TRC Blog: Textile Moments

An intriguing Kashmir shawl with an Afghan connection

Kashmir shawl, attributed to Mohammed Azim Khan, the Pashtun governor of Kashmir between c. 1813 and 1819 (courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, MMA x.103.4).

Kashmir shawl, attributed to Mohammed Azim Khan, the Pashtun governor of Kashmir between c. 1813 and 1819 (courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, MMA x.103.4).

Sunday, 16th September: Not many people may know this, but for many years Kashmir in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent was ruled by a series of Pashtun governors sent to the mountains of Kashmir from the Afghan/Pashtun capital in Kandahar or Kabul.

Pashtun rule started in the mid-eighteenth century and came to an end around 1820 when the province was captured by the Sikhs, who were rapidly expanding their realm from their capital in Lahore, now in northern Pakistan.

Not much is known about the period of Pashtun domination in Kashmir. But while preparing the Encyclopedia of Embroidery from Central Asia, the Iranian Plateau and the Indian Subcontinent (London: Bloomsbury 2019), we came across a Kashmir shawl now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA x.103.4). It measures 183 x 131 cm and was woven out of goat’s hair (pashmina). The Museum has dated this example to c. 1825. What is so exciting is a Persian text stitched onto the shawl, which reads (in English): ‘O Hoseyn; ordered by the most noble governor [nawab], Mohammed Azim Khan’.

The title of nawab was commonly used in the Indo-Iranian lands for ‘governor’. So who was ‘the governor’ Mohammed Azim Khan, who ordered this shawl? And yes, Mohammed Azim Khan Barakzai was indeed one of the last Pashtun governors of Kashmir, between c. 1813 and 1819. He was a younger brother of Fath Ali Khan Barakzai, the king’s vizier, who had obviously appointed his younger brother to the governorship in Kashmir. However, Fath Ali Khan was tortured to death (blinded, flayed and dismembered) in 1818 on the orders of the king, Shah Mahmud Sadozai. Upon hearing the news of his elder brother’s death, Mohammed Azim Khan left his position in Kashmir and managed, together with his many other Barakzai brothers, to oust Shah Mahmud and his Sadozai clan and take charge of the Afghan capital, Kabul.

A few years later, in 1823, Azim Khan was defeated by the Sikhs at Nowshera east of Peshawar, and soon afterwards he died of dysentery in the Lataband Pass, just east of Kabul. His son, Habibullah Khan, succeeded him in Kabul, but he was soon pushed aside by his uncles. One of these, Dost Mohammed Khan, would by c. 1825 take charge in Kabul and gradually extend his control, until, by his death in 1863, he would rule almost all of what today we recognize as the republic of Afghanistan.

The Barakzai family would dominate Afghan politics until the communist coup of 1978.

Gillian and Willem Vogelsang, 16th September 2018


New acquisitions for the TRC collection

Hand embroidered bride's dress from 19th century China, decorated with wisteria flowers woven in a delicate tapestry weave (TRC 2018.2840).

Hand embroidered bride's dress from 19th century China, decorated with wisteria flowers woven in a delicate tapestry weave (TRC 2018.2840).

Saturday 8th September. Gillian Vogelsang, director TRC, writes:

The last two weeks has seen a very diverse group of textiles and garments being donated to the TRC Leiden. These include nineteenth century Chinese garments, some of them for court officials, another for a bride, and also a number of Zoroastrian textiles and garments from Yazd in Iran and dating to the early 20th century (see below). The Zoroastrian garments are part of a donation by the Katayoun Keyani and Mehraban Bondarian family in America.

There is also a group of Peruvian hand knitted caps form the 1970’s (compare TRC 2018.2913). Some of these will appear in the TRC’s exhibition about hand knitting, planned for the autumn of 2019. And from the Indian subcontinent we received a donation of ralli quilts from Pakistan/western India, and these date from the 1960’s and 70’s (compare TRC 2018.2896, TRC 2018.2897, TRC 2018.2898 and TRC 2018.2899).

Read more: New acquisitions for the TRC collection


New quilt exhibition is up !

Setting up the quilt exhibition

Setting up the quilt exhibition

The last few weeks have been dedicated to getting the TRC’s latest exhibition ready. It is called Sherry’s American Quilts and is a ‘thank you’ to Sherry Cook for donating over 25 American quilts, tops and related items. It runs from 20th August until the 18th October 2018. On Thursday afternoon we started to take down the feedsack exhibition, which was a sad moment as we all loved this colourful and intriguing exhibition. Then we started to put up the new display with initially 25 items, but it was increased to over thirty objects as we changed position, proposed order, colours, etc.

Work continued on Friday morning and then, all of a sudden, it was there! The right objects in the right place. Highlights? Well, there is a late nineteenth century velvet crazy quilt that is made of silk velvet in jewel colours. There is also a quilt with appliqué airplanes, a design that celebrates Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic in 1927 (click here). But perhaps the quilt that is causing the most comment is a blue/white pieced quilt with a Feathered Star design. It is believed that this quilt dates to the mid-nineteenth century, or possibly earlier. It is beautifully quilted and by itself worth coming to Leiden for. But there are other quilts to see, dating from the late nineteenth century to the 1950’s, as well as items that were worked and finished by Sherry and her Amish friends.

Gillian Vogelsang, Sunday 19th August 2018



Charles Lindbergh

Detail of a quilt with airplanes, in commemoration of Charles Lindbergh's first solo-flight across the Atlantic, in May 1927, USA, late 1920s (TRC 2018.2627).

Detail of a quilt with airplanes, in commemoration of Charles Lindbergh's first solo-flight across the Atlantic, in May 1927, USA, late 1920s (TRC 2018.2627).

The TRC recently received another box with quilts from Sherry Cook in America, in preparation of the upcoming TRC exhibition 'Sherry's American quilts', which will open at 20th August and be on display until 2nd September.

One of the quilts (TRC 2018.2627), some two by two metres, has a patchwork top made out of blocks that are decorated with an appliqué design of an airplane. The quilt probably dates to the late 1920s. The design became popular after the historic and first solo and non-stop flight by Charles Lindbergh across the Atlantic. The epic flight took place on 20-21 May 1927.


Marken garments in the TRC collection: Ways to wear, and how to name them

Mengying Zhang, familiarly known as Eden, is a TRC volunteer and student at Leiden University. She has been helping with cataloguing the TRC Collection and getting to know and understand about the running of a small collection, the setting up of exhibitions, and how to come to grips with some of the many stories behind the objects. This is the second in a series of blogs she is writing about her work and the TRC collection.

She writes: I would like to bring your attention to a particular variant of Dutch regional dress, namely women's upper body garments from Marken, until recently an island in the province of Noord-Holland, in what is now called the IJsselmeer, and what used to be called the Zuiderzee.

The local dress of this village is one of the most famous regional dress forms in the Netherlands, because it has been kept and worn for centuries. My personal interest in these garments is the unique ways in which the garments are worn and their interesting structures. There are three types of upper body garment, namely the mouwen, het buisje and the borsik.

Mid-20th century mouwen from Marken (TRC 2014.0681).

Mid-20th century mouwen from Marken (TRC 2014.0681).


The mouwen are worn in the summer time, while the buisje and borsik are winter wear and are worn over the mouwen. The buisje and borsik are not worn at the same time! Twentieth century mouwen are normally made of white cotton flannel with characteristic, red striped sleeves. Mouwen generally have a high neckline. They are fastened down the front with small hooks and eyes.

Buisje made of wool and silk, from Marken, mid-20th century (TRC 2012.0285).

Buisje made of wool and silk, from Marken, mid-20th century (TRC 2012.0285).







A buisje is a black or dark blue garment decorated with woven bands that can vary in forms of decoration. There are seven buisjes in the TRC collection and they are all made of felted wool. Three of them have vertical, thin, white smouwen tripes woven throughout the garment. The neck opening of a buisje is normally trapezoidal, with bands sewn around it.

Borsik in red woollen flannel, Marken, mid-20th century (TRC 2016.0715).

Borsik in red woollen flannel, Marken, mid-20th century (TRC 2016.0715).





Borsiks are made of a similar dark material as the buisjes, but some are made of red cotton flannel. The main differences between a buisje and a borsik lie in the shape of the neckline and the use of decorative bands sewn not only onto the neckline (as in the buisje), but also along the sleeve vents and the front opening. Many borsiks are also decorated with embroidered lines on their shoulders and front sleeve seams.




These three types of garments are often called either a jacket or a bodice, which are terms derived from the West European urban dress system. However, these terms are not always suitable. First of all, I would not consider any of them as a bodice, because a bodice is properly speaking the upper part of a dress, while all three types of Marken garments are independent garments that only cover the upper body.

When considering the term ‘jacket’, only a buisje and a borsik are appropriate terms, because a jacket is worn as the outermost layer. However, the way the mouwen are worn is much too dynamic to match a term from of the West-European urban dress system, since mouwen can be worn as inner wear, as well as an outer.

We may ask ourselves why we feel the need to define garments from other dress systems on the basis of terms designed for and originating from the West European urban dress system? Mentioning a familiar term that shares similarity with the unknown element could improve the understanding of the unknown, but replacing or translating one term with another can cause misunderstandings or make certain meanings disappear.

Mengying Zhang, Saturday 4th August 2018


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Opening times: Monday to Thursday: 10.00-16.00 hrs, other days by appointment.

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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 Stichting Textile Research Centre.
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