TRC Blog: Textile Moments

Happy Saint Distaff Day

Saint Distaff

Saint Distaff

Today, 7th January, is Saint Distaff Day. You may never have heard of her, and to be honest, she never existed. But she has been adopted as the patron saint of the TRC, so - Happy Saint Distaff Day to you all.

St. Distaff is a medieval English joke. We discovered her when preparing an exhibition on handspinning in 2011.  The 7th of January was an unofficial medieval celebration. It  observed the day that women went back to household work after twelve days of celebrating Christmas. It was the day that women could make jokes at the expense of men. The men themselves returned to work on the Monday (sometimes called Plough Monday) immediately following St. Distaff day.

A distaff is an ancient tool used by spinners to support extra fibres (usually flax or wool) while at work. So it is an appropriate 'female' tool for a 'saint' to be named after. 

Shelley Anderson, Sunday 7th January 2018.


TRC Silk Stockings Project: First test swatches

Four experienced knitters for the TRC Silk Stockings project, 29th December 2017.

Four experienced knitters for the TRC Silk Stockings project, 29th December 2017.

29 December 2017: Since the first anouncement of the TRC Silk Stockings project, last November, we’ve been overwhelmed by enthousiastic people wanting to participate. More than 100 people have volunteered to join in and to help to reconstruct the silk stockings of the Texel seventeenth century shipwreck. We even had people from the USA and Canada wanting to join in!

The first workshops will take place in the beginning of 2018 and in order to prepare ourselves for this big event we asked four experienced knitters to help us make a preselection of yarns and silks and knit several test swatches. Using needles of 0.7 and 1 mm and threads of max. 0.5 mm, this was quite a challenge. To be honest, the first half hour was not very encouraging. “You can’t knit with this thread!” and “This is not possible…!”

Read more: TRC Silk Stockings Project: First test swatches


Genius at work: Paul Poiret (1879-1944)

‘Chez Poiret’, cover of Les Modes, with designs by Paul Poiret, drawn by Georges Barbier, April 1912. Gemeentemuseum Den Haag

‘Chez Poiret’, cover of Les Modes, with designs by Paul Poiret, drawn by Georges Barbier, April 1912. Gemeentemuseum Den Haag

Paul Poiret was an influential fashion designer in Paris. Nicknamed ‘Le Magnifique’, he produced innovative fabrics and clothing for both women and men that incorporated bright colours, Japanese-style kimono sleeves and graceful drapery. His dresses for women were all designed—shockingly for the time—to be worn without a corset. The Gemeentemuseum in the Hague has designed the exhibition ‘Art Deco’ as a fitting tribute to him, and to the many other creators of this iconic, early 20th century style.

‘Art Deco’ features furniture, stunning jewellery by Cartier and paintings by Kees van Dongen, Sonia Delaunay, Picasso, Dufy and Iribe. But the exhibition’s highlight are the dozens of garments by Poiret. There is ‘Toujours’, a velvet, ankle-length dress with grosgrain ribbon, created in 1911, and a stunning 1912 silk dress in deep blue. My favourite is a Poiret from 1923 called ‘Braque’, after the painter. It is a white silk dress with large black geometric patterns.

Poiret incorporated avant-garde art styles like Cubism and Constructivism in his designs and hired painters like Picasso, Modigliani, Raoul Dufy and Paul Iribe to work for him. Garments by other designers are also on display, most notably the cream-coloured pleated silk ‘Peplos’, designed by Mariano Fortuny in 1914.

Part of Poiret’s genius lay in his comprehensive vision. When he opened his house Maison Martine in 1905, he concentrated on interior décor and fabrics. In addition to his corset-free clothing and shoes, he introduced new features such as the home bar and sunken baths. His bright fabrics with large floral patterns, and the use of luxury materials such as fur, velvet, silk and satin, caused a sensation, as did his perfume line. He also pioneered ways to sell his creations by inventing the cat walk, and toured with his models around the country. He designed costumes for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and for the new medium of films.

But it was his ambitious vision that also led to his downfall. At the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (from whence comes the term ‘art deco’), Poiret showcased his work by outfitting three barges on the Seine. The first promoted his perfumes, the second was a restaurant, while in the third, with the tapestries of Dufy as back drops, daily fashion shows where held. This, plus the new styles of designers such as Coco Chanel, led to bankruptcy in the late 1920s. It is said that when Poiret first saw Chanel’s iconic little black dress, he said to her, “But who are you in mourning for?” Chanel fired back, “For you.”

‘Art Deco’ is on at the Gemeentemuseum in the Hague until 4th March 2018.

Shelley Anderson, 9th December 2017


Hoe herken je kant?

Kanten kraagje voor een japon, begin 20ste eeuw. TRC 2017.3324.

Kanten kraagje voor een japon, begin 20ste eeuw. TRC 2017.3324.

In het weekeinde van 4 op 5 november werd in het atelier van het TRC de boeiende workshop van Olga Ieronima over het uitgebreide onderwerp “hoe herken je kant” gehouden. Hoewel het buiten goot en de regen op de lichtkoepel van het atelier van het TRC kletterde, luisterden binnen zeven zeer geïnteresseerde en in textielkennis al ervaren deelnemers naar Olga’s heldere uitleg van de verschillen tussen bijvoorbeeld naaldkant en kloskant, geborduurd tule en gehaakt kant, filetwerk en tamboereerwerk en bijvoorbeeld hoe machinaal kant eruit ziet.

De zeer ervaren Olga had haar eigen grote ronde kloskant-kussen meegenomen en gaf daar een korte demonstratie van. Er was ook een kloskant-kussen in the TRC collectie met alle variaties die er te vinden zijn in soorten kantklosjes. Waarschijnlijk is die indertijd klaargemaakt toen het TRC in 2014 een expositie “Over kant Gesproken” had opgezet, waarover toen een alleraardigst informatieboekje is geschreven.

Bovendien had Olga voor elk van ons een uitgebreide en uitgeprinte beschrijving van de geschiedenis van de kanthistorie, uitgewerkte fotovoorbeelden en tekeningen gemaakt dat we als naslagwerk voor later konden gebruiken. De voorraad én de kwaliteit van de enorme variatie aan voorbeelden van kant van het TRC zijn immens! Ze lagen allemaal keurig gesorteerd klaar om niet alleen bekeken, maar ook aangeraakt en gevoeld te worden. Dit is een bijzondere specialiteit van het TRC, die door de deelnemers erg gewaardeerd werd.

Na afloop van dit weekeinde wisten we veel meer over kant én kregen we ongelooflijk veel bewondering voor de makers van kant én konden we zelfs (weliswaar met enige moeite) de verschillende soorten kant van elkaar onderscheiden! Helaas regende het nog steeds flink toen we tevreden naar huis gingen……

Esmeralda Zee, donderdag 16 november 2017


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


Page 2 of 35


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

facebook 2015 logo detail




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: