For thousands of years men and women have made, worn, traded, and admired various forms of decorative needlework, from small daintily embroidered handkerchiefs to giant gold embroidered texts that bedeck the kiswah in Mecca. Decorative needlework was and remains a feature of life throughout the world.

TRC Needles is a digital encyclopedia that has been set up by the Textile Research Centre (TRC) in Leiden. It covers the enormous field of needlework, focussing in particular on appliqué, beading, darned knotting, embroidery, needle lace making, passementerie, patchwork and quilting. The encyclopaedia includes information about different forms from all over the world, from the Americas to Asia. It looks at the earliest surviving examples from ancient Egypt to present-day forms, with an emphasis on handmade examples rather than industrially produced items.

TRC Needles includes references to tools and materials, to iconography, the uses of decorative needlework, to influential people and makers, historical examples, relevant institutions, paintings or similar imagery that depicts decorative needlework. The encyclopaedia also discusses relevant references in various forms of literature, as well as relevant details relating to economic and social history.

Appliqué from the Street of the Tentmakers, Cairo, Egypt. TRC collection 2013.0442. Photograph: Joost Kolkman.

To date, May 2021, the Encyclopaedia contains more than 2700 entries. All your comments on existing and possible other entries are very welcome. Please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The main editor of the project is Dr. Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, director of the Textile Research Centre (TRC) and a specialist in Middle Eastern embroidery. 

Co-editor is Dr Willem Vogelsang, the former deputy director of the International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden, The Netherlands, and former curator for Central and Southwest Asia of the National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, The Netherlands.

For further information, see the TRC Needles entry TRC Needles.