TRC Blog: Textile Moments

Indonesian batik

TRC volunteer Shelley Anderson’s Textile Moment took place during a recent batik workshop in Yogyakarta, Indonesia: “Batik is everywhere in this city, which has been called the cultural heart of Indonesia. While the shirts and dresses used for daily wear are factory produced, the patterns are based on traditional batik designs. A popular downtown department store offers batik demonstrations and sells supplies; young fashion designers here and in the capital Jakarta incorporate batik into their work.

Batik comes from two Javanese words which translate as ‘to write dots’. This wax resist dye technique was used in ancient Egypt, in China and India, and in Africa. A pattern is first drawn on the fabric. The same pattern is then redrawn with hot wax, applied either with a canting (a small piece of wood with a metal container with a spout attached) or a metal block stamp called a cap. The fabric is then dyed until the desired colour or colours are reached. The wax is removed, either by brushing or by boiling the cloth.

While batik may not have originated in Indonesia, it certainly developed into a highly respected art in Java. A pattern is first drawn on the fabric. The same pattern is then redrawn with hot wax, applied either with a canting (a small piece of wood with a metal container with a spout attached) or a metal block stamp called a cap. There were special batiks used in ceremonies for mothers-to-be, for new born babies, for a ritual when a baby took its first steps, and for the dead. The patterns and colours used in a batik showed one’s ethnicity and status. Certain batik patterns were reserved exclusively for royalty—and royal batiks were among the goods thrown into volcanoes during ceremonies to prevent eruptions. In 2009 UNESCO declared Indonesian batik a part of humanity’s intangible heritage. This textile has quite a history!”

8 August 2015


  1. Wife of the Sultan of Yogyakarta giving a speech dressed in batik.
  2. Examples of royal batik from the Kraton (Palace) in Yogyakarta.
  3. Batik demonstration at local department store.
  4. Batik supplies for sale in department store
Wife of the Sultan of Yogyakarta giving a speech, dressed in batik.

Wife of the Sultan of Yogyakarta giving a speech, dressed in batik.

Examples of royal batik from the kraton (palace) in Yogyakarta

Examples of royal batik from the kraton (palace) in Yogyakarta

Batik demonstration at local department store

Batik demonstration at local department store

Batik supplies for sale in department store

Batik supplies for sale in department store



Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse, La femme au luth (1949-1950)

Henri Matisse, La femme au luth (1949-1950)

TRC volunteer Shelley Anderson had a textile moment recently at an exhibition on the work of painter Henri Matisse: “The French painter Henri Matisse (1869-1954) was an avid textile collector, perhaps as a result of being born in the textile town of La Cateau-Cambrésis. He often painted textiles in his works in great detail, like the beautiful table cloths in The Red Room (1908) or Still Life with Blue Tablecloth (1909). He also collected fabrics which he would have made into costumes for his models to pose in, such as a silk and cotton skirt modeled by Lydia Delectorskaya in the painting Femme en bleu (1937). He also made many sketches of a Romanian blouse whose embroidery fascinated him. The exhibition of Matisse’s work at the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) also displayed a costume made from felt that he designed for the ballet Le chant du rossignolc (1920) and several tapestries based on his paintings (La Femme au Luth, 1949-1950, by Gorbelins, Paris). As part of his design for his famous Chapel of the Rosary in Vence, France, he designed not only the stain glass windows and wall paintings, but also the chasubles for the priest. It was a delight to learn how this versatile genius also loved textiles.”

8 August 2015


Brugge, Belgium

Last week a few days in Brugge, Belgium, have left several textile moments. The first was the visit to the Kantcentrum ('Lace Centre', Balstraat 16, 8000 Brugge, Belgium), which is located in a former lace school that was run by the Apostoline Sisters. The exhibitons are not large, but there is an interesting film about lace with Frieda Sorber, as well as some examples of older forms of bobbin and needlepoint lace. The shop is worth a visit for practising lace makers.

The Kantcentrum, 'Lace Centre', Brugge, Belgium

The Kantcentrum, 'Lace Centre', Brugge, Belgium

Opposite the Kantcentrum is the 't Apostelientje, a small shop run by Anne Thijs who is very knowledgeable about the history and types of bobbin laces, especially the Flemish and French forms. She very kindly agreed to help the TRC in bulding up a lace reference collection over the next few years.

Around the corner from the Kantcentrum is the Jeruzalemkerk, a private chapel that includes five embroideries on dispay, a 19th century banner with metal thread embroidery; three 18th century panels depicting the Virgin with Child, St. Catherine and the last one with St. Michael. All of which are worked in silk on a linen ground. The last embroidery is on the frontal of the high altar. The frontal is embellished with three applied, embroidered bands, each with two figures, taken from a medieval orphrey. The figures include male and female saints, as well as the Virgin and a figure of Christ.

Also in Bruges, Willem and I visited the Groeningemuseum, which has a collection of early Flemish paintings. A number of the paintings on display provide details about contempory ecclesiastical and domestic embroideries. Two paintings are of particular note with respect to embroidery, one by Jan van Eyck (1390-1441) "The Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele" (1432) and other by Ambrosius Benson (1495-1550), "St. Mary Maglelaine" (c. 1525-1549).

Gillian Vogelsang, 26 July 2015


Textiel Biënnale in Museum Rijswijk, The Netherlands

'Het zwevende interieur' ('The floating interior'), art installation, Textiel Biënnale, Museum Rijswijk, The Netherlands

'Het zwevende interieur' ('The floating interior'), art installation, Textiel Biënnale, Museum Rijswijk, The Netherlands

De Rijswijk Textiel Biënnale is een internationale tentoonstelling van hedendaagse beeldende kunst van textiel, die om de twee jaar in Museum Rijswijk wordt georganiseerd. Er zijn hier textielwerken van negentien internationale kunstenaars te bewonderen. Naast de grote variëteit in materiaalkeuze en –toepassingen zijn er deze editie opvallende gemene delers waar te nemen. Een deel van de kunstwerken staat/hangt in de nieuwe vleugel van het gebouw; het andere deel is gecombineerd met de vaste collectie in de oude vleugel. Zelf was ik erg geboeid door de soms verrassende toepassingen van borduurkunst. De tentoonstelling duurt nog tot 27 september 2015.

Voor verdere informatie zie: 

Else van Laere, 19 July 2015


Catharijneconvent, Utrecht

Willem and I have just been to see the Medieval church embroidery exhibition at the Catharijneconvent Museum, Utrecht. The exhibition is called "Het Geheim van de Middeleeuwen in Gouddraad en Zijde" (The Secret of the Middle Ages in Gold Thread and Silk) and it runs until the 16th August. TRC Needles now has a separate entry for this event.  If you have a chance to see it, please go! The garments are displayed in such a way you can really see them - on podiums and without glass. The light is subdued and diffused through thin paper, so it is easy to see the objects rather than trying to see 'something' in a blackened room with few bright spot lights. The Utrecht display is good for the garments and the viewers.

Catharijneconvent, Utrect, The Netherlands. Exhibition: Het Geheim van de Middeleeuwen.

Catharijneconvent, Utrect, The Netherlands. Exhibition: Het Geheim van de Middeleeuwen.

The embroidery itself is divided into various sections, following the range of Catholic liturgical garments that were and are normally embroidered - chasuble, cope, dalmatic, mitre and stole. There are also some brief details about where the cloth, etc, used for making the garments came from. A particularly interesting section deals with the various gold work techniques used, with some commissioned examples on display so that the technical details can be seen on the front and back of the ground cloth.

There is another section on liturgical embroidery since the re-organisation of the Catholic Church (Vatican Two) between 1962-1965. There were numerous examples in this section some of which with the original art work. Actually, this section is a different exhibition, which focusses on the work of the Atelier Stadelmaier, in Nijmegen, The Netherlands, which between 1930 and 2010 was the world's largest producer of liturgical clothing.

The exhibition is a treat for the eye, a source of inspiration for embroiderers, as well as making various historical aspects of Catholic liturgical clothing much more understandable. My favourite piece: a single, embroidered shoe for a bishop is tucked into a corner. Totally unpractical, but saying a lot about the role of embroidered garments in a powerful medieval institute.

And now for something totally different ...... Next door to the intense medieval embroidery exhibition, was another clothing exhibition created to celebrate a modern institution, the Tour de France, which started this year in Utrecht. The exhibition is called De Heilige Trui (The Sacred Jersey) and is on display until the 28th July. on show are the '"Sacred Jerseys" worn by various cyclists over the years, some of which were signed. For some, these jerseys are the equivalent of religious relics from a particular annual event that joins together thousands of people all over the world - sounds familiar? The exhibition is a bit of fun, but one that makes you think about the role of clothing, and institutional clothing in particular, in our lives.

We had one night in Utrecht's smallest hotel (one room, in an old storage cellar next to one of the many canals that crisscross the city). Then onto Amersvoort, whose medieval centre is well worth a visit. We actually went to see Paul Spijker of Toguna (click here for more info) to pick up a collection of Yemeni jewellery that he has very kindly agreed to lend to the TRC for our next exhibition about Yemeni textiles, clothing and jewellery (opening on the 17th August 2015). There are going to be some spectacular items on display as well as more daily life items that tell different stories. There will be town, village and Bedouin garments and jewellery in the exhibition, as well as a wide range of decorative techniques for textiles. Some of the pieces were especially commissioned for the TRC from embroiderers in Yemen itself.

See also TRC Needles

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 19 July 2015


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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. Holidays: until 11 August

Bank account number: NL39 INGB 0002 9823 59, Stichting Textile Research Centre

Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome !

TRC Gallery exhibition: 12 - 15 August 2019: Out of Asia: 2000 years of textiles

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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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