TRC Blog: Textile Moments

An ISIS follower with a disputable bit of headgear

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Photograph of Abdelhamid Abu Oud, wearing a pakol.

Photograph of Abdelhamid Abu Oud, wearing a pakol.

Following the horrific attacks in Paris last week Friday, photographs were published in the media of the alleged ring-leader, someone called Abdelhamid Abu Oud, of Belgian/Moroccan origins. He seems to have been killed by the French police, last Wednesday in Saint-Denis. What struck me, when looking at some of the photographs of him taken in Syria or Iraq in the company of his ISIS friends, was his headgear. He is shown wearing a pakol, which is a cap with a rolled brim. It has an interesting history in the Afghanistan/Pakistan borderlands, a background which is not really in line with Abdelhamid's radical beliefs. But I am sure he had no idea.

 

Ahmad Shah Massud, wearing a pakol, killed on 9 September 2001 by (apparently) Moroccan followers of Osama bin Laden, carrying Belgian passports.

Ahmad Shah Massud, wearing a pakol, killed on 9 September 2001 by (apparently) Moroccan followers of Osama bin Laden, carrying Belgian passports.

Because of its likeness to the typical headgear of the ancient Macedonians, the pakol has actually often been described as a relic of the distant past, which was allegedly brought to the East by the soldiers of Alexander the Great. The idea is not as weird as it sounds, since many leaders in this part of the world used to tell the British conquerors that they descended from the terrible Alexander. Actually, Marco Polo who may have crossed these lands in the late 13th century, mentions the same thing.

But fortunately for the ISIS adherents, the cap does not have a western origin. The pakol was first introduced in Afghanistan among the Nuristanis, in the late 19th or early 20th centuries. Nuristan is a mountainous and very secluded part of Afghanistan, in the extreme east of the country, northeast of the capital Kabul. The pakol cap derived from the mountain valleys in the extreme north of neighbouring Pakistan. It soon became the 'national' dress of the people of Nuristan (who converted to Islam, not entirely voluntarily, after 1896 when they were subdued by the Afghan amir). The pakol, which basically is a tube of wool that is rolled up around the head, was later also adopted by many Westerners working in the 'golden age' of Afghanistan, in the 1960s, and also among the Tajiki people living in the Panjshir valley north of Nuristan.

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan at Christmas 1979, and a wide-spread revolt broke out all over the country, the people of the Panjshir took a leading role under Ahmad Shah Massud, who became an iconic leader of the Afghan resistance, the so-called Mujahedin. His headgear, the pakol, was subsequently adopted by many of the (young) Afghans of all ethnic backgrounds, all over the country, who were fighting the communist regime and the Red army (I donned it as well when I walked around there with the Mujahedin in the 1980s, so much easier to put on than the turban). Among many of the (young) Pashtuns, the dominant ethnic group of Afghanistan, the pakol slowly replaced the turban, as it also did among the Pashtuns living in neighbouring Pakistan.

Now when the ultra-conservative Taliban in Afghanistan, most of whom were Pashtuns, overran the country after 1994, their fiercest Afghan opponents were the non-Pashtuns in the north of the country, among whom the Panjshiris under Ahmad Shah Massud (he was eventually killed two days before 9/11 in a suicide attack by some (apparent) Moroccans with a Belgian passport....). The Panjshiris, who live just north of Nuristan, and many of their allies, were still wearing the pakol; the Taliban thereupon 'adviced' their Pashtun followers to stick to the turban. Actually, in many places, including Kabul, the wearing of a pakol was forbidden when the Taliban were controlling the town between 1996 and 2001. This only changed again when in late 2001 the Taliban were defeated, and people in Kabul in large numbers started wearing a pakol again, discarding the turban (and shaving off their beards).

And now I see an ISIS follower in the Middle East wearing the pakol ! Abdelhamid is unlikely to have had any knowledge of the history of his headgear, but he may not have liked the idea that the Taliban in Afghanistan regarded the pakol as the typical cap worn by their Western-supported opponents. Beware what you wear.

Willem Vogelsang, 19 November 2015

   

A dress from Socotra

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HELP!

A dress from Socotra, Yemen. TRC collection

A dress from Socotra, Yemen. TRC collection

A friend of the TRC came to see the current exhibition about Yemeni garments and jewellery. In addition, she came with three dresses and a child’s cap from Yemen as a gift for the TRC. One of the dresses in particular is special. It comes from the island of Socotra, which lies several hundred kms south of Aden. The garment comes from the city of Hadibu. It was acquired in 2006 actually on the island by the donor and her husband. The dress is made of green satin and decorated with broad, silver coloured bands. The garment reaches to just above the knees, but it has a very long train, and our question is HOW WAS IT WORN?

My first reaction was to have the train at the back; it could then be lifted as a headcovering, but I was told that by the donor this was wrong. So how was it worn? Another possiblity was that the train could be wrapped around the lower body to make a skirt, but how was it fixed in place? A telephone call to her husband led to the information that the train was at the front of the garment, and that it went between the legs to create a pair of very loose, knee-high ‘trousers.’ The rest of the train was placed over the right shoulder. Is this correct? We would like to find photographs of women wearing this type of garment to confirm all the details, or better still someone who has worn such a garment or knows it well, so that we can drape it correctly.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 4 November 2015

   

Visiting the Silk Road II

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The Famen pagoda, south of Xi'an, China. Photograph Shelley Anderson

The Famen pagoda, south of Xi'an, China. Photograph Shelley Anderson

TRC volunteer Shelley Anderson continues her blog about her recent visit to China and the Silk Road: Famen Temple lies some 100 kilometres outside the busy city of Xi’an, China. It is a huge complex of modern-day Buddhist temples, a college and conference centre. It also includes a restored ancient pagoda, or Buddhist temple, that was first founded during the Eastern Han dynasty (25-220 CE). This pagoda has been destroyed and rebuilt many times in its history. During the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE) it enjoyed royal patronage, as the imperial capital was based in Chang’an, now modern-day Xi’an. Chang’an is considered the starting point westward for the Silk Road, where the huge international trading network for textiles, especially silk, and other valuable commodities began their journeys to India, Persia, Damascus and Rome. Thanks in no small part to this trade, China during the Tang dynasty was one of the most powerful and richest countries on earth.

A chance discovery in the ancient Famen pagoda helps to illustrate just how wealthy the kingdom was. In April 1987, during the pagoda’s rebuilding, a remarkable archaeological discovery was made. A forgotten underground chamber was discovered, full of Tang-era treasures, including glassware imported from the Middle East, over 100 gold and silver objects — and over 700 silk textiles. Many of the textiles had been folded and bundled together. Due to the damp inside the stone chambers, the textiles in the outer layers were decomposing and in very poor condition. There were damasks, leno, gauzes, brocades, plain silks and embroideries, all over 1,000 years old. A small silk blouse (6.5 cm in length, with 4.1 cm long sleeves), made to adorn a statue, was found with couched gold embroidery. The average diameter of the gold thread (made of extremely fine gold foil, wrapped around silk fibres) was 0.1 mm.

Also discovered was the reason for the collection of goods. A relic, a finger bone of the Buddha, was discovered in a niche in the last chamber. The bone was found inside a series of nested boxes, the last a small box of white jade. There were traces of gold thread from the embroidered silk cloth the box had been wrapped in. The rich goods were all offerings by worshippers to the Buddha, in order to ensure good luck and to gain merit for future lives. Two stone steles were also in the chambers, one of which was an inventory with a list of all the textiles, their names and weight, and the names of their donors on it.

The silks can be divided roughly into two categories: silk garments that had been offered by members of the imperial court (including an embroidered skirt given by the Empress Wu Zetian [624-705 CE], China’s only female ruler), and silks used to wrap other precious objects. Some of the silk fragments and other artifacts are on display at the nearby Famen Pagoda Museum. The bundles, however, are still being separated, layer by layer, at the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology.

It was a privilege to meet Associate Researcher Lu Zhiyong, head of the Institute’s Scientific Research Management Department, in a special laboratory for the silks built in collaboration with a German institute. “This is a unique case,” he said of the find. “The textiles were folded layer on layer and were most tightly packed. Our first job was to refrigerate the silks, to preserve them and to deal with a heavy mould problem. There were gold threads, samite, twills and tabbies. There were also a leather boot and lots of coins. We tried to X-ray the bundle but it was too thick—only the boot or coins or bamboo could be seen. So there was no new information from that.”

According to the stone stele, the Buddha relic was removed from the chamber every thirty years and taken by ceremonial procession to Chang’an. On its three-day journey back to the pagoda, offerings were presented. People were probably still trying to catch glimpses of the relic as the chamber was being shut. Many coins were found just inside the sealed chamber, possibly thrown in by poorer people who could not afford to offer textiles, Lu explained. All the textiles seem to date to the same period in the 9th century. “The chamber was last closed in the year 874. We don’t know why. There have been surprises: some of the cloth is printed, not embroidered. The textiles include early examples of the use of gold thread in weaving. There is a very early example of silver thread, too. The silver thread has a paper substrate. We have found socks, trousers, a skirt, a hat — these are high quality textiles, that all belonged to the Emperor’s family.” The silks used to wrap other objects are “not as high quality as the costumes,” Lu said. One such wrapper, used to cover a sutra (Buddhist scripture), was a silk gauze with a silk floss embroidered phoenix outlined in couched silver thread. Lu and a German colleague use flat Teflon sticks in the slow task of separating the layers. No chemicals are used. If they find they cannot separate a layer “we stop. We focus on climate control, on conserving the textiles and we wait for new techniques. I don’t do this work just for me but for other generations.”

Shelley Anderson, 1 November 2015

   

Visiting the Silk Road I

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Banner for the conference "Silks from the Silk Road". Photograph: Shelley Anderson

Banner for the conference "Silks from the Silk Road". Photograph: Shelley Anderson

TRC volunteer Shelley Anderson writes: There were many textile moments on a recent visit to China, where I attended the symposium “Silks from the Silk Road: Origin, Transmission and Exchange”, organized by the China National Silk Museum in collaboration with, among others, the Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre for Textile Research (CTR). The symposium opened with a weaver weaving damask silk on a large hook-shaft pattern loom, with a connecting rod. This sophisticated loom was built based on the remains of four model looms, made from wood and bamboo, uncovered in a Chinese tomb in 2012. This remarkable discovery included baskets of silk threads and dyes, and several wooden figurines that represent weavers. The artifacts have been dated to the Han dynasty, or late second century BCE. It’s a “truly exceptional” find, said CTR Director Marie-Louise Nosch. “It’s unique because finding organic matter so well preserved is rare. It bridges many gaps in our knowledge, as until now we did not know what type of looms were used. This shows the high technology of Han China, and will become a landmark in archaeology and textile research.”

Beautiful examples of silk fragments and textile tools were also on display in a special exhibition in the West Lake Museum (Hangzhou, China), where the symposium took place. Silk was a vital part of early Chinese economy, and the economies of other cultures that lived along the Silk Road. It was durable and light-weight, unlike dried fruits or gold, which were also traded up and down the Silk Road, along with jade, furs, spices and other commodities. You could buy camels, horses, slaves or servants with bolts of silk; soldiers’ salaries were paid in silk and debts settled with the textile.

One highlight of the exhibition for me was Yingpan Man. This richly dressed corpse was discovered in the abandoned city of Yingpan in 1995. Yingpan was an important Silk Road trading centre until it was destroyed by Genghis Khan’s troops. The arid desert atmosphere mummified the corpse and preserved the textiles he was buried in. And what textiles they are! He has a long double weave red woolen robe over purple silk trousers, another light yellow silk robe, and felt socks. He wears a funerary mask with a gold diadem, and a miniature silk caftan of embroidered damask silk had been placed on his chest. The motif of his red robe (of bulls and naked putti) leads some scholars to believe it was produced in the eastern part of the Roman empire. DNA tests, his brown hair and height (he is over six feet tall), and the non-Han Chinese custom of a funerary mask, point to European ancestry.

Shelley Anderson, 30 October 2015

   

The Mayflower, Loara Standish, and the City of Leiden

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Monument in Leiden along the Vliet, marking embarkation point of the Pilgrim Fathers leaving Leiden for Plymouth, and hence to America, in 1620.

Monument in Leiden along the Vliet, marking embarkation point of the Pilgrim Fathers leaving Leiden for Plymouth, and hence to America, in 1620.

I have lived on and off in Leiden for more than forty years, and regularly take groups of foreign friends and colleagues through this beautiful town. Perhaps it helps that my office is right in the centre of town, along the magnificent Rapenburg canal. When doing so, I always tell people about the (English) Pilgrim Fathers who in the early seventeenth century fled to Leiden and lived here for some time before boarding the Mayflower and sailing to America. I show them the places where they lived, and died. I also show them the various plaques in Leiden dedicated by American descendants to commemorate the stay of their ancestors (real or imaginary) in my town.

Two weeks ago I walked with one of my colleagues along the canals. I noticed a new monument, marking the spot where in 1620 some 102 Pilgrim Fathers boarded a boat to take them to the nearby North Sea, and ultimately to America. The monument also bears the names of the families that were involved. I spotted one name in particular: Standish. I had been looking for references to that man for some time. I knew he was one of the Englishmen who stayed in Leiden and left for America. He was called Myles Standish, and he eventually became the military commander of the new colony, a function he held until his death in 1656. He is, you will be thrilled to know, the main character, although highly romanticised, of Longfellow's narrative poem, The Courtship of Myles Standish (1858).

But what has this to do with textiles? Myles Standish was the father of Loara Standish, who was born in America and died before 1655. Around 1640 she made a sampler which has become the oldest extant example in the USA (for more information, click here). It is now kept in the Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts. It is embroidered on fine linen (c. twenty threads per cm) using blue, green, pink and red silk thread. It is 60 x 18.5 cm in size. The sampler is decorated with bands of stylised flowers (roses and carnations), acorns and intertwined ‘s’ designs. Stitched at the
bottom is:

"Loara Standish is my name Lorde guide my hart that I may doe thy will also My hands with such Convenient skill as may Conduce to virtue void of Shame and I will give The glory to thy name."

Loara Standish is believed to have died young, but exactly when is unknown. She lies buried, as far as can be ascertained, in the Myles Standish Burial Ground, Duxbury, Massachusetts, USA. The sampler was kept in her brother Josiah’s family until it was donated to the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1844.

Willem Vogelsang, 28 October 2015

   

Embroidered postcards from World War I

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Part of a sheet with embroidered designs waiting to be cut out for the WW I postcards. The war ended in November 1918, before these designs (dated 1919) could be used. TRC collection

Part of a sheet with embroidered designs waiting to be cut out for the WW I postcards. The war ended in November 1918, before these designs (dated 1919) could be used. TRC collection

Since a child, and after listening to my grandfather who actually fought at Ypres ('Wipers,' as my granpa called the place), I have been fascinated by a particular type of silk embroidered postcard that British troops in Wold War I used to sent home from France to their loved ones. Because of the TRC having a series of mini-exhibitions in its workshop it was decided to create a small exhibition about these cards to coincide with the anniversary of the ending of the War on the 11th November. And just last week, the TRC received three panels with series of embroidered designs intended to be used for these postcards. I would like to thank Dr. Ian Collins from St. Albans, England, for his help in acquiring these fascinating items.

This type of card is decorated with a wide variety of designs and messages worked in floss silk in various bright colours. The decoration is worked in small, silk gauze panels with colourful, free style embroidery. These embroidered panels were stuck to a card frame that was embossed with a decorative edging. These cards were a popular form of communication from the early 1900s until the 1950s. They were especially favoured during and just after the First World War. During the war, the range of designs worked was very varied and included obviously military subjects, such as the flags of the allies (notably Belgium, Britain, France, Italy, and the USA), names of regiments, figures of famous generals, and more popular subjects such as Christmas, birthday and New Year best wishes. In addition, many cards included butterflies and flowers, as gentler, more sympathetic images. It has been estimated that up to ten million embroidered cards of this type were produced during this period, mainly in France. Comparable cards were made in Germany, but with different designs!

In the past, various questions have been raised about these cards, especially as to how the cards were decorated, and by whom. There are several possible answers. It has been suggested that the images were hand embroidered by Belgian and French women who had been afflicted by the war. But would they have really been able to hand embroider millions of cards ? Another explanation, and far more likely, is that they were machine made, but this brings us to the question, which type of machine was used? The vast majority of these embroidered postcards were made using what appear to be hand stitches of various kinds, including the back stitch, basket weave stitch, individual cross stitches, herringbone stitch, reverse herringbone stitch (to create a shadow work effect), double running stitch (Holbein stitch), satin stitch, stem stitch, as well as various composite stitches.

A machine that could imitate the appearance of these hand stitches is the hand-embroidery machine that was invented in 1829 by Josué Heilmann in Mulhouse, France. It was developed over the following decades by various engineers and companies in Britain, France, Germany and Switzerland. Basically, this hand-embroidery machine used a pantograph system to transfer the stitches. Each stitch is drawn out on a large scale design and then its position traced by an operator using a point on one arm of the pantograph. A series of needles responds to the movement of the pantograph arm. Each needle has an eye in the middle for the thread, and two sharp ends. The needle is passed backwards and forwards through the ground cloth using a pincer system, so imitating the action and appearance of hand embroidery. Each colour in the design is individually worked (so all the blue parts, for example, are worked, and then the machine is re-threaded with a new colour), until the design is complete. This machine, in various sizes, was used in both domestic and factory settings.

There were both home and factory versions of this machine. Based on surviving examples, it would appear that wide strips (domestic) and very broad sheets (factory) of organza cloth were embroidered. Using hand-embroidery machines it was possible to produce hundreds of images on a sheet in one go. Once embroidered, the strips/sheets were cut up and the individual images were stuck into an embossed card frame. They were then sold to the public, especially the soldiers, at a very high price. The companies making and selling these cards could well have made a considerable profit. Perhaps this is the real reason behind the stories of poor refugee women working all hours to hand embroider these cards in order to feed their desperate families.…... Wouldn't you be more willing to buy such cards thinking you were helping the needy as well?

Source: COLLINS, Ian (2001). An Illustrated History of the Embroidered Silk Postcard, Radlett: Gabrian Antiques.

Digital source, click here

Videos showing early hand-embroidery machines in use:

Gillian Vogelsang, 18 October 2015

PS: On 21 December 2015 we added a PDF catalogue of the postcards that are held in the TRC collection to our website. Click here to download it.

   

Arpilleras from Chile

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Example of an arpillera

Example of an arpillera

A workshop on arpilleras was offered recently during a festival on adult education, in Lelystad (the Netherlands). The festival also featured an exhibition of approximately 25 arpilleras, from Chile, Colombia, England, Northern Ireland, Peru and Zimbabwe. Workshop leader Roberta Bacic explained that arpilleras are a South American folk art, which uses colourful appliqués, patchwork and embroidery to depict scenes of everyday life. Small, three-dimensional cloth dolls are a common feature.

Arpilleras are not intended for practical use: the borders are blanket stitched or edged with crochet or a colourful fabric, so that the pictures can be hung on walls. The word arpillera comes from an old Spanish word for burlap, as most of these cloth pictures were originally sewn on a background cloth of burlap or flour sacking. The most famous arpilleras and arpilleristas (the women who make them) are from Chile. “Arpilleras are really an art of poverty,” Roberta explained. “They were originally made from scraps and pieces of used clothing. They were made by poor women working in groups. The conversations the women had while sewing together helped create a sense of sharing and of solidarity.” That solidarity was essential for survival.

In the 1960s there was a cottage industry in Chile of arpilleras depicting happy domestic scenes. These were made from colourful woolen yarns. The military coup of 1973 changed this. Unemployment grew, wool became scarce, and opponents of the Pinochet military dictatorship (1973-1990) began to disappear or be detained. Families of the disappeared (‘desaparecidos’) were banned from many jobs and refused hospital services. Poor women in and around Santiago began making arpilleras in an income-generating project organized by the Roman Catholic Church’s Vicaría de la Solidaridad. Church workers donated clothes as fabric for the appliqués, paid for the finished arpilleras and organized their sale. Many of the women were members of the group Agrupación de los Familiares de los Detenidos Desaparecidos (AFDD), an association for families of people illegally detained and made to disappear by the regime. The women gathered once a week at different workshops and chose a theme to embroider, which they began at the workshop and finished at home. There were rules: torture scenes could not be depicted; the Andes mountains were usually stitched in the background as a symbol of Chile; only one arpillera a week per woman was accepted. If a woman needed more money, she was allowed to make two arpilleras per week. Work was unsigned in order to protect the maker's identity

Over 250 women became involved in the project. The women talked in the workshops about the trauma of missing husbands, sons and daughters as they embroidered the stories of their lives: communal kitchens to feed the hungry; demonstrations in front of police stations or government buildings where women held photographs of their loved ones and demanded information as to where they were; police raids on homes; a family sitting around a table, with an empty chair. The Church smuggled thousands of arpilleras out of Chile for sale elsewhere. The textiles helped raise awareness of the human rights abuses taking place inside Chile. As criticism of Pinochet increased, the government made it illegal to own or publically show arpilleras.

Shelley Anderson, 28 September 2015

   

Nederlands Forensisch Instituut

Gepolariseerde foto van hempvezels.

Gepolariseerde foto van hempvezels.

TRC vrijwilligster en stagiaire, Deandra de Looff, was onlangs enkele dagen te gast bij het Nederlands Forensisch Instituut (NFI) in verband met haar onderzoeksstage. Onder begeleiding van een forensisch onderzoeker heeft zij kennisgemaakt met de verschillende methoden en technieken die worden gebruikt bij forensisch onderzoek. Het bezoek bestond onder andere uit het leren omgaan met een microscoop (met hoge vergroting) en het herkennen van verschillende vezels (synthetische, dierlijke en plantaardige) onder de microscoop. Hierbij wordt gebruik gemaakt van polarisatie om verschillende kenmerken van de vezels (zoals poriën en kristallen bij plantaardige vezels) beter zichtbaar te maken.

Bij polarisatiemicroscopie wordt gebruik gemaakt van twee polarisatiefilters. Als deze gekruist staan zal er geen licht worden doorgelaten, behalve door een optisch actief object, bijvoorbeeld een vezel. Zulke objecten lichten op. Hiermee kunnen vezels en andere monsters worden geïdentificeerd. Ook kan met de microscoop de fluorescentie van vezels worden bekeken.  Bij het NFI wordt ook gebruik gemaakt van een rasterelektronenmicroscoop (Scanning Electron Microscope: SEM) voor het maken van opnames van vezels. Met een rasterelektronenmicroscoop kan een heel hoge vergroting worden verkregen. Dat is handig voor bijvoorbeeld het meten van de doorsnede van vezels.

Het bezoek heeft zich voornamelijk gefocust op microscopie en het herkennen van verschillende vezels onder de microscoop. In de foto's enkele voorbeelden van wat er onder de microscoop wordt gezien.

26 september 2015

 

   

Chiné à la Branche versus Chiné à la Chaîne

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Detail of a French Chiné á la chaîne, early 20th century. TRC collection

Detail of a French Chiné á la chaîne, early 20th century. TRC collection

The TRC has recently been given some textiles, which include a length of brown cotton cloth with white vertical stripes embellished with stylised (and fuzzy) flowers. The flowers were made in some form of, what appears to be an ikat technique, since the colours of the design were added to the warp/weft threads before the cloth was woven. Ikat textiles are usually associated with India and Indonesia, but this textile looks European. It has taken a little time to find out what the textile is and where it comes from. It turns out it is French and dates to the 1930s and 1940s. It was used for upholstery.

