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Veils and veiling: Two-day workshop, 4-5 November 2016

An Australian life guard wearing a burkini

An Australian life guard wearing a burkini

This intensive two-day workshop will trace the history and wide variety of head, face and body veils used by women (and some men) for the last 4000 years, including details about the pre-Christian and pre-Islamic forms, as well as recent developments in pan-Islamic veiling forms, including the (in)famous burkini, an example of which will be available for discussion. Emphasis will be placed on North African, Ottoman, Middle Eastern, Arabian Peninsula, Iranian and Central Asian forms that date from the medieval period to the present day, together with comparable European types.

The course will be given by Dr Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, director TRC. There will be various PowerPoint presentations and the chance to see and, in some cases, try on actual examples from various cultural and ethnic groups. The course is based on the TRC’s extensive collection of veils and veiling from around the world, which formed the basis of the books, For Modesty’s Sake (Vogelsang-Eastwood 1996) and Covering the Moon (Vogelsang-Eastwood and Vogelsang, 2008). 

Dates: 4 and 5 November 2016, 09.30 - 16.30. Place: Textile Research Centre, Hogewoerd 164, Leiden. Fee: 150 euros per person, inc. coffee/tea and course materials. Please register well in advance: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Language: English.


Two 18th century samplers from The Netherlands, and a 2016 burkini from Australia: Three remarkable acquisitions

Sampler (merklap) from The Netherlands, 18th century. TRC 2016.1984.

Sampler (merklap) from The Netherlands, 18th century. TRC 2016.1984.

Three items, from two very different worlds. This week has seen the addition of three very different items to the TRC collection, namely two eighteenth century samplers from the Netherlands, and a very modern item that reflects cultural, political and religious divides in 2016, namely a burkini.

The first sampler (TRC 2016.1984) came as part of a group of objects from one family, who originally came from Zeeland in the southwest of the Netherlands. It is filled with a wide variety of birds, plants, flowers, figures, and even a Dutch gabled house. This piece is made of linen and embroidered using a pulled cross stitch, so there are deliberate gaps in the ground material between the stitches. This sampler has no date or name associated with it.

The second sampler (TRC 2016.1983), from within the same group as the first, has got everyone excited as it is an early example of a darning sampler worked in silk thread on a linen ground. It has M R V D B OUD 13 JAAR 1781 (MRVDB aged 13 years 1781) embroidered on it using cross stitch. Around the central panel there are twelve areas of beautifully worked darning in various colours and weaves. The outer edge of the sampler is decorated with small flowers worked in cross stitch. This piece is in a remarkable condition. This type of sampler used to teach girls how to become good housewives and in particular how to mend linen items, such as table cloths, napkins, sheets and so forth.

For the burkini, see below.

Read more: Two 18th century samplers from The Netherlands, and a 2016 burkini from Australia: Three remarkable acquisitions


New acquisitions for the TRC library

Since April 2016 life at the TRC has not been quiet or ‘normal’. The arrival of over 1500 items from the Kircher Collection of European regional dress has meant that many things had to be put on one side. Slowly, but surely, we are now getting everything back in order. The boxes are vanishing, the depot is now just about in order after a massive re-organisation, the database has come online, and new acquisitions to the TRC library are being catalogued and every week books are being added to the shelves!

With respect to the library, the TRC would like to thank, albeit somewhat belated and with apologies for the delay, the kind donation of a collection of books from Mrs. Drok, who was a handwork teacher. Following her death her family in Dronten generously gave many of her books to the TRC. They were particularly appreciated as we have just opened an exhibition about European embroidery (thanks to the Kircher donation), and the books were most useful in the identification of various items.

The TRC Library catalogue now has nearly 2500 items online and will include over 3500 within the year. We will then start with taking the visual library (postcards, photographs, drawings, etc.) online. Help with the library is needed and if you have experience in helping to run a library (books and visual items), if you live in the Leiden area and are looking for voluntary work, please do not hesitate to get in contact with us.


Vice-President of Iran visits the TRC

On Thursday afternoon (8th September 2016), the TRC was host to a high-ranking delegation from Iran. Our visitors included H.E. Mr. Masoud Soltanifar, Vice-President of the Islamic Republic of Iran and President of the Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization; the wife of Mr. Soltanifar; Dr. Bahman Motlagh (Mr Soltanifar's deputy at the ICHHTO), the wife of the Iranian Ambassador to the Netherlands, and various members of staff from the Iranian Embassy. His Excellency very kindly gave the TRC a beautiful example of brocaded Yazd cloth. A gift we greatly appreciate. For a photograph of the gift, and more information, please click here.


TRC Intensive Textile Courses

TRC Intensive Textile Course, September 2015

TRC Intensive Textile Course, September 2015

Please register now !

The next intensive textile course will take place from 13-17 March next year, and will be repeated from 10-14 April 2017 and 16-20 October 2017. 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), 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


TRC exhibition: From Sweden to Sardinia: Embroidered garments from all over Europe

Ukrainian-style embroidery from Hungary. TRC collection.

Ukrainian-style embroidery from Hungary. TRC collection.

For centuries, people all over Europe have been decorating their clothing with sometimes highly intricate forms of ornamental needlework. The TRC is therefore very pleased with the recent acquisition of about sixty Hungarian embroidered garments and over 1400 items of European regional dress, many of which are also embroidered. The TRC now has one of the largest collections of traditional European clothing in Europe. Over the next few years we will highlight various aspects of this stunning array of European material culture, in both actual and digital exhibitions.

To celebrate the recent acquisitons, and to draw attention to regional European decorative needlework, the current TRC Gallery exhibition shows needlework from many parts of Europe. The exhibition includes a wide variety of colourful, subtle, marvellous outfits and individual garments, as well as many women's lace and embroidered caps. They derive from all over Europe, as for instance from Czechia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Sweden, and of course, from The Netherlands, to name just a few countries. Emphasis is laid on the many different forms and techniques of decoration that have been used, and often are still being used by people from all over Europe in order to indicate their region's particular character.

See also the blog (2 September 2016) on rabbits and birds.

The exhibition is open to the public from 30 August 2016 and 23 February 2017, Monday-Thursday from 10.00 - 16.00. Entrance is free.

For a photo impression,  see below.

Read more: TRC exhibition: From Sweden to Sardinia: Embroidered garments from all over Europe


Encyclopaedia of Embroidery from Central Asia, the Iranian Plateau and South Asia

The TRC is embarking on a new large-scale and very exciting project. Following the publication in February this year of the 688-page Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, a new contract has just been signed with Bloomsbury Academic in London to publish an equally beautifully illustrated and highly informative successor volume, namely an encyclopaedia of embroidery from Central Asia, the Iranian Plateau (Iran and Afghanistan) and South Asia. The volume will be edited by Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, director of the TRC, and Willem Vogelsang, dept. director of the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), Leiden. Use will be made of the extensive TRC collection of textiles and garments from that part of the world. 

Counted thread embroidery from among the Hazaras, Afghanistan. TRC 2008.0236.

Counted thread embroidery from among the Hazaras, Afghanistan. TRC 2008.0236.

Central Asia, the Iranian Plateau and the Indian subcontinent have throughout history been in close contact. For millennia, people from Central Asia have migrated from the north towards what is now known as Iran and Afghanistan, and hence they often moved either west, towards modern Turkey, or east towards the Indian subcontinent. Others, be they nomads, pilgrims, tradesmen or soldiers, moved directly from east to west and from west to east. This is the story of the Indo-Iranians, the Scythians, the Turks, the Uzbeks, Sufi saints and itinerant craftsmen. In addition, all of this part of the world has in recent centuries felt the pressures from further away, from Russia, Europe, China.

Read more: Encyclopaedia of Embroidery from Central Asia, the Iranian Plateau and South Asia


Facebook: now 2800 'friends'

Since mid-2014, the TRC is building up a thriving and colourful Facebook community. On 21 September 2016 we reached the amazing number of 2800 'friends'. In this way, this medium has become an even more important tool for disseminating information about the TRC, and about textiles in general. Read brief and up-to-date items about the TRC and other textile and dress related subjects. And all with beautiful photographs! Subscribe with 'like', and automatically receive all the new information. Click on the logo !


Reviews of some of the new acquisitions for the TRC library, October 2016

For the latest list of book reviews of selected new acquisitions for the TRC library, please click here

  • ALVAREZ, Nilda Callañaupa (2007). Weaving in the Peruvian Highlands: Dreaming Patterns, Weaving Memories
  • FRYE, Susan (2010). Pens and Needles: Women’s Textualities in Early Modern England
  • GRÖMER, Karina (2016). The Art of Prehistoric Textile Making: The Development of Craft Traditions and Clothing in Central Europe
  • KARL, Barbara (2016). Embroidered Histories: Indian Textiles for the Portuguese Market during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
  • KAY-WILLIAMS, Susan (2013). The Story of Colour in Textiles: Imperial Purple to Denim Blue
  • LINSKENS, Harry (2014). Met Pelerine en Toer: Klederdracht in Noord- en Midden-Limburg
  • MORRIS JR, Walter F. and Caro KARASIK (2015). Maya Threads: A Woven History of Chiapas
  • STYLES, John (2010). Threads of Feeling: The London Foundling Hospital’s Textile Tokens, 1740-1770
  • ZHAO, Feng (1999). Treasures in Silk: An Illustrated History of Chinese Textiles
  • ZHAO, Feng (2004). Liao Textiles and Costumes

How to financially support the TRC

The TRC is growing rapidly, both in size and in the quality of the collection, the library, the exhibitions, the number of workshops, and much more. All of this means that more financial support is highly desirable. And please bear in mind that all TRC activities are carried out by volunteers! Please transfer your donation to account NL39 INGB 000 298 2359, in the name of the Textile Research Centre, Leiden. Note that the TRC is a Cultural ANBI, which means considerable advantages with respect to your tax returns.

For further details, and various options, we have prepared a simple list with details:

Read more: How to financially support the TRC


The diversity of the TRC collection

Indian batik for a sari

Indian batik for a sari

The TRC collection of textiles, clothing and accessories from around the world was started in 1997 with 43 pieces from Afghanistan, Egypt and Syria. Since then it has grown to over thirteen thousand items (October 2016), which come from very diverse backgrounds with respect to time and place. Some of the items in the collection have been purchased, but the vast majority has been very kindly donated by various institutions and private donors. The collection has no boundaries with respect to geography and time. The collection ranges from Afghan embroidery, German Lederhosen, Indonesian batiks, to delicate silks from Renaissance Italy and spinning and weaving equipment from the Andes. The collection is being built up around four major themes: Pre-Industrial textile technology, including a wide range of spinning and weaving equipment and textiles from around the world; Decorative needlework, with an emphasis on hand embroidery from around the world; Dutch regional dress; North African and Middle Eastern textiles and dress. See also: The TRC Textile and Dress Collection

All of the pieces in the TRC collection have been catalogued, and are currently being incorporated into the new TRC Digital Collection Database. In the spring of 2016 the first group of items has come on-line and after that the digital database will be regularly up-dated with information about the latest acquisitions and information in general. To give an idea of the range and depth of the collection, below we present a broad outline of some of the most important and intriguing elements of the collection. 

Read more: The diversity of the TRC collection



The Textile Research Centre wants to stimulate people to discover the World of Dress at home. 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 can find all these items in the TRC shop for very reasonable prices. You are very welcome to visit the TRC shop at our premises along the Hogewoerd, but you can also visit the shop at home, via our website. It is very easy to order books or other objects digitally.  Click at "Shop". We hope you will enjoy it.

To see the range of articles that are for sale in the TRC shop, and/or place your order digitally, go the the SHOP heading at the top of this page.


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

Current exhibition: From Sweden to Sardinia: Embroidered garments from all over Europe

Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome !


Financial gifts

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 can also be made via Paypal: