TRC Blog: Textile Moments

Eerbare kleding: Een interview met Gillian Vogelsang

Gillian Vogelsang werd onlangs geïnterviewd door een journaliste van het Reformatorisch Dagblad. Het interview werd afgelopen zaterdag (19 oktober 2019) gepubliceerd. U kunt het artikel hier lezen.


A hidden 19th century quilt

Early 20th century American quilt, with a mid-19th century quilt hidden inside.

Early 20th century American quilt, with a mid-19th century quilt hidden inside.

On Sunday, 20th October 2019, TRC-volunteer Beverley Bennett wrote:

The TRC recently received a donation of a simple and unassuming utility quilt. It has a colourful top that is made from two lengths of fabric. This top is printed with a design mimicking a patchwork of half square triangles in a pinwheel arrangement. The two lengths are joined along their length by machine.

The backing of the quilt is different. It consists of simple feedsacks joined together. It is hand quilted in a basic Baptist Fan design. Because of the fabrics and the slightly coarse hand quilting thread, we have dated the quilt to about 1920-1930.

However, on examining the quilt, we realised it was unevenly ‘lumpy’ inside, which was a bit unusual and so we carefully unpicked a small corner of the quilt to see what was going on. We discovered an older quilt inside! More unpicking revealed a worn, tattered quilt that had been made from even older, recycled blocks.

The Hidden Quilt consists of bits of old shirts, dresses, etc., of a mid-nineteenth century date, which were recycled into diagonally string-pieced (a method of using long, narrow pieces of fabric), 5 inch squares and joined into sets of four, making (roughly) 10 inch blocks.

It is hard to know whether the blocks were used for making a quilt straightaway, but at some stage the blocks were joined, by machine, with used and patched denim pieces as sashing and more shirtings as corner posts. It was backed with a purple ticking type fabric and was then hand quilted in the Baptist Fan pattern with 5-6 stitches per inch as the cotton filling and the ticking is quite thick.

The Hidden Quilt had a long life, because it was well used and in tatters at the edges. There was clearly some damage that was repaired with a machine-sewn patch and, since the sewing machine dates from about 1860, we know the repair must have happened after that date. When exactly the Hidden Quilt was made, remains a moot point.

Finally the Hidden Quilt was recycled into the utility quilt we received, interestingly being quilted once again with the same pattern, in the same style and with virtually the same type of thread – could it have been recycled by the same person, for the third time, but some fifty or so years later?

The quilt, including its Hidden Quilt, will be on display in the forthcoming TRC gallery exhibition on the history of American quilts, opening in February 2020.


Dino-lite microscope and the TRC Leiden

On Thursday, 17 October 2019, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:

We have been talking for some time at the TRC about getting a digital microscope for our work with various archaeological and historical textiles, in particular for basic fibre identification, as well as weave, print and embroidery analysis. We are also curious about what caused particular types of (past) damage to the structure of some of our textiles (insects, mould, etc). More specifically we were looking for something that has a magnification of between x25-250, can be used to take publication level photographs (at least 1200 ppi) and with a magnification that is easy to adjust.

But the main question was: which microscope? There are various forms on the market, with a wide range of prices. In July 2019 Eric Boudot gave a demonstration of the Dino-lite microscope at a workshop held at the TRC as part of the ICAS Asia Conference. Based on his presentation it was decided to obtain one of these microscopes as it clearly works well with the type of textiles we are working with. One thing I was particularly impressed with was the very light-weight nature of the microscope and stand. It will not be a problem to have it in hand luggage when travelling!

Thanks to the generosity of a Friend of the TRC, we have the funding to buy a suitable microscope and equally importantly, a good quality stand that we can use to easily make minute adjustments in the height of the microscope. We contacted Michel van Rooijen of AKB Longs, a company in Zouterwoude-Rijndijk, which is very close to Leiden and they kindly agreed to give us a demonstration of the Dino-lite AM4515ZT, how it works, with a discussion concerning the advantages and disadvantages.

