TRC Blog: Textile Moments

Chart for Hungarian/Romanian embroidery

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One of the blouses in the TRC collection and currently on display in the exhibition Embroidered Europe, is decorated on the sleeves with bands enclosing an intriguing design of ornate squares and tiny trefoils. The embroidery is worked in cross stitch and double running stitch (Holbein stitch) on a fine, even-weave cotton ground.

The blouse comes from Hungary/Romania and dates to the mid-20th century. The design is worked in a mid-green cotton thread. It can also be worked in silk, a six-stranded cotton thread (three strands at a time) or a fine, cotton perlé, but please remember that the ground material needs to be adapted to the type of thread used. At first glance the pattern looks easy, but you have to take care because of the mirror imaging and reversals in the pattern.

Chart for embroidery on an Hungarian/Romanian blouse. Please click the illustration for PdF file.

Chart for embroidery on an Hungarian/Romanian blouse. Please click the illustration for PdF file.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 10 September 2016

   

Rabbits and birds

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Embroidery chart of the beadwork design. Please click chart.

Embroidery chart of the beadwork design. Please click chart.

Rabbits and birds have created several ahhhh moments at the TRC after the opening of the new exhibition 'From Sweden to Sardina'. In fact, these 'cute' creatures are depicted on a broad band of beading that decorates the apron of a young, married woman from Hungary, which is on display in the exhibition. The garment is believed to date to the 1930s. It was worn on festive occassions, probably at Easter. Numerous exampes of this type of apron are known and they are often decorated with flowers, but the rabbits and birds of this particular apron are most unusual. The exhibition 'Embroidered Europe' contains many such ahhhhh moments, from beaded flowers to intricately worked geometric motifs. In order to celebrate the exhibition, the TRC is producing a series of pattern charts, suitable for cross stitch, knitting, beading, etc., that are based on designs to be found on the objects on display. The first one is the rabbits and birds pattern; other designs will be published in the course of the next few months. Please click on the chart, download it, print it, and enjoy.

Gillian Vogelsang, 2 September 2016

Rabbits and birds in beadwork on an Hungarian apron.

Rabbits and birds in beadwork on an Hungarian apron.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

Fashion Museum, Bath, England

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Two garments on display in the exhibition 'A History of Fashion in 100 Objets', Fashion Museum, Bath, until 1 January 2019.

Two garments on display in the exhibition 'A History of Fashion in 100 Objets', Fashion Museum, Bath, until 1 January 2019.

Its the final day of our trip around southern and south-western England and we are in the Georgian city of Bath, home at one point to Jane Austen, and the location of the famous Assembly Rooms, where romantic balls took place over 200 years ago. The Assembly Rooms is now home to the Fashion Museum. A wonderful museum with over one hundred thousand items in its collection that date from the sixteenth century to the present day. The exhibition 'A History of Fashion in 100 Objects' (19 March 2016 - 1 January 2019) illustrates four hundred years of north European/Western fashion, literally from Elizabethan embroidered gloves, to items straight off the 2015 catwalks.

The items are on display in the basement of the Assembly rooms, where light is not a problem for the more delicate items. Both men and women's outfits are on show, although the majority are for women. In addition to the basic information about where a garment comes from, who wore it and who made it (if known), there are also titbits of local gossip and comments from contemprary written sources, and more serious historical facts.

A popular room, especially for children, is the dressing up area, with a wide range of (replica) garments that visitors can try on. There is also a section showing parts of the storage rooms, with the various types of card and plastic boxes that are used for flat as well as rounded objects, such as hats. This museum has provided inspiration for many of its visitor's, including myself, and I was left feeling a little jealous and wondering how we can lift the TRC and its growing collection of world textiles and costume to this level!

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 7 August 2016

   

Embroideries from Wells, England

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Impression of the exhibition 'The Ornate and the Beautiful, Bishop’s Palace, Wells, from 16th April – 31st August 2016.

Impression of the exhibition 'The Ornate and the Beautiful, Bishop’s Palace, Wells, from 16th April – 31st August 2016.

Wells in south-west England was a surprise. I had not expected much, but it is a lovely medieval/Georgian city with a beautiful cathedral and bishop's palace (complete with moat, drawbridge and porticulis to keep the unruly citizens of the town at bay). Wells Cathedral likes embrodery and even has embroidery tours!

The main focus is on the embroideries designed and made for the quire (choir) of the Cathedral, between 1937 and 1952. They include 39 panels for the backs of the canopied stalls, many more hassocks, as well as seat runners and long kneelers. Also on display is an early-12th century cope chest. In the small St. George Chapel there are several hassocks and kneelers dedicated to those who fell during the First World War (1914-1918). These include several that were especially designed to fit around pillared seats.

