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Coptic medallion of linen and wool, tapestry weave, 6th-7th century, Museo Nazionale di Ravenna.Coptic medallion of linen and wool, tapestry weave, 6th-7th century, Museo Nazionale di Ravenna.On Sunday, 26th January 2020, Shelley Anderson wrote:

Ravenna, Italy, is better known for its Byzantine mosaics than it is for its textile collections. But during a recent visit I saw some beautiful textiles. The first collection was in the Museo Nazionale di Ravenna, housed in a former monastery next to the Basilica of San Vitale. This museum is home to a large collection of Coptic textiles. The display rotates regularly, but some current pieces include a lovely tunic band showing the birth of Aphrodite (7th-8th centuries CE), and a wider decorative band (7th century CE) of pomegranates and leaves. There was also a large Coptic medallion depicting flowers and fruit (6th to 7th centuries CE), made in a tapestry weave from wool and linen. Next to this was a case displaying, again in a linen and wool tapestry weave, two long bands showing a warrior saint (7th to 8th centuries CE).

An embroidered panel with a cross stitch centre and a drawn thread work border (1794, Amager, Denmark; bequest of Mrs. Henry E. Coe, courtesy of the Cooper-Hewett Museum, New York 1941-69-116).An embroidered panel with a cross stitch centre and a drawn thread work border (1794, Amager, Denmark; bequest of Mrs. Henry E. Coe, courtesy of the Cooper-Hewett Museum, New York 1941-69-116).On Saturday, 25th January 2020, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:

While working on the forthcoming quilt exhibition at the TRC and on the Encyclopedia of Embroidery series at home, I was struck by the modern need for precision and symmetry and how computers and their need for 'accuracy' have changed our lives. And in this case, also embroidery.

A feature of early twenty-first century embroidery, for example, is the use of computer programmes in order to create and re-create certain designs, and the distribution of such patterns online via social media groups such as Pinterest. Many of these designs are worked out on graph paper (or rather the computer equivalent) and then copied and mirrored, so quickly producing a symmetrical design.

However, when working with sixteenth century and later designs it is clear that what may look symmetrical was not necessarily identical on both sides of a central line. For example, eighteenth century cross stitch samplers from Amager in Denmark are full of small variations in the place and the way different parts of the overall design are worked out. Furthermore, it is clear that the embroiderer did not always ‘correctly’ count how many ground threads, and indeed which of these threads they were working the stitch over. From a distance these samplers look visually regular, but they are not ‘computer’ regular. But are these samplers therefore inferior?

Embroidered crown of a woman's cap from Denmark, c. 1860 (TRC 2012.0465). For more information, click on the illustration.Embroidered crown of a woman's cap from Denmark, c. 1860 (TRC 2012.0465). For more information, click on the illustration.The TRC is working on the Nordic/ Scandinavian section of Vol. 3 of the Encyclopaedia of Embroidery (Bloomsbury, London). The TRC Collection unfortunately houses relatively few examples of Nordic work. We are therefore looking for examples of embroidery from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

If you have any examples you are willing to donate, can you get into contact with the TRC at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.?

Donations of relevant books and articles are also most welcome!

Mennonite relief quilt, made during WWII and sent after the war to Irnsum, Friesland, in the Netherlands  (TRC 2020.0193).Mennonite relief quilt, made during WWII and sent after the war to Irnsum, Friesland, in the Netherlands (TRC 2020.0193).On Friday, 24 January 2020, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:

A few days ago the TRC was honoured by the donation of three Mennonite relief quilts. The gift was organised by Lynn Kaplanian-Buller (Amsterdam) of the International Menno Simons Center.

Since 1927 the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) has been involved in bringing together North American Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches in order to provide relief services.

Their mission statement is based on the Biblical call to care for the hungry and the thirsty, the stranger and the naked, the sick and those in prison (Matthew 25:35-36). Since that year, Mennonites throughout the world regularly come together to make a range of items, including quilts, for relief purposes.

St. Mark - Lindisfarne Gospels 710-721 f.93v - BL Cotton MS Nero D IVSt. Mark - Lindisfarne Gospels 710-721 f.93v - BL Cotton MS Nero D IVFurther to the TRC’s blog about the so-called Frisian letter A, we have just received an email from Naomi Tarrant in Scotland, with her comments about it.

In particular, she noted that:

“This A is found on Scottish samplers and has been linked to Frisia because there was a thriving trade between the Netherlands and Scotland. However, when I was researching Scottish samplers for my book I did a little more digging and found that this type of A with the centre bar dipped in the middle and/ or top bar can also be seen in Anglo-Saxon MSS such as the Lindesfarne Gospels, so goes way back as they say. See here.

To see a wide range of Scottish samplers, nearly all of which have this A, have a look here, which is the site of a private collector, who has a wonderful collection of Scottish samplers." 

Danish (?) sampler dated 1684. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (57.122.526).Danish (?) sampler dated 1684. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (57.122.526).Further to Naomi's comments, while looking for information about Danish embroidery, I found a ‘Frisian A' on a picture sampler that depicts the construction of a building (perhaps 'raising a barn'), and more specifically it would appear the two men are adding one of the doors.

The letters SK and HF and ANNO 1684 are embroidered along the lower edge of the embroidery. It is worth noting that the letter S and the number 4 appear to be backwards, and that the A of Anno is the so-called 'Frisian A.' The sampler is believed to be Danish and is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (57.122.526). Basically it would appear that the ‘Frisian’ A has a much longer history and is more widely used than initially suspected.

Gillian Vogelsang, Sunday, 19th January 2020.

Three TRC volunteers enjoying setting up the exhibition.Three TRC volunteers enjoying setting up the exhibition.On Thursday, 9 January 2020, the director of the TRC, Gillian Vogelsang, writes:

We have been working very hard for the last few days on getting the new TRC exhibition about American Quilts in order. There are two themes, namely (a) techniques, materials and blocks (patterns) used for making quilts and (b) changes over the last two hundred years.

The oldest full quilt on display dates from the 1830’s, but there are also quilts and tops made from early 19th century textiles.

As you come into the exhibition there is the section on materials, including a range of battings (waddings), which is an important but often neglected area of quilt making, but there are also quilting tools, and a wide variety of blocks.

In the centre are two A-frames with numerous quilts and quilt tops dating from the 1880’s to the present day.

Special quilts on display include an example made by Inza McVay in about 1916. She was a member of the (First Nation) Lakota people in South Dakota. There are also several autograph quilt tops (one dating to 1934), as well as quilts stitched with simple and complicated designs.

There are five appliqué quilts from the 1930s-1950s. Plus so much more!

Chart based on 19th century American cross-stitich quilt pattern  (TRC 2019.2926). Chart drawn by Gillian Vogelsang.Chart based on 19th century American cross-stitich quilt pattern (TRC 2019.2926). Chart drawn by Gillian Vogelsang.On Wednesday, 1 January 2020, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:

We are working hard on the TRC’s latest exhibition about American Quilts. It opens on the 5th February at the TRC, Hogewoerd 164, Leiden, so you have to wait just a little longer. But a few teasers....

One of the quilts (TRC 2019.2926) that will be on display dates to the nineteenth century. It is made of white cotton and decorated with a geometric design worked in cross stitches. We have added the design to the right.

The latest (and last?) addition to the exhibition is a so-called Crazy Quilt (TRC 2019.2925) that dates to about 1890. It is built up from a wide range of textiles, including velvets, hand painted birds on satin, as well as printed ribbons. Two of these ribbons refer to the GAR or Grand Army of the Republic, which was set up after the American Civil War to support veterans of the war and was particularly active among veterans living in the northern states.

Other ribbons refer to elections for Minnesota’s governor, notably Andrew Ryan McGill (1840-1905), who became the tenth Governor of the State, and to William Rush Merriam (1849-1931), who was his successor.

There is also a ribbon for a banker/insuranceman, called Albert Scheffer (1844-1905). He was a candidate in 1888 for the governorship, but with no success (he was described as being too nice to be a politician). Shortly afterwards Scheffer was accused of fraud, but it never came to trial. Prosecution was dropped for a technicality. I never thought I would become interested and write about late nineteeth century Minnesota politics and politicians! But such is the fascinating world of textiles.

It is noted in various popular and academic books and articles about Dutch regional embroidery that the letter A with the bar above the apex of the triangle is a typically Frisian (Fries) form from the north of the Netherlands (Friesland), and that any embroidered item with that type of letter could be classed as Frisian.

A 'Frisian?" sampler with the initials A.K. (left hand corner), 1860s. TRC Collection (TRC 2017.4287).A 'Frisian?" sampler with the initials A.K. (left hand corner), 1860s. TRC Collection (TRC 2017.4287).

Chart of an ornate ‘A’, worked on a ‘Frisian?’ sampler (TRC 2017.4287) with the initials A.K.Chart of an ornate ‘A’, worked on a ‘Frisian?’ sampler (TRC 2017.4287) with the initials A.K. 

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TRC in a nutshell

Hogewoerd 164
2311 HW Leiden.
Tel. +31 (0)71 5134144 /
+31 (0)6 28830428  
info@trc-leiden.nl

Open on Mondays - Thursdays
from 10.00 - 16.00.

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

Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome!

TRC Gallery exhibition:
5 Febr. -25 June 2020: American Quilts

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Donations

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
 
Financial donations to the TRC can also be made via Paypal: