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Queen Victoria's wedding dress, RCIN 71975.Queen Victoria's wedding dress, RCIN 71975.A recent TRC blog on a wedding dress (3 May 2020) made me look closer at the fascinating history of wedding clothes. Wedding dresses are seen as very traditional garments, but they can also reflect surprisingly contemporary history and social issues.

Two of the wedding dresses in the TRC collection, one Dutch (TRC 2019.2154), the other American (TRC 2020.2126), reflect both the scarcity of materials and the make-do attitudes of the Second World War.

A burgundy coloured bow tie (TRC 2019.1614) in the TRC’s LGBTQ+ collection, which I wore at my own wedding, reflects a groundbreaking December 2000 law that made the Netherlands the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriages.

Suzan Sukari (right) and her daughter (left), wearing modern charugas.Suzan Sukari (right) and her daughter (left), wearing modern charugas.On Sunday, 31st May 2020, Fatima Abbadi from Capelle aan den IJssel in The Netherlands, who recently has been writing various blogs for the TRC about her teaching of Middle Eastern embroidery to immigrant women and others, wrote about a particular type of embroidery from a Christian community in northern Iraq:

In 2016 I had the privilege to view a rare festive garment, called a charuga, from the city of Qaraqosh in northern Iraq. It dated back to the mid-20th century. It was love at first sight. What attracted me most was the traditional, geometric pattern that is unique to this type of attire, contrary to the Palestinian garments which I am far more familiar with.

The complete festive outfit consisted of several garments, completed by the charuga, a sort of mantle-like, embroidered piece of attire  (in this case red ), which is traditionally knotted at the shoulder. The embroidery and its patterns are unique. I had never seen it before, which makes it more fascinating and mysterious at the same time.

Mannequin with face mask, decorated with Paisley motifs. Photograph by Gillian Vogelsang.Mannequin with face mask, decorated with Paisley motifs. Photograph by Gillian Vogelsang.We have just been putting up (or rather re-putting up) the TRC’s American Quilts exhibition. It really looks good and has some lovely and intriguing quilts. The exhibition opens on the 2nd June and has been extended until the end of August so you have time to come and see it. The TRC’s visitor’s protocol can be found here. We can only welcome a limited number of visitors at any one time. You are therefore kindly asked to tell us in advance if and when you are coming! (please send us an email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). 

We have slightly re-arranged the shop, so that payments by pin (card) can be made from a distance. TRC volunteer Beverley Bennett has also made a series of special face masks for the TRC and these may be borrowed during your visit, should you wish it. The illustration here shows a mannequin wearing one of Beverley's face masks. It is decorated with Paisley motifs, in anticipation of the big TRC exhibition about the Paisley motif (or buteh, in Persian/Indian terms) planned for next year.

Setting up again the American Quilts exhibition at the TRC. Photograph by Gillian Vogelsang.Setting up again the American Quilts exhibition at the TRC. Photograph by Gillian Vogelsang.I am very curious about the range, types and styles of face masks people will be making and wearing over the next few weeks/months! It may not surprise you that we are making a small Corona collection for the TRC, which reflects textile happenings during this strange period. This includes, of course, a variety of commercial and domestically made masks, T-shirts with relevant slogans in various languages, and a de-stressing embroidery entitled ‘Be Well 2020’. We are also trying to get some of the designer (Gucci, etc) face masks…. Other ideas, suggestions and, of course, donations of actual objects, would be most welcome.

Gillian Vogelsang, Friday 29th May, 2020.

On Thursday, 28th May, 2020, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:

As part of the further building up of the TRC’s velvet collection for teaching purposes, used for both the TRC's 5-day intensive course and the 1-day course on identitifying velvets, I recently bought online, from a respectable Dutch firm, six pieces of velvet.

Of the six "velvet" pieces ordered and received, two were not velvets – one was a cotton, twill weave with a raised surface (giving a suede effect), while the other was a printed satin! Admittedly, both materials feel soft and strokeable, but velvet: no.

Piece of satin with a printed design of stylised flowers, sold online by a Dutch firm as velvet (TRC 2020.2506).Piece of satin with a printed design of stylised flowers, sold online by a Dutch firm as velvet (TRC 2020.2506).

I emailed to the shop (Textielstad, Tilburg) on the 12th May about the situation and this morning (28th May). I received a reply (in English) that has left me perplexed to say the least. Apparently the term velvet in the descriptions of the various types of cloth on sale was not a technical description, and here I quote: “The name can be more of a selling point than actually an indicator.”

Embroidered sleeve from a Bethlehem dress, mid-20th century (TRC 2020.2137).Embroidered sleeve from a Bethlehem dress, mid-20th century (TRC 2020.2137).Fatima Abbadi, a teacher in Middle Eastern embroidery from Capelle aan den IJssel, The Netherlands, writes about her experimenting with cord couching, which is characteristic for Bethlehem embroidery. May 2020.

For many years I have been practising the art of cross-stitching because it is the most common technique used both in Palestine and Jordan, these being the countries where my roots lie. During my childhood, cross stitching was taught at school and all the women in my neighbourhood practised it on a daily basis. However, over the years my interest in other forms and techniques grew rapidly, so much so that I decided to dive into the numerous and enchanting embroidery techniques that the Middle Eastern region is endowed with.

Starting from my surrounding area, I decided to begin by studying the cord couching technique first, because I’ve always been fascinated by the magnificence of Bethlehem’s traditional costume.

Around the 19th century, Bethlehem used to be a distinctive fashion hub of Palestine. The “malak” (in Arabic 'royal') bridal dress and its short jacket (taqsireh), both important female bridal pieces, were richly embroidered with silk, gold or silver cord couch embroidery on finely textured silk fabrics, and meticulously filled with satin stitch. As an output, this unique, fashionable and prestigious dress became a very desirable piece that every woman in Palestine wanted to purchase or they wanted at least a small element of their dress embroidered with THE couch stitch technique.

It is not often we are really puzzled at the TRC Leiden about an object (TRC 2020.2764). But something has just come in and we have no idea what it is! It has a complex, metal blade and a wooden handle. It was found in a box with weaving tools, including yarn bobbins and band weaving frames. Does anyone know what it is?

Gillian Vogelsang, Director TRC Leiden, 23 May 2020.

A weaving tool ? (TRC 2020.2764).A weaving tool ? (TRC 2020.2764).


The TRC has just been given a group of textiles that was collected by, and in some cases made by, the Dutch textile craftswoman, Hanne Mook-Andreae. She was a specialist in woven textiles, especially card woven forms (she had lessons from Peter Collingwood). The group includes textile samples from various parts of the world including Asia and the Americas. They will all be added to the TRC Collection database during the next few weeks.

Sample of ikat cloth from India, late 20th century (TRC 2020.2755).Sample of ikat cloth from India, late 20th century (TRC 2020.2755).

One textile (TRC 2020.2755), however, caught my eye, not because of an unusual technique, a particular design or a striking colour combination, but because it looked so familiar, but at the same time was not quite ‘right’.

On Thursday, 21st May, 2020, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:

At a time that the corona crisis is still spreading, more and more people are talking about sustainability, about the re-use of garments, and they are also wondering what will happen if this or that material is no longer widely available.

A wrap-over jacket made from bark bast, Sulawesi, Indonesia, 1940's (TRC 2018.0042).A wrap-over jacket made from bark bast, Sulawesi, Indonesia, 1940's (TRC 2018.0042).

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

The TRC is open again from Tuesday, 2nd June, but by appointment only.

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

TRC Gallery exhibition:
5 Febr. -27 August 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
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