TRC Blog: Textile Moments

TRC volunteer completes MA course at Courtauld's.

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Multitasking: Reading a book on fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli while knitting a jumper from a 1940s pattern. Photograph: Nelleke Honcoop.

Multitasking: Reading a book on fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli while knitting a jumper from a 1940s pattern. Photograph: Nelleke Honcoop.

Nelleke Honcoop, a former TRC volunteer, writes about her MA studies in London:

In January 2016 I became a volunteer at the Textile Research Centre. Although my undergraduate course was in Religious Studies, I have long been fascinated by dress and textiles from the early twentieth century. As a young teenager, I enjoyed spending time at my grandmother’s attic rummaging through the late 1960s, early 1970s clothing worn by my mother and aunts when they were my age. I started to collect and wear clothing from these decades, and subsequently developed this love for dress from bygone times via the 1950s, 1940s, and 1930s, back to the 1920s...

Working as a volunteer at the TRC, I started to realise it is my vocation to continue in the field of dress and textile history. Therefore, I applied to a postgraduate History of Art course at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. The special option I enrolled into is called ‘Documenting Fashion: Modernity, Film and Image in Europe and America, 1920-1960’. Obviously, the focus and timeframe could not be more perfect to me!

During nine busy months in London, I followed theoretical and thematic classes in dress history and fashion studies, visited the dress collections and archives of, among others, the Museum of London and the Victoria and Albert Museum, and spent hours at the British Library leafing through Vogue and other (fashion) magazines. My first assessed essay focused on home dressmaking and the advertisement of ‘Simplicity’ sewing patterns in Harper’s Bazaar, while my second essay addressed the promotion of rayon as a modern fabric in the interwar period.

Finally, I wrote my dissertation on the London-based, female-run textile printing workshop called ‘Footprints’ and its retail outlets in London’s fashionable West End during the 1920s and 1930s (You can read more about my dissertation on Documenting Fashion’s dress history blog (download here). After a formative, inspiring academic year in London, I graduated with distinction. However, I am not quite done with studying and working with dress and textile objects and hope to continue developing my knowledge and skills in the future.

Nelleke Honcoop, 25th July 2018

 

   

A chart of an embroidery from Mandvi, Kutch, India

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The TRC has just acquired a piece of embroidery (TRC 2018.2582) that is attributed to a Jain community from Mandvi, in Kutch, in the modern state of Gujarat, western India. It is a small band, perhaps for a sari or from a sleeve. It depicts paired parrots flanking a tree, and stylised flowers. It is a counted thread embroidery worked in cross stitch using multi-coloured floss silk thread. The motifs are basically Hindu, but they have a European feel to them, which is not surprising considering the influence of cross stich counted thread embroidery propagated by Christian missionary schools from the nineteenth century. Please click here to see a PdF version of the chart

Chart of an embroidery from Mandvi, Gujarat, India.

Chart of an embroidery from Mandvi, Gujarat, India.

 

   

An intriguing quilted shirt for a Pashai man from Afghanistan

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A quilted shirt for a Pashai man, Afghanistan (TRC 2018.2581).

A quilted shirt for a Pashai man, Afghanistan (TRC 2018.2581).

Gillian Vogelsang writes about a recent trip to Cambridge:

Willem and I have just had a textile weekend in Cambridge, England. It was meant to be a mixture of holiday and work, but embroidery dominated the time. We were there to talk with Caroline Stone and John Gillow about the Encyclopedia of Embroidery series (Bloomsbury), Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent embroidery in particular. It was intensive and hundreds of photographs were made, notes taken, embroideries examined and ‘new’ stitches identified. Not so surprising, perhaps, a number of textiles were acquired so that further technical analysis could took place at the TRC in Leiden.

Lees meer: An intriguing quilted shirt for a Pashai man from Afghanistan

   

Black as jet

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Jet working atelier, Whitby, UK (photograph Shelley Anderson).

Jet working atelier, Whitby, UK (photograph Shelley Anderson).

TRC volunteer Shelley Anderson writes about her recent visit to Whitby, England:

Whitby is a small fishing village on England’s northeastern coast. It’s famous for its ruined abbey and for the fact that it is mentioned in Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula. I was there for neither ruins nor vampires. Whitby is also famous for its jet, a black gem stone that has been used for jewellery since the Bronze Age.

Jet is a fossilized wood, made from the Araucaria tree (a relative of today’s monkey puzzle tree) during the Jurassic period. Jet is found in several places around the world, including northern Spain and southwestern Turkey (in fact, the Romans called the gem stone gagates, from the Gages river in Turkey). Jet from Whitby is considered among the highest quality anywhere. It is also increasingly scarce. The jet mines have been closed and it’s illegal to hack at any seams found in the beach cliffs. Jet workers now comb the beach along a particular seven and a half mile stretch of the North Yorkshire coastline to look for the gem stone.

I was in Whitby looking for jet jewelry for my own small collection, and for some Victorian jet buttons for the TRC’s button reference collection. There are dozens of shops selling jet jewelry, especially on the narrow Church Street. If you are interested in the history of jet, it’s better to go to a shop where jet is still being made into jewelry, rather than a shop that simply sells jet jewelry. I had some very good conversations in several of the former, including the jet shops One O Five and the Black Market.

Lees meer: Black as jet

   

A second box with American quilts has arrived at the TRC

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Quilt with 'cheater'  design, USA, 1960s (TRC 2018.2407).

Quilt with 'cheater' design, USA, 1960s (TRC 2018.2407).

The second box of US quilts, tops and related items, including some nineteenth century ‘spare’ blocks, has just arrived at the TRC. These are part of a donation of quilts by Sherry Cook, who has very kindly agreed to give some of her collection to the TRC (see previous blog about the first box, and Sherry’s blog about why she is making this donation).

The first box arrived a few weeks ago and already all the items have been put online at TRC Collection Online, nos. TRC 2018.2404 – TRC 2018.2432a. The items from the second box will come online by the beginning of August 2018.

The donation by Sherry Cook provides a fascinating look at American quilts from the late nineteenth century to about the 1980’s and includes examples made in silk, velvet, cotton, as well as synthetic materials. The designs range from Bow Tie, via Morning Glory, Pansy, Roman Square to Star Dahlia. A third box is due in a few weeks’ time! 

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, Thursday 19th July 2018

   

Encyclopedia of Embroidery Series update

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Preparations for Vol. 8 of the Encyclopedia of Embroidery series, covering the Antarctic, are already well advanced. Martin Hense, the draughtsman for the full series, just completed the first illustration.

Preparations for Vol. 8 of the Encyclopedia of Embroidery series, covering the Antarctic, are already well advanced. Martin Hense, the draughtsman for the full series, just completed the first illustration.

During the last few months the Encyclopedia of World Embroidery series (Bloomsbury Publishing, London), has been gaining momentum. The first volume on embroidery from the Arab World came out in 2016 (see here) and to everyone’s pleasure won the prestigious international award, the Dartmouth Medal.

Since then we have been working hard on volume 2, which is about embroidery from Central Asia, the Iranian Plateau and the Indian subcontinent (see here). The manuscript for this volume has gone to Bloomsbury and the book should appear by the end of 2019. For the Bloomsbury announcement, click here. Once again many people have been helping with advice, suggestions and with providing actual examples of embroidery.

For the next few years, we are planning the following volumes: 3 – Scandinavia and Western Europe; 4 – East and Southeast Asia; 5 – Eastern Europe and Russia; 6- Sub-Saharan Africa; 7- The Americas. 

 

Lees meer: Encyclopedia of Embroidery Series update

   

TRC receives grant to update its website and improve the online catalogue

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Thanks to the generosity of the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds and the Themafonds Digitalizering Erfgoedcollecties Zuid-Holland, the TRC Leiden has received a substantial grant to update the online catalogue of the TRC collection, improve and extend the digital database and to revamp the internet presence of the TRC in general. The work will start very shortly in re-styling the database, updating programmes, and getting even more photographs and information online!

Lees meer: TRC receives grant to update its website and improve the online catalogue

   

Opening a box full of American quilts

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I have had several emails from TRC Followers about the box from America, which I wrote about last week. Did we open it ? Can people see what is inside? What type of quilts are they?

Lees meer: Opening a box full of American quilts

   

Kisses and kangas

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Kangas at the exhibition “Our Kisses are Petals’, at Newcastle’s BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. Photograph: Shelley Anderson.

Kangas at the exhibition “Our Kisses are Petals’, at Newcastle’s BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. Photograph: Shelley Anderson.

Shelley Anderson, volunteer at the TRC, writes about a recent visit to England:

The words ‘textile’ and ‘art’ caught my eye, of course, on a recent visit to the city of Newcastle in northern England. The exhibition “Our Kisses are Petals’ was on at Newcastle’s BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.

