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Display of clothing and objects associated with Bishop Mor Julius Yeshù Çiçek. 5th Nov. 2017. Photograph by Gewargis Acis.Display of clothing and objects associated with Bishop Mor Julius Yeshù Çiçek. 5th Nov. 2017. Photograph by Gewargis Acis.Sunday 5th November: The last few days have seen some interesting events and developments at the TRC. As seen from a previous blog, we had a donation of a christening gown dating from 1947. It is embroidered with the names of 17 babies who had been christened in the gown. An item about it was also put on the TRC’s facebook page and many people have seen the item and reacted to it.

Saturday and Sunday saw a new development at the TRC, namely a two-day course on the identification of lace and its many different forms and types. The course was given by Olga Ieromina, one of the TRC volunteers and a dedicated lace maker and responsible for the TRC’s collection of lace. More details about the course will come online shortly.

In the meantime Willem and I have been hard at work at the Syriac Monastery in Glane, in the east of the Netherlands. We have been helping the community to prepare a display about the previous Syriac bishop, called Mor Julius Yeshù Çiçek, who died in 2007 and who had a strong influence then, and indeed now, on the monastery and the people associated with it. Saturday was spent getting the final details of the exhibition in order, text boards hung, podiums and stands covered, objects in order (especially three outfits worn by the bishop) and finally getting the object descriptions written and translated into Dutch and English. Two showcases for the display were provided by the Volkenkunde Museum, Leiden.

Christening gown from 1947 made from parachute silk, embroidered with the names of seventeen young children who were baptised in the gown, between 1947 and 2013 (TRC 2010.0070a)Christening gown from 1947 made from parachute silk, embroidered with the names of seventeen young children who were baptised in the gown, between 1947 and 2013 (TRC 2010.0070a)Today the TRC received a very special new acquisition for the collection: it is a christening gown from the Netherlands, which was made in 1947 from parachute silk that the grandfather of the baby had acquired during the war (TRC 2010.0070a).  He had three daughters, and each of them got part of the silk cloth. Two sisters used it to make themselves a blouse, the third to make the christening gown for her first child. Not an easy thing to do, because the gown had to be made from a bias cut length of material with a diagonal seam across the middle of the gown. In order to hide that seam, the young mother embroidered along the seam the name, date of birth and place of birth of her little daughter. Later she added the date of the christening, the name and place of the church, the name of the vicar and the Bible text of the christening.

The christening gown was used many times in the family, and each time the name of the baby and all other details were embroidered onto the gown. And after seventeen babies the gown is almost completely covered. The last name to be added is dated the 12th March 2013, for a baptism in the town of Harderwijk.


Girl with child from Walcheren in Zeeland, in the southwestern part of the Netherlands, in local costume. Photograph was taken in 1929.Girl with child from Walcheren in Zeeland, in the southwestern part of the Netherlands, in local costume. Photograph was taken in 1929.The TRC Leiden has just been given a small photo album that dates from 1929. It depicts daily life in Zeeland just before the Second World War. A way of life, including many of the garment types that have now vanished. The album includes 39 photographs taken during the holiday of Mr and Mrs N.G.J Schouwenburg from Amsterdam. They and their young daughter, Gera, then aged one, were in Zutphen in Overijssel, in the East of the Netherlands, and in Oostkapelle in Zeeland (in the south) for a holiday. It would appear that they were part of the vicars and elders associated with the Dutch Reformed Church (Nederlands Hervormde Kerk), as they stayed with Mr. van Paassen (Zutphen) and Mr. Gijsman (Oostkapelle), both of whom were vicars of that particular Protestant denomination. The album contains both family images of the Schouwenburgs and Gera (she regularly appears in the photographs).

With respect to the TRC interest in dress and identity, the images in this album present a fascinating glimpse of life for a middle class urban family (the ladies are wearing some wonderful cloche hats), who were clearly interested in the regional dress still worn on a daily basis by men, women and children in Zeeland.  We are now working hard on identifying all of the regional dress forms represented in the photographs.

These photographs can be found at the TRC Digital Collection under the numbers 2017.3322 (a-z, and za-zo), or by typing in Schouwenburg. One of the aims of the TRC is to present online a range of photographs and other images relating to textile and dress history from around the world. If you have any photographs that you know the date, place and perhaps even the people depicted, and you would be willing to donate to them TRC can you please let us know at Dit e-mailadres wordt beveiligd tegen spambots. JavaScript dient ingeschakeld te zijn om het te bekijken.. Many thanks!

Gillian Vogelsang, 31st October 2017

Stevengraph showing Queen Victoria, woven in Coventry (England) in 1841.Stevengraph showing Queen Victoria, woven in Coventry (England) in 1841.I first became interested in Stevengraphs after the TRC acquired several examples (see TRC 2013.0419 and 2013.0462 via the TRC’s digital collection). Stevengraphs are pictures woven from silk. Originally in shimmering white, silver and black threads, designers later used coloured silks to create pictures. Stevengraphs are named after the English weaver, Thomas Stevens, who developed the process.

