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In the March 2017 issue of TextielPlus there was a long article about the TRC, its origins, work and the people who run this amazing place (if I may say so myself….). TextielPlus also helped organise a special day (8th April) at the TRC for its subscribers. This event consisted of two groups, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, of textile lovers, who had the chance of a guided tour of the TRC and its latest exhibition about dress and identity in the Middle East.

Both sets of visitors were very enthusiastic and enjoyed the visit to the storages, workshop, shop, as well as the exhibition. No one within the group had ever been to the TRC before, so it was a welcome opportunity to get to know each other. People had the chance to see some embroideries from the recently acquired Pepin Collection, which have featured in an earlier TRC Blog, namely a First World War flour bag embroidery, and a Gudetenland [sic] embroidery dating to the beginning of the Second World War. Two embroideries with two very different stories behind them.

The forthcoming Banjara Embroidery Crowd Funding was also discussed (starting on the 10th April 2017) and the ‘thank you’s’ were shown, including various examples of hand embroidered panels made by a group of nomadic Banjara women in southern India. These are beautiful pieces and are definitely textile ‘wants’. I suspect several donations will be coming via this talk!

A wide range of questions were posed about the running of the TRC, donations (object wise and financial) as well as its future. A number of people also signed up to become Friends of the TRC and offered help in various manners, which is much appreciated.

It was fun having the TextielPlus visitors, a group who are very familiar with the world of textiles and use this medium for various art forms. It was clear that they also understood and appreciated the TRC and what we do. It is our intention to have more open days at the TRC in the future. The next one will be on the 28th May 2017 and is being organised with the Dutch group Merkwaardig and will be about samples and samplers.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 9th April 2017

Machine embroidered memento of the German annexation of Gudetenland. TRC 2017.0423Machine embroidered memento of the German annexation of Gudetenland. TRC 2017.0423A few months ago we were given a large collection of textiles and garments by Pepin van Rooijen of Pepin Press, Amsterdam. We are slowly going through the many boxes, photographing, cataloguing and numbering the contents. Various pieces and groups are now online, including Lebanese fashion garments, cowgirl outfits and garments (part of the USA collection), as well as many items of hand and machine lace.

The last few days have seen us looking at the embroidery boxes. One box in particular contained many examples of machine embroidery that represent various techniques and machines types. The box also included some surprises, such as a skilfully worked piece of machine embroidery depicting the mythical phoenix bird and the text "Gruss aus Sudetenland!" Sudetenland used to be part of Czechoslovakia and consisted of a German speaking enclave. In 1938 it became part of Germany following Hitler's annexation of Austria, Sudetenland and the Polish Corridor. After the end of the Second World War (1939-1945), Sudetenland was once again made part of Czechoslovakia, its name was changed and most of the German population was forced to emigrate.

The use of a German text and the image of a phoenix (a bird image relating to re-birth and resurgence) suggest that this embroidery dates to the late 1930's or early 1940's and reflects the annexation by Hitler's Germany of parts of what was then Czechoslovakia.

A second embroidery from one of the boxes is also related to war, but this time the First World War (1914-1918). From October 1914, various American and Canadian charities purchased food, including flour, for sending to Belgium. The flour mills started to send their flour in cotton bags to the Netherlands (which was neutral during the war). This vital commodity was then sent onto war stricken Belgium. Many of these bags had printed designs wishing the Belgian people peace or with patriotic symbols and messages. See also the TRC Needle entry on this subject.

Embroidered flower bag, First World War. TRC 2017.0422Embroidered flower bag, First World War. TRC 2017.0422These bags were re-used for a wide variety of functions, including garments, curtains, bedding and so forth. Many were also cut up and the printed sections were embroidered in Belgium and some of them then sent back to Canada and the USA as souvenirs, to raise money and as a way of saying 'thank you' for the flour.

Among the collection we were given by Pepin there is the front section of a flour bag that has been hand embroidered. The embroidered flour bag includes the texts "Campbell and Ottewell Peace Maker Patent Edmonton - Alta Bemis Winnipeg". There is also a large image of a flying dove (symbol of peace) carrying stalks of wheat. All of this indicates that this is a WW1 embroidered flour bag. The bag was produced by the Canadian flour milling company of Cambell and Ottewell of Edmonton, Alberta. The company was founded in 1899 under the name of the Dowling Milling Company by Ezia Dowling (died 1907). Its general manager was A. G. Campbell. In 1906 the company was sold to the partnership of Campbell and a man called Richard Phillip Ottewell (1848-1942). The mill was initially called the City Flour Mills and shortly afterwards re-named Campbell and Ottewell Co.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 5 April 2017

Publishing an on-line digital record of a collection allows the public greater access. That’s why the TRC has its entire collection of over 14,000 textiles, garments, accessories (headgear, footwear, jewellery, walking sticks, etc.), plus textile tools involved in hand spinning and weaving, on-line. While not every item has a detailed description or photograph yet, it does allow the interested public, including researchers and collectors, access to our international collection. This includes fragile items that might be damaged by light or moisture if put on public display.

Twelve Dutch museums for these same reasons joined hands in 2015 to share their collections via the on-line platform www.Modemuze.nl. A small but interesting display of real-time textiles and fashion accessories from this collaboration can be seen in Amsterdam’s Central Public Library (OBA). The handful of dresses chosen for display range from the traditional to the futuristic. The ‘traditional’ includes an evening gown of Queen Juliana (1909-2004), made in 1948 by the Swiss designer Erwin Dolder. It was worn on several occasions by the Queen, including during her first official visit to France in 1950. What intrigued me was that Princess Margaret wore the same gown in 1983, during a visit to Canada.

A more futuristic dress was made in 2015/2016 for the ‘Velero’ collection by designer Jef Montes, in cooperation with the Textielmuseum Tilburg. This was a floor-length, voluminous garment made with a mix of gold metallic thread, carbon and glass fibres. My favourite is a dress designed in 2002 by Dutch textile artist Claudy Jongstra. This is an elegant, strapless floor-length dress, made of felted wool and silk. It was commissioned by a Japanese woman for her wedding dress. It’s an off-white colour, which makes the vivid red phoenix stitched on the back even more striking. The large felted bow on the back is reminiscent of the obi on a traditional kimono. Interspersed between the dresses are displays of purses and hats—and lap tops where the visitor can access thousands of more textiles.

The exhibit is on until May 31. A series of lectures has also been organized: see www.oba.nl for more information. And don’t forget to look at some of the textiles in the TRC’s on-line collection at www.trc-leiden.nl/collection/. Every week new information is added to the database by a team of dedicated colleagues.

Shelley Anderson, 4th April 2017

His Excellency Mor Polycarpus Augin Aydin (Metropolitan of the Syriac Orthodox Church in The Netherlands), talking with one of the young guests.His Excellency Mor Polycarpus Augin Aydin (Metropolitan of the Syriac Orthodox Church in The Netherlands), talking with one of the young guests.Yesterday (1st April 2017) His Excellency Mor Polycarpus Augin Aydin (Metropolitan of the Syriac Orthodox Church in The Netherlands), opened the TRC’s latest exhibition, From Kaftan to Kippa: Dress and Diversity in the Middle East. This crowded, colourful and varied exhibition is one of the most complicated (and full) exhibitions ever attempted by the TRC.

And it works! The exhibition is based on the PhD thesis of Tineke Rooijakkers (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam), who has been a TRC volunteer since she was a first-year archaeology student. It also forms part of a larger scale project (Fitting in / Standing out) of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, which is funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). The aim of the project, and the current exhibition, is to show how people use clothing to express their desire to stand out in a crowd, and in some cases the exact opposite, to blend into a crowd.

The exhibition includes historical pieces, modern Islamic dress, Coptic outfits for the laity and clergy, Druze, Palestinian, Samaritan, Jewish, Syriac Orthodox Christian, as well as Bedouin and Kurdish garments. There are over eighty outfits for men, women and children, as well as accessories and textiles.

The opening of the exhibition was attended by over sixty people, who mingled among the mannequins to create an even bigger crowd. The opening welcome came from Dr. Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, director of the TRC, who was followed by Prof. Bas ter Haar Romeny, who gave details about the history of the main project and how Tineke’s work fitted into the research programme.  Tineke subsequently gave a more personal view of her work on dress and diversity in Egypt and, more specifically, among the Coptic community. Prof Romeny presented His Excellency Mor Polycarpus with the first copy of the booklet accompanying the exhibition. His Excellency spoke some warm words of appreciation and expressed the wish to work with the TRC again in the near future. He thereupon officially opened the exhibition.

The Kurdish part of the exhibition was partially organized by the 'Federatie Koerden in Nederland' and it was only fitting that following the official opening Kurdish snacks and sweets were provided for the guests. The snacks were made by a Kurdish baker here in Leiden and were greatly appreciated by all.

The exhibition is open until the end of June 2017. It is then available to other institutes or museums for loan purposes. Every Wednesday afternoon at 14.00 there will be a guided tour of the exhibition. This will cost €7.50 pp (inc. tea/coffee) and will take about one hour. It is not necessary to book in advance, but if you are coming with a group it would be appreciated if you ring to make sure there are enough spaces free on the tour.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 2nd April 2017

It is not often that you see the entrance to a military museum covered with hundreds of colourful cotton Buddhist prayer flags (see a previous blog, dated 16 August 2014). But that is what first greets the visitor to the latest exhibition of the National Military Museum (in Soest, the Netherlands). The prayer flags are not the only textiles in the exhibition “Genghis Khan: World Conqueror”. There are some 800 objects on view, most of them on loan from the Inner Mongolia Museum in Hohhot, China.

The bulk of the objects relate to Genghis Khan (1162-1227) himself or to the Mongol Empire he created during 21 years of constant war. The objects include iron arrows from the Liao Dynasty (circa 907-1125 CE); quivers of birch bark or leather from the early 13th century; an 800-year old iron helmet; and a silver saddle and stirrups used today in ceremonial sacrifices to Genghis Khan. There are also beautifully preserved garments from China’s Yuan Dynasty (1260-1368 CE), the period when Genghis Khan’s grandson, Kublai Khan, united and ruled over China.

The first Yuan garment is a pair of baggy silk trousers, excavated in 2010. These trousers would be worn by a wealthy Mongol man, under a long sleeved silk robe that would reach above his ankles. The Chinese had been spinning and weaving silk for over 2000 years by this time; in some parts of China bolts of silk had been used as currency. Wearing silk was a public statement of wealth and power that the Mongols eagerly adopted.

Also on display is a government official’s robe made of hemp and cotton, in what looked to me like damask. Kublai Khan had decreed that all official uniforms had to have the right side of the robe folded over the left. This was a reversal of tradition. Interestingly, this man’s robe had a left lapel. A subtle sign of resistance to Mongol authority? Or some lower level bureaucrat who could not afford a newer robe?

Another Yuan robe, also a man’s, is similar in shape but of much better quality. This robe is woven with gold thread (nasij) in a pattern of sphinxes with crowns on their heads. Nasij is a brocade. The word comes from the Persian for ‘gold thread’. This type of weaving was highly prized by the Mongols, who reportedly moved whole villages of weavers from Central and Western Asia to China, in order to teach Chinese weavers how to make this cloth of gold.

In another part of the exhibition there is another Yuan-period garment. This is a Barag Mongol tribe woman’s dress, a silk brocade robe with long sleeves and puffy shoulders. Two modern garments are also on display. One is a modern Sunit man’s robe and trousers, the other a modern Mongol wrestler’s outfit, with a leather harness, baggy trousers and high leather boots.

There are other interesting objects pertaining to dress. One is a shaman’s robe (Qing Dynasty, 1644-1911), a gown covered in long, broad, multi-coloured silk ribbons, some of which end in red tassels. The ribbons are thought to symbolize feathers, indicating that the shaman (who could be female or male) could turn into a bird and fly. Bells, arrows and animal bones are also sewn on the garment, as are differently sized bronze discs, used as mirrors. A mask is also worn with the dress during ceremonies.

One other object deserves mention. This is a gugu crown, worn by upper-class married Mongol women. This one, too, is from the Yuan period. It is a tall, cylindrical object, made from bamboo and covered in silk and jewelry. It’s bifurcated at the top. Given the bamboo frame, such high status objects are fragile and rarely found intact.

“Genghis Khan: World Conqueror” is open now until 27 August 2017.

Shelley Anderson, 26 March 2017

Leila Ingrams, 1940-2015Leila Ingrams, 1940-2015Among the recent acquisitions to the TRC Collection are several unusual and interesting groups of objects. These include a small number of Yemeni garments given by the family of Laila Ingrams, who died recently. She was the daughter of Harold and Doreen Ingrams, the famous British writers and explorers of the Arabian Peninsula. The garments include items for both men and women. One of the more intriguing items is a dress from the island of Socotra, which lies to the south of Yemen. The TRC already has a comparable garment, also from Socotra. We are still very puzzled about exactly how these garments were worn, so if you know and/or have photographs could you please let us know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.?

In complete contrast, Pepin van Roojen of Pepin Press (Amsterdam) has donated a collection of textiles and garments that include Islamic fashion, Chinese clothes, as well as, yes, cowgirl outfits and garments from the USA. The latter are especially welcome as they will help to build up our North American collection. We are going to create various digital exhibitions about these items.

As part of the Pepin donation there was also a large number of old postcards that are going to be scanned and put online for all to enjoy. These include Dutch costumes as well as many from the Middle East. In addition, there are a number of swatch books (from the USA, France and The Netherlands) as well as hundreds (literally) of textile samples dating to the 20th century, which were the property of an art expert in Paris, who worked with various Parisian fashion houses. Many of these samples are printed and represent typical and atypical textiles from the 20th century European/Western fashion market.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 19 March 2017

 

Impression of the Hermitage exhibition, "1917: Romanovs and Revolution"Impression of the Hermitage exhibition, "1917: Romanovs and Revolution"“1917: Romanovs and Revolution” is the newest exhibition at the Hermitage in Amsterdam. It’s a timely exhibition, marking the centenary of the two revolutions that rocked Russia in 1917. The first revolution began on International Women’s Day (March 8) when women textile workers marched in the streets of Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) for an end to food shortages. Within days there was a general strike, and demonstrators were also demanding an end to Russia’s involvement in World War 1. It was this February Revolution which ended the 300-year-long Romanov monarchy.

A visitor learns this and much more from the excellent information texts (in Dutch and English) and the accompanying free audio guide. What is perhaps surprising is the substantial number of textiles on display. This includes a beautiful silk and wool wall hanging; and over a dozen garments worn by Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra (who was a granddaughter of Britain’s Queen Victoria), their five royal children, and other wealthy Russians of the time. Elite fashion was strongly influenced by the Art Nouveau movement, with multiple layers of rich, often semi-transparent fabric in strong colours, decorated with lace, beads and sequins. Hem length aside, many of the evening gowns could be worn on the cat walk today. Wealthy Russians had access to leading French fashion houses, as the green crepe-de-chine and silk atlas summer dress designed by couturier Paul Poiret shows. But the Romanov’s court also wore the creations of Russian designers, such as Anna Gindus’s silk and chiffon evening dress, decorated with glass beads, lace and fur; or the silk dresses on display by Nadezhda Lamanova.

There were several textiles that stood out for me. One was a red, short sleeved evening gown made of gauze, faille and tulle, with a beautiful floral beaded trim and fringe. Many Russians decorated their clothes with traditional peasant motifs during World War I, as a sign of patriotism. The beading reflects this. There is also a white cambric dress from the same period, decorated with Valenciennes lace, elaborate cutwork and English embroidery. Most evocative of all, however, were three day dresses, mostly of pink silk and gauze, worn by three of the Romanov princesses. This was displayed alongside a boy’s velvet military jacket worn by the Tsarevich.

“1917: Romanovs and Revolution” is not a fashion exhibition. But among the glassware, Faberge jewelry, military samovars and cooking pots (also made by Faberge for the war effort, along with hand grenades and artillery shells) are many photographs and prints, which illustrate the clothing worn by both ordinary people and the elite. There is also a collection of 32 porcelain figurines, given to the Tsar as a birthday gift, which show some of Russia’s minority communities (e.g., Mongol, Ainu, Armenians, Kazachs) in traditional dress. There is much to see for anyone interested in dress.

“1917: Romanovs and Revolution” is on until 17 September 2017.

Shelley Anderson, 10 March 2017

The TRC has a new acquisition: two pussy hats (TRC 2017.0186 and 0187). Pussy hats are hand-made, square-shaped caps made from wool or acrylic yarn, usually coloured pink. They can be knitted, crocheted or sewn. After Donald Trump won the US presidential election in November 2016, American knitters attempted to make over one million of such hats, to be given as gifts for marchers to wear at the Women’s March in Washington, DC. Patterns for the simple hat were shared via the Pussyhat Project website (www.pussyhatproject.com) and Facebook; many craft shops hosted groups of knitters making the hats. There were news reports of craft shops in different American cities being sold out of pink yarn. The deadline was 21 January 2017, the day of the Women’s March.

When a pussy hat is worn on the head, two tips appear, similar to a cat’s ears. This is not the origine of the cap’s name, however. The word ‘pussy’ in English is an insulting term for a woman’s genitals. In October 2016, during the presidential election campaign, The Washington Post newspaper released a video and accompanying article on lewd remarks made by Donald Trump about women. Recorded in a television studio parking lot in 2005, Trump told a television host: “I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn't get there, and she was married. …I'm automatically attracted to beautiful [women]—I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything ... Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything."

The remarks outraged many as condoning sexual assault. Trump was forced to apologize publicly for the remarks. #Pussygrabsback became a popular hashtag; an artist put the words across a picture of a snarling cat’s face and created a popular T-shirt. Knitters Krista Suh and Jayna Zweiman of Los Angelos, California (USA) thought of creating a symbol for women’s solidarity and so launched the Pussyhat Project: "It's reappropriating the word 'pussy' in a positive way….Wearing pink together is a powerful statement that we are unapologetically feminine and we unapologetically stand for women’s rights." Their knitting instructor, Kat Coyle, created a pattern that could be easily customized. All three wanted to celebrate the traditionally female work of knitting and crochet: "Knitting circles are sometimes scoffed at as frivolous 'gossiping circles,' when really, these circles are powerful gatherings of women, a safe space to talk, a place where women support women."

By December the group had collected sixty thousand hats, sent to them from all fifty US states—and from Europe and New Zealand. The pussyhat had gone international. So had the Women’s March. Scheduled for 21 January 2017, the day after Trump was inaugurated as US President, the March’s aim was to make a powerful statement for human rights. The organizers hoped two hundred thousand people would show up. Instead, over half a million came. Crowd specialists calculated that the protest march drew three times the number of people Trump’s inauguration had attracted. More than four hundred similar ‘Sister Marches’ took place all over the US, involving an estimated two million people. There were almost 200 further marches in solidarity all over the world, throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, South America. There was a march in Iraq; another one inside a cancer hospital in Los Angeles and yet another on a research ship in Antarctica. Three thousand people gathered in front of the National Museum in Amsterdam for the March and another one thousand in the Hague. Worldwide between three to four million people participated on 21 January. And a good number of them wore pink pussyhats.

The pink woollen hats now in the TRC collection were made by the Rev. Ramona Scarpace on a circle frame. One (TRC 2017.0187) was worn on 21 January 2017 at the Women’s March in St. Paul, Minnesota (USA) by the knitter's partner, the Rev. Georgianna Smith. The official police estimate for the number of participants at this march was ninety thousand people.

23 February 2017. Shelley Anderson

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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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