For thousands of years men and women have made, worn, traded, and admired various forms of decorative needlework, from small daintily embroidered handkerchiefs to giant gold embroidered texts that bedeck the kiswah in Mecca. Decorative needlework was and remains a feature of life throughout the world.

The Textile Research Centre (TRC) in Leiden is currently expanding a digital encyclopaedia called TRC Needles, which covers this enormous field of human creativity, focussing in particular on appliqué, beading, darned knotting, embroidery, needle lace making, passementerie, patchwork and quilting. The encyclopaedia includes information about different forms from all over the world, from the Americas to Asia. It looks at the earliest surviving examples from ancient Egypt to present-day forms, with an emphasis on handmade examples rather than industrially produced items.

TRC Needles includes references to tools and materials, to iconography, the uses of decorative needlework, to influential people and makers, historical examples, relevant institutions, paintings or similar imagery that depicts decorative needlework. The encyclopaedia also discusses relevant references in various forms of literature, as well as relevant details relating to economic and social history.

Appliqué from the Street of the Tentmakers, Cairo, Egypt. TRC collection 2013.0442. Photograph: Joost Kolkman.

 

The Encyclopaedia includes a comprehensive system of cross-referencing that link items throughout the encyclopaedia. In some cases relevant digital links are given to other websites, and so forth. It is envisaged that the encyclopaedia will eventually include over 5000 entries. Many entries are illustrated with drawings and photographs based on items from the TRC's extensive collection of embroideries and related items, and those from institutes working with the TRC on this project. Sometimes, illustrations are added that were found on the web, and in those cases the digital address of the illustration is given.

To date, January 2017, the Encyclopaedia contains more than 2700 entries. All your comments on existing and possible other entries are very welcome. Please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The main editor of the project is Dr. Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, director of the Textile Research Centre (TRC) and a specialist in Middle Eastern embroidery. She was the editor and main author of Volume V of the Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion (Oxford: Berg 2010) and the editor and principal author of the Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World (London: Bloomsbury Publishing 2016).

Co-editor is Dr Willem Vogelsang, deputy director of the International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden, The Netherlands, and former curator for Central and Southwest Asia of the National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, The Netherlands. He is the author of numerous books and articles on the ancient and modern history and cultures of Southwest Asia, and on modern political and military developments in Afghanistan, including The Afghans, Blackwell/Wiley 2001/2008.

Together, Gillian and Willem Vogelsang wrote Covering the Moon. An Introduction to Middle Eastern Face Veils. Louvain: Peeters 2008, and they are now together writing The Encyclopedia of Embroidery from Central Asia, the Iranian Plateau and South Asia, which is planned for publication by Bloomsbury Academic in 2018/2019.

Many of the embroidery examples discussed in TRC Needles are taken from the TRC Collection, which includes at present more than 14000 items and can online be consulted. Click here for the TRC Collection online catalogue.

Contributors

  • Shelley Anderson (SA) (USA/Netherlands; North American needlework, quilting)
  • Koen Berghuijs (KB) (Netherlands; archaeological textiles and equipment)
  • Betty Coatsworth (BC) (Britain; artist and historian)
  • Laila Glienke (LG) (Denmark; Scandinavian needlework)
  • Karel Innemée (KI) (Netherlands; Middle East)
  • Naoko Kikuchi (NK) (Japan; Japanese needlework)
  • Roseanne Livingstone (RL) (New Zealand/Australia; North America)
  • Alexandra Makin (AM) (Britain; embroidery and history)
  • Glennda Susan Marsh-Letts (GSML) (Australia; general)
  • Roos Munk (RM) (Netherlands; general)
  • Martine de Nijs (Netherlands; general)
  • Christopher Ng (CN) (Singapore/Netherlands; Asian needlework, beading)
  • Gale Owen-Crocker (GOC) (Britain; Anglo-Saxon history)
  • Mariet Portheine (MP) (Netherlands; European embroidery forms)
  • Anne Thijs (ATh) (Belgium; lace)
  • Akiko Tsujita (AT) (Japan)
  • Willem Vogelsang (WV) (Netherlands; Iran/Afghanistan)
  • Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood (GVE) (Britain/Netherlands; European and Middle Eastern needlework)
  • Jill Winder (JW) (ULITA, Leeds, textile curator)

Editorial group

  • Shelley Anderson
  • Marleen Audretsch
  • Joanne Nakonechny
  • Christopher Ng
  • Martine de Nijs
  • Willem Vogelsang
  • Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood

Art work, web-design and photographs

Associated and collaborating institutes

Open access collections of illustrations being used