Seventeenth century silk stockings: A TRC reconstruction project

Who would like to help us? In January 2018 the Textile Research Centre (TRC) Leiden will be starting a new and special project about the 17th century silk stockings from Texel. The project is supported by the Prins Bernard Cultuurfonds.

The textile finds from the shipwreck near Texel

The most spectacular textile finds of recent years in The Netherlands were discovered in 2014 in a shipwreck. The ship sank c.1640 near the island of Texel. Many will remember the colourful silk dress that was on display for several months at the local museum Kaap Skil. Information about the finds from this wreck quickly went around the world and were discussed in detail in the international press.

Foot of 17th century silk stocking from Texel.

Foot of 17th century silk stocking from Texel.

 A reconstruction project

The TRC Leiden’s project is focussing on the silk stockings that were found in the wreck. They were in a very good condition when they were brought up from the water and after initial conservation treatment and the making of suitable storage they are now available to a select group for further study. There are no visible wear traces and they are very finely knitted. Some people find these stockings even more appealing and intriguing than the dress!

In the following months the TRC Leiden will investigate how these stockings were made and how they were used. Were they made to fit a man or woman’s leg? Were they custom-made or one size fits all? How were the stockings actually worn? These are only a few of the many questions we have. And to help answer these questions we are going to make a series of reconstructions so that we can actually try them on! And for that to happen we need to make not one set of stockings, but several.

Naturally we cannot do this alone. And we don’t have to, for we hope many people will want to join this project. With the help of experienced knitters, we will make several pairs of stockings. Participants will benefit from this exciting project and so will we. During the process we will all learn about the now lost art of knitting silk stockings out of very fine silk threads and using exceptionally thin knitting needles. We will accomplish this project and knitting during a series of workshops held at the TRC Leiden. Then, when everyone feels confident participants will be able to do the knitting at home, with specially chosen needles and silk yarn that will be provided by the TRC Leiden.

Two 17th century silk stockings, found along the coast of Texel, the Netherlands.

Two 17th century silk stockings, found along the coast of Texel, the Netherlands.

Workshop Programme

Sunday, 18th February 2018: Workshop 1. Chrystel Bandenburgh and Lies van de Wege give an introduction to the project and a demonstration of various knitting swatches that have already been made. Workshop participants will practice knitting silk using very thin needles (1mm in diameter). The swatches you will make during this workshop and over the next few weeks at home will be analysed and compared with the knitted fabric of the original stockings. This will allow us to determine the right needles and gauge for each participant.

Saturday, 10th March - Sunday 11th March 2018: Workshop 2. This will be a two-day workshop. We will work in small groups on the art of forming the stocking. We will practice the heel, the toes of the stockings as well as the decorative patterns worked into the stockings. During this weekend workshop there will also be lectures on the history of knitting and research carried out in other countries. After this weekend workshop you will be ready to continue at home with the aim of making one or more stockings.

Monthly updates

Every month we will have a meeting at the TRC Leiden for the participants where they can share results and discuss challenges.

Joining the project?

Would you like to participate in this project? Are you an experienced knitter and have knitting stamina and curiosity? It is useful when you are an experienced stocking knitter. However, for the first workshop this experience is not required. Participants do not have to pay for materials and equipment. The workshops will take place at the TRC Leiden, Hogewoerd 164, 2311 HW Leiden. If you want to join in please let us know by sending an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  and tell us about your knitting skills.



Financial donations to the TRC can be made via Paypal; Donaties aan de TRC kunnen worden overgemaakt via Paypal:

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

Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome !

Current exhibition: For a few sacks more ...., until 28th June

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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 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 to the TRC can be made via Paypal: