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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. 

A and sampler in pristine condition from 1765 (TRC 2019.2921).A and sampler in pristine condition from 1765 (TRC 2019.2921).On Friday, 20th December 2020, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:

I have been cataloguing various sets of objects that have recently come in for the TRC Collection, including Guatemalan and Portuguese garments, as well as American feed sack quilts and toys.

But most interestingly, there was a piece of embroidery I had put on one side because my initial thought was that it was a 1970’s copy of an eighteenth century band sampler (TRC 2019.2921). How wrong you can be!

On closer inspection it turned out that the linen cloth of the sampler was made from hand spun yarn. It is a narrow band of 20 cm wide, hand woven. The embroidery threads are 2-ply silk yarns in a variety of colours. The whole of the embroidery was worked in cross stitch.

What is most remarkable is that the ground cloth is still starched and the colours of the silk have not faded. It would appear that the embroidery was worked and then for some reason it was put away and never saw the light (literally).

The embroidery consisted of five individual designs (from top to bottom):

a) a floral wreath enclosing the initials IDM (presumably the initials of the embroiderer) and the date 1765. Flanking the wreath are two winged figures wearing crowns.

b) the Crucifixion and related objects, including a ladder, a cross, a tunic, and a grail. On top of this design there is a cockerel. The Crucifixion (the representation of Jesus on the Cross would indicate that the sampler was made within a Catholic setting).

c) a depiction of the naked Adam and Eve in front of the Tree of Knowledge, with the snake climbing up the tree (Genesis 1-11). Eve is shown giving Adam an apple, as recounted in the Bible.

d) Abraham about to sacrifice his son, Isaac. A ram (?) is shown under the tree, conform the Biblical story that God provided a ram when he saw that Abraham was indeed ready to sacrifice his son (Genesis 22). 

e) a vase with stylised flowers, including carnations and tulips.

In conclusion, this is an original band sampler from 1765 in a perfect condition. An exceptional find indeed!


White kalpak from Kyrgyzstan, early 21st century, from the TRC collection (TRC 2013.0391).White kalpak from Kyrgyzstan, early 21st century, from the TRC collection (TRC 2013.0391).The Kyrgyz kalpak cap has recently been added to UNESCO’s list of Cultural Heritage! The TRC collection includes several kalpaks (TRC 2013.0390 and TRC 2013.0391). But what is a kalpak

It is a large cap made of felt with a black lining and rim. This type of cap has a long history in Central Asia and beyond. It was also worn in southern Russia and in the Volga region. It is known in Russian as the 'klobuk'. Wearing a kalpak often indicated the high social status of the wearer.

Nowadays the kalpak is still worn by Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Karakalpaks, ethnically related groups, all of whom are speaking a Turkic language and are living in Central Asia.

A white coloured kalpak (ak kalpak) is particularly distinctive for the Kyrgyz, who live in the mountainous lands of South Central Asia, along the western borders of China.

Museu do Oriente, Lisbon.Museu do Oriente, Lisbon.Saturday, 14th December, 2019, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:

Today was spent walking around Lisbon (as well as catching various trams and buses), looking at the sights as well as searching for embroidery.

We spent a long time trying to get to the Museu do Oriente, it really is not easy to get there, separated as it is from the rest of Lisbon by a busy road and railway line. Whoever thought of establishing such a museum in such an inaccessible place?

But it was well worth visiting, as they have an amazing permanent exhibition about Chinese Opera with a vast array of garments and outfits. There was also a temporary exhibition about ikat textiles from Timor, Indonesia, which come from a private, Dutch collection.

We then went on in search of two shops we had been informed would have examples of Portuguese embroidery (details and examples being needed for Vol. 3 of the encyclopedia of hand embroidery the TRC is involved in writing). Sadly, however, both shops had closed down.

So should you know of anyone who would be willing to donate examples of Portuguese embroidery, and in particular, Vianna do Castelo, Guimaraes, Castelo Branco, Madeira, or Azores embroidery, as well as Arraiolos needlework floor coverings, can you please let me know (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)?

1970s chiffon dress from the House of Dan Lee Couture (TRC 2019.2803a).1970s chiffon dress from the House of Dan Lee Couture (TRC 2019.2803a).On Friday, 13th December 2019, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:

Just before going to Lisbon for a few days, several very different donations arrived at the TRC.

From the Wijnsma Family there was a selection of garments that date from the late 19th century until the 1970’s. Three items in particular stand out, namely a jacket (TRC 2019.2801) made from black moire silk and decorated with black glass beads (late 19th century).

Secondly an American dress (TRC 2019.2804) from the 1920’s that is made of brown velvet and decorated in the ‘Cherokee’ manner with beads and tassels (an interpretation rather than a copy, and one that was fashionable in the 1920’s).

Finally the TRC received a dress and cape (TRC 2019.2803 and TRC 2019.2903b) designed by the American fashion designer, Dan Lee. It was hand painted by Hyacinth, a well-known artist working in America from the 1970’s, and who included royalty and film stars among her clients.

17th century embroidery hanging in the Lisbon Cathedral.17th century embroidery hanging in the Lisbon Cathedral.On Thursday, 12 December, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:

As part of my research for vol. 3 of the Encyclopedia of Hand Embroidery (Bloomsbury, London), I joined Willem in a visit to Lisbon. Willem has some meetings to conduct for the International Institute for Asian Studies and the European Alliance for Asian Studies, and I have the opportunity to explore the city and visit some museums, churches and other relevant places.

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TRC in a nutshell

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

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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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: