TRC Blog: Textile Moments

TRC weekend workshop on lace

TRC weekend lace workshop, 4-5 November 2017

TRC weekend lace workshop, 4-5 November 2017

There were eight participants (from four different countries) at the TRC’s recent weekend workshop on “Identification of Lace”. The workshop was expertly led by Olga Ieromina, a TRC volunteer and an enthusiastic lace maker herself. Olga began by giving a working definition of lace as a decorative openwork fabric, in which the pattern, and any ground that links the pattern parts, are gradually built up by the interworking of free threads.

She explained four different markers that can be used to identify lace: how is it made (for example, handmade or machine made, the type of stitches used in construction, etc); what type of lace (needle lace, bobbin lace, hairpin lace, etc.); what kind of thread is used (examples included linen, silk, cotton, synthetic, wool or metal); and the lace’s country of origin and date.

A brief history of lace followed, from its 15th century origins in southern European embroidery and cut work, through the 17th century’s stunning needle lace (much of which originated in Venice), to the rise of Flemish bobbin lace in the 18th century and on to the 19th century’s machine lace.

TRC weekend lace workshop, 4-5 November 2017

TRC weekend lace workshop, 4-5 November 2017

We then began the most enjoyable part of a very enjoyable weekend—identifying, examining and handling many different and beautiful examples of lace in the TRC collection, from continuous to guipure, looped or appliqued; made by hand and by a variety of machines (including Puschers, Barmen and chemical). Our learning was enhanced by a series of short video clips, which showed how different laces were made and by the experiences of the participants themselves, whether we were curators, collectors, craftswomen, conservators or in the vintage business. Olga also produced a very useful handout on lace identification for each participant. I came away from the workshop with more knowledge and even more admiration for the creators of such complex and beautiful textiles.

Shelley Anderson.

Friday, 10th November 2017


Syriac Orthodox display opened

Display of clothing and objects associated with Bishop Mor Julius Yeshù Çiçek. 5th Nov. 2017. Photograph by Gewargis Acis.

Display of clothing and objects associated with Bishop Mor Julius Yeshù Çiçek. 5th Nov. 2017. Photograph by Gewargis Acis.

Sunday 5th November: The last few days have seen some interesting events and developments at the TRC. As seen from a previous blog, we had a donation of a christening gown dating from 1947. It is embroidered with the names of 17 babies who had been christened in the gown. An item about it was also put on the TRC’s facebook page and many people have seen the item and reacted to it.

Saturday and Sunday saw a new development at the TRC, namely a two-day course on the identification of lace and its many different forms and types. The course was given by Olga Ieromina, one of the TRC volunteers and a dedicated lace maker and responsible for the TRC’s collection of lace. More details about the course will come online shortly.

In the meantime Willem and I have been hard at work at the Syriac Monastery in Glane, in the east of the Netherlands. We have been helping the community to prepare a display about the previous Syriac bishop, called Mor Julius Yeshù Çiçek, who died in 2007 and who had a strong influence then, and indeed now, on the monastery and the people associated with it. Saturday was spent getting the final details of the exhibition in order, text boards hung, podiums and stands covered, objects in order (especially three outfits worn by the bishop) and finally getting the object descriptions written and translated into Dutch and English. Two showcases for the display were provided by the Volkenkunde Museum, Leiden.

Read more: Syriac Orthodox display opened


Christening gown with a rich history

Christening gown from 1947 made from parachute silk, embroidered with the names of seventeen young children who were baptised in the gown, between 1947 and 2013.

Christening gown from 1947 made from parachute silk, embroidered with the names of seventeen young children who were baptised in the gown, between 1947 and 2013.

Today the TRC received a very special new acquisition for the collection: it is a christening gown from the Netherlands, which was made in 1947 from parachute silk that the grandfather of the baby had acquired during the war.  He had three daughters, and each of them got part of the silk cloth. Two sisters used it to make themselves a blouse, the third to make the christening gown for her first child. Not an easy thing to do, because the gown had to be made from a bias cut length of material with a diagonal seam across the middle of the gown. In order to hide that seam, the young mother embroidered along the seam the name, date of birth and place of birth of her little daughter. Later she added the date of the christening, the name and place of the church, the name of the vicar and the Bible text of the christening.

The christening gown was used many times in the family, and each time the name of the baby and all other details were embroidered onto the gown. And after seventeen babies the gown is almost completely covered. The last name to be added is dated the 12th March 2013, for a baptism in the town of Harderwijk.


Read more: Christening gown with a rich history


Strengthening the TRC archives and research facilities

Girl with child from Walcheren in Zeeland, in the southwestern part of the Netherlands, in local costume. Photograph was taken in 1929.

Girl with child from Walcheren in Zeeland, in the southwestern part of the Netherlands, in local costume. Photograph was taken in 1929.

The TRC Leiden has just been given a small photo album that dates from 1929. It depicts daily life in Zeeland just before the Second World War. A way of life, including many of the garment types that have now vanished. The album includes 39 photographs taken during the holiday of Mr and Mrs N.G.J Schouwenburg from Amsterdam. They and their young daughter, Gera, then aged one, were in Zutphen in Overijssel, in the East of the Netherlands, and in Oostkapelle in Zeeland (in the south) for a holiday. It would appear that they were part of the vicars and elders associated with the Dutch Reformed Church (Nederlands Hervormde Kerk), as they stayed with Mr. van Paassen (Zutphen) and Mr. Gijsman (Oostkapelle), both of whom were vicars of that particular Protestant denomination. The album contains both family images of the Schouwenburgs and Gera (she regularly appears in the photographs).

With respect to the TRC interest in dress and identity, the images in this album present a fascinating glimpse of life for a middle class urban family (the ladies are wearing some wonderful cloche hats), who were clearly interested in the regional dress still worn on a daily basis by men, women and children in Zeeland.  We are now working hard on identifying all of the regional dress forms represented in the photographs.

These photographs can be found at the TRC Digital Collection under the numbers 2017.3322 (a-z, and za-zo), or by typing in Schouwenburg. One of the aims of the TRC is to present online a range of photographs and other images relating to textile and dress history from around the world. If you have any photographs that you know the date, place and perhaps even the people depicted, and you would be willing to donate to them TRC can you please let us know at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Many thanks!

Gillian Vogelsang, 31st October 2017


National Silk Art Museum, Weston, Missouri, USA

Stevengraph showing Queen Victoria, woven in Coventry (England) in 1841.

Stevengraph showing Queen Victoria, woven in Coventry (England) in 1841.

I first became interested in Stevengraphs after the TRC acquired several examples (see TRC 2013.0419 and 2013.0462 via the TRC’s digital collection). Stevengraphs are pictures woven from silk. Originally in shimmering white, silver and black threads, designers later used coloured silks to create pictures. Stevengraphs are named after the English weaver, Thomas Stevens, who developed the process.

Stevens began producing silk bookmarks and greeting cards in the 1860s, using mechanical looms and punch cards. These affordable silk pictures became very popular in Victorian England, and gradually became larger and more detailed. It was a delight, then, to discover a museum dedicated to Stevengraphs.

The National Silk Art Museum in Weston, Missouri (USA) has some 300 silk pictures on display, ranging from small souvenirs of various World Fairs, to portraits of celebrities and royalty, to large reproductions of paintings by Rembrandt, Goya and Raphael. There is also a special display of embroidered post cards of World War I, similar to those in the TRC collection. The majority of the pictures, especially ones depicting religious or sporting scenes, are from France, not England, produced by firms such as Neyret Freres.

The exhibition opens with a display (post cards, photographs and stereoscope slides) on the history of silk production, with an emphasis on 19th century American involvement in silk. In 1603, silk worm eggs and mulberry seeds were sent to the British colony of Virginia, by order of the English king, in the hope of establishing a silk industry that could compete with French and Italian silk production. Crops like tobacco and indigo, however, proved more commercially successful. There were many silk mills, mostly in the eastern USA, during the latter half of the 19th century and early 20th.

Stevengraph showing Joan of Arc.

Stevengraph showing Joan of Arc.

In the 1830s there was a get-rich-quick craze (similar to the 17th century ‘tulip mania’ in the Netherlands), which involved planting hectares of mulberry trees in order to raise silk worms. The craze ended in failure, and most American mills imported raw silk from elsewhere.

The collection of the National Silk Art Museum began as a sort of craze, too, according to the curator John Pottie, who has put together the collection. “I collected sports memorabilia. In 1980 I bought a small engraving of French billiard players. When I got it home I realized it was silk, not an engraving.” Pottie fell in love with the way silk pictures change in light. “It’s almost as if they are breathing,” he said. Everything about Stevengraphs, from the way they look to the way they are produced, fascinates him. It is easy to see why after seeing the collection on display.

Shelley Anderson, 25th October 2017


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Financial donations to the TRC can be made via Paypal; Donaties aan de TRC kunnen worden overgemaakt via Paypal:

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.

Bank account number: NL39 INGB 0002 9823 59

Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome !

Current exhibition: For a few sacks more ...., until 28th June

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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 Textile Research Centre, Leiden. 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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