Near the chapel there are several late-20th century altar frontals that are woven, as well as one that is embroidered. Several of the many tomb effigies depicting early bishops of Wells are still painted. These help to give an idea of the ornate nature of the ecclesiastical vestments worn and their design/colour combinations. In this respect, it is worth noting that until the 31th August there is an exhibition in the Palace called "The Ornate and the Beautiful" about ecclesiastical (embroidered) garments from the 14th to 20th centuries. Most of the thirty or so items on display are from the collections of nearby Downside Abbey (Catholic) and Wells Cathedral (Anglican). Many of the items have never been on display to the public before.

The items in the exhibition include a variety of chasubles, a few copes (as well as a large, medieval cope chest), and some orphreys, especially a beautiful orphrey that dates to the medieval period and is made in a form of opus anglicanum. There was also a small, but intriguing book cover from the 18th century, which had the embroidered arms of a bishop. In addition, there were relevant items of jewellery, such as bishop's rings and crosses. The exhibition included interesting and useful text boards about the various individual and groups of objects on display. Sadly there is no catalogue to the exhibition, which is a pity as the exhibition was otherwise well put together.

Also in Wells there is the Wells and Mendip Museum, which recently staged an exhibition about samplers. The museum was given a large collection of these objects by the late Eveleen Perkins. The samplers date back to the 18th century. Many of the them were in the temporary exhibition (spring 2016), while there is a group of 35 examples that are on permenant display. Again there is no catalogue to this collection. Hopefully in the future this situation will change.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 6 August 2016.

   

Windsor

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Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret admiring the two dolls, France and Marianne, in 1938.

Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret admiring the two dolls, France and Marianne, in 1938.

Today Willem and I went to Windsor Castle (following our trip to Buckingham Palace yesterday). A very different royal residence, with a much more masculine feeling. We were able to see Queen Mary's Dolls' House, with its miniature furniture, including textiles and embroideries. The next gallery we saw in the Palace will appeal to followers of French fashion, because it includes the garments made for two, large dolls presented in the name of the children of France to Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, during a state visit to France by their parents, George VI and Queen Elizabeth, in 1938. The metre high dolls are called France and Marianne. The outfits and accessories were made by various Parisian haute couture ateliers, including dresses by Lanvin, Rochas and Worth; Cartier jewellery; cases by Vuitton and handbags by Hermès; as well as Lancôme and Guerlain perfume. The garments range from underwear to day dresses, evening gowns, coats, gloves and hats, shoes and so forth. All hand made and many embroidered. There are a total of 360 items.

Scattered around the state rooms that were open to the public were embroidered regimental flags and military uniforms decorated with fine passementerie. In the rooms assocatied with the Order of the Garter, there was an embroidered garter band with the motto honi soit qui mal y pense, and a beautiful example of the garter emblem worked in gold thread. Tucked in one corner of another room was a large, seventeenth century embroidered box, but unfortunately it was not possible to get close up to it to see how it was made.

The afternoon was spent walking around the town of Windsor and the road to Eaton School. There are various tailors along the road who clearly show that 'dress and identity' is alive and well at Eaton. In particular the waistcoats worn by some of the senior students are simply gorgeous.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 31 July 2016

   

Buckingham Palace

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Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from the Queen's Wardrobe. Buckingham Palace, April 2016 -January 2017.

Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from the Queen's Wardrobe. Buckingham Palace, April 2016 -January 2017.

Yesterday (30 July 2016), Willem, Keireine Canavan (a fellow textile lover from the Cardiff School of Art and Design) and myself went to Buckingham Palace (where else) to see their latest exhibition about the garments worn by Princess, and later Queen, Elizabeth of Great Britain. The garments spanned a period of ninety years, from her christening robe to outfits worn with the opening of the 2012 Olympic Games in London (with James Bond in the helicopter). The highlights included her wedding dress and coronation robe. In addition, there were outfits worn as a child to the coronation of her father, George VI, on 12 May 1937; uniforms worn while she was in the army during World War II, and many of the garments worn during state visits to other countries and state events celebrating various visits of leaders to Britain. In many cases there were photographs of her wearing the outfits with accessories, such as hats. Speaking of which, there was a gallery dedicated to five decades of hats and hat designers. One thing that was missing was jewellery, that all important accessory that makes and finishes an outfit, but as she wore the same pearl necklace on various occassions, it is likely there was not enough jewellery to go around, let alone the security problems associated with their display.

One thing that struck both Keireine and myself was how badly some of these specially designed garments were made, with varying hem lengths on coats, poorly finished cuffs, even poor tensioning of the sewing machine, which left numerous ripples in the cloth (which should have been flat). It has nothing to do with age, as a photograph of the Queen wearing a particular garment clearly showed the ripples. Very curious.

In addition to seeing the exhibition (which was incredibly crowded), the ticket also included a visit to various state rooms inside the palace. What an amazing place to live and work, surrounded by paintings of the ancestors, as well as the odd Van Dyke, Rubens, Canaletto, and one particular Rembrandt that got to all of us, namely the portrait of Agatha Bas (1641). One of the most intriguing, wonderful paintings ever, with Agatha dressed in some of her finest garments and lace.

A coffee/tea, plus a walk around part of the palace grounds finished the visit. The exhibition of garments runs until 8 January 2017 and is well worth seeing, although the hefty price of the ticket was initially a bit of a shock, more than twenty pounds, until we realised it also included the chance of seeing the staterooms and all the paintings, sculptures and so forth (although with a noticeable lack of tapestries and embroideries).

Part of the afternoon was spent at The Foundling Museum, to see the tokens, especially pieces of cloth, that were attached to children's records when they entered the Foundling Hospital, an eighteenth century charitable institute. These now provide the largest sample of dateable eighteenth century textiles from the lower ends of London society. A sad reminder of a very different and hard way of life. These textiles have been published by Prof. John Styles in a book called Threads of Feeling (2010). A book that is well worth reading, both for the textiles and the social history surrounding them.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 31 July 2016

   

Arabian Peninsular Textiles

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British Museum, London

British Museum, London

Thanks to an invitation by the British Foundation for the Study of Arabia I was able to attend the 50th Seminar for Arabian Studies, which was held at the British Museum from 29th -31st July 2016. I presented a paper about embroidery from the Arabian Peninsula. This was one of several papers about textiles, dress and accessories presented and discussed yesterday morning. The directly relevant papers included those by Aude Mongiatti, about the technical analysis of Omani silver jewellery; Lezley George, about the fashionable aspects of wearing an abayeh in the UAE; Martin Ledstrup, on men and the wearing of national dress in Ras al-Khaimah; Keireine Canavan about hand weaving among the el-Sadu in Kuwait, and finally Neil Richardson about weaving in Oman and its survival in the modern world (especially how camel racing has promoted the production of hand woven animal trappings).

What I really enjoyed during the meeting was how the various speakers often referred to the lectures by the other contributors. This created a strong feeling of cohesion, and the various lectures clearly complemented each other. The diversity of styles of lecturing was very noticeable, but all were interesting. Well done to everyone who was involved in the organisation of the conference!

In the afternoon a group of us travelled across London to Blythe House, an old and massive Post Office building where various museums, including the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, have storage depots. Here we were treated to a special viewing of Arabian Peninsular garments and textiles, including some magnificent Saudi and Yemeni embroidered dresses. Walking around the depot was an eye opener for some, as regards the problems of dealing with such a vast and diverse collection. We were allowed to see (but not touch) an eighteenth century bark garment from the Pacific region, which is associated with Capt. Cook and is one of the first items in the British Museum's collection. A reminder of just how impressive, varied and important the BM's textile and dress collection actually is.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, London, 30 July 2016

   

Canterbury Cathedral

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The heraldic achievements of the Black Prince (beware, these are replicas).

The heraldic achievements of the Black Prince (beware, these are replicas).

Yesterday, 28 July 2016, Gillian and I had the opportunity to spend some time in Canterbury Cathedral. What a marvellous place it is. Of all the religious buildings we ever saw, this church is truly the most fascinating and at the same time it feels extremely comfortable. Perhaps it is the architecture, with its many nooks and crannies, and its ever changing levels, leading from the nave to the choir.

Gillian had the chance to talk with the vesturer, who showed her some of the beautifully decorated liturgical vestments of the cathedral, including some that were embroidered by the famous English 20th century embroideress, Beryl Dean. We also wanted to see one of the heraldic ‘achievements’ of the Black Prince (1330-1376), namely his quilted surcoat (jupon; see also the relevant entry in TRC Needles), which used to hang above his bronze effigy and the tester above it, at his tomb behind the Cathedral’s choir, together with his metal gauntlets and his helmet, but the surcoat is currently being restored and will be on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum later this year.

Painted curtains (right at the bottom of the picture), Chapel of St Gabriel, Canterbury cathedral.

Painted curtains (right at the bottom of the picture), Chapel of St Gabriel, Canterbury cathedral.

Finally, some of you may remember my surprise late last year when visiting Rome to see paintings of curtains at various medieval places, including the Romulus temple at the Forum Romanum, and the Sistine Chapel (see the blog of 26 December 2015). Actually, yesterday, I saw curtains painted in almost the same way in the Chapel of St Gabriel, in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral.

Willem Vogelsang, London, 29 July 2016

   

Two unique groups of Afghan clothing added to the TRC collection

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Embroidered trousers for Afghan wrestler in a zurkhana ('House of Strength'), Kabul, early 20th century.

Embroidered trousers for Afghan wrestler in a zurkhana ('House of Strength'), Kabul, early 20th century.

The last few days have been spent on the glorious (and very wet) Cote d’Azur in southern France. It sounds good, but it was actually for work. The TRC was offered a collection of Afghan garments, caps and shoes by May and Rolando Schinasi, who lived and worked in Afghanistan in the 1950s and 60s. They have some amazing stories to tell about when there were only five foreign companies in Afghanistan, and when in the 1950s Rolando was the only foreigner in Kandahar.

