TRC Blog: Textile Moments

Men in burqa

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We are so used to seeing Afghan women being clad in the all-enveloping burqas, or chadaris, that the garment has almost become an icon of Afghan society. Now I just came across a news report from Kabul about some young Afghan men donning the burqa. I quote a message from TOLOnews.com, by Tariq Majidi, published yesterday, 5 March: 

For the first time, more than 10 male civil society activists took to the streets of Kabul City on Thursday wearing burqas in protest of violence against women. The men sporting burqas began their protest in Pul-e-Surkh area of Kabul ending their march near the Independent Human Rights Commission (IHRC), walking over 200 meters protesting against the harassment and violence the women of the country face on a daily a basis. "I walked the streets today in a burqa to understand how my sisters and mothers face violence from men on a daily basis," a protestor said. "I wanted to understand the situation." Several spectators ridiculed the men protesting, while others supported the movement. "I was sitting inside a restaurant eating breakfast when I saw the men marching down the streets in their burqas," Maisam, Kabul resident, said. "I lost it and couldn't stop laughing. Men should not being doing this." Fifty year old Haji Haider, a resident of Kabul, said this move made by the men spoke volumes. "This is the first that I'm witnessing such a protest," Haider said. "This is a very good move. It's a step forward in favor of the women." The men have filed complaints and cases to the IHRC and the government to resolve the increasing harassment and violence against women. This comes after a female wore an iron clad vest illustrating the curves of the female body on the streets of Kabul in protest of sexual harassment of females.

Willem Vogelsang, 6 March 2015

   

Madeleine Vionnet

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Commemorative tile in Paris, dedicated to Madeleine Vionnet.

Commemorative tile in Paris, dedicated to Madeleine Vionnet.

TRC volunteer Shelley Anderson had another Textile Moment in Paris: “Avenue Montaigne is great for window shopping. It’s home to fashion houses like Gucci, Chanel, Prada, Dior and Vuitton, all competing to create eye-catching window displays. Thanks to TRC workshops and courses, I could work out how some of the outrageously priced clothing was constructed. But what was really thrilling was glancing down at the sidewalk in front of one shop and seeing a commemorative tile dedicated to fashion designer Madeleine Vionnet (1876-1975). Vionnet, who started out as a seamstress when she was 12 years old, revolutionized women’s fashion. She threw out frills and corsets, cut cloth on the bias for more freedom of movement, and used new fabrics like satin and gabardine. She gave her workers paid holiday and maternity leave, and had a day care centre on the premises—and a doctor and dentist. Her shop on Avenue Montaigne was nicknamed the “Temple of Fashion”.

21 February 2015

   

Het Huis van Hilde in Castricum, The Netherlands

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Hillegonda, a mannequin dressed in 14th century clothing, Huis van Hilde, Castricum

Hillegonda, a mannequin dressed in 14th century clothing, Huis van Hilde, Castricum

TRC volunteer Shelley Anderson had a recent Textile Moment in the north of the Netherlands: “Het Huis van Hilde" (House of Hilde) is a new museum in Castricum, just south of Alkmaar, devoted to the area’s archaeology. It’s a state of the art depot which houses almost a million artifacts, of which a thousand are on display. What impressed me the most were the 14 life-sized models and the clothing they wore: Hilde, based on a 4th century CE skeleton, wore an ankle length woolen dress and large plaid shawl, and a necklace with beads of glass paste and gold foil. The Bronze Age girl wore a plaid skirt and plain blouse, carried a spindle, and had a bag (perhaps sprang) over her shoulder full of wool. The 14th century Hillegonda wore a beautiful blue cloak and long red dress, with a tablet woven decorative belt. See www.huisvanhilde.nl for more information.”

21 February 2015

Hilde, mannequin dressed in 4th century CE clothing, Huis van Hilde, Castricum

Hilde, mannequin dressed in 4th century CE clothing, Huis van Hilde, Castricum

   

The TRC in Edinburgh

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The last few days have been very varied. I was asked by the organisers of the Iranian Festival in Edinburgh (February 2015) to give a brief talk about the history of the chador (Saturday 7 February, at the National Museum of Scotland) and then a full length lecture about Iranian regional dress at The Nomad's Tent on Sunday (8 February). It was fun talking about these subjects and listening to the other participants, that included Dr. Lloyd LLewellyn-Jones (Edinburgh University), Dr. Nacim Pak-Shiraz (Edinburgh University) and Dr. Friederike Voigt (National Museum of Scotland). A wide range of subjects were discussed, from early cut-to-shape Iranian garments, 19th century garments for men, and a small collection of beautiful women's garments from the Qajar period now in the National Museum.

But the weekend was not just about lectures. There was a chance to see an amazing and very beautiful range of clothing in a fashion show, called Persian Chic: Contemporary Iranian Fashion, which presented the work of four modern Iranian fashion designers, including that of Naghmeh Kiumarsi, 'Zarir', Diba Mehrabi and Kourosh Gharbi. The work of Gharbi was impeccable.

In addition, Willem and I also had the chance to pop into the National Gallery of Portraits, where we searched for paintings with embroidery. We spotted several that will be shortly appearing in TRC Needles. We also had fun chasing some leads to the early history of whitework embroidery in Edinburgh, including the history of Louis Ruffini, an Italian textile entrepreneur, who lived here along Nicolson Street in the late 18th century. Sadly one of the buildings he was particularly associated with has long been demolished, but opposite there is now a Starbucks, where Sunday afternoon, it so happened, we had coffee with Jennifer Scarce, a well-known Middle Eastern costume historian.

We are also looking for examples of Ayreshire whitework embroidery - should you have any you are willing to donate to the TRC then please let me know. Our goal is to turn the TRC into an international centre for the study of embroidery, and thanks to the help of many people we are well on the way!

We finished our all too brief excursion to Scotland with a long overdue visit to the most intriguing and fascinating chapel of Rosslyn.

Gillian Vogelsang, 10 February 2015

   

Visit to Egypt

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Man from Cairo, Egypt, working goldthread embroidery. Photograph by Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, December 2014.

Man from Cairo, Egypt, working goldthread embroidery. Photograph by Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, December 2014.

I have just got back from Egypt where I attended a conference about science and archaeology (organised by the German Archaeological Institute, Cairo), as well as giving a lecture about the textiles and garments of Tutankhamun at the Grand Egyptian Museum, Giza. The conference was held in Cairo and Aswan, which made the logistics difficult, but on the other hand we were able to talk with many more people.

During my stay in Cairo and Aswan I had several textile moments and I thought you might like to see/hear about them. Firstly in Aswan I came across a hand weaver working on the island of Elephantine. His family comes from Naqada (you can see that with some of the striped and triangular designs he produces), but his loom was unusual. It was very short and tension was provided by a system of winches, with the warp thread going vertically. The weight under the loom was a statue of an ancient Egyptian goddess! (a modern version I should add). The man makes lovely cotton shawls of various sizes.

Then back in Cairo, near the Street of Tentmakers, we went into the last of the tarbush makers (fezzes, a form of headgear) from that area. How long they will be able to continue working is another question. Tourist numbers have dropped by 80% and many craftsmen, including the tarbush makers, are really struggling. A little further on there was a man producing gold thread embroidery – I have never seen anyone doing this in public – the results yes, but not the craftsmen. His work was tensioned by a small, rectangular frame and he used card templates for the designs, which were covered with a cotton thread and then crinkly purl (a form of metal thread). His young son was helping him!

And finally onto the Street of the Tentmakers, where, once again, I bought too much. But these will form an important element in the TRC’s new exhibition that opens on the 4th of January (that is my excuse and I am keeping to it). Some of the pieces are exquisite and I have never seen such fine appliqué work before. Amazing. You can see these and many other pieces at the TRC Gallery from January until the end of April 2015.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 14 December 2014

   

Little treasure box

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Early 19th century embroidery. TRC Collection

Early 19th century embroidery. TRC Collection

We have just had a little 'wow' moment at the TRC. As so often happens here, someone has popped in with some potential donations for the collection. We love these moments as we are never sure what will appear. Well, this time it was a small embroidered box, with four embroidered ovals inside. One of the ovals had the word bruid ('bride') and another bruidegom ('bridegroom') embroidered on to them. It turns out they were used in a marriage in 1827! And then re-used for a wedding in 1903.

What exactly they were used for is not certain, but the size of the ovals does suggest that they might have been used for wedding rings. The embroidery is worked in floss silk and silk chemille thread, with applied, 3-dimensional flowers in very fine silk; all stitched onto a satin silk ground. The box lid is also decorated in the same manner, although sadly it is now in a much poorer condition. What memories and stories are stored in these pieces!

Gillian Vogelsang, 11 November 2014

 

   

European Art Quilt VIII Exhibition, Enschede

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This weekend Mariet Portheine and I went to see the European Art Quilt VIII exhibition at the Twentsewelle Museum, Enschede, and especially to admire the display of appliqué panels made by various craftsmen from the Street of the Tentmakers, Cairo. The colours and techniques of these Egyptian panels are very seductive, and I said I would not buy anymore but….. There were a few more designs that fit into the TRC’s ‘Street’ exhibition that opens on 4th January (2015) and they will look amazing. The European Art Quilt exhibition was thought provoking, as again it raised the question as to where is the line between a quilt (two or more layers of cloth sewn together, traditionally used for clothing and bed covers, etc) and textile art? Most of the pieces on display were definitely leaning towards Art rather than Quilt. There were some (quilt) pieces that personally I found really attractive, such as one depicting the night sky and another entitled 'snowflakes on a bed'. Many of the items, however, have travelled very far from the concept of quilt. Worth while seeing because it was so thought provoking. The quilt exhibition opened on the 27th September and will run until the 4th January 2015, when the TRC will open its 'own' exhibition of Egyptian panels. For more information, please click here.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 29 October 2014

   

Back in Cairo

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Cairo can be a dangerous place, and I am not just talking about the cars, pavements and pollution! I am in Cairo for a few days to attend various meetings (more about that later), but I could not miss the chance yesterday for a 'quick' visit to the Street of the Tentmakers and to see more of the beautiful appliqué panels they make there. Everytime I go there I think now we have enough for the special exhibition that opens at the TRC in January about the Cairo appliqués, and then someone says, we have a new design..... Fatal.

Gillian at al-Farouk in the Street of the Tentmakers, Cairo.

Gillian at al-Farouk in the Street of the Tentmakers, Cairo.

I was there to pick up a few panels that had been previously ordered and, all being well, I shall be going back to Cairo in December (for another meeting, but in Aswan, life can be so hard sometimes). Then I shall be doing the big shop for thimbles, scissors, thread, cloth and more panels of various sizes. Many of these will be for sale in the TRC shop during the period of the exhibition. The Street needs help as there are less and less tourists going to Egypt, but this is one way we can help them, while being inspired to greater and more colourful things at home!

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 3 October 2014

   

An unexpected visit to the TRC of two Japanese ladies

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Today, we had one of those moments at the TRC. Two Japanese ladies in kimono came to see our weaving exhibition. One of the ladies had been before, and this time she brought a friend. They live in the Leiden region, and love any excuse to wearing their unique garments. Coming to the TRC was a special moment for them, and a Textile Moment for us. They looked wonderful ! I learned a lot about kimonos from them, especially the difference between the kimono's crest (at the kimono's back) of the husband's family, and that of the wife's.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 9 September 2014

Two Japanese ladies in kimono at the TRC, September 9th 2014

Two Japanese ladies in kimono at the TRC, September 9th 2014

 

   

A Mongolian Buddhist monastery

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The Amarbayasgalant monastery, northern Mongolia. Photograph: Willem Vogelsang, August 2014

The Amarbayasgalant monastery, northern Mongolia. Photograph: Willem Vogelsang, August 2014

Well, I am back in Holland, but only a few days ago I had the chance to visit a Buddhist monastery in the north of Mongolia. It is the Amarbayasgalant khiid (monastery), in Selenge Province. It was founded in the early 18th century, and to some degree survived the destruction of almost all Buddhist centres in the Stalinist era. What I particularly liked were the many prayer flags hung along ropes between the various pinnacles of the buildings, a very Tibetan spectacle! And then there were the blue khatags, or prayer scarves, that were attached everywhere. The Tibetan prayer scarves are generally white, and seem to be used differently. Here in Mongolia they are attached to trees, cairns, stakes, stupas, etc. You see them everywhere. In fact, I was graciously presented with one at the end of the conference we had organised (now of course being absorbed into the TRC collection). They are generally blue, and are of course very reminiscent of comparable pieces of textiles that pilgrims in many countries leave behind. I know the custom so well from Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India, but there they are used to confirm certain wishes, as for instance by women who pray for children. In Mongolia the blue khatags represent heaven and the blue skies of Mongolia (see the photograph), and thus seem to reflect the old shamanistic belief system of Tengri ('heaven'). Perhaps a new research area for the TRC: the use of textiles in religious rituals?

Willem Vogelsang, 16 August 2014

Blue prayer scarves attached to the Amarbayasgalant Khiid (Buddhist monastery), northern Mongolia. Photograph: Willem Vogelsang, August 2014.

Blue prayer scarves attached to the Amarbayasgalant Khiid (Buddhist monastery), northern Mongolia. Photograph: Willem Vogelsang, August 2014.

   

National Museum of Mongolia

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Dress exhibit at the National Museum of Mongolia. Photograph: Willem Vogelsang

Dress exhibit at the National Museum of Mongolia. Photograph: Willem Vogelsang

Last week, while in Ulaanbaatar, I had the chance to visit the beautiful National Museum of Mongolia, which not only has a fascinating display of archaeological finds from the area, but also an exquisite gallery showing the richness of sartorial traditions in the country. Well represented, with texts in English and Mongolian, the exhibition gives an idea of the enormous variety of local dress traditions, for both men and women. Really worth seeing is also the showcase with headdresses and others with other accessories.

To date I did not have the chance to see another dress museum, namely the Museum of Mongolian Costumes, which is located nearby, and which I hope to visit in the near future. I do include the web address though (click here), in case any of the visitors of the TRC site ever visits Mongolia. The director of the Museum however is now in (digital) contact with the TRC, after my meeting a relative of hers at a conference here in the city. It is a small world. The next few days I will be visiting some friends in the north of the country, and I will keep my eyes open for any remarkable garments !

Willem Vogelsang, 10 August 2014

   

Shelley Anderson at the Musée de Cluny, Paris

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One of the six Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, Musée de Cluny, Paris

One of the six Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, Musée de Cluny, Paris

TRC volunteer Shelley Anderson's Textile Moment was in Paris, France, at the Musée de Cluny: "There are so many beautiful objects in this museum of medieval art. But nothing can compare with the six The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. Woven around 1500, the colours are vibrant and the 'millefleur' background stunning. There are over 30 shades and colours in the tapestries - some of the tiny pansies include five shades alone. The tapestries are mainly dyed wool, with silk used to highlight the ladies' hair and elaborate gowns. There are many other interesting textiles in the museum, including shrouds, altar cloth and other tapestries. But The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries really take you into another world."

14 July 2014

   

Museum of Greek Folk Art, Athens

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We visited the Greek Folk Art Museum, Athens, this morning and spent a pleasant few hours looking at their exhibitions relating to the production of textiles (spinning equipment, including spindles and distaffs), metal work (with an emphasis on jewellery and swords), as well as their extensive collection of regional costumes and embroideries.

Throughout the museum great care has been taken in the presentation of the objects and in providing adequate information (in Greek and English). There are numerous photographs illustrating how the garments and jewellery were worn. Interesting details are being explained, such as the role in society of the first borns on the island of Karpathos. Both the first male and female children had a very different life, with different clothing, jewellery and expectations than their younger siblings.

The embroidery gallery is divided according to region rather than, for example, technique, and the main styles are clearly indicated. In addition, the use of embroidery for household furnishings, including beds, curtains, cushions and so forth are described and illustrated with some amazing examples. There was no information about the specific techniques used for the various styles, but there are books (all in Greek) on sale in the small shop that cover these aspects.

The museum is in the old quarter near the Acropolis and it is not easy to find, especially as it has been divided into various buildings in the same neighbourhood - so, the Greek pottery museum is housed in a nearby buliding that was originally a mosque. But it is well worth the effort to find the costume and embroidery museum and enjoy the display and friendliness of the staff.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 13 July 2014

   

Benaki Museum, Athens

Detail of an embroidered bridal sheet from Skyros, Greece. Benaki Museum, Athens.

Detail of an embroidered bridal sheet from Skyros, Greece. Benaki Museum, Athens.

The last few days of our travels through South and Southeastern Europe have been spent wandering around Athens, Greece, looking at the monuments, especially the Acropolis, and, more importantly as the subject of a Textile Moment, the Benaki Museum. This museum, located just behind the Parliament Building at Syntakhma Square, was established in 1930 by Antonis Benaki in memory of his father, the collector Emmanuel Benaki. The museum houses over 44,-0 items relating to Greek history and culture.

The collection includes a wide range of objects dating from prehistoric times to the 20th century: ceramics, glass, jewellery, metal work, paintings, and of course, Greek traditional costumes (mainly 19th and 20th century examples) and accessories, as well as woven textiles and embroideries. The costumes and other textiles date from the 13th century onwards and include medieval examples of metal thread work, as well as various early examples of embroidered net and needlelace. The collection on show does indeed include substantial, and top quality upholstery and costume pieces in a wide range of techniques. Some of the most spectacular pieces come from marriage beds, which were the focus of embroidery in a traditional Greek home.

The Benaki Museum also has a bookshop with a range of books and postcards in English and Greek about regional dress and embroidery. The books purchased during this visit will be described in the next group of book recommendations that will appear on the TRC website at the end of July.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 13 July 2014

   

Richard Burton in Trieste

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The house of Richard Francis Burton in Trieste, Italy, where he died on 20 October, 1890. Photograph: Willem Vogelsang, July 2014.

The house of Richard Francis Burton in Trieste, Italy, where he died on 20 October, 1890. Photograph: Willem Vogelsang, July 2014.

Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890), the British Arabist and explorer (not the actor) wrote numerous books about life in Egypt and the Middle East during the latter half of the 19th century. Among his various exploits, for example, he disguised himself as an Arab sheikh and went on a pilgrimage to Mecca. In the memoires of this trip he describes in detail the garments worn by the people he met and the types of dress worn by, for example, the local Arabs, the Egyptians, the Indians, and the Turks, in Medina and Mecca. This information is invaluable for people working on the history of Western Arabian Peninsular dress and dress forms in India and the Middle East in the second half of the nineteenth century.

At the end of his career, he and his wife Isabella lived in Trieste, northern Italy, where Burton was the British consul. The house where they lived and in fact, where Burton died, is still there. It was here, in the garden at the back of the house, that soon after Burton's death his wife burnt all his papers and documents. The house is now called the Villa Gosleth, after one of its early nineteenth century occupants, and is situated along the Via Franca. On the web various houses are illustrated, so it can be a little confusing when searching different areas of the city (as we did!) for the building. But the search was worthwhile.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 8 July 2014

   

Embroideries from Vienna

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We arrived in Vienna early this afternoon and went straight to the Kaiserliche Schatzkammer (Imperial Treasury). This is a must for people interested in medieval and later Western and Central European embroidery. There are numerous examples of ecclesiastical embroidery, especially copes, from the 14th century, as well as an impressive collection of heraldic garments (tabards in particular) ranging in date from the 16th to the early 18th centuries.

Personally, the most impressive group of embroideries was that from Sicily. The mantle of King Rogier II of Sicily alone is worth visiting the museum. With a maximum width of 345 cm, it is worked in gold and pearls on a crimson ground and has the motifs of a striped lion attacking a camel, with an inscription in Arabic underneath. It dates to c. 1134. In the same room as the mantle is a medieval royal gown made from Chinese silk and embroidered in the West with gold and pearls, as well as silk hoses, gloves, shoes and various other gowns, all embroidered using a variety of techniques.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 3 July 2014

   

Ethnology Museum, Budapest. A Treasure Trove of Hungarian Embroidery

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We are having a few days in Budapest, Hungary. The Museum of Ethnology, just by the Parliament building, has a permanent display of Hungarian life. The display includes a wide range of amazing costumes for men and women, from all the main parts of Hungary, mainly dating from the 19th and early 20th centuries. The many forms reflect Hungary's diverse and complicated history. The exhibition also includes many different decorative techniques, as for instance felt applique, laces of various types, pulled thread work, as well as decorative stitch forms. To the uninitiated eye some of the men's outfits could be taken as elaborate women's attire. This is quite a revelation to someone used to more sober (and boring) West European men's clothing. The embroidery and woven textiles are well worth seeing and studying in further detail.

Lots of embroidery for sale in the city, but most of it is made in China for the Hungarian market (sounds familiar?). However, we found a small shop called Vali-Folkart. It is full of 'good'  embroidery and the shopkeeper, Bálint Ács, knows what he is talking about. certainly a place to visit! More details about Vali-Folkart can be found at their website www.valifolkart.hu

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 3 July 2014

   

Again a textile moment

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Last May I was one of the happy few to follow the Intensive Textile Course at TRC Leiden. Since that course my outlook on the world has been (further) textilized. Meaning, that what I see is filtered through a textile filter. This filter pops up at unexpected moments and this weekend it manifested itself again when I was looking through the NRC Newspaper. There was a large picture of the uniform worn by Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand on the day of his assassination 28 June 1914. I expect most people would associate this with the wearer, and with the act that changed the course of history. The first thing I noticed: blue fabric, twill weave. The red collar has gold embroidery in a geometric pattern, with three silver stars on either side in raised embroidery, decorated with what looks like sequins, but are probably spangles. I regret the photo was not clearer, so I might have been able to tell what thread was used for the gold embroidery. Those details I would not have noticed before the course, and it is great fun to see them since. I will have more of these moments, and look forward to them. Thanks to the teaching of Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood at TRC Leiden.

Felicia Kruger-de Bats, 24 June 2014

   

A textile visit to Holland

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I have just returned from a holiday in Holland, in early June, where I went to several wonderful exhibitions for West Weeft and I also had the pleasure of meeting Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, the director of the Textile Research Centre in Leiden. We chatted enthusiastically about our different interests in textiles, and how the centre relied on the help of volunteers and that recently they had set up a section on their website for textile wow moments, so I hope my small contribution will be accepted. Here goes, firstly the exhibition at the TRC was a WOW moment. Walking in to find displayed 7000 years of textile history is amazing. To be able to look closely and even try using some replica looms similar to those used by early mankind was fascinating and very humbling. The generosity of people donating textile artefacts, clothing, books and more to their ever increasing collections adding to the accessibility of knowledge for everyone is incredibly important. None of this would be possible without the dedication of the staff and the volunteers, so a big thank you for the privilege of visiting. Several days later we had another WOW moment, the www.weverijmuseum.nl/ at Geldrop, a very welcoming museum converted from a former textile factory that holds a superb collection of wooden floor looms and ancillary equipment from 18th century to large Jacquard, ribbon, double beam looms and all sorts of other equipment I knew nothing about but had fun looking at. There was a double sided sheet of paper written in English, but most of the descriptions were in Dutch and the centre was run by volunteers so I really need to return to Holland again and again and learn Dutch too!

Carolyn Griffiths, 18 June 2014
www.frometextileworkshop.com

   

A Batak afternoon at the TRC

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A Batak afternoon at the TRC. 15 June 2014

A Batak afternoon at the TRC. 15 June 2014

The afternoon of the 15th of June was dedicated to a film screening and a presentation of a new book by the anthropologist, Sandra Niessen, about the weaving traditions of the Batak in North Sumatra, Indonesia. Some forty people attended the afternoon and enjoyed, not only watching the film, but also discussing the Bataks and their culture with the author. And above all, they visited the new exhibition on weaving products and weaving techniques from all over the world. The photograph shows Sandra Niessen talking with some of the visitors. The orange coloured lady in the foreground is a mannequin with an orange coloured burqa from Afghanistan..........

15 June 2015

   

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