The question that doggedly followed this piece was how the design was made? It turns out there are two possibilities, Chiné à la branche or Chiné à la chaîne. The word Chiné refers to China, but while the technique used to make this piece is Asian in influence, it is certainly not Chinese. In addition, both terms seem to be used interchangeably in English, especially on the internet. So we thought that this new item to the TRC collection could be used to highlight the differences between these two forms.

  • Chiné à la branche is a technique for dyeing silk that became popular in the early 18th century. This form is closer to the Asian ikat, as it involves binding off areas of the warp thread and then (resist) dyeing it in various colours until the required design is achieved. In the 18th century, this type of cloth was particularly associated with the French court, as it was an expensive manner of decorating textiles. It was even known as Pompadour silk or Pompadour taffeta, after the mistress of King Louis XV of France, Madame de Pompadour (1721-1764).
  • The second method, Chiné à la chaîne, was developed in the mid-19th century and involved hand painting the required design onto the warp threads (of any fibre) and then weaving the cloth. It was not long, however, before the hand painted designs were replaced with screen, and later, roller printing techniques of dyeing the threads.

Sadly, the TRC collection does not include any examples of Chiné à la branche, but we now have an example of Chiné à la chaîne!

Sources: “Printing of Silk Warps for the Manufacture of Chiné Silk”. Posselt’s Textile Journal. December 1907.

Available at:

Gillian Vogelsang, 22 September 2015

   

Bogd Khaan Palace Museum, Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia

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Petal crown of Bogd Khaan, with gold, silver, pearl, Indian gyasar gold-thread brocade, velvet, early 20th century, Bogd Khaan Palace Museum, Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia.

Petal crown of Bogd Khaan, with gold, silver, pearl, Indian gyasar gold-thread brocade, velvet, early 20th century, Bogd Khaan Palace Museum, Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia.

Well, while Karakorum did not provide much in the field of textiles and dress (see below), a visit to the Bogd Khaan Palace Museum in the Mongolian capital, this morning, was really amazing. The complex, which dates to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, includes a summer and winter palace. While the Summer Palace (being a complex of buildings erected in traditional style) contains mainly religious objects, including appliqués and paintings, the Winter Palace (built in European/Russian style) houses a wealth of other objects, including a large number of gorgeous, and above all very intriguing garments, and not to mention Bogd Khan's personal collection of stuffed animals and some of his coaches (made in England, thank you). The Winter Palace is one of these buildings, rather like Huis Doorn in The Netherlands, where Kaiser Wilhelm spent the last twenty years of his life, or his former palace in Potsdam, where you get the feeling that nothing has changed since the royal occupants left the premises (together with the servants and the maid, who quite surely also took the vacuum cleaner).

Bearing in mind the rumours that the royal occupant of the Winter Palace led a rather debaucherous life (for good religious reasons, of course), this only adds to the atmosphere. The Winter Palace in Ulaan Baatar was occupied by Bogd Khaan until his death in 1924. He was the last of the secular/religious leaders of Mongolia (I will spare you the details). He was actually born in Tibet, and at the young age of four or five taken to Mongolia. Some of the clothes he was wearing when he was taken on this long journey can acually be seen in the museum, together with many of his toys. Most fascinating however are the ceremonious robes and other garments (including hats, boots, jackets etc.) that he wore on various occasions. The museum also contains many of the garments worn by his wife, the Queen Dondogdulam. Much of the original furniture is also there, including a chair on which the Queen used to sit. There is actually a photograph showing the Queen on that chair. Furthermore, rather amusing, two real musical chairs for the royal couple (they actually produced music when people sat down on them), a gift from the Russian tsar.

Willem Vogelsang, 20 September 2015

   

Quick trip to Karakorum, Mongolia

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Kharkhorin / Karakorum, with the walls of the Erdene Zuu monastic complex. Photograph: Willem Vogelsang

Kharkhorin / Karakorum, with the walls of the Erdene Zuu monastic complex. Photograph: Willem Vogelsang

I am just back from a brief trip to Kharkhorin, or Karakorum as most people outside of Mongolia tend to know this place. It is the old capital of the Mongol Empire, founded sometime in the early thirteenth century, and destroyed, with great enthusiasm, by the Chinese in the late fourteenth. Just about nothing remains of the place, although recent excavations are bringing to light some intriguing finds. The whole area is now dominated by the huge Erdene Zuu complex, a Buddhist monastic settlement of the sixteenth century surrounded by a white-washed wall. Unfortunately, only a few buildings within the walls of the monastery remain; all the other constructions having been destroyed during the communist purges of the late 1930's (which also killed allegedly some 90000 Mongolian Buddhist monks and nuns). What is really interesting at the site is the new museum that has been built, just outside the former confines of the old city of Karakorum. Funded, and apparently built, designed, and more or less parachuted by the Japanese, it shows a wealth of material and information on the history of the Orkhon valley, of which the former city of Karakorum was only one in a series of ancient capitals. It also shows a model of how Karakorum may have looked like, together with its Buddhist temples, Christian churches and Islamic mosques.

Textile-wise I was especially intrigued by (admittedly, reproductions of) wall paintings that were recently discovered in a nearby tomb dating to the late first millennium AD and showing men wearing the beautiful flowing robes that we often tend to associate with the other Central Asian civilisations, as for instance those of the Sogdians.

A word of warning: it takes, by car, some six to eight hours to drive from Ulaan Baatar to Kharkhorin. But if you want to walk around at a historic place, where Marco Polo may (I stress the ' may') have wandered around, and where around AD 1250 the Franciscan monk William of Rubruck met a woman from Metz in France who had been captured in Hungary, and if you enjoy watching the wide landscape of the Mongolian pastures, it is certainly worth visiting. You can stay overnight in one of the camp sites that seem to have sprung up everywhere in Mongolia, and enjoy a night's sleep in a kher (or yurt). Don't be alarmed when in the early morning an old man or woman stumbles in to light the fire. 

Willem Vogelsang, 20 September 2015

   

Shopping for Kanga's in East Africa

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Two women from Zanzibar wearing a kanga. The woman to the right has a kanga with the text "Alaa kumbe", which means something like 'Good gracious me!'. Photograph by Kate Kingsford.

Two women from Zanzibar wearing a kanga. The woman to the right has a kanga with the text "Alaa kumbe", which means something like 'Good gracious me!'. Photograph by Kate Kingsford.

Kangas are large cotton cloths that are worn by women living along the whole of the East African coast, especially in Kenya, Tanzania and on the island of Zanzibar. Their characteristic feature is a short text printed on the cloth. The texts are often funny. They reveal some ' home truths', or they may tell something about the wearer's political opinion, etc. The TRC collection contains many examples of these garments, and in late 2009 / early 2010 the TRC mounted an exhibition on the subject. Below is a blog written by Kate Kingsford, now from Leiden, who is particularly fascinated by kangas and over the years has made a large collection of these marvellous garments:

"Shopping for kangas in Tanzania is always a very social activity. As I searched through the piles of kangas at the market in Moshi, Tanzania, the shopkeeper made tea and helped me decipher the layers of meaning in the messages. My favourite: “Mimi ni pweza mambo yangu hayatoweza”. Literally, this means, “I am an octopus, you can’t mess with my affairs”. Several local women passing the shop were happy to explain why they might wear it - as a warning to another woman who was flirting with your husband, or a way of telling a neighbour to stop spreading dangerous gossip, or perhaps to tell your mother-in-law not to interfere with your family.

Kangas are a way of saying the unsayable, and always open to interpretation. But the Tanzanian elections are only a month away, and political kangas are much less subtle. Fatuma, the shopkeeper, was happy to sell me a dress in the bright red and blue of Chadema, the opposition, but was adamant that I wouldn’t find anything in the colours of CCM, the ruling party for the past fifty years. A little further into the market, however, I came across one small shop decked out in green and yellow, offering discount prices on CCM kangas. A lot of people have bought CCM kangas and Chadema dresses, apparently, but no one is wearing them in the streets; while there is still a chance that the elections will be violent, it’s better to wait to see who wins before flaunting political affiliations. “Keep it for after the election!” warned another woman at the market. Walking home, I followed her advice and wore the octopus kanga with pride.

Kate Kingsford, 20 September 2015

   

Stadskanaal embroidered kerchief, part 4

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A little while ago we had a Textile Moment (well several, actually) about a kerchief, donated to the TRC, which had the embroidered signatures of a group of women, an inscription that mentioned Stadskanaal (town), Ons Belang (factory) and two dates, in May and September 1945. In the various blogs it was noted that we were slowly coming to the conclusion that the handkerchief was embroidered by various women in an internment camp for Dutch citizens who had worked with the Germans during the Second World War. The internment camp was located on the premises of the Ons Belang factory. In one of these blogs we identified the swimmer Tony Bijland, who during the war used to compete in various German organised swimming contests and apparently was a member of the Jeugdstorm, the Dutch equivalent of the German Hitler Jugend.

This idea is getting more substance, as one of our student volunteers was able last month (August 2015) to decipher the names of three sisters in one corner of the kerchief. The names are Iskje, Trijntje (?) and Griet, who would be Grietje van der Meulen (1922-2001), Trijntje van der Meulen (1924-2003) and Iskje van der Meulen (1930-1982). Various members of the large Van der Meulen family of Lippenhuizen (Friesland), as is clear from many sources, were actively involved with the NSB (Dutch nazi party before and during WWII) movement in the 1930s and early 1940s. The father of the three girls, Luite van der Meulen (1894-1964), was arrested by the resistance movement in Ureterp, in April 1945 (the same place where he died in 1964). Contemporary reports describe him as a "gevreesd boerenleider".

