More on the 'Frisian A'.

St. Mark - Lindisfarne Gospels 710-721 f.93v - BL Cotton MS Nero D IV

St. Mark - Lindisfarne Gospels 710-721 f.93v - BL Cotton MS Nero D IV

Further to the TRC’s blog about the so-called Frisian letter A, we have just received an email from Naomi Tarrant in Scotland, with her comments about it.

In particular, she noted that:

“This A is found on Scottish samplers and has been linked to Frisia because there was a thriving trade between the Netherlands and Scotland. However, when I was researching Scottish samplers for my book I did a little more digging and found that this type of A with the centre bar dipped in the middle and/ or top bar can also be seen in Anglo-Saxon MSS such as the Lindesfarne Gospels, so goes way back as they say. See here.

To see a wide range of Scottish samplers, nearly all of which have this A, have a look here, which is the site of a private collector, who has a wonderful collection of Scottish samplers."




Danish (?) sampler dated 1684. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (57.122.526).

Danish (?) sampler dated 1684. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (57.122.526).

Further to Naomi's comments, while looking for information about Danish embroidery, I found a ‘Frisian A' on a picture sampler that depicts the construction of a building (perhaps 'raising a barn'), and more specifically it would appear the two men are adding one of the doors.

The letters SK and HF and ANNO 1684 are embroidered along the lower edge of the embroidery. It is worth noting that the letter S and the number 4 appear to be backwards, and that the A of Anno is the so-called 'Frisian A.' The sampler is believed to be Danish and is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (57.122.526). Basically it would appear that the ‘Frisian’ A has a much longer history and is more widely used than initially suspected.

Gillian Vogelsang, Sunday, 19th January 2020.


A few more weeks to go

Three TRC volunteers enjoying setting up the exhibition.

Three TRC volunteers enjoying setting up the exhibition.

On Thursday, 9 January 2020, the director of the TRC, Gillian Vogelsang, writes:

We have been working very hard for the last few days on getting the new TRC exhibition about American Quilts in order. There are two themes, namely (a) techniques, materials and blocks (patterns) used for making quilts and (b) changes over the last two hundred years.

The oldest full quilt on display dates from the 1830’s, but there are also quilts and tops made from early 19th century textiles.

As you come into the exhibition there is the section on materials, including a range of battings (waddings), which is an important but often neglected area of quilt making, but there are also quilting tools, and a wide variety of blocks.

In the centre are two A-frames with numerous quilts and quilt tops dating from the 1880’s to the present day.

Special quilts on display include an example made by Inza McVay in about 1916. She was a member of the (First Nation) Lakota people in South Dakota. There are also several autograph quilt tops (one dating to 1934), as well as quilts stitched with simple and complicated designs.

There are five appliqué quilts from the 1930s-1950s. Plus so much more!

Read more: A few more weeks to go


American Quilts. A new and spectacular TRC exhibition, from 6 February until 25 June 2020.

American quilt from the 1840s  (TRC 2018.3119), to be displayed at the exhibition The American Quilt, at the TRC. 5 Febr. - 28 May 2020.

American quilt from the 1840s (TRC 2018.3119), to be displayed at the exhibition The American Quilt, at the TRC. 5 Febr. - 28 May 2020.

A quintessential feature of many American homes is a bed covering, more generally known as a quilt. It has featured in many films, books and stories about rural and urban life in the USA. As part of the Mayflower 400 Year, commemorating the arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers in America in 1620, having lived in Leiden for some ten years previously, the TRC Leiden is presenting an exhibition that explores the history, meaning and making of these colourful objects over the last 200 years.

The exhibition includes examples from before the American Civil War (1861-1865), the late Victorian era, the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the Revival of the quilt craft in the 1970s.

There is a Crazy Quilt from Minnesota made in 1890s (TRC 2019.2925), and another quilt from the late nineteenth century that contains an even older example. There is also a Native American Indian quilt (early twentieth century; TRC 2019.2041), an African-American example (1930s) and a glorious appliqué quilt from a grand house in the USA (1860s; TRC 2019.2402).

The exhibition looks at various questions, ranging from what is a quilt, how are they made, the range of blocks, and other techniques (both hand and machine forms) that are used to create the wide range of varied and often colourful designs.

And with the aid of some selected quilts, the exhibition also reflects on economic, religious, political and social changes in the USA, as well as on the role of women in the home and workplace and even on the question ‘What is Art’. 

Read more: American Quilts. A new and spectacular TRC exhibition, from 6 February until 25 June 2020.


Kyrgyz kalpaks

White kalpak from Kyrgyzstan, early 21st century, from the TRC collection (TRC 2013.0391).

White kalpak from Kyrgyzstan, early 21st century, from the TRC collection (TRC 2013.0391).

The Kyrgyz kalpak cap has recently been added to UNESCO’s list of Cultural Heritage! The TRC collection includes several kalpaks (TRC 2013.0390 and TRC 2013.0391). But what is a kalpak

It is a large cap made of felt with a black lining and rim. This type of cap has a long history in Central Asia and beyond. It was also worn in southern Russia and in the Volga region. It is known in Russian as the 'klobuk'. Wearing a kalpak often indicated the high social status of the wearer.

Nowadays the kalpak is still worn by Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and Karakalpaks, ethnically related groups, all of whom are speaking a Turkic language and are living in Central Asia.

A white coloured kalpak (ak kalpak) is particularly distinctive for the Kyrgyz, who live in the mountainous lands of South Central Asia, along the western borders of China.

Read more: Kyrgyz kalpaks


New acquisitions for the TRC Collection

1970s chiffon dress from the House of Dan Lee Couture (TRC 2019.2803a).

1970s chiffon dress from the House of Dan Lee Couture (TRC 2019.2803a).

On Friday, 13th December 2019, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:

Just before going to Lisbon for a few days, several very different donations arrived at the TRC.

From the Wijnsma Family there was a selection of garments that date from the late 19th century until the 1970’s. Three items in particular stand out, namely a jacket (TRC 2019.2801) made from black moire silk and decorated with black glass beads (late 19th century), an American dress (TRC 2019.2804) from the 1920’s that is made of brown velvet and decorated in the ‘Cherokee’ manner with beads and tassels (an interpretation rather than a copy, and one that was fashionable in the 1920’s) and finally a dress and cape (TRC 2019.2803 and TRC 2019.2903b) designed by the American fashion designer, Dan Lee, that was hand painted by Hyacinth, a well-known artist working in America from the 1970’s, and who included royalty and film stars among her clients.

In addition, from Sherry Cook there was a donation of quilt batting (wadding, padding), a totally unglamorous, but essential addition to the TRC’s Collection of quilts and quilting. Some of these unsung quilt materials will also go on display in the TRC’s exhibition about American quilts that will open on the 5th February 2020.

And last and by no means least, there were also another set of Mexican and Guatemalan woven and embroidered garments from Charles Knobler (see also an earlier donation). These included some amazing items for mern, women and children. These items will form a special exhibition at the TRC in 2021.


Looking for embroideries in Lisbon, Portugal.

17th century embroidery hanging in the Lisbon Cathedral.

17th century embroidery hanging in the Lisbon Cathedral.

On Thursday, 12 December, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:

As part of my research for vol. 3 of the Encyclopedia of Hand Embroidery (Bloomsbury, London), I joined Willem in a visit to Lisbon. Willem has some meetings to conduct for the International Institute for Asian Studies and the European Alliance for Asian Studies, and I have the opportunity to explore the city and visit some museums, churches and other relevant places.

Read more: Looking for embroideries in Lisbon, Portugal.


TRC Intensive Textile Courses in 2020: 16-20 March, 20-24 April, 21-25 September, and 16-20 November.

Photograph taken at the TRC Intensive Textile Course in April 2017.

Photograph taken at the TRC Intensive Textile Course in April 2017.

In 2020, the TRC is again be running its successful five-day intensive courses on textiles. The first upcoming course is from 16-20 March, followed by a course from 20-24 April, from 21-25 September, and from 16-20 November 2020).

The courses are being taught in English by Dr Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, textile and dress historian and director of the TRC. The courses are a mixture of theoretical and practical elements, with an emphasis on trying out the various techniques of textile production (spinning, dyeing, weaving), 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. 


Read more: TRC Intensive Textile Courses in 2020: 16-20 March, 20-24 April, 21-25 September, and 16-20 November.


From Buteh to Paisley: A new TRC exhibition in the making

Paisley motif used on an American feedsack, 1940s (TRC 2019.1245).

Paisley motif used on an American feedsack, 1940s (TRC 2019.1245).

On Sunday, 13th October, Erica Riccobon, a new TRC volunteer and MA student at Leiden University, wrote:

The TRC is currently preparing a new exhibition planned to open in the second half of 2020. Its provisional title is 'From Buteh to Paisley: The History of a Global Motif.'

The exhibition highlights the worldwide diffusion and popularity of the Paisley motif, through an analysis of its travel from East to West and its reinterpretation within 20th century European fashion. The Paisley motif first appeared in Iran under the name of buteh. Further developed for the design of the famous Kashmiri shawls, it was exported into Europe, through the (British) East India Company, from the 17th century onwards. In Europe it was copied and used in local industry, and hence again distributed across Europe. The motif, though quintessentially Eastern in origin, owes its Western name to the Scottish town of Paisley, a major weaving site during the Industrial Revolution, not far from Glasgow.

Read more: From Buteh to Paisley: A new TRC exhibition in the making


Quilts and quilting week at the TRC, 11-16 May 2020

American quilt, c. 1840s (TRC 2018.3119).

American quilt, c. 1840s (TRC 2018.3119).

During the Textile Festival in Leiden, from 13-16 May 2020, the TRC will be presenting a quilts and quilting week! Everyday, in the morning, afternoon and evening, there will be workshops and lectures about the history, techniques, types, uses and different designs associated with this ancient technique.

The programme for the lectures and workshops is still being organised, but enough is known to say that Linzee McCree will be coming from the US, while the Holland-based group of lecturers and instructors includes Susan Cage and Beverly Bennett, Joke van Soest and Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood (TRC Director), all of whom will be contributing to the week’s events.

At the same time there will be the opportunity to see the TRC’s exhibition on the theme of 200 years of American quilts. On display will be c. thirty quilts and quilt tops, as well as a wide range of blocks, patterns and materials, all presented as a source of inspiration!

Saturday afternoon will also see a party at the TRC to round off all these exciting (and inspirational) activities.

As soon as the programme becomes available we will have it online so that people can register for the various activities.


NewTextileBooks, September 2019

It has been suggested that the writing and publishing of printed books will stop as a result of the internet, the use of ebooks and so forth. But we see little signs of this! The reverse, in fact. More and more books about textiles, dress and accessories are being published. It is the diversity of subjects that is particularly increasing. This diversity of subjects is highlighted in the following book recommendation for September 2019. These include books recently published and/or recently added to the TRC library.


TRC online exhibitions

Craftsmen at work in the Street of the Tentmakers, Cairo, Egypt.

Craftsmen at work in the Street of the Tentmakers, Cairo, Egypt.

The TRC is very proud to publish the first thirteen of a planned series of online exhibitions, which will highlight some of the fascinating textiles and garments in the TRC collection. The latest, Out of Asia, has just been added. The online displays are all based on the TRC Collection and past TRC exhibitions, which can be lend out to other suitable venues. If you are interested, please This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it us.

Please have a look and enjoy.

The twelve titles are:





For many of us, the code 501(c)(3) means nothing, but in the US it is very important, it means that financial and object donations to a registered charity can be tax deductable for American tax payers.

From May 2019, the Textile Research Centre, Leiden (TRC Leiden) and the Tracing Patterns Foundation, Berkeley (TPF) will be working together to raise funds for textile studies and textile craftspeople worldwide.

The Tracing Patterns Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural organisation based in California and headed by textile scholar and curator Dr. Sandra Sardjono. All financial and object donations made through the TPF are tax deductible for US tax payers.

Read more: 501(c)(3)



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 !


Search in the TRC website

TRC in a nutshell

Hogewoerd 164, 2311 HW Leiden. Tel. +31 (0)71 5134144 / +31 (0)6 28830428

Open on Mondays - Thursdays from 10.00 - 16.00; closed from 23 Dec. 2019 - 5 Jan. 2020.

Bank account number: NL39 INGB 0002 9823 59, Stichting Textile Research Centre

Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome !

TRC Gallery exhibition: 5 Febr. -25 June 2020: American Quilts

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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.
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 also be made via Paypal: 

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