TRC Blog: Textile Moments

Exhibition about velvet

A late 15th century Italian voided velvet in silk and linen (TRC 2011.0362).

A late 15th century Italian voided velvet in silk and linen (TRC 2011.0362).

Plans are being developed for a TRC exhibition about the history, production, types and forms of that most luxurious of fabrics, namely velvet. This subject was chosen because the TRC Collection includes thirty Renaissance-period examples that date from the 15th-17th centuries. They mostly come from Italy, but there are some French and Spanish pieces as well. In order for visitors to really understand these luxury, court-level items and to see how they originally looked, the planned exhibition will include modern examples of the same quality, with comparative designs.

I have have been talking with the Lunsingh firm in Leiden, who are furniture restorers with many connections in the luxury textile world. They have shown me some hand woven velvets that can cost up to €2000 per metre. Some forms are made of pure silk with gold thread. Not surprisingly this type of velvet has to be specially ordered and is not widely available! Some of the other examples they showed me were used for Parliament in The Hague, another for the Royal Palace in Amsterdam and yet another form was used for the Spanish court. They also have examples of so-called Utrecht velvet, which is  made out of mohair (only €650 per metre). What amazing, gorgeous pieces.

A 16th century Spanish silk velvet with stamped design (TRC 2011.0367)

A 16th century Spanish silk velvet with stamped design (TRC 2011.0367)

We have estimated that to get some stunning samples of the main types of velvet currently available will cost about €15000. But it would make a fantastic exhibition and show items that most people will have never seen before. The temptation to touch will be enormous!

The TRC is currently looking for an individual, family or company that would be willing to help with this exhibition (they will, of course, be properly acknowledged). We need to find €15000 for the velvets and if a fully illustrated publication about the history of velvet and the many different types is also produced, then this will require a further €7500 euros. Basically we are looking for a total of €22500 (US$ 26500, GB£19500).

Please let me know if you can help with the realisation of this exhibition as soon as possible, as it is going to take at least a year to organise, but it will be well worth it!

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, Sunday 10th June 2018


Embroidery and Hangzhou

Embroidered rank badge from 19th century China (TRC 2010.0139b).

Embroidered rank badge from 19th century China (TRC 2010.0139b).

As some of you will know I am working on a history of embroidery from around the world for a Bloomsbury (London-based publishers) series of encyclopaedia. The first volume came out in 2016 and at least five more are coming. Throughout the recent conference in Hangzhou (click here) about handlooms and textiles I have been talking with a lot of people about - embroidery.

On various occasions I was able talk about the TRC’s series of encyclopaedias. I had a wonderful opportunity to talk to curators, historians, collectors and dealers about embroidery and the role of this important textile technique. During the conference, I was also able to spend time with one of the conference speakers and his wife. She is a specialist in Chinese minority embroidery. It is thanks to them I am gaining a knowledge of minority forms by being able to handle recently acquired examples, especially from among the Deng, Miao and Yunnan. More on this subject to come!

I have been able to discuss with Eve Anderson, Director of the Centre for Textile Research, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, for example, about the Encylopedia of Embroidery and she has offered help with the research for the archaeological evidence for embroidery in Scandinavia and in preparing the table of contents for the volume on Scandinavian and West European embroidery (vol. 3 in the series).

I also have had the chance to talk with people living in Laos, Indonesia, as well as China, about the 4th volume in the series and everyone has offered help in some manner. It’s been a fascinating time and it was made very clear just how many different types there are, the range of techniques and designs, and the versatility of the subject with respect to East Asia.

I spent a very enjoyable last day in China looking at archaeological examples of Chinese embroidery that are on display in the National Silk Museum. Basically it is going to be an amazing few years putting the East Asian volume of the Bloomsbury Encyclopeadia together.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, Thursday 7th June 2018.



National Silk Museum, Hangzhou, China

Zilu loom for taqueté floor coverings, Iran. National Silk Museum, Hangzhou, China. Photograph: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood.

Zilu loom for taqueté floor coverings, Iran. National Silk Museum, Hangzhou, China. Photograph: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood.

I am just home from a conference about handlooms held at the National Silk Museum in Hangzhou, China, and what a conference it has been! I am so glad that I went. I was there to give a paper on the history of zilu weaving in Iran (and added a piece about taqueté in Egypt for good measure) and to work with the zilu weaver who came especialy from Iran for the conference. In addition, the TRC had donated a large zilu floor covering from Meybod, Iran, which was put on display in the exhibition. It let the visitors see and understand just how large a zilu loom could actually be.

The conference accompanied an exhibition about handlooms from around the world and for the next two months it is possible to see and come very close to a wide variety of forms. I would make a plea at this moment to larger museums interested in textiles to see if they could borrow this exhibition and the looms. It would be well worth it.

What made the whole conference and exhibition so interesting is that the Museum brought over to China a number of professional handloom weavers – to talk about and demonstrate their looms. Suddenly things that I had read about in books and articles or seen in films and photographs made sense. I had several ‘Oh so that is how it works’ moments. And I was not the only one.



Read more: National Silk Museum, Hangzhou, China


Dammur cloth from Sudan: Continued

Last week we put a blog online about the visit of Magdalena Woźniak to work on the TRC’s Crowfoot Collection and in particular the Sudanese items (click here). To Magdalena’s great pleasure she found a piece of dammur cloth. Magdalena also wrote a blog about this piece of cloth and its social and economic significance (click here).

Read more: Dammur cloth from Sudan: Continued


Sudan, Poland, and the TRC

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, director of the TRC, writes about special attention being paid to the Sudanese /Nubian collection at the TRC:

This week we have been very busy with a special section of the TRC Collection. It all started with a visit for four days by Magdalena Woźniak, a Marie Curie Fellow from the Polish Academy of Sciences. She is an archaeologist working on Nubian textiles and dress, from the north of Sudan, Africa (and also someone who came on the TRC 5-day textile course in 2015).

Read more: Sudan, Poland, and the TRC


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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.

Bank account number: NL39 INGB 0002 9823 59

Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome !

TRC Gallery exhibition: 22 Jan. - 27 June: Velvet!

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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
Financial donations to the TRC can be made via Paypal: