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


Grace Crowfoot and the Aleppo tarbit (ikat) industry

Woman's coat from Jordan, 1920's, made of ikat cloth (TRC 2005.0076).

Woman's coat from Jordan, 1920's, made of ikat cloth (TRC 2005.0076).

Among the many items belonging to the English textile archaeologist Grace Crowfoot (1879-1957) now in the TRC Collection Leiden, are a few objects relating to the production of tarbit (ikat) in Aleppo, Syria. In particular there is a letter that describes some of the relevant processes in Aleppo in 1939.

Ikat is a general term for a form of resist dyeing technique, in which the warp and/weft threads are coloured prior to the weaving of the cloth. In Syria it is known as tarbit. There has been a trade in the production of tarbit in Aleppo and surrounding regions for hundreds of years.

In order to produce ikat, groups of threads are being tightly bound together in a specific order to create the desired design. By repeatedly binding, dyeing, rebinding, dyeing, and so forth, it is possible to create a range of patterns. Tarbit from Syria often take the form of silk striped cloth and checked cotton forms. Where a silk or artificial silk warp is used together with cotton wefts, then this type of cloth is known as qutni (‘the cotton ones’).

Read more: Grace Crowfoot and the Aleppo tarbit (ikat) industry


Dammur cloth from Sudan

Piece of Dammur cloth from Sudan, 1920s, collected by Grace Crowfoot (TRC 2016.0034).

Piece of Dammur cloth from Sudan, 1920s, collected by Grace Crowfoot (TRC 2016.0034).

Magdalena Woźniak from Poland is studying Nubian textiles. She was recently at the TRC to look at relevant objects that were collected in the 1920s in Sudan by the British textile historian, Grace Crowfoot. Magdalena has written a brief report:

The TRC Collection is very much like Ali Baba’s cave – each box contains hidden treasures! While working for the last few days on Grace Crowfoot’s ethnographic collection from Sudan, I had the immense pleasure of discovering a cotton cloth (TRC 2016.0034) labelled “ ‘Dammur’ woven from ‘Tree’ cotton at Hillet Mahmud, Sennar.”

Why is this so exciting? Because ‘dammur’ was mentioned by European travellers from the 19th century as a substitute for currency. Here is an extract from an account by the Swiss geographer and Orientalist, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt (1784-1817), who visited Sudan in 1813: “The common currency of the country at Berber, and all the way from thence to Sennaar, is Dhourra, and Spanish Dollars; […] Besides the Dhourra, another substitute for currency is the Dammour, a coarse cotton cloth, which is fabricated in the neighbourhood of Sennaar, and principally used by the people of this country for their shirts: one piece of Dammour is exactly sufficient to make one shirt for a full grown man; this is called Tob, or Thob Dammour.” (J. L. Burckhardt, Travels in Nubia, London, 1819:234).

Read more: Dammur cloth from Sudan


NewTextileBooks May 2018

The number of textile books being produced is steadily increasing and it is clear from the range of subjects covered in the following list that authors from diverse academic and non-academic backgrounds have become involved in placing textiles and dress within their well-earned positions in cultural studies - in all its many forms. To make it easier for the reader, the TRC librarians are in the process of putting all the recommended books, discussed in the preceding years, into a single list based on author and title, which will then be linked to the TRC Library catalogue. Anyhow, below is a varied list of some of the publications recently added to the TRC library. For the online catalogue of the library, click here. For the list of reviews published in December last year, click here.


TRC and Selvedge

The popular British textile magazine Selvedge has just published (9th May) a blog about the two Manchester students, Kazna Asker and Kate Askham, who spent two months at the TRC as interns and returned to England last week. You can read the story by clicking here.


For a few sacks more... TRC exhibition, from 15th January - 28th June 2018

Flour sack made from bright yellow cloth with printed flowers, to be used for clothing or other domestic textiles. USA, 1960s (TRC 2017.2403).

Flour sack made from bright yellow cloth with printed flowers, to be used for clothing or other domestic textiles. USA, 1960s (TRC 2017.2403).

For a few sacks more.... How feedsacks clothed and warmed Americans during the Depression and later

This TRC exhibition opened on the 15th January 2018 and is about printed feedsacks! For a photographic impression, click here. The idea for the exhibition came as a result of a donation in 2017 of 35 feedsacks made of printed cotton cloth. These items reflect a story of resilience, female ingenuity, thriftiness, sustainability, art and design, national awareness, as well as economic and commercial insight for nearly fifty years, from the 1920’s to the 1960’s. It is an amazing story, and one that is now barely known outside of the US.

These decorative versions of the feedsacks became very popular and were used for a wide range of items, including men, women and children’s clothing and household items, such as bedding (sheets, pillowcases, quilts), curtains, tablecloths, and clothes pin bags. In fact, they were used for just about anything.

The exhibition includes examples of actual feedsacks, as well as clothing, toys, curtains, bags, etc. made from this type of material. In addition, there are numerous bed quilts made from feed sack materials, which reflect the creative use of the sacks and cloth scraps.

But the story of feedsacks and their secondary use is not just confined to the printed sacks re-used in the USA. During the First World War (1914-1918), American and Canadian flour companies were producing printed flour sacks that were sent (with their contents) to The Netherlands (which was neutral) for distribution in war ravaged Belgium and beyond. Many of these sacks were later locally embroidered and sent back to America as souvenirs, ‘thank you’ gifts, to be sold in auctions to raise more money to buy flour to be sent to Europe. These sacks often had patriotic and hopeful messages in various languages. Examples of Belgian embroidered sacks and their stories will also be on display.

The latest (January 2018) issue of the British magazine Selvedge includes an article on feedsacks in connection with the exhibition. Click here for a PdF version. A review of the exhibition by the (Dutch) Quiltersgilde, dated 5th February 2018, can be downloaded here. A YouTube film made by Andrew Thompson can also be watched by clicking here. There is also a review of the exhibition in the Leiden University online international students newspaper, called Vox, dated 30th March 2018. Click here.

Thanks to the generosity of the Small Grant Program of the USA Embassy, The Hague, it has been possible to organise this exhibition and accompanying events to present this fascinating story.





TRC loan to Gorcums Museum

Bani Tamin woman's dress from Saudi Arabia (TRC 2005.0065).

Bani Tamin woman's dress from Saudi Arabia (TRC 2005.0065).

The Gorcums Museum in Gorcum, Gelderland, has organised a special exhibition on embroidery, with the title ‘Voor de draad ermee’. The exhibition can be seen from 7th April until 9th September this year. The TRC is very pleased to contribute to this event with the loan of 34 beautiful and spectacular pieces of embroidery from the TRC Collection. The embroideries are worked on dresses, headwear, footwear and panels that originate from Afghanistan, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Vietnam and Yemen.

Highlights from the TRC loan are the minuscule lotus shoes from China, a large dress from Saudi Arabia, and the Tunisian Raf-Raf wedding outfit. The exhibition has been curated by Linda Hanssen. For the exhibition website, click here.

Gillian Vogelsang, 29th March 2018


TRC and the Fowler Museum, Los Angeles

Last summer (2017) Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, director of the TRC Leiden, spent ten days in Los Angeles working at the Fowler Museum, on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles. In particular she was working on a collection of early 20th century Syrian garments, including abayas, head coverings and çarsafs. Some of the garments are the most beautiful examples of silk tapestry weaving.

The TRC has just been informed that it has been officially asked by the Fowler Museum to curate an exhibition about the Syrian garments and to write a catalogue to both the collection and the exhibition. All being well the exhibition will open in Los Angeles in February 2019. More details will be published in due course.


TRC Intensive Textile Course, 15-19 October 2018

TRC Intensive Textile Course, 12-16 April 2017

TRC Intensive Textile Course, 12-16 April 2017

TRC has been organising an intensive one-week textile course for many years. The next course will take place from 15-19 October 2018. The course is being taught in English by Dr Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, textile and dress historian and director of the TRC. The course is a mixture of theoretical and practical elements, with an emphasis on trying out the various techniques of textile production (spinning, dyeing, weaving), and on holding and examining fibres, textiles and finished items, all in order to learn and understand what is happening and why various combinations take place. The aim is to make textiles less ‘frightening’ and allow people to look at a textile, from virtually any historical period or culture, and be able to understand it.

The course will be repeated from 19-23 November 2018.

Read more: TRC Intensive Textile Course, 15-19 October 2018


New film about feedsack exhibition

Monday 5th February: Andrew Thompson has made and posted a film about the TRC feedsack exhibition on YouTube.  Click here to watch the film. It contains an impression of the exhibition itself, with a talk on the background and contents by Linzee McCray, the author of the book Feed Sacks: The Colourful History of a Frugal Fabric, which was published in January 2017.


Support the TRC

The TRC is dependent on the external financing of specific projects as well as private donations. All the work the TRC is doing is carried out by volunteers, but the building, office equipment etc., all have to be paid for.

To support the TRC, we would like to ask for your support. Donations can be transferred to our bank account NL39 INGB 000 298 2359, in the name of the Stichting Textile Research Centre. The TRC is officially registred as an Algemeen Nut Beogende Instelling (ANBI) and in addition as a Culturele Instelling ('Cultural Institution'). Private donations are therefore tax deductible in the Netherlands for up to 125%, and donations by companies for up to 150%.


TRC online exhibitions

Appliqué from the Street of the Tentmakers, Cairo. TRC 2015.0560.

Appliqué from the Street of the Tentmakers, Cairo. TRC 2015.0560.

The TRC is very proud to publish the first nine of a planned series of online exhibitions, which will highlight some of the fascinating textiles and garments in the TRC collection. Please have a look and enjoy.

The nine titles are:





The Textile Research Centre wants to stimulate people to discover the fascinating World of Textiles and Dress. The TRC therefore is gradually expanding its shop and its range of products. You can buy new and secondhand books on textiles and dress, including Dutch regional dress, but also on the history of fashion, and 'how-to-do' subjects. The shop has craft items from all over the world, in particular handmade jewellery. There are woven Syrian sheep bands, knitted objects from Peru, embroidered Turkish lavender bags with oya decoration, gaudily decorated caps from Afghanistan, and many other beautiful and interesting objects. We also sell a wide range of picture postcards of textiles and costume.

The shop also sells collection care items, including acid free paper and boxes for storing your delicate textiles and articles of dress, rolls for more compact storage of long textile items, heads and wigs for display purposes, etc. The TRC sells a range of tools, materials and threads for spinning, crochet, embroidery, hairpin lace production, and silk cocoons for making silk paper.

A new line in this assortment is a wide range of beads for making or restoring Dutch regional dress items, including imitation garnets, blood coral and jet, plus all sorts of metal and glass seed beads for embroidery. You are very welcome to visit the TRC shop at our premises along the Hogewoerd.


Embroidery charts

We recently put some embroidery charts online for some unusual and intriguing needlework patterns from the eastern and northern parts of Europe. Int the next few months, we hope to publish more. Please click here for an Hungarian cushion covertwo cross-stitch patterns for ecclesiastical garmentsan Hungarian/Romanian geometric design, a deer design from Eastern Europe, a simple blouse design from Romania, and a rabbits and birds design originally for a beadwork panel, also from Hungary. You can use them as you wish. Enjoy !


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

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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 !

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
Financial donations to the TRC can be made via Paypal: