When Silvia Schumann flicks the switch, everything seems almost exactly as it was in times gone by. But only almost. In the vast, time-worn production halls of the Pfau cloth mill, the machines begin to clatter at a deafening rate, the bobbins spin round and the shuttles on the looms shoot back and forth.

The building is filled with the smell of oil from the machines. Everything runs smoothly. The only difference is that Silvia Schumann hasn’t worked in textile production since 1990, and now finds herself in a museum. These halls and machines are very dear to her and a huge part of her life. She completed her training here, going on to work in cloth production for 18 years.

Crimmitschau cloth factory is a unique place. Some of the machines date from the days of Imperial Germany, although most are from the first part of the 20th century. They are all fully operational and look as if they are just lying dormant, ready to spring into action. Visitors can still see the health & safety signs, the requests to save energy and the break room, which contains a copy of “The Clothmaker” newspaper – everything looks just as it did when the factory was in operation. Over 100 years of textile manufacturing is brought to life here, from the balls of raw wool to the spinning and weaving processes and, finally, the finished fabric. The size of the Pfau factory and its fully preserved machinery and buildings make it unique in Europe. The complex is now part of the Saxon Museum of Industry. 

High quality work – affair of honour!

But Silvia Schumann herself doesn’t feel like a museum exhibit. She’s passionate about telling her own story and the story of textile manufacturing to younger generations. Visitors learn how complex the work was, and gain a new understanding of the value of cloth.

Many people, in Germany at least, may not realise that they have a connection to the Crimmitschau factory. “In GDR households, almost everyone had cloth and fabric made in Crimmitschau and the famous GDR jeans were also manufactured here,” explains Silvia Schumann proudly. She is also proud of the fact that new textile companies are once again establishing themselves in the region, which means the tradition represented by “her” cloth factory will live on in Saxony. But that’s another story.

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