Texel Silk Stockings Project and workshops at the TRC

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Workshop on the reconstruction of 17th century hand knitted silk stockings, TRC, February 2018.

Workshop on the reconstruction of 17th century hand knitted silk stockings, TRC, February 2018.

As part of the Texel Silk Stockings Project, and following an initial workshop on the island of Texel some weeks ago, the TRC Leiden recently hosted three further workshops, namely on Sunday 18th February (twice) and Friday 23rd February. Each of the three workshops was attended by some 25 volunteers. The Project has the aim of reconstructing the silk stockings that were discovered at a shipwreck that dates to the 1640’s. The ship was found off the coast of the Dutch island of Texel a few years ago.

The TRC is involved in writing a detailed publication about the stockings, how they were made, who made them and indeed who might have worn them. The Project is led by Leiden city archaeologist Chrystel Brandenburgh and helped by TRC volunteer, Lies van de Wege, and a large group of dedicated knitters who come from all over the world – literally. The vast majority of knitters come from the Netherlands and Belgium, but there are people involved in the Project from Hungary, Portugal, Germany, England, as well as America and Canada.

At the February workshops, Chrystel Brandenburgh gave the participants a PowerPoint presentation about the archaeological background of the shipwreck, how she had analysed the silk stockings and her (current) conclusions. Each of the knitters of the Leiden workshops was then given a package with very fine steel knitting needles, different types of silks to try out and a questionnaire to fill in about how it was to knit the samples.

Workshop on the reconstruction of 17th century hand knitted silk stockings, TRC, February 2018.

Workshop on the reconstruction of 17th century hand knitted silk stockings, TRC, February 2018.

The volunteers were asked to knit a sample of 5x5 cm on needles of 0.7 mm and 1.0 mm with different kinds of silk thread. The questionnaires are important in the long term, as they form part of the public science experimentation aspect of the Project. But basically people were there to face the challenge of knitting on fine needles with silk and it was clear that everyone was eager to start knitting! Some volunteers were so enthusiastic (or brave) they immediately wanted to knit the sample in the round with four knitting needles!

All in all, everyone had a wonderful day knitting with fellow knitters while enjoying a cup of (much needed) tea or coffee. The next meeting of the Texel Silk Stockings Project will take place at Castricum (Museum Huis van Hilde, 10th and 11th March) and consist of a two-day event, in which there will be lectures, demonstrations of various techniques, problem sorting sessions and, of course, time to knit!

The Texel Silk Stockings Project is funded by the TRC Leiden, The Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, as well as a crowdfunding action via Voordekunst. In addition, the knitting company of Recht en Averecht, Arnhem and the silk thread company of Bart & Francis (Kortrijk, Belgium) have very generously provided sponsorship in the form of equipment and materials.

Deandra de Looff and Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, Saturday 24th February 2018

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