TRC Blog: Textile Moments

Georg Stark at the TRC on indigo-dyeing

George Stark at the TRC, 14th February 2018

George Stark at the TRC, 14th February 2018

Georg Stark is one of a handful of traditional indigo printers and dyers left in Germany. He has also been researching the history of this craft for some 35 years. All of this experience made for a fascinating lecture recently at the TRC on the 14th of February.

Over 150 years ago indigo printing with wooden blocks was practiced all over Europe, from Spain to Russia. One of the first recorded workshops for printing cotton opened in 1672 in Amersfoort. An even earlier workshop to print and dye cotton, run by Armenians, was opened in Marseille, France. In 1681 the first workshop opened in southern Germany. By the 1730s there was a Dutch poem that boasted that “we on the Amstel can do the same quality of work as the cotton printers of Java.” The Dutch East India Company (VOC) had an important role in the transfer of this skill to Europe, as it regularly brought ready-made garments from India to Europe and beyond.

Read more: Georg Stark at the TRC on indigo-dyeing


String piecing

Annelien van Kempen was one of the participants to the TRC workshop on string piecing on 31st January, as given by Linzee McCray. She proudly sends us a series of photographs of her 'Spring Sack', sized 66 x 45 cm, which she finished after a week's hard work on the basis of what she learnt at the workshop.

Annelien van Kempen Atelier: Trix Terwindtstraat 2, Leiden Postadres: Buitenruststraat 32, NL - 2271 HB Voorburg T 06 15626367 E  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  W  Luchthollers: 


Feedsack and quilting week

Andrew Thompson interviewing Linzee McCray, 1st February 2018. Photograph by Shelley Anderson.

Andrew Thompson interviewing Linzee McCray, 1st February 2018. Photograph by Shelley Anderson.

We have just had a very busy, noisy and instructive week at the TRC. From the 30th January to the 3rd February it was feedsack and quilting week at the TRC. It was organised as part of the TRC’s current exhibition about American feedsacks, their social and economic context and how they helped clothe and warm (literally) thousands of Americans between the 1920’s and 1960’s. The week was made possible by Linzee McCray, author of the book Feed Sacks: The Colourful History of a Frugal Fabric (2017). The week was originally organized so that Linzee would give the lectures and workshops, while I would give the guided tours. However, it quickly became apparent that Linzee felt very much at home with the Dutch and so she offered to give all the guided tours as well.

Tuesday (30th January): Linzee gave a lecture on the history and use of feed sacks to a full audience (this lecture was the first of the activities to fill up very quickly). The participants heard the multi-faceted and at times complex story of feedsacks.

Wednesday (31st January): There was a workshop on string piecing, the use of strips of cloth to produce enough blocks to create a quilt. Again the workshop was full so the group was divided into those with sewing machines and those who wanted to hand sew. The TRC workshop is a large room and flexible, so it was easy to accommodate the 16 people who had signed up for this fascinating event. Cloth, thread, people quietly chatting, as well as the hum of sewing machines filled the TRC. During the Wednesday afternoon, Andrew Thompson came to the TRC to make a film about the feedsack exhibition and to talk with Linzee about the history of feedsacks. This film can be seen on YouTube.

Participants to the feedsack and quilt week, inspecting the items on display. Photograph by Shelley Anderson.

Participants to the feedsack and quilt week, inspecting the items on display. Photograph by Shelley Anderson.

Thursday (1st February): This day saw Linzee giving a talk about Art quilts of the Midwest. This was based on her experience with making various art quilt exhibitions, with the central question: ‘what is quilting’ (the American definition of three layers of cloth stitched or fastened together in some manner was used), followed by ‘what is an art quilt’? It was clear that some people were in agreement with the term art quilt, while others were not. What everyone agreed with is that this type of quilting takes the technique of quilting towards a new direction.

Friday (2nd February): Friday included the second workshop on Stitch-and-Flip, a quilting technique for using every single last scrap of cloth in various colourful manners. Again the workshop was filled by enthusiastic quilters, some of whom came to every single event on each day of the quilting week.

Saturday (3rd February): Today was a question-and-answer day about American feedsacks and quilts and various people came with suitcases filled with both! There was a lively discussion concerning the history and nature of the objects brought for discussion. And in between the quilt questions, Linzee was able to give two guided tours. Before we knew it, it was half past three and nearly time to stop.

During some of the discussions that took place during the feedsack and quilting week, there was a call made for creating an International Quilting Centre that could act as a source of inspiration and knowledge about quilting – the mainstay would be American quilts, but the whole world (literally) of quilting would be included, ranging from European, Middle Eastern, Indian to other Asian items. The TRC is ready to accept this challenge! However, it would require considerable funding and space to make this idea into a reality. On the other hand we have already been offered, as donations, several quilt collections from the US and the Netherlands to ‘kickstart’ such a centre. Linzee and Sherry Cook in the US have also offered to talk with friends and collectors to help make this International Centre a reality.

The feedsack and quilt week was a great success thanks to all the TRC colleagues, Linzee McCray in particular, and the financial support of the American Embassy, The Hague. The exhibition can be seen until 28th June.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, Sunday 11th February 2018


Ancient Siberian bling

Golden vase from Kul Oba in the Crimea, 4th century BCE, with a relief showing group of Scythians.

Golden vase from Kul Oba in the Crimea, 4th century BCE, with a relief showing group of Scythians.

“Scythians: Warriors of ancient Siberia” was a recent exhibition at the British Museum (London). The Scythians were a nomadic people who, during the period of 900 to 200 BCE, dominated the grasslands from southern Siberia to the Black Sea. They were fierce fighters, a fact written about by the Assyrians, the Persians and the ancient Greeks (the latter also admired the Scythians’ drinking prowess). The Scythians were also master craftspeople.

The exhibition showcased stunning examples of Scythian gold work, including elaborate gold belt buckles, earrings, and plaques to decorate clothes, quivers and bow cases, and gear for horses. The larger gold buckles and plaques often have textile impressions on their backs, which is evidence of a specific way of casting.

Detail of the golden vase illustrated above (not the same scene as above). The two Scythians depicted have the characteristic long hair and beard. One of them has a high pointed cap. They both wear trousers and a tunic.

Detail of the golden vase illustrated above (not the same scene as above). The two Scythians depicted have the characteristic long hair and beard. One of them has a high pointed cap. They both wear trousers and a tunic.

There were many examples of beautifully preserved textiles. The Scythians buried high-status individuals in kurgans, or burial chambers built of wood and stone. The organic remains were often frozen, and so preserved for over two thousand years. There were coats of squirrel fur (the fur on the inside) finely sewn with sinew. On one woman’s coat, the stitches were less than 1 mm long. This same coat was trimmed with fur that had been dyed with indigo and madder, and decorated on the outside with intricate, differently coloured, leather appliqués. The appliqués were further decorated with small bronze plaques that had been covered with gold foil. Interestingly, the cuffs of the narrow sleeves had been sewn shut, a feature seen on other such coats.

Both men and women wore woollen trousers (additionally, women wore long woollen skirts). There were several expertly woven wool fragments on display—some dyed with five colours (blue, green, red, orange and yellow). People were also buried with unique, high head gear, made from leather and felt; some burial mounds also contained decorated felt stockings; and woollen rugs or coverlets.

There were two objects on display that I will remember for a long time. One was a beautiful felt swan figure, which dates to the third century BCE. It was found with three other similar swans and may have been sewn to decorate a cart. Stuffed with straw, with a black bill and yellowish-red tail feathers, it is charming. The other object was a red leather woman’s shoe. This dates from the late fourth to the early third centuries BCE. The toe is decorated with thick sinew wrapped with tin foil, to imitate silver. But it’s the sole of the show which shows real bling: edged with dark beads, small cubed pyrite crystals were stitched to form three diamond-shaped patterns. Even sitting on the floor, showing the soles of her shoes, the woman who wore this wanted to be fashionable.

The exhibition is now closed. Hopefully it will be on tour to other museums before it returns to its home in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. If it is, don’t miss it.

Shelley Anderson, Sunday 28th January 2018


Gingham Girl, Hajj clothing and bark cloth from Indonesia: New acquisitions for the TRC collection

Bark cloth garment from Sulawesi, Indonesia, c. 1945/1950 (TRC 2018.0042).

Bark cloth garment from Sulawesi, Indonesia, c. 1945/1950 (TRC 2018.0042).

It is only the third week of January, but we are already including some new and very diverse objects into the TRC Collection. The first few items include an original Gingham Girl cloth and notebook, both from c. 1925 and acquired in the context of the current exhibition at the TRC about feedsacks. The  acquisition of these items means that we have an almost complete range of objects on display that really represent the fascinating history of the American feedsack.

We are also welcoming groups of quilters coming to the exhibition. They are especially attracted by the many quilts made from feedsacks, and their intriguing and colourful designs. So far, the 'Flying Geese' quilt seems to be the most popular. The exhibition can be seen until the end of June 2018. One the groups that we welcomed was actually a birthday party. Perhaps an idea for others?

Woman's cloth for a Turkish woman, used for the Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca (TRC 2018.0038a).

Woman's cloth for a Turkish woman, used for the Umrah pilgrimage to Mecca (TRC 2018.0038a).

Another range of new acquisitons is equally fascinating. Mrs. E. Güney, a long-standing friend of the TRC who is very active within the Turkish community in Leiden, came to the TRC with various items relating to Turkish Muslim life, namely, Hajj and Umrah clothing for men and women, worn when on pilgrimage to Mecca. This set included two prayer cloths, prayer beads and books explaining how to perform the Hajj and Umrah, in both Arabic and Turkish. In 2017 she gave the TRC a range of cloths, soaps, perfumes, etc, relating to the burial of a Muslim. Over the next few years she wants to build up the Turkish collection at the TRC in order to represent this aspect of Turkish life in The Netherlands. The objects are donated in the name of the Stichting Güney, Leiden.

On Friday last (26th January) we were given five bark cloth garments that date from about 1945/1950. These come from eastern Sulawesi (Indonesia) and were given by the Van Strien family. They had initially been given to Mr. P.T. van Strien, who was appointed as a Dutch colonial administratior to the region in 1945. The garments include two sarongs, a blouse and a large roundel. All of these have been painted with stylised foliage, birds and geometric shapes, mainly in brown and black. Because of the Japanese occupation of the islands during the Second World War (1939-1945), there was an acute shortage of cotton material for clothing and many people were forced to wear bark cloth garments.

Gillian Vogelsang, Saturday 27th January 2018


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Hogewoerd 164, 2311 HW Leiden. Tel. +31 (0)71 5134144 / +31 (0)6 28830428

Opening times: Monday to Thursday: 10.00-16.00 hrs, other days by appointment. Holidays: until 11 August

Bank account number: NL39 INGB 0002 9823 59, Stichting Textile Research Centre

Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome !

TRC Gallery exhibition: 5 Sept. -19 Dec. 2019: Socks&Stockings

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The TRC is dependent on project support and individual donations. All of our work is being carried out by volunteers. To support the TRC activities, we therefore welcome your financial assistance: donations can be transferred to bank account number NL39 INGB 000 298 2359, in the name of the Stichting Textile Research Centre.
Since the TRC is officially recognised as a non-profit making cultural institution (ANBI), donations are tax deductible for 125% for individuals, and 150% for commercial companies. For more information, click here
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