During their period in Afghanistan they bought many items to decorate their home and to enjoy, including lengths of silk cloth, Uzbek ikats, chapans (long coats), a beautifully embroidered baby’s cradle, a pair of leather trousers used for the Persian/Afghan gym (the zurkhana) illustrated here, a hunting cloth, and so forth. They are now tidying up and were told about the TRC via a friend. So Willem and I went to Nice to talk with them and to make sure they were happy and comfortable about the destination of their collection.

We left with two large bags full of items and these are now in the TRC deep freezer. But that is not the end of the story. Mrs Shinasi also has a large jewellery collection (Pashtun, Tajik, Turkmen and Uzbek), and eventually these pieces will also come to the TRC. In addition, she told a friend, Prof. Mark Slobin (USA), about us and he has a collection of Afghan items bought between 1967 and 1972. They were actually delivered to the TRC this morning. Everything is now in the deep freezer, and then next week the TRC is going to look a little like an Afghan bazaar! The Slobin collection includes, among many items, beautiful Uzbek silk ikats, chapans for men, a hunting hood, a crochet/beaded front for a dress, as well as a long, plait (braid) bag for keeping a woman’s hair in order.

To add to the story above, we have added a water colour made between 1835 and 1838 by Godfrey Vigne, a renowned traveller in the Indo-Iranian borderlands (and accomplished cricketer!). It shows a wrestler from Kabul, wielding the two characteristic clubs of the zurkhaneh, still of a type being used in modern Iran, and wearing the equally characteristic trousers, of which a beautifully embroidered example has now been so kindly donated by May and Rolando Schinasi to the TRC.

Once photographed and catalogued, all of the new items, added to the TRC’s own collection, will mean that the TRC has an extensive holding of Afghan textiles and garments. Through these and other donations, covering all parts of the world, the TRC collection is now becoming a world class resource centre, and shortly many of our items will be online. This will give people around the world access to the many fascinating items in our collection.

As you can imagine, the TRC collection is growing rapidly and we need to find serious funding to expand our storage facilities. If you know of someone who would be willing to become a TRC patron and help us achieve our full potential as a research and educational centre for textiles and dress, please tell them about us!

Gillian and Willem Vogelsang, 17 June 2016

   

A trip to southern Germany, continued

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The Sternenmantel of Henry II, early 11th century. Bamberg.

The Sternenmantel of Henry II, early 11th century. Bamberg.

Today, Saturday 11 June, we travelled to Bamberg, a large, medieval city in southern Germany, about two hours by train from Regensburg. Here we went straight to the Diözesanmuseum in order to see the mantles and other garments associated with the Holy Roman Emperor Henry (Heinrich) II and his wife, St. Kunigunde. They reigned in the early eleventh century. The museum also houses various papal garments associated with Pope Clement II who died in 1047 (his tomb is the only papal burial north of the Alps).

On display in a separate room in the museum there are three mantles and one cope (called a pluvale here in Germany), all related to Henry II and his wife, Kunigunde. These are the famous Sternenmantelthe so-called Knights mantle (Rittermantel), the Great Mantle of St. Kunigunde, and the Cope of St. Kunigunde. The same room also contains a bell-shaped chasuble and a tunic especially associated with St. Kunigunde. All the garments date to the early eleventh century, although they have been heavily restored over the centuries.

To actually go and see the Sternenmantel, as well as St. Kunigunde's Great Mantle, and the Knights mantle was something we had wanted to do for several years, and it was well worth it. The silk and gold thread embroidery is spectacular.

The Clement items, which were recovered from his sarcophagus in 1942, included various silk, silk damask as well as other woven textiles, such as a pair of stockings (better: buskins) made from a very fine damask silk, and a large, pontifical dalmatic. Many of these silks have been given a Byzantine origin.

And of course in the Bamburg treasury is the famous Byzantine wall hanging depicting two women flanking an emperor on horseback, which also comes from the tomb of Clement. The Bamburg museum also contains liturgical vestments from various periods, as well as an amazing collection of medieval wood and stone sculptures, wood carvings in general and metal items such as reliquies and items for on the alter. Well worth a visit.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 11 June 2016

   

A trip to southern Germany

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The imaginary portrait of Charlemagne, by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg.

The imaginary portrait of Charlemagne, by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg.

Willem and I are on our travels again, this time to southern Germany. We spent yesterday (Thursday) in Nuremberg, notably at the Germanisches Nationalmuseum. They have a wonderful collection of medieval and later sculptures and paintings. Among them is Albrecht Dürer's imaginary painting of Charlemagne, wearing the regalia of the Holy (German) Roman Emperor. He is thus seen wearing the famous mantle of Roger II of Sicily from the early twelfth century, together with the imperial gloves, the beautifully decorated stola and the red (?) tunic with the imperial eagles. All of these items are, so it would appear, now in the Kaiserliche Schatzkammer in Vienna, where we were so fortunate to see them two years ago. Seeing the painting by Dürer and realising that it most probably shows centuries-old imperial garments that are actually still extant and can still be admired, is a real confrontation with history. 

In addition, the museum has a special, very large gallery dedicated to German (and some Dutch) urban and regional dress, including male and female underwear. You don't see that very often in museums! Finally someone who has taken this part of dress seriously. Also lots of sports clothes, headgear and footwear. Well worth a visit to Nuremberg to see the gallery. In addition, according to the museum's website, they have an active team working on cataloguing and making available their extensive textile, clothing and jewellery collection. It is a site worth watching at regular intervals to see what is happening.

Today, Friday 9th June, is being spent in Regensburg, about one hour by (fast) train to the south of Nuremberg. The cathedral is a great, Gothic building with a small museum filled with liturgical garments dating from the eleventh century onwards, including many items of embroidery, notably a bishop's mitre and gloves, chasubles, dalmaticas as well as copes and cope hoods. There is a fifteenth century cope, for example, that has much earlier (tenth century) gold thread embroidery. There is alse a chasuble that has an early gold thread orphrey, whereby the background is worked in swirls of couched gold. It is said to come from Regensburg itself and is certainly very different in appearance and techniques from its northern counterparts.

This afternoon, while Willem has some University business to attend to, is being spent looking at a more modern tradition, namely Bavarian regional dress. There are at least three shops in walking distance of the cathedral that sell regional dress for men and women, and it remains a living tradition. This morning we saw a wedding party near the cathedral and several women were wearing the Dirndle outfit (blouse, waistcoat, skirt, apron) outfit, as well as men in embroidered lederhosen. There was also one shop that had a bridal version of the Dirndle outfit. I have never been that interested in German regional dress, but thanks to the TRC being given the Kircher Collection (with hundreds of items of German regional clothing) some months ago, it is something I am now looking at and becoming aware of what a diverse world it is.

This feeling intensified later in the afternoon when I went to the Historisches Museum Regensburg. Although I did not have an appointment I was able to talk with one of the staff about German regional dress and the TRC's problem of how to identify some of the unlabelled items from the Kircher Collection. Help was immediately offered! We are also going to talk about how the two institutes can work together with respect to exhibitions and research. By coincidence the museum also had on display an exhibition, called Heimat auf der Haut -Tracht in der Operpfalz, which is about nineteenth century regional dress from the Oberpflaz region of Germay. So we had an interesting time looking at the garments together and discussing their origins, uses, embroidery forms, etc. The exhibition runs until the beginning of July and is well worth seeing. There is also a catalogue to the exhibition, which will be discussed in the next, Books Showcased (June 2016) item of the TRC website. Tomorrow we are going to Bamburg to see some more medieval textiles and garments!

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 10 June 2016

   

Duct tape dresses

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Duct tape dress. TRC collection.

Duct tape dress. TRC collection.

I’ve heard of textiles grown in test tubes from genetically engineered bacteria, and of clothing made from recycled plastic or even rare spiders’ silk. But it took my 17 year-old niece in America to teach me about a textile made from a material most commonly found in tool boxes. I’m talking duct tape. That grey-coloured industrial tape you use to wrap around a frayed electrical cord or to fix a broken lawn chair.

For several years teenagers in the States have been making party clothes out of duct tape. My niece has donated one such dress she made to the TRC, where it’s now on display. She wore the dress in May 2014 to an annual Duct Tape Costume Ball, organized by an educational programme called Destination Imagination. The event made the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest gathering (with 752 participants) of people wearing duct tape yet. The garment is made from a sleeveless dress found in a second hand shop and several rolls of duct tape. The top of the dress is a synthetic fabric covered in sequins, while the attached skirt is made from gold-coloured duct tape with a deliberately uneven hem. The duct tape makes the skirt somewhat stiff and heavy to wear, but the dress as a whole looks actually fashionable.

A Google search for “duct tape clothes” revealed over 650000 items, plus countless photographs and videos. The creativity shown is wonderfully surprising: from tuxedos and floor-length gowns to characters from popular movies (my personal favourite: a young woman dressed as the Death Star spaceship from the Star Wars film, accompanied by a Jedi Knight). There are tutorials in how to make duct tape dresses, and accessories such as corsages, bow ties, clutch bags and belts. Sewers are also using duct tape to make tailor-made mannequins and dress stands. The model, in bra and T-shirt, is wrapped in duct tape. When the ensemble is taken off, you have a mannequin with the right measurements to work from.

Making your own clothes from duct tape has also led to another phenomenon: the ABC party. ABC stands for “anything but clothes”. In other words, no textiles of cotton or synthetics, but more non-traditional materials. YouTube also has hundreds of videos of people making clothes out of playing cards or loofahs or, of course, duct tape. Duct tape manufacturers such as 3M and Shurtech Brands have capitalized on this trend. Not only is duct tape now manufactured in a wide range of colours and motifs; businesses are also organizing competitions for the most original or colourful duct tape garment, with cash prizes and scholarships for the winners. While I doubt duct tape will be the textile of the future, I do applaud the creativity and sense of fun people like my niece are showing in exploring new materials.

Shelley Anderson, 29 May 2016

   

Textile Museum Lyon, France

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Portrait of Jacquard woven in silk on a Jacquard loom (1839). The portrait requires 24000 punch cards to weave.

Portrait of Jacquard woven in silk on a Jacquard loom (1839). The portrait requires 24000 punch cards to weave.

Yesterday, 21 May, a meeting of the European Alliance for Asian Studies brought me to Lyon in France and I had the chance to visit the world famous textile museum, or better the Musée des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs. Last year plans were circulating to close down the museum because no new funding could be found, but these plans seem to have been shelved.

The museum and the textiles that are exhibited are fabulous. One of the larger rooms contains a group of beautiful late 17th century tapestries, and the easy chairs that are placed opposite them invite people to sit down and look at these huge pieces at length. Lyon is, of course, famous for its silk and textile industry, and the development, in the early 19th century, of the Jacquard loom, a beautiful example of which is placed in the museum. Even after so many years it remains a marvellous piece of engineering. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the principle of the Jacquard loom, it is a mechanical instrument that is driven by cards with holes punched into them, each card determining one  row (throw) of the woven textile. Joseph Marie Jacquard (1752-1834) did not devise this loom out of nothing; he built upon earlier inventions and innovations. He became especially famous when a few years after his death a portrait of his was 'punched' and woven to order. 

The museum itself is housed in the beautiful 18th century Hôtel de Villeroy, which was the residence of the governor of Lyon in the 18th century. 

Willem Vogelsang, 22 May 2016

   

Tutankhamun

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Mamdouh al-Damati, former antiquities minister of Egypt, speaks at the Tutankhamun Grand Egyptian Museum, 8 May 2016.

Mamdouh al-Damati, former antiquities minister of Egypt, speaks at the Tutankhamun Grand Egyptian Museum, 8 May 2016.

The last few days have been spent in Cairo. I was invited to attend the 2nd Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) conference about Tutankhamun and to give a lecture about the embroidered and beaded garments from the tomb of the young king. Prof. Olaf Kaper (Leiden University) and I gave lectures on different aspects of the textiles and garments associated with Tutankhamun. There were also other lectures about the textiles, notably by Issam Ezzat, Hamza Nagm and Mie Ishii, who all discussed different aspects of the conservation of the textiles. There was also a very interesting talk by Christian Eckman on the damage and repair of the golden mask. And Jan Picton (UCL London) talked about the textiles from Gurob and how some of the 'missing' garments of Tutankhamun may have looked like.

The second day of the conference was dedicated to jewellery and other items from the tomb, such as the wide variety of plants. The third day was full of fireworks as it included Nicholas Reeves and Zahi Hawas (who was in combative mood). The basic upshot was that there is no conclusive evidence that there are more rooms associated with the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Yesterday, Monday, was spent looking at some textiles and talking with colleagues at GEM, and then a visit to the Egyptian Museum to look at the Tutankhamun textiles still on display there and to talk with conservation staff about their work. Most enjoyable, and it meant I had time to look at certain textiles in detail to check facts, confirm the (minute) size of the glass beads used for various garments and to ponder how to make replica garments, and indeed that always presents the question how to pay for them (a team of specialist weavers, embroiderers, etc is already in place). There then followed a short interlude in the academic thought process via an ice cold hibiscus drink in the garden of the Marriott hotel on Zamalek (as I said life can be so hard).

Today I go back to the Egyptian Museum to check even more details about the Tut textiles and to give a talk to the conservation staff about the Tutankhamun textiles and garments in general. And then a wander around the museum to look at some more textiles and beaded garments. Later in the day I will see a friend in Cairo who has the most amazing collection of Egyptian regional dress dating from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 10 May 2016

   

Diversity and Quality of the TRC Collection

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The recent donation of a large collection of European traditional dress means that the TRC Collection is growing more rapidly than expected. So for the last few months we have been looking at what we have, what we are doing and where do we want to go. The TRC Collection now includes items from about 135 countries. Since July 2011 there are officially 195 independent sovereign states in the world, with about 60 dependent areas and five disputed territories (such as Kosovo). So the TRC Collection is beginning to truly reflect the diversity of the world of textiles and traditional dress.

The further expansion of the TRC Collection is now going to be directed, even more than before, on quality and on building up the depth of the collection, in order to reflect life in its many varied aspects, including items for men, women and children (some people think our collection is just made up of women’s clothing, which is simply not the case). This would mean that more items will be available during the courses, lectures and workshops for people to see and in some cases handle, and  we would have more material available for research.

To help people understand the diversity of the TRC Collection, the database of the collection has gone online on the 1st July 2016. Not every item is described in great detail (there are over 25000 items after all, by March 2018), nor are there photographs of everything. But every week new details and images are added and after four years, all items will be fully described and provided with one or more photographs. Exciting days ahead as the TRC truly goes international. For the digital catalogue, click here. For a more detailed introduction to the collection, click here.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, director TRC

   

Afghan 'Messi' has fled with his family to Pakistan

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On 31 January, I reported on a young Afghan boy who rose to global stardom when he was photographed by his brother wearing a plastic bag as a T-shirt with the name of Messi written on it by a ballpoint. The BBC just reported that he and his family have fled to Pakistan, after threats by local criminals who demanded money from the 'famous' family. The boy, Murtaza Ahmadi, and seven of his kin now live in one room in Quetta.

Willem Vogelsang, 3 May 2016

   

The Embroidery Show

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Reverse of an embroidery of Rembrandt's De Nachtwacht.

Reverse of an embroidery of Rembrandt's De Nachtwacht.

Today I was struck by an announcement in the Dutch press. It is about a famous modern Dutch artist who tells about his fascination with embroidery. The Embroidery Show is an exhibition that is held in Museum De Fundatie, Zwolle, The Netherlands, from 28 April to 18 September 2016. It shows some one thousand embroideries that were collected since 2005 at various flea markets and other places by the Dutch artist, Rob Scholte.

With this collection and the exhibition the artist wants to highlight, in his own words, “traditional, handmade embroideries, which mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers and great-great-grandmothers (and sometimes men) of our country have made, anonymously, with much love and patience, in the few hours of spare time that they had…. The result of all these weeks, months and years of hard work is sold by their descendants for an euro.”

With the exhibition Scholte wants to give embroideries the respect that they deserve. What he does, surprisingly, is showing the back of the embroideries, together with all their fringes and loose hanging threads. He frames them backwards, signs them, and shows them as such to the public. It is the reverse of the embroideries, according to the artist, that shows the efforts and the character of the embroiderer. The exhibition shows the backside of the embroidered masterpieces of Dutch painting, by Rembrandt, Vermeer and many others.

Willem Vogelsang, 28 April 2016

   

Some interesting meetings in London

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The last few days have been very busy at the TRC, especially as I was asked to go to London to give a lecture about Iranian regional dress. So early on Thursday (21st April), I flew to London. In the morning I had an appointment at Hand & Lock, a hand embroidery company that dates back to the late eighteenth century. It specialises in military embroidery using various gold work techniques, as well as machine embroidered patches, and so forth. They also make dresses and garments for film and pop stars and royalty from around the world. I was given a conducted tour of the premises as well as having the chance to meet various members of staff and to discuss how we can work together. Lots of potential, including shared exhibitions, reference collections of military laces, and so forth. They also have a very interesting archive that I would love to dive into, especially the folders marked Iraq and Oman that date back to the first half of the 20th century.

The next appointment was with a colleague who works at Bloomsbury Press (who are the publishers of The Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, 2016). We are discussing the possibility of the TRC producing two more books about the history of embroidery and to make it into a series. We will shortly hear if Bloomsbury is officially interested and if yes, we will let you know.

And then in the evening I gave a lecture for the Iranian Society (London) at the Army and Navy Club. I should like to thank Janet Rady and Antony Wynn for asking me to come and give the lecture and for their hospitality in London. It was much appreciated. The lecture was based on one I gave in Edinburgh last year and is about how the TRC came to have the largest collection of Iranian regional dress outside of Iran. There were many people attending the lecture and the feedback was very positive, if not a little surprised that such a collection actually exists in Europe. This was one of the main reasons I gave the lecture, so that more attention can be given to the collection. I also announced that we are now looking for €8000 to pay for the collection to be properly catalogued and photographed, prior to it coming on-line on the TRC Collection Database, as well as for illustrations in the book we are currently writing about Iranian regional dress based on the TRC items.

In 2013, I would like to add, the TRC staged a large exhibition about Iranian regional dress called Beyond the Chador, which included 83 outfits, plus individual items. The items used in this exhibition are available to other suitable institutes should they wish to put on such a diverse and colourful exhibition.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 26 April 2016 

   

Jean Kerr's dress found off the coast of Texel

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"Dat jurkje is hier vlakbij uit zee opgevist." ('That dress was fished out of the sea nearby').

This afternoon Gillian and I spent a few hours on a boat out shrimp fishing off the coast of the island of Texel, in the north of The Netherlands. At a certain moment the captain told us that 'that dress' was found nearby. He referred to an early 17th century dress that was found some two years ago underwater, in a chest covered with sand, near the island of Texel. The find was only made public some ten days ago, and since last week it can be seen in a local museum, Kaap Skil, in the village of Oudeschild, on Texel. It drew attention from all over the world.

