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On Tuesday, 7 April 2020, Susan Cave and Beverley Bennett wrote:

One of the TRC’s oldest and most beautiful quilts (TRC 2019.2402) was made in the years before the American Civil War (1861-1865). Many people have asked us if it was made by slaves. The answer is probably yes, but under the guidance of the Mistress of the house. How do we know this?

A so-called Flowers and Berries quilt from the USA, c. 1850 (TRC 2019.2402).A so-called Flowers and Berries quilt from the USA, c. 1850 (TRC 2019.2402).

There is a large body of supporting evidence, public records, first-hand accounts and the actual object itself. The quilt had to have been made before 1865 (the end of the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery) and the date of ours is c. 1850. Slaves made quilts for their own beds, usually out of scraps, and few have survived the rigours of the years, but there are reports of much quilting on frames going on in the grand homes of the times.

On Sunday 5 April, Gillian Vogelsang writes about a number of historical wooden forms or stretchers (called a mal in Dutch) for socks and stockings, from a Leiden-based firm.

In January 2020 the TRC in Leiden was contacted by Erfgoed Leiden en Omstreken, a government-sponsored organisation dealing with cultural heritage from Leiden and beyond. They offered a set of some wooden stocking forms (or stretchers). At the time, Erfgoed was processing their documentation about a company called P. en J. van Poot en Co., Leidsche Breifabriek, which had been based at Lammermarkt 63 in Leiden (see the photographs). Because the wooden forms did not fit within their own collection, Erfgoed wondered if the TRC would be interested in having them? We said yes, and these items can now be found in the TRC Collection online, under TRC 2020.0138 to TRC 2020.0166.

The former building of "P. en J. van Poot en Co., Leidsche Breifabriek", Lammermarkt 63 (recent photograph). The firm was established here from 1891 until 1942.The former building of "P. en J. van Poot en Co., Leidsche Breifabriek", Lammermarkt 63 (recent photograph). The firm was established here from 1891 until 1942.

One of the reasons we accepted the forms was because they link up with a now finished TRC research programme, namely the Texel Silk Stocking Project. This programme was based on a pair of hand knitted silk stockings dating to the mid-17th century, found some years ago just off the coast of the island of Texel, in the north of the country. In the context of this programme, the project leader, Chrystel Brandenburg, made a number of stocking forms to help with the project. She had found them very helpful in order to shape modern, silk reconstructions of these 17th century garments and we were curious about the continued use of such forms by 19th and 20th century firms. We also had questions about the people making these forms. Was it the knitters themselves or did they buy them in?

Although the new forms do not answer the historical questions, they do shed some light on 20th century practices. Equally interestingly, the items reflect and reveal a part of Leiden’s economic and social history and especially its long-standing textile and garment production history. They also help to illustrate the role of girls, women and men played in producing a wide range of textiles and related goods.

Poot en Co.

The company of P. en J. van Poot en Co., Leidsche Breifabriek, was set up in 1880 by J(oost) and P(ieter) van Poot. It later became known as ‘De N.V. Leidsche Breifabriek'. Initially they produced woollen blankets and some knitted items, but quickly went over to just machine knitted items. In 1891 the company moved to Lammermarkt 63, Leiden, a 17th century building (see photographs) that has seen many uses over the centuries. Based on its high doors it is likely that the building originally served as a warehouse or as a coach house. It is still extant and until recently was used as a warehouse for antiques, etc. 

The premises of Van Poot along the Lammermarkt, Leiden, before it moved to another, nearby address (Langegracht 6) in 1942.The premises of Van Poot along the Lammermarkt, Leiden, before it moved to another, nearby address (Langegracht 6) in 1942.

By the 1890’s the company was producing a range of machine knitted socks, stockings, gloves and caps. 
Most of the machine knitting was carried out by girls and young women of good reputation ("fatsoenlijke, nette meisjes", according to the Leidsch Dagblad of 11 augustus 1891).

By the 1920’s the company employed between 20 and 50 women. They were all unmarried, and it was made very clear that if and when they got married they had to stop working. In 1942 the company moved to new premises at Langegracht 8 (now demolished). The company finally closed its doors in 2002.

Among the many items that form the company’s historical archives that were given to Erfgoed Leiden were twenty-eight wooden forms (or stretchers) for shaping machine knitted stockings and socks. They came in a variety of different sizes and shapes. In general, those for socks had a bulge just above the ankles, while those for stockings were leg shaped.

A wooden stocking form (TRC 2020.0140).A wooden stocking form (TRC 2020.0140).

A wooden sock form (TRC 2020.0145).A wooden sock form (TRC 2020.0145).

These forms were deliberately made in these shapes. A newly made and washed sock or stocking was pulled onto the form, while the garment was still damp, and then quickly dried. The new sock or stocking would then keep the required shape created by the wooden form. At least part of the work with the forms appears to have been carried out by men, as can be seen by a photograph now in the archive of Erfgoed Leiden (see photograph). It shows two men at work with piles of the wooden forms and a hot, bed press (man to the left, pressing socks) and a smaller, block iron (man to the right, pressing stockings).

Two men at work in the factory of Van Poot, Leiden, with piles of the wooden forms for making socks and stockings. Date unknown, but the hair style and glasses would indicate a date after 1945.Two men at work in the factory of Van Poot, Leiden, with piles of the wooden forms for making socks and stockings. Date unknown, but the hair style and glasses would indicate a date after 1945. 

E. Hold & Son, Leicester

A number of the forms now in the TRC Collection have the name E. HOLD & SON and "MAKERS E. HOLT & SON LEICESTER" pressed into them. We have tried to find out more details about this English company, but so far with no success. But it is likely that they were the producers of sock and stocking forms that were exported to a number of different companies in The Netherlands and elsewhere. If anyone has further details about either Poot’s or Hold’s could you please contact us at Dit e-mailadres wordt beveiligd tegen spambots. JavaScript dient ingeschakeld te zijn om het te bekijken. 

On Saturday 4 April, TRC volunteer Susan Cave writes:

The impressions we have of Southern Appalachia are often those of making moonshine and of people shooting their neighbours. Folklore and misconception most of it, but there are definitely ‘mountain people’ in those hills and while the men may have been handy with their shotguns, the women were certainly handy with their needles making ‘mountain quilts’. The TRC Chinese Coin quilt (TRC 2019.2229) has a story that follows a misconception, misrepresentation, folklore, call it what you like….

Chinese Coin quilt from North Carolina, USA, c. 1900 (TRC 2019.2229).Chinese Coin quilt from North Carolina, USA, c. 1900 (TRC 2019.2229).

On Friday, 3 April 2020, TRC volunteer Shelley Anderson writes:

Spools of silk and a winding mill, to prepare a warp for weaving, Maison des Canuts, Lyons. Photograph: S. Anderson.Spools of silk and a winding mill, to prepare a warp for weaving, Maison des Canuts, Lyons. Photograph: S. Anderson.

Many people are having to work from home during the corona virus pandemic. Working from home has a long history in textiles, as I discovered visiting a small museum in Lyons, France (pre-pandemic, I will add). Lyons, in the south of France, was the French centre for silk production for over 400 years. The Maison des Canuts (House of the Canuts) is a small museum in Lyons’s old Croix Rousse area. Canuts were independent silk weavers who worked out of their own homes. They had up to three looms in their home and they supervised journeymen, whom they provided with room and board.

Weaving gold thread passementerie in the Maison des Canuts, Lyons. Photograph: S. Anderson.Weaving gold thread passementerie in the Maison des Canuts, Lyons. Photograph: S. Anderson.

In the early 19th century there were an estimated 8,000 canuts in Lyon alone, supervising some 20,000 other silk weavers. Canuts were the mainstay of Lyons’s silk industry, and their silk made Lyons a true city. By the mid-19th century one out of every two workers in the city was involved in the silk trade. The international demand for French silk was huge; one-third of all of France’s manufactured exports was silk textiles, produced in Lyon.

On Thursday, 2 April 2020, former TRC volunteer Alice Jaspars writes from London:

In times such as these, the importance of tradition is evident. Seeking to align ourselves with histories, both national and personal, is one way in which we can anchor ourselves when the world seems increasingly uncertain.

Yet many of the traditions we consider to be the oldest are in fact recent and even invented. There is no better example of this than the adoption of the Scottish kilt. Worn by school children and members of the armed forces alike, the tartan garb unites classes and nations in kind.

A 78th Highland Regiment kilt (1970’s, Scotland; TRC 2016.0571b).A 78th Highland Regiment kilt (1970’s, Scotland; TRC 2016.0571b).

On Wednesday, 1st April 2020, TRC volunteer Heidi-Elena Stanionyte (Estonia), writes:

Regional costumes can be considered as an the important part of many world cultures. In the Baltic countries, Estonia has a significant range of costumes from different regions, which are also known as parish. A well-known region is Kadrina parish, which is situated in the northern part of the country. A characteristic feature of its regional costume is a blouse with embroidered decoration (called ‘’käised” in Estonian), which covers the front and the collar.

Kadrina embroidered blouses are worn by married and unmarried women, together with a simple sleeveless shirt. The blouses are made of linen, which is a material that was widely used in other parishes around Estonia. Typically, the embroidery is worked with bold colours, especially reds, blues and greens.

The Kadrina blouse collection in the Estonian National Museum houses many examples of these blouses, with rich floral embroidery worked with silk, cotton or woollen thread. The oldest examples date to the late seventeenth century. 

Detail of an embroidered blouse from the Kadrina parish, northern Estonia, early 21st century (TRC 2020.0010).Detail of an embroidered blouse from the Kadrina parish, northern Estonia, early 21st century (TRC 2020.0010).

The history of this form of embroidery goes back to the times when the Baltic Germans ruled Estonia. Local women learned the technics of embroidery from the Germans. They appreciated this form of exotic embroidery. As the time passed, Estonian handicraft embraced the foreign influences and incorporated them into their own traditions. For example, golden sequins were added, and this extra feature is seen on a blouse now housed in the TRC Collection (TRC 2020.0010), and illustrated here.

On Tuesday, 31 March 2020, Gillian Vogelsang writes:

We have just had a question about the first textile that was donated to the TRC Collection. Well, the first group of textiles (66 items) were donated by Willem and me and were given because of a desperate need for actual textiles and garments for students to work with. They were mainly Afghan and Middle Eastern items picked up during our work and travels in various countries. As a result, since its conception in 1997 the TRC Collection has been regarded as a handling and teaching collection.

Woman's blouse from Croatia, early 20st century (TRC 1997.0067).Woman's blouse from Croatia, early 20st century (TRC 1997.0067).

The first donation (TRC 1997.0067) 'from outside' was made by Toos Roosen - van Gils (Leiden). It was also a wonderful example of textile serendipity: Toos had spotted a very dirty textile in the bottom of a box in a flea market in Leiden. She paid 2.5 fl (a rijksdaalder) for it (about one euro). Not a lot of money.

On Saturday, 28 March 2020, Gillian Vogelsang wrote:

Three years ago, the TRC in Leiden was given a collection of books, postcards, garments and textiles by Pepin van Rooijen in Amsterdam. Also included was a large number of woven, printed and embroidered textile samples that used to belong to the French artist and designer, Professor Yves Cuvelier (1913-2005), who was closely involved with the Parisian fashion industry in the decades after the Second World War. Much of the information below was graciously provided by Yves Cuvelier's son, Antoine Cuvelier.

Cloth sample from the 1950's, initially collected by Yves Cuvelier (TRC 2020.1190).Cloth sample from the 1950's, initially collected by Yves Cuvelier (TRC 2020.1190).

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