Stevens began producing silk bookmarks and greeting cards in the 1860s, using mechanical looms and punch cards. These affordable silk pictures became very popular in Victorian England, and gradually became larger and more detailed. It was a delight, then, to discover a museum dedicated to Stevengraphs.

The National Silk Art Museum in Weston, Missouri (USA) has some 300 silk pictures on display, ranging from small souvenirs of various World Fairs, to portraits of celebrities and royalty, to large reproductions of paintings by Rembrandt, Goya and Raphael. There is also a special display of embroidered post cards of World War I, similar to those in the TRC collection. The majority of the pictures, especially ones depicting religious or sporting scenes, are from France, not England, produced by firms such as Neyret Freres.

The exhibition opens with a display (post cards, photographs and stereoscope slides) on the history of silk production, with an emphasis on 19th century American involvement in silk. In 1603, silk worm eggs and mulberry seeds were sent to the British colony of Virginia, by order of the English king, in the hope of establishing a silk industry that could compete with French and Italian silk production. Crops like tobacco and indigo, however, proved more commercially successful. There were many silk mills, mostly in the eastern USA, during the latter half of the 19th century and early 20th.

Stevengraph showing Joan of Arc.Stevengraph showing Joan of Arc.In the 1830s there was a get-rich-quick craze (similar to the 17th century ‘tulip mania’ in the Netherlands), which involved planting hectares of mulberry trees in order to raise silk worms. The craze ended in failure, and most American mills imported raw silk from elsewhere.

The collection of the National Silk Art Museum began as a sort of craze, too, according to the curator John Pottie, who has put together the collection. “I collected sports memorabilia. In 1980 I bought a small engraving of French billiard players. When I got it home I realized it was silk, not an engraving.” Pottie fell in love with the way silk pictures change in light. “It’s almost as if they are breathing,” he said. Everything about Stevengraphs, from the way they look to the way they are produced, fascinates him. It is easy to see why after seeing the collection on display.

Shelley Anderson, 25th October 2017

Mormon modest clothing for a temple visit, Utah (US).Mormon modest clothing for a temple visit, Utah (US).Earlier this year, the British BBC reported on an unexpected but growing fashion trend: modest clothing. While reporters found many different ideas about what constituted modest clothing, there was agreement that the trend is being fueled by younger Muslim women who do not want to compromise either their faith or their sense of self-expression through what they wear.

But modest fashion, with dress hemlines below the knee and higher necklines, is also important to many other people. Among these are members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints (LDS or Mormons), a Christian religious group that began in the USA in the 19th century. There are approximately 15 million Mormons around the world today, with over half living in the US. “Our bodies are sacred, so we need to clothe it appropriately,” one American Mormon told me. “We dress modestly in order to not call attention to ourselves. This means not exposing our bodies, so no see-through or sheer clothing, but also not wearing loud colours. I think it boils down to showing respect for myself and my body.”

Both Mormon men and women should dress modestly, she said. “In an everyday situation you probably won’t be able to spot an LDS member. Maybe at the beach, because men would wear longer swim trunks, and women would be in a one piece bathing suits—no bikinis.” Clothing worn to Sunday church services is mostly a personal “matter of taste,” she continued. “I have a long red dress. It’s modest, but I don’t wear it to church because it’s loud.”

Mormons who are initiated and make additional spiritual commitments also go to a temple. The clothing worn to temple must be all white, which symbolizes purity. Women wear white dresses with long sleeves, which are either mid-calf or ankle length, and white shoes. Men wear white suits and ties and white shoes. Larger temples may rent out this clothing, which is considered sacred, or believers can buy the clothes at LDS clothing centres.

Other clothing that is considered sacred is special underwear. Called ‘garments’, these are available at LDS clothing centres only for Mormons who have made certain personal commitments. “Garments remind us of the spiritual promises we have made. They’re sacred. The only time you don’t wear them is in the shower, or swimming, or when you are being intimate.” Garments are always white—except in the case of Mormon military personnel. The LDS and the US military have agreed that Mormon service members can wear camouflage garments.

While I was allowed to photograph the modest clothing for sale at a LDS clothing centre in Utah, I was not allowed to photograph the sacred garments.

Shelley Anderson, 8th October 2017

Joost Kolkman photographing Father Antonios of the Syriac Orthodox Church in the St. Ephrem monastery, Glane, the Netherlands. Thursday, 5th October 2017.Joost Kolkman photographing Father Antonios of the Syriac Orthodox Church in the St. Ephrem monastery, Glane, the Netherlands. Thursday, 5th October 2017.The last few months we have been helping with a small exhibition about the life and work of His Eminence, Mor Julius Yeshû Çiçek, the former Syriac Orthodox archbishop for Central Europe, at the St. Ephrem Monastery in Glane, in the Netherlands. On the 5th November there will be a memorial service at the monastery in honour of the bishop, who died on the 29th October, 2005, and was laid to rest at the monastery on the 5th November.

Thanks to the help of the Volkenkunde Museum in Leiden, two large showcases can be used to present items relating to the life of Mor Julius Yeshû Çiçek, including his calligraphy equipment and amazing artwork. There will also be three outfits that he wore and other items, such as his slippers (worn during services) that are decorated with pearls. Joost Kolkman, our indefatigable TRC photographer and web designer, Willem and myself were busy at the monastery on Thursday, sorting out items, dressing mannequins in the bishop's clothing, taking photographs of objects, buildings, statues, etc. We really enjoyed the day, working together with the ever so friendly, helpful, and very resourceful members of the community.

We also worked on the next Syriac project, which is about monastic and liturgical dress. Joost took beautiful photographs of some of the priests and monks, and their clothing.

The photograph shows the team in full swing: Joost takes a photograph of Father Antonios, I am holding up a piece of foam board to redirect the light, and Willem took this picture. In the background you can see one of the large showcases on loan from the Volkenkunde Museum in Leiden.

Gillian Vogelsang, 8th October 2017

Just had a few days in Brighton on the southern coast of England. I was attending a one-day meeting on Fashioning Africa, which is a project organised by the Royal Pavilion and Museums. The Project is about looking at, talking about and collecting African fashion, both traditional/classic forms as well as items made by specific fashion designers in various countries, including Ghana and Nigeria.

The meetings were very well attended, with colleagues, students and other interested people from all over Britain (and one from Holland) attending and taking part. There were two sessions, one with lectures and an afternoon session focusing on objects. For the first time ever I was described as a global textile specialist! I quite like the title.... now to make it true. Anyway, going back to the morning talks, it was fascinating hearing from the various speakers and how they approached the subject, the question of ethical collecting, and why should a British museum collect African garments? However, the question was turned around by referring to the large Afro-British population here, therefore why would you NOT collect items that represent their cultural background?

The afternoon session was spent looking at various groups of objects and explaining some of the different ways of looking at them, why were they made, what are they saying, etc. Participants moved from one table to another. There were tables with woven, dyed, and embellished forms, and some specialists explaining. At my table (embellished), I was not sure whether I had said the same things to all the groups, or had missed things out, let alone talked about all the objects. But the questions, comments and suggestions kept me going. There were some really interesting points made.

There was also a mystery object that the museum had put on my table..... Anyway, it turned out to be an Egyptian appliqué, something I know a little about as we had an exhibition on this subject at the TRC some years ago (for the TRC digital Egyptian appliqué exhibition, click here). Quite a relief.

One thing that was clear is that people's knowledge of fashion was good, but lacking in how to recognise basics, such as what is made of cotton, what is hand sewn, different types of weaves and embellishments. It has made me really think hard about a 5-day intensive textile course just on African textiles. If you are interested let me know and I will see what we can arrange with Brighton.

It was good having the chance to talk with colleagues, see people I had not seen for a while (including several who had been to Leiden on the normal 5-day intensive textile course), and to meet with students and enthousiasts with a passion for textiles and the stories they can tell.

Gillian Vogelsang, 1st October 2017

Four of the nine frames illustrating the various stages in binding and dyeing an ikat cloth.Four of the nine frames illustrating the various stages in binding and dyeing an ikat cloth.The last few days have been spent sorting out, tidying up and getting on with cataloguing and updating items for the TRC Collection, following the very busy week we have just gone through. Among some of the items registered is a wonderful series of frames made by the ikat weavers from Kalimantan (Borneo), who were at the TRC in August. The nine frames illustrate the various stages of setting up, binding and dyeing a set of warp threads (‘web’) using the ikat (resist, binding) technique before the coloured threads are woven into a piece of cloth.  At the same time the TRC acquired a loom used in the making of an ikat cloth, as well as an example of the finished product. All of which can be viewed on our collection online (nos. TRC 2017.3127- 2017.3129).

The design chosen by the weavers for these pieces (both on the frames and the finished item) is a stylised boat, symbolising the journey through life - both for me and the TRC. This symbol led me to think about one of the functions of the TRC, namely as a ‘Cultural Ark’, a title we were given by the Yemen Ambassador a few years ago when he came to see our Yemeni dress collection, while talking about the current civil war in the country that is causing so much havoc in so many directions.

Basically the TRC Leiden is a ‘boat’ that is home to examples of different production techniques, textiles, garments, and so forth that are not only stored here, but equally important, these items can be viewed, researched, published and exhibited, so that everyone around the globe can see them (actually or digitally), as well as preserving these objects for the future. The library, lectures and workshops are all part and parcel of the TRC experience and journey to becoming one of the most accessible cultural heritage resources (anywhere).

Over the next few weeks we are going to highlight various aspects of the TRC Collection, things that are old, new, large, small, smelly….. but all with a story to tell. Not bad for a ‘little’ institute in Leiden!

Gillian Vogelsang, 20th September 2017

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