The dress of Jean Kerr, found off the coast of Texel.

The dress of Jean Kerr, found off the coast of Texel.

The dress was of course the reason that Gillian and I, after attending a wedding in Alkmaar, travelled north yesterday evening, took the ferry to Texel, and checked in at an idyllic hotel at the little harbour of Oudeschild. First thing this morning we went to the local museum and there it was, beautifully displayed together with other finds from the same shipwreck. The dress almost looks as if it was worn yesterday and thrown into the laundry basket. It is incredible that the garment has been preserved underwater for so long.

I don't have to refer to the details of the dress. Much has been published about it in recent days (see also the TRC facebook pages). We now know it was part of the wardrobe of a lady at the court of the British King, Charles I, who around 1642 sent his eleven-year old daughter, Mary, to Holland to join her husband, William II of the House of Orange. The young girl was accompanied by her mother, the Queen, and many followers. Yet, the real reason for the diplomatic mission may have been to send his jewellery and other valuables over to Holland for safe keeping in the face of the growing opposition led by Cromwell. The revolt of the Parliamentarians, as you know, would eventually cost the king his throne and his head.

Twelve ships brought the Queen and her daughter to Holland, together with the valuables of the king and his followers. One of these ships was shipwrecked off the coast of Texel, and that particular ship contained the wardrobe of one of the British ladies. From recovered contemporary correspondence we now seem to know the name of the owner of the dress. It was Jean Kerr (1585-1643), the Countess of Roxburghe, who was 57 at the time. She was (partly) identified because of her dress size, namely what is now size 42. She was a Catholic, and lady-in-waiting to Henrietta Maria, the French wife of King Charles I, and the mother of the young bride. When the news of the shipwreck reached England, one of the opponents of the King gleefully said that the Ladies and their maids now had to cover themselves in Dutch cloth. Whether or not wearing Dutch clothing is such a bad thing I could not honestly say, but sadly she did not survive the loss of her clothing for long.

Willem Vogelsang, 23 April 2016

   

Catalogue with a sad story

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Chris Lebeau, 1878-1945

Chris Lebeau, 1878-1945

The TRC has just been given a collection of textile books for its library. Among the many items was a thin booklet with the title, Catalogus van Lakens en Sloopen van E.J.F. van Dissel en Zonen te Eindhoven. The booklet dates from about 1911/12. The company of Van Dissel was set up in the early 1870s by the Rev. E.J.F. van Dissel, initially in the village of Bladel in the eastern part of the Netherlands and from 1873 it was established in nearby Stratum (near the town of Eindhoven).

From 1890 the company was run by other members of the Van Dissel family and it developed into a large linen concern that employed a number of famous Dutch designers, as well as hundreds of workers. Van Dissel fused with another Dutch company, Van den Briel and Verster (also known as the Koninklijke Eindhovensche Damast-Linnen & Pellen Fabriek), in 1963. The factory was closed in 1971.

Napkins, with designs by Chris Lebeau.

Napkins, with designs by Chris Lebeau.

The booklet given to the TRC is basically a sales catalogue of designs for hand and machine embroidery that could be worked on pillows and sheets intended to make up part of a bride’s dowry. There are over forty designs in the book that was intended to show how pillow covers and sheets could be used together to create various artistic scenes. There is also a section on monograms that could be worked by the company or at home.

The embroidery designs and illustrations in the sales catalogue were produced by the Dutch illustrator, painter and graphic designer, but also anarchist and vegetarian, Chris (Joris Johannes Christiaan) Lebeau (1878-1945). He worked for Van Dissel in the early part of the twentieth century. He also worked for a number of other companies, including those producing flags and banners, glass wear and graphic designs. Between 1926-1928, for example, he made wall paintings for the Old-Catholic Church (built in 1926; Zouterwoudsesingel 49), in Leiden. He even produced a series of Dutch stamps called the Vliegende Duif (“Flying dove”), which were available in the Netherlands from 1924, and which were again issued in 1941.

Lebeau was also famous for his graphic textile designs that were used for batiks, curtains and tapestries. But he was particularly known for his wide range of patterns for woven linen items, such as damask table cloths, serviettes, pillow cases and sheets. It is some of these designs that are illustrated in the catalogue.

Just before the beginning of the Second World War (1939-1945), Lebeau entered into a fake marriage with a German Jewish refugee in order to help her staying in Holland. During the war itself he used his artistic talents to create false identity papers for various people. He was arrested in November 1943 and sent to Dachau concentration camp where he died on 2 April 1945. American troops entered the camp on the 28th. An exhibition of Lebeau's work was set up in the Drents Museum, Assen, in 1987.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 19 April 2016

Dutch stamps (the Vliegende Duif series) designed by Chris Lebeau

Dutch stamps (the Vliegende Duif series) designed by Chris Lebeau

   

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