The artist was Lubaina Himid (born 1954, in Zanzibar), who won last year’s prestigious Turner Prize for modern art. The exhibition consisted of over a dozen large, banner-like canvases, attached to a system of pulleys. Each canvas depicted a part of the body, for example, the eyes, tongue, or heart, and a line of poetry by a black British or American poet.

Himid herself is the first black woman to win the Turner Prize. She is also the oldest, at 63, winner in history. Visitors were encouraged to rearrange the order of the quotes on the canvases by pulling on the pulleys. The paintings were based on the East African textile known as kanga. Also worn in Oman, the kanga is a versatile garment used by women as a dress, a head wrap, and sometimes a baby carrier.

Lees meer: Kisses and kangas

   

Sherry Cook, quilts, and the TRC Leiden

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Late 19th century American 'crazy quilt', 159 x 135 cm, donated by Sherry Cook (TRC 2018.2407).

Late 19th century American 'crazy quilt', 159 x 135 cm, donated by Sherry Cook (TRC 2018.2407).

Sherry Cook writes from America: My husband, Darwin, and I downsized from a large home in the fall of 2014 and have had a lot of boxes in storage since that time. We are now building a barn that will have small living quarters and storage space so I can get myself and the boxes organized. We also have our 60th wedding anniversary in September, so the decision has been made to downsize even more, to get everything organized, and at a faster pace.

We have been donating textiles to the Center for American History (CAH) in Austin, Texas since 2008. You can google the “CAH” or “Sherry A Cook, Quilter” to see some of the items we have donated. But we have now decided to support and encourage the TRC Leiden. We are very impressed with TRC’s leadership team, volunteers and all their efforts to work with world textiles.

Lees meer: Sherry Cook, quilts, and the TRC Leiden

   

Box full of quilts

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It is not often that I am hesitant to open a box of textiles, but this one has got me thinking very hard and long! By opening it we commit ourselves to increasing the USA textile and dress collection (a good thing) and to setting up the TRC Quilting Centre (also a good thing, but with lots of implications!).

The parcel comes from Sherry Cook in the USA and has eight quilts and quilt tops, plus feedsacks and other items. This is the first of several parcels, with the idea of Sherry donating many of her American quilts to the TRC in order to make a European based quilting centre that will look at quilting through the centuries from Roman times onwards, and throughout the world.

I have been discussing this idea with various colleagues, friends and quilters, and everyone things it’s the right thing to do, but it does have implications with respect to space, storage, exhibitions, workshops, etc. Within the last few days we have already been offered another collection of quilts from various countries, including Switzerland and New Zealand.

So I am taking a deep breath, drinking a cup of tea (I am British after all…..), and thinking about where further financial and logistical help can come from! But I know the TRC, we will do it and the TRC Quilting Centre will be a major addition to the study of textiles in the Netherlands (and elsewhere!). But it is going to be a very large pot of tea!

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 28th June 2018

 

   

Karen Finch (1921-2018)

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Karen Finch (1921-2018) at the Textile Conservation Centre, Hampton Court (copyright The Guardian)

Karen Finch (1921-2018) at the Textile Conservation Centre, Hampton Court (copyright The Guardian)

We have just heard the sad news that Karen Finch has died. A Grande Dame in the best sense of these words. She was responsible for creating the Hampton Court Textile Conservation Centre and for bringing textile conservation into the professional world in Britain. She hammered home the message that textiles have a story to tell and should be treated with respect (and not simply as an ‘old rag’). A message that the TRC will continue to push, shout and battle for!

Karen also had an influence on me as a young student, she was always willing to answer questions, make suggestions and tell stories. When I first started as a textile archaeologist in the early 1980’s she gave me a one week ‘conservation’ course at Hampton Court – basically first-aid for textiles – free of charge and with the willing help of all her staff. A week that gave me confidence and helped me to the present day. We have kept in contact, as have many of her former students, even if it was only a Christmas card, or a quick chat at this meeting or that conference. I am proud to say I am one of her ‘girls’. Thank you Karen.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, Director, TRC Leiden.

For a full obituary of Karen Finch, click here.

   

The Dutch 'Feestrok'' celebrating liberation from Nazi-Germany

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A 'Feestrok' from The Netherlands, celebrating liberation from Nazi-Germany, late 1940's (TRC 2011.0001a).

A 'Feestrok' from The Netherlands, celebrating liberation from Nazi-Germany, late 1940's (TRC 2011.0001a).

The June 2018 issue of the British magazine 'Selvedge' contains an article by Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, director TRC, about the so-called 'feestrok'. These were patchwork skirts made in The Netherlands after World War II to celebrate the liberation of the country.

 
The collection of the TRC contains an example of the Feestrok (TRC 2011.0001a), together with its official certificate (TRC 2011.0001b). For a preview of the Selvedge article, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

An intriguing parliamentary uniform from Holland

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Embroidered coat of the parliamentary uniform of Laurens de Groot (TRC 2018.2133a).

Embroidered coat of the parliamentary uniform of Laurens de Groot (TRC 2018.2133a).

A few weeks ago the TRC received a donation of a group of items belonging to Mariet Portheine-ter Kuile. This donation included fifty Berlin wool work charts that formed the basis for a digital exhibition on this subject [click here]. Since then various other items belonging to the Portheine-ter Kuile family have been given to the TRC, including a gala uniform associated with the Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal (commonly known as the Tweede Kamer), the Dutch equivalent of the British House of Commons.

The uniform consists of a gold embroidered coat, matching trousers, a bicorn hat with orange cockade, gloves and, of course, a sword. The uniform belonged to the politician, Frederick (Frits) Portheine (1923-1990), who had been a member of the Tweede Kamer between 1963 and 1981. This type of uniform was worn by members of the Tweede Kamer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries on all formal occasions. There were various rules concerning how such garments were worn, as well as colour coding. Ministers, for example, had white trousers with a dark blue coat, while members of the Kamer had dark blue trousers and coat. So what is the history of this particular uniform?

 

Lees meer: An intriguing parliamentary uniform from Holland

   

Exhibition about velvet

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A late 15th century Italian voided velvet in silk and linen (TRC 2011.0362).

A late 15th century Italian voided velvet in silk and linen (TRC 2011.0362).

Plans are being developed for a TRC exhibition about the history, production, types and forms of that most luxurious of fabrics, namely velvet. This subject was chosen because the TRC Collection includes thirty Renaissance-period examples that date from the 15th-17th centuries. They mostly come from Italy, but there are some French and Spanish pieces as well. In order for visitors to really understand these luxury, court-level items and to see how they originally looked, the planned exhibition will include modern examples of the same quality, with comparative designs.

I have have been talking with the Lunsingh firm in Leiden, who are furniture restorers with many connections in the luxury textile world. They have shown me some hand woven velvets that can cost up to €2000 per metre. Some forms are made of pure silk with gold thread. Not surprisingly this type of velvet has to be specially ordered and is not widely available! Some of the other examples they showed me were used for Parliament in The Hague, another for the Royal Palace in Amsterdam and yet another form was used for the Spanish court. They also have examples of so-called Utrecht velvet, which is  made out of mohair (only €650 per metre). What amazing, gorgeous pieces.

A 16th century Spanish silk velvet with stamped design (TRC 2011.0367)

A 16th century Spanish silk velvet with stamped design (TRC 2011.0367)

We have estimated that to get some stunning samples of the main types of velvet currently available will cost about €15000. But it would make a fantastic exhibition and show items that most people will have never seen before. The temptation to touch will be enormous!

The TRC is currently looking for an individual, family or company that would be willing to help with this exhibition (they will, of course, be properly acknowledged). We need to find €15000 for the velvets and if a fully illustrated publication about the history of velvet and the many different types is also produced, then this will require a further €7500 euros. Basically we are looking for a total of €22500 (US$ 26500, GB£19500).

Please let me know if you can help with the realisation of this exhibition as soon as possible, as it is going to take at least a year to organise, but it will be well worth it!

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, Sunday 10th June 2018

   

Embroidery and Hangzhou

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Embroidered rank badge from 19th century China (TRC 2010.0139b).

Embroidered rank badge from 19th century China (TRC 2010.0139b).

As some of you will know I am working on a history of embroidery from around the world for a Bloomsbury (London-based publishers) series of encyclopaedia. The first volume came out in 2016 and at least five more are coming. Throughout the recent conference in Hangzhou (click here) about handlooms and textiles I have been talking with a lot of people about - embroidery.

On various occasions I was able talk about the TRC’s series of encyclopaedias. I had a wonderful opportunity to talk to curators, historians, collectors and dealers about embroidery and the role of this important textile technique. During the conference, I was also able to spend time with one of the conference speakers and his wife. She is a specialist in Chinese minority embroidery. It is thanks to them I am gaining a knowledge of minority forms by being able to handle recently acquired examples, especially from among the Deng, Miao and Yunnan. More on this subject to come!

I have been able to discuss with Eve Anderson, Director of the Centre for Textile Research, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, for example, about the Encylopedia of Embroidery and she has offered help with the research for the archaeological evidence for embroidery in Scandinavia and in preparing the table of contents for the volume on Scandinavian and West European embroidery (vol. 3 in the series).

I also have had the chance to talk with people living in Laos, Indonesia, as well as China, about the 4th volume in the series and everyone has offered help in some manner. It’s been a fascinating time and it was made very clear just how many different types there are, the range of techniques and designs, and the versatility of the subject with respect to East Asia.

I spent a very enjoyable last day in China looking at archaeological examples of Chinese embroidery that are on display in the National Silk Museum. Basically it is going to be an amazing few years putting the East Asian volume of the Bloomsbury Encyclopeadia together.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, Thursday 7th June 2018.

 

   

National Silk Museum, Hangzhou, China

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Zilu loom for taqueté floor coverings, Iran. National Silk Museum, Hangzhou, China. Photograph: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood.

Zilu loom for taqueté floor coverings, Iran. National Silk Museum, Hangzhou, China. Photograph: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood.

I am just home from a conference about handlooms held at the National Silk Museum in Hangzhou, China, and what a conference it has been! I am so glad that I went. I was there to give a paper on the history of zilu weaving in Iran (and added a piece about taqueté in Egypt for good measure) and to work with the zilu weaver who came especialy from Iran for the conference. In addition, the TRC had donated a large zilu floor covering from Meybod, Iran, which was put on display in the exhibition. It let the visitors see and understand just how large a zilu loom could actually be.

The conference accompanied an exhibition about handlooms from around the world and for the next two months it is possible to see and come very close to a wide variety of forms. I would make a plea at this moment to larger museums interested in textiles to see if they could borrow this exhibition and the looms. It would be well worth it.

What made the whole conference and exhibition so interesting is that the Museum brought over to China a number of professional handloom weavers – to talk about and demonstrate their looms. Suddenly things that I had read about in books and articles or seen in films and photographs made sense. I had several ‘Oh so that is how it works’ moments. And I was not the only one.

 

 

Lees meer: National Silk Museum, Hangzhou, China

   

Dammur cloth from Sudan: Continued

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Last week we put a blog online about the visit of Magdalena Woźniak to work on the TRC’s Crowfoot Collection and in particular the Sudanese items (click here). To Magdalena’s great pleasure she found a piece of dammur cloth. Magdalena also wrote a blog about this piece of cloth and its social and economic significance (click here).

Lees meer: Dammur cloth from Sudan: Continued

   

Sudan, Poland, and the TRC

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Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, director of the TRC, writes about special attention being paid to the Sudanese /Nubian collection at the TRC:

This week we have been very busy with a special section of the TRC Collection. It all started with a visit for four days by Magdalena Woźniak, a Marie Curie Fellow from the Polish Academy of Sciences. She is an archaeologist working on Nubian textiles and dress, from the north of Sudan, Africa (and also someone who came on the TRC 5-day textile course in 2015).

Lees meer: Sudan, Poland, and the TRC

   

Grace Crowfoot and the Aleppo tarbit (ikat) industry

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Woman's coat from Jordan, 1920's, made of ikat cloth (TRC 2005.0076).

Woman's coat from Jordan, 1920's, made of ikat cloth (TRC 2005.0076).

Among the many items belonging to the English textile archaeologist Grace Crowfoot (1879-1957) now in the TRC Collection Leiden, are a few objects relating to the production of tarbit (ikat) in Aleppo, Syria. In particular there is a letter that describes some of the relevant processes in Aleppo in 1939.

Ikat is a general term for a form of resist dyeing technique, in which the warp and/weft threads are coloured prior to the weaving of the cloth. In Syria it is known as tarbit. There has been a trade in the production of tarbit in Aleppo and surrounding regions for hundreds of years.

In order to produce ikat, groups of threads are being tightly bound together in a specific order to create the desired design. By repeatedly binding, dyeing, rebinding, dyeing, and so forth, it is possible to create a range of patterns. Tarbit from Syria often take the form of silk striped cloth and checked cotton forms. Where a silk or artificial silk warp is used together with cotton wefts, then this type of cloth is known as qutni (‘the cotton ones’).

Lees meer: Grace Crowfoot and the Aleppo tarbit (ikat) industry

   

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