The kerchief was bought a few years ago in a flea market in Leiden and given to the TRC in 2015, so one of the questions that we had was how did this kerchief get to Leiden? We may have found an answer to this question, the youngest Van der Meulen sister, Martha (who is not mentioned on the kerchief) died in 2008 in Leiden at the age of 77. In 1945 she would have been 14, so perhaps regarded as being too young to be in such a camp, but it is possible that it was via Martha that this kerchief came to Leiden.

Finally, another name on the kerchief can be identified: that of Uta Nieper, who was Uta Maya Ellen Carola Nieper (1916-2006), born in Hamburg, Germany. She died in Gouda, Zuid-Holland, the Netherlands. She married Lukas Jan Pronk (from Emmen, Drenthe; member SS; died in 1994) in Groningen on 22 June 1944. 

An interesting book on the subject is by Koos Groen, Fout en Niet Goed: De Vervolging van Collaboratie en Verraad na de Tweede Wereldoorlog. Hilversum 2009.

Gillian and Willem Vogelsang, 5 September 2015

   

Indonesian batik

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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

Photos:

  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

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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

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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

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'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: http://www.museumrijswijk.nl/textiel2015.html 

Else van Laere, 19 July 2015

   

Catharijneconvent, Utrecht

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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

   

Australian convict shirt

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Slopshirt or convict shirt, Australia, c. 1840. Photograph Jamie North

Slopshirt or convict shirt, Australia, c. 1840. Photograph Jamie North

Spending a few days in Adelaide, I visited this afternoon a really marvellous exhibition in the Art Gallery of Southern Australia, called Treasure Ships: Art in the Age of the Spices. On display are beautiful examples of textiles from India and Indonesia, plus many other precious objects, including paintings, drawings, weapons, etc., all relating to the extensive trade networks in the Indian Ocean and beyond, from between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. I must admit, it still 'touches' me to see objects so closely linked to my Dutch ancestors who played such a prominent role in these networks, although, politically correct as I am supposed to be (a position not lost in some of the texts that accompany the exhibition), I also realise that many things they did were not always particularly very nice. But then, no one is perfect.

An object that stirred my imagination (and which was a bit of an anomaly among the other objects) was a so-called slop shirt, a type of garment worn by the British convicts that were sent to Australia in the early days of European settlement over there. This example was accidentally found in 1980 during restoration works at the Hyde Park barracks, now a World Heritage site in Sydney. The shirt dates to c. 1840. Two of such shirts were issued to the convicts each year, I learnt from the catalogue. The same catalogue tells me that the textiles for the shirts came from India, but the sewing of the shirts was done by female convicts in Australia.

Most of the shirts, including the illustrated example, were 'decorated' with stripes, to clearly indicate the status of the wearer. The striped pyjamas worn by the prisoners in the German concentration camps have their direct precedents !

Willem Vogelsang, 8 July 2015

 

   

German student fraternity caps

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Group of (ex)students with their Mütze (cap) in front of the Lambertikirche, Münster, Germany, 24 May 2015

Group of (ex)students with their Mütze (cap) in front of the Lambertikirche, Münster, Germany, 24 May 2015

Last weekend Gillian and I spent a few days in Münster, Germany, where on Sunday morning we watched all over town young and older men (not women !) with rather conspicuous caps walking around, and actually congregating at the St. Lambert's Church (Lambertikirche) in the centre of town for what we thought was a special church service. These caps are really characteristic. Some of them have a brim in front, others not, but for the rest they seem pretty uniform and they are certainly very colourful. Student fraternities, or Studenten-verbindungen, are still wide-spread in Germany and other (former) German speaking countries. Many of them date back to the early 19th century. Students who join these fraternities often remain in contact with each other throughout their lives. The caps (Mütze or Deckel) constitute an important part of their traditional outfit (Couleur), only worn, so we may assume, at important communal events. For more information, see http://de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studentenm%C3%BCtze 

Willem Vogelsang, 30 May 2015

   

Pagina 10 van 12

Donations

 
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Financiële giften

The TRC is afhankelijk van project-financiering en privé-donaties. Al ons werk wordt verricht door vrijwilligers. Ter ondersteuning van de vele activiteiten van het TRC vragen wij U daarom om financiële steunGiften kunt U overmaken op bankrekeningnummer NL39 INGB 000 298 2359, t.n.v. Stichting Textile Research Centre. Omdat het TRC officieel is erkend als een Algemeen Nut Beogende Instelling (ANBI), en daarbij ook nog als een Culturele Instelling, zijn particuliere giften voor 125% aftrekbaar van de belasting, en voor bedrijven zelfs voor 150%. Voor meer informatie, klik hierVoor het overmaken van giften, kunt U ook gebruik maken van Paypal: