belong to Jurij Pokorn, a master linen dyer. The pattern sampler was used to make it easier for the dyer's customers to decide what kind of pattern they would like to have printed on their linen. In the possession of the Škofja Loka Museum. Photo: A pattern sampler that used to belong to Jurij Pokorn, a master linen dyer. The pattern sampler was used to make it easier for the dyer's customers to decide what kind of pattern they would like to have printed on their linen. In the possession of the Škofja Loka Museum.