An afternoon at the open-air museum

Just a few days ago, I discovered the Nederlands Openlucht Musuem, the Dutch Open-air Museum. It’s located in Arnhem, just under two hours south of where I live, waaay up north. Today I was able to go for a visit, and it was just as cool as I’d hoped it would be.

Farmhouse at Openlucht Museum
Farmhouse built in 1646, originally in Varik, now located in Arnhem at the Nederlands Openlucht Museum.

The territory this outdoor museum occupies is vast and impressive. It’s densely dotted with many types of historic buildings and activities. What’s more, though, is that these historic buildings and activities are brought from all parts of the Netherlands. There are farmhouses from hundreds of years ago that have either been relocated or rebuilt from all over the country, so you can observe differences in style, techniques and building materials.

Sheepfold from Ederveen 1785
Sheepfold originally located in Ederveen, built in 1785. It was used to store sheep dung, which was later used as fertilizer. Now located in the Nederlands Openlucht Museum.

We saw a tiny old schoolhouse, a steam-powered cheese and cream butter factory and a laundry and bleach shop (which was cooler than it sounds). There’s so much more, and I won’t even try to give you an exhaustive description of what we saw in one post. We didn’t have enough time to see everything, so we’ll definitely visit again in the near future. I was pretty dazzled by the whole experience. I felt entirely enveloped by the lush, green nature, and I can’t wait to go back in autumn and see the place in warm and golden hues.

I met a woman called Fiona who was kind enough to talk with me about her activities at the Openlucht Museum.

The Method


Fiona, who lives in the area of Arnhem, has been spinning wool at the Openlucht Museum for sixteen years. She was taught the craft of spinning by other experienced spinners and weavers at the museum when she first joined the staff, and now she is one of the most experienced at the museum and shares her knowledge and skills with other museum staff, community members and visitors.

Fiona the spinner at the museum

The wool comes from sheep that live on the property of the museum. Once the sheep are shorn, the wool is soaked and cleaned in lukewarm water. The washed and dried wool is picked and carded, and, as you see in the photo, spun into yarn. Some of the yarn is twisted to make twine, and some of the yarn is dyed with flowers and plant material grown in the gardens of the museum. It just so happens that yarn is dyed on Thursdays, and I was there on Thursday, so I got to see some of the freshly-dyed wool hanging in trees to dry. What luck!

Dyed wools drying in the tree.jpg
Dyed yellow wools.jpg

In the winter months, the colorful yarn is used to teach visiting children how to crochet. Kids learn to make a crocheted block and receive a certificate recognizing mastery of this skill. The crocheted blocks are collected at the museum and eventually assembled to make a blanket. Children are allowed to nominate a person whom they feel is deserving of this cozy wool blanket, and the lucky winner’s name is drawn from a bowl. The gifting of the blanket brings the process, starting with the shearing of the sheep many months earlier, full circle.

The Madness


When asked how the practice of this craft benefits her personally, Fiona explained that she receives much joy and satisfaction through the teaching of this craft to community members and visitors, and, specifically, to children. I had the distinct impression that she genuinely loves what she does. She enjoys the idea of passing the knowledge and skill of this particular craft on to a younger generation. As she and I were talking, a small crowd gathered behind me, really listening to what Fiona was saying. It was a gezellig moment, and I’m so glad I had the chance to spend some time with her. She encouraged me to bring my own daughter, who is a bit young still to crochet with needles, to learn to crochet with her fingers this winter. I look forward to it!

Pillow covers.jpg
Some pillows displayed where the wool was being dyed, presumably made with yarns spun on the museum grounds.
Crochet wool blanket
Who will be the lucky recipient of this cozy blanket?

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