A group consisting of archaeologists, students, depot managers, as well the librarians from the TRC came to the demonstration and were able to ask a wide range of questions. We used various textiles from the TRC Collection, including flat textiles (a piece of mummy cloth, some Dead Sea Scroll textiles), as well as a Macedonian knitted sock with metal thread cuff to give a range of materials and textures.

I have borrowed the microscope for a week to see how it goes, and, as it stands at the moment, we are going to get one. But I think we will be getting one that can take 5 mb images rather than 1.5 mb that was demonstrated because of publication requirements. I am also looking forward to using it with the work on more detailed analysis of the medieval St. Petrock’s Pall in Exeter Cathedral, as well as looking at various items in the TRC Collection.


The textile wealth in the Great Suriname Exhibition

Koto from Surinam, displated at the Great Suriname Exhibition, Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam.

Koto from Surinam, displated at the Great Suriname Exhibition, Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam.

On Wednesday, 16th October, Shelley Anderson wrote:

Surinam, in South America, has a rich heritage — a heritage also reflected in its textiles. Some of this heritage can be seen in the Great Suriname Exhibition now on at the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam.

The exhibit begins with a collection of objects from some of the country’s indigenous groups. Surinam’s indigenous peoples cultivated their own cotton, and spun and then dyed the resulting textiles with natural dyes. A Lokono woman’s blue cotton skirt and shawl (late 19th-20th century) are on display, along with some cotton Kari’na loincloths (pre-1912) and stunning hair and arm ornaments (late 19th to early 20th century) made from feathers, beads, palm leaves and other materials.

Perhaps Surinam’s most iconic garment is the koto, a wide skirt or dress of printed cotton, worn by Creole-Surinamese women with a short jacket and an angisa, or head wrap. There are hundreds of ways to fold an angisa, which are often used to express the wearer’s emotions or opinions. The official history of the koto dates back to 1879, when the Dutch colonial government ruled that women, when outdoors, must wear a dress or paantje (chest covering) and a jacket or gown. Now worn mostly on festive occasions, there are numerous kotos on display, from different time periods.

Read more: The textile wealth in the Great Suriname Exhibition


From Buteh to Paisley: A new TRC exhibition in the making

Paisley motif used on an American feedsack, 1940s (TRC 2019.1245).

Paisley motif used on an American feedsack, 1940s (TRC 2019.1245).

On Sunday, 13th October, Erica Riccobon, a new TRC volunteer and MA student at Leiden University, wrote:

The TRC is currently preparing a new exhibition planned to open in the second half of 2020. Its provisional title is 'From Buteh to Paisley: The History of a Global Motif.'

The exhibition highlights the worldwide diffusion and popularity of the Paisley motif, through an analysis of its travel from East to West and its reinterpretation within 20th century European fashion. The Paisley motif first appeared in Iran under the name of buteh. Further developed for the design of the famous Kashmiri shawls, it was exported into Europe, through the (British) East India Company, from the 17th century onwards. In Europe it was copied and used in local industry, and hence again distributed across Europe. The motif, though quintessentially Eastern in origin, owes its Western name to the Scottish town of Paisley, a major weaving site during the Industrial Revolution, not far from Glasgow.

Read more: From Buteh to Paisley: A new TRC exhibition in the making


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TRC in a nutshell

Hogewoerd 164, 2311 HW Leiden. Tel. +31 (0)71 5134144 / +31 (0)6 28830428

Opening times: Monday to Thursday: 10.00-16.00 hrs, other days by appointment. Holidays: until 11 August

Bank account number: NL39 INGB 0002 9823 59, Stichting Textile Research Centre

Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome !

TRC Gallery exhibition: 5 Sept. -19 Dec. 2019: Socks&Stockings

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The TRC is dependent on project support and individual donations. All of our work is being carried out by volunteers. To support the TRC activities, we therefore welcome your financial assistance: donations can be transferred to bank account number NL39 INGB 000 298 2359, in the name of the Stichting Textile Research Centre.
Since the TRC is officially recognised as a non-profit making cultural institution (ANBI), donations are tax deductible for 125% for individuals, and 150% for commercial companies. For more information, click here
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