On Tuesday, 24 March 2020, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:
An aspect of the TRC Collection that has been sadly neglected over the last few years has been the sewing equipment and related items. So the present situation caused by the corona virus whereby the TRC Leiden is shut for a longer period of time has given me the chance to work on some of these pieces (at home I should add).
The various objects are currently being catalogued have divided into three main groups, namely:
Sewing equipment: Needles, needle cases, needle gauges, thimbles, threaders, safety pins, cotton reels, clamps, weights, tape measures, etc. There is a lovely clamp, for example, that has been decoratively carved. There is also a nanny’s brooch (TRC 2020.0945) that can be opened at one end to reveal a needle, a pin and a cotton yarn, all three still in position! Just what a nanny or lady’s maid would need to make a quick repair.
Fastenings: Buttons, button hooks, press studs, hooks and eyes, etc. We have a couple of hundred buttons from the 19th and 20th centuries that need to be added to the collection. Not long ago we added some late medieval to 18th century buttons, so this part of the collection is beginning to acquire both depth and breadth.
Lace equipment: Crochet hooks, tatting shuttles, lace bobbins, etc. In particular attention is being paid to the late 19th century metal, bone and composite crochet hooks. We have started to trace the patents and companies associated with some of these hooks, so that we can date them more acurately.
These are all going into the TRC Reference collection (an integral part of the Collection itself, and included in the online catalogue) with the aim of making the identification of these and similar objects much easier for us and other people, as well as providing details concerning dates, provenances, and functions. These ‘small’ items represent an interesting economic and social history that links large scale (industrial) production with women’s (domestic) history. Let alone the implication for both regional styles of garments and the fashionable world.
We don’t have all the answers to what and where all these pieces come from, or indeed the wide range of cultural and regional variations! Further information about these objects would be most welcome!