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Small display of T-shirts with political slogans for US presidential elections. October/November 2016, TRC, Leiden.Small display of T-shirts with political slogans for US presidential elections. October/November 2016, TRC, Leiden.November 8 is Election Day in the US, when a new President and Vice-President will be elected. To mark the occasion the TRC has mounted a small exhibition of T-shirts that promote or mock different candidates from America’s two major political parties, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. The nine T-shirts on display are typical examples of American political textiles. They portray the candidate’s face and a slogan. This slogan either casts the candidate as a responsible leader or as a foolish incompetent.

Slogans from successful past presidential campaigns might also be evoked, such as the “Give ‘em hell, Harry!” T-shirt (cotton/polyester, Honduras, 2016) on display. This was the 1948 campaign slogan of President Harry Truman. The donkey on the T-shirt is a symbol of the Democratic Party, and so shows the wearer’s affiliation to the party.

The Straatje van Vermeer (1632-1675). Courtesy Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, acc. no. SK-A-2860.The Straatje van Vermeer (1632-1675). Courtesy Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, acc. no. SK-A-2860.The last week has been very busy for various reasons. We have been running, for example, the October Intensive Textile Course. There were eight participants (the maximum we accept for each course), including colleagues from the London Museum, the Hermitage Museum (St. Petersburg, Russia) and Yale University (USA), as well some American and Dutch lovers of textiles. The week went very quickly as we studied, investigated and discussed a range of practical subjects (fibre identification, spinning, dyeing, weaving, etc.), as well as looking at a wide range of textiles from Europe, India and Indonesia (and other regions and countries between). Because the current TRC exhibition is about European embroidery, we spent time really looking at the objects on display and discussing how they were made, worn and regarded. The course will be repeated from 13-17 March 2017 (three places left) and again from 10-14 April 2017 and from 16-20 October 2017. For more information, click here.

This week was made more complicated because we had a donation of Dutch urban clothing coming in from a family in Wassenaar. The items included many garments and accessories from the 1910’s to the 1950’s, including a number of 1920’s cloche hats, as well as a range of early 1940’s outfits, shoes and hats. One of the course participants, a specialist in European twentieth century fashion, proved a great help in selecting and identifying the garments !

Beacuse of this and other donations and acquisitions, the nature of the TRC collection has been changing tremendously over the last few months, and we are working hard on getting more and more items on-line (click here) so that people around the world can share this amazing and diverse collection.

We also reached the amazing number of 2200 entries for the digital needlework encyclopaedia, TRC Needles. Click here to have a look at this fascinating collection of brief articles on a wide range of subjects that relate to decorative needlework, from materials, tools, embroidery stitches, to books, films, poems, paintings, samplers, and regional styles from around the world. Read here for instance about the famous 'Straatje van Vermeer' painting, by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), now in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The woman to the right, in the door opening, is probably making bobbin lace! Or would you like to read about St Clare, the patron saint of embroiderers?

And last, but by no means least, the current TRC exhibition about European embroidery is attracting more and more visitors. And, if I may say so myself, it is a beautiful exhibition that will inspire you to find out more about the techniques, designs and history of European decorative needlework.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 22 October 2016

As part of a new series of embroidery charts is a pattern that was used for a mid-20th century woman's blouse from Romania. It was worked in cross stitch and chain stitch in light blue and turquoise. The stitches are worked in various directions. The pattern is worked on the sleeves. It is an urban garment embellished with a traditional design. For a PdF file of the chart, click here.


Embroidery chart of Romanian woman's blouse.Embroidery chart of Romanian woman's blouse. 

Embroidery of Romanian woman's blouse, mid-20th century.Embroidery of Romanian woman's blouse, mid-20th century.


Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 16 October 2016

Dr Dana Sonnenschein, from New Haven, USA, was one of the participants of the TRC Intensive Textile course in September 2016. She sent the following review:

Last month, as part of the research for my sabbatical project, I traveled to take part in an Intensive Textile Workshop at the Textile Research Centre (TRC) in Leiden, Netherlands. The experience was amazing! Taught by TRC Director Dr. Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, the five-day course combined hands-on work in textile production with overviews of global and historical practices and interpretation of historical and contemporary textiles in light of the participants’ (new) knowledge of process and product. Each day involved at least one activity, beginning with a detailed study of a myriad of natural, artificial, and synthetic fibers; moving on to individually carding, combing, and hand-spinning wool; communally dyeing wool and silk using 21 natural dyes and four different mordants and, in the case of cochineal, two different temperatures of dye-bath (to produce a rainbow of some 120 colors); individually weaving a variety of patterns on small table-looms; and, also individually, producing samplers of batik, ikat warp threads, and plangi (tie-dye using Taiwanese techniques, which produce designs I never dreamed of back in grade school when I was rubber-banding flower-power tee shirts).

Marieke Roozeboom, one of the course participants, behind a bobbin lace pillow.Marieke Roozeboom, one of the course participants, behind a bobbin lace pillow.I’m not sure what I liked best, the forensics of finding out whether a scrap of fiber was flax or hemp, the pleasure of watching my hands and a simple spindle turn wool into yarn, the slow emergence of a pattern when weaving with a needle, or the adventure of painting a cotton scrap with hot wax. I learned that I will never be a master-dyer—that would take a lifetime—but I’ll always remember that iron “saddens” the color. And now I understand the basics of most of the processes involved in producing fabric and clothing, from prehistory through the present, knowledge that will inform future poems as well as my creative work with fiber. An historian or archeologist could use such skills to add an experimental component to her or his research, as Grace Mary Crowfoot did when she established that certain ancient Egyptian textiles were produced by the kind of loom still used by early twentieth-century Bedouins.

Each day of the Intensive Course also involved mini-lectures giving the “theory” of what we’d been practicing, followed by discussion of exemplary textiles, which Dr. Vogelsang-Eastwood guided so that participants learned to read/interpret everything, from pieces of cloth to garments from specific places and for particular purposes (for example, a symbolic sari, inexpensive and intended for purchase by a poor person as a temple offering vs. an expensive and carefully hand-printed sari, enormously valuable to its original owner but fallen in price/worth as soon as it became second-hand). As those examples suggest, understanding textiles is a way of understanding identity and culture (and vice versa). To truly read anything that came into one’s hands, one would need to study not only the object but when and where it came from. Fortunately, the TRC houses many stories as well as boxes and boxes of textiles. And, unlike most curated collections, which focus only on display, the TRC emphasizes research, so almost all its treasures may, with care, be handled.

Moniek van Sandick overhandigt een kostuum van de 3 Oktober Vereeniging aan Gillian Vogelsang, directeur TRC.Moniek van Sandick overhandigt een kostuum van de 3 Oktober Vereeniging aan Gillian Vogelsang, directeur TRC.Afgelopen donderdag kreeg het TRC bezoek van Moniek van Sandick, een van de eerste vrijwilligsters van de TRC en nu gemeenteraadslid in de gemeente Leiden. Maar Moniek is ook lid van de 3 October Vereeniging, dat roemruchte orgaan dat sinds 1886 elk jaar leiding geeft aan de festiviteiten in Leiden die de bevrijding vieren van de stad, nu al weer 442 jaar geleden, om precies te zijn op 3 oktober 1574. Op die dag ontdekten de Leidenaren dat het Spaanse leger, dat de stad vele maanden had belegerd, uit de omstreken van Leiden was vertrokken. Van de 18000 inwoners van Leiden vòòr het beleg, waren er 6000 omgekomen of gestorven.

Het ontzet van Leiden leidde mede in de jaren die volgden tot het ontstaan van een onafhankelijk Nederland. Direct leidde het ontzet tot de oprichting van de Universiteit Leiden, die op 8 februari 1575 officieel werd ingesteld.

Het ontzet van Leiden wordt elk jaar nog steeds groots gevierd. Leidenaren en oud-Leidenaren eten haring met wittebrood, ter herinnering aan het eerste voedsel dat na het ontzet in de stad werd ingevoerd, maar ook hutspot, dat mengsel van aardappels, wortelen, uien en klapstuk, dat volgens de verhalen vanuit het verlaten Spaanse kamp naar de stad werd gebracht in een enorme ketel. Enorme ketel ....., de verhalen zijn wat overdreven. De bewuste ketel wordt bewaard in Museum De Lakenhal, en is niet zo vreselijk groot.

Maar terugkomend op het bezoek aan het TRC van Moniek van Sandick. Zij bracht voor de TRC collectie het officiële kostuum dat van 2005 tot 2015 door vrouwelijke leden van de 3 Oktober Vereeniging op 3 oktober werd gedragen. Een prachtige aanwinst voor de TRC collectie, die daarmee eens te meer de verbondenheid met de oude textielstad Leiden aangeeft.

Willem Vogelsang, 1 oktober 2016

Ruband faceveil from Afghanistan. TRC 2016.2038Ruband faceveil from Afghanistan. TRC 2016.2038Last week we reported on the acquisition of a burkini from Australia (click here). Now the TRC has acquired yet another unusual and very intriguing item that is also related to the concept of veiling, namely an Afghan face veil (ruband), which is decorated with Hazara style embroidery. It dates to the early 20th century and probably comes from the Kandahar region of Afghanistan. The Hazaras constitute an ethnic group in Afghanistan that is Shi'ite, rather than Sunnite, and speaks Persian (Dari), with many Mongolian loanwords. They claim to descend from the Mongolian armies of Djenchis Khan, that occupied Afghanistan in the early 13th century. For their embroidery in general, see TRC Needles.

Rubands originated in Persia in the 17th century and remained in use throughout the Persian world of influence until the mid-20th century. They were worn over the top of a chador. The use of separate rubands continued in the form of the veil section of the well-known chadaris and burqas, which combine both chador and ruband, and which are still widely used in Afghanistan and Pakistan respectively (there are examples of both forms in the TRC Collection).


Although the TRC knew of Pashtun examples of rubands (decorated with Kandahar style embroidery), Detail of face veil.Detail of face veil.the existence of Hazara versions is a new and exciting discovery for us. The embroidery on the face veil takes the form of a series of geometric shapes, stylised plant motifs, as well as amulets (‘hand of Fatima’) carried out in satin stitch (see TRC Needles) and double running stitch, with a touch of herringbone stitch in the border. The stitches are all worked in floss silk of various colours (probably dyed with aniline dyes). The eye section (to the right) has been created using drawn thread work, and is surrounded by satin stitch embroidery in the Kandahar style. This veil will be included in the TRC’s project on embroidery from Iran, Central Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, as well as being on display in the 2-day course on veils and veiling at the TRC (4-5 November 2016).

Gillian Vogelsang, 28 September 2016

Ban the Burkini signBan the Burkini signWomen’s burkini swimwear seems to provoke controversy. In 1907, the Australian world champion swimmer, Annette Kellerman, was arrested by police for indecency. Her ‘crime’ was to wear a one-piece swim suit that stopped above her knees. Decades later the bikini was banned in several countries after its first appearance in 1946. Proclaimed ‘sinful’ by the Vatican, the fashion magazine Modern Girl Magazine wrote in 1957 that "it is hardly necessary to waste words over the so-called bikini since it is inconceivable that any girl with tact and decency would ever wear such a thing".

And now there’s the burkini, swimwear that covers everything except a woman’s face, hands and feet. It’s popular with some Muslim women who want modest clothing. This August in France over twenty coastal municipalities declared a ban on burkinis. Dozens of women have since been fined for wearing a burkini based on the grounds that the outfit does not respect “good morals and secularism”. In Nice, four police officers demanded that a Muslim woman lying on the beach remove her long-sleeved tunic. Photographs of the incident went viral and prompted an international debate. While France’s highest administrative court has ruled that the burkini ban of the town of Villeneuve-Loubet is illegal, mayors of other communities with similar laws have refused to lift their bans.

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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
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