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Two Manchester students at the TRC Intensive Textile Course, March 2018.Two Manchester students at the TRC Intensive Textile Course, March 2018.This last few weeks have had a Manchester flavour! And I am not talking about football teams. On the 6th-7th March, I was in Manchester, UK, to discuss the various ways the TRC Leiden and the Manchester School of Art (part of the Manchester Metropolitan University) could work together. The School is geared towards the training of textile designers who specialise in a variety of subjects, such as embroidery, knitting, printing and weaving. These subjects include both hand and machine forms. There is also a large fashion department training the students to design future fashions.

Outfit for an orphan girl, early 20th century, Foundling Museum, London.Outfit for an orphan girl, early 20th century, Foundling Museum, London.The Foundling Museum in London is a fascinating piece of social history. This compact museum records the history of orphans and of those who tried to help them. The story begins in 1741, when the Foundling Hospital (think ‘hospital’ in terms of ‘hospitality’, not medical treatment) was established in Blooomsbury, London, to care for abandoned and neglected children. The orphanage was in operation until 1924, and the building was demolished in 1926. The orphans were rehoused outside of London. The Museum is housed in another building, not far from the original premises, at Brunswick Square.

The displays include oral histories, paintings (William Hogarth was a supporter of the Hospital) and other art works. The latter includes a moving piece made in 2012 by Emma Middleton, and deals with responses from teachers to the orphans’ uniforms. Called “Labelled”, it features a row of pegs on which hang identical white cotton school shirts, each with a red stitched label. The labels record sentences the orphans were told in school: “I hate you”, “If you can’t bring a pencil with you, don’t come”, “You are stupid”. Nearby are two brown serge childrens’ uniforms: a dress and white apron and bonnet for girls; a black necktie, white shirt, red wool waistcoat, trousers and cap for boys. The example on display dates to the twentieth century.

Bolivian woman’s hat with sequins and beads from the Tarabucco region of Bolivia (TRC 2018.0600; v/d Bijl collection).Bolivian woman’s hat with sequins and beads from the Tarabucco region of Bolivia (TRC 2018.0600; v/d Bijl collection).During the 1990’s Yvonne van der Bijl was travelling through Bolivia and Peru as part of her work as a travel guide author. During her visits she started to make a small collection of Bolivian and Peruvian hats for women. She used these in her books and articles, as well also as part of a gallery exhibition about South American headwear held at the LAC Gallery, Amsterdam in 1998.

Woman’s hat with sequins and beads for an Aymara woman, Tarabuco region of Bolivia (TRC 2018.0602; v/d Bijl collection).Woman’s hat with sequins and beads for an Aymara woman, Tarabuco region of Bolivia (TRC 2018.0602; v/d Bijl collection).Yvonne van der Bijl is now downsizing and tidying up and as a result a few days ago twenty Bolivian and Peruvian hats for women arrived at the TRC ! Over the next few weeks the TRC will be sorting out, cataloguing and photographing the hats, but if you know of any books and articles in which there is detailed information about the different types of Bolivian and Peruvian hat styles for women can you please get in contact with us at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Peruvian woman’s hat with deep red fringe from the Checaspampa region (TRC 2018.0593; v/d Bijl collection).Peruvian woman’s hat with deep red fringe from the Checaspampa region (TRC 2018.0593; v/d Bijl collection).

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, Sunday 11th March 2018

Peruvian woman’s embroidered hat from the Cabanacone region, Colca Canyon region (TRc 2018.0603; v/d Bijl collection).Peruvian woman’s embroidered hat from the Cabanacone region, Colca Canyon region (TRc 2018.0603; v/d Bijl collection).

Sampler with the text A W Arnhem 1912 (TRC 2018.0467).Sampler with the text A W Arnhem 1912 (TRC 2018.0467).A recent donation to the TRC came with a little mystery. It was a box of beautiful Dutch samples and samplers. They were said to be all made by the donor’s grandmother, a woman named Wilhelmina Johanna Wijers. She was born in 1900 in Arnhem and known within the family as Johanna or Anna. The earliest dated sampler (TRC 2018.0466), is based on the alphabet and is worked in cross stitch using a red cotton thread on a linen back ground. It was made in March 1909 when Johanna was nine years old. The mystery is the fact that her collection also contains a sampler dated 1912 (TRC 2018.0467), which is almost identical to the one made in 1909.

Johanna was an intelligent student, but she had to leave school when she was 13, to work for her father and others. She also had a younger sister. The grandchildren knew the younger sister as Tante Zus (‘Aunt sister’). Her real name has long been forgotten. Forgotten, that is, until the TRC staff began examining the earlier samplers.

All girls at the beginning of the 20th century were taught embroidery, for practical more than artistic reasons. They made samples and samplers. Some samplers featured the alphabet, with numbers stitched beneath the letters. The maker could use this sampler to show potential employers that she could read and also add, subtract and multiply—and, of course, that she could sew and mend clothing. Such samplers were a textile curriculum vitae. Johanna’s school samplers progressed from alphabets to decorative darning, mostly with a background of cloth with red stripes produced in Germany for Dutch and German embroidery teachers. 

The new collection of samples and samplers not only contains two identical, very simple samplers with letters and numbers, but also another set of virtually identical samplers, with ornate letters and numbers (TRC 2018.0469 and TRC 2018.0470). Why did Johanna as a child make two identical samplers of the alphabet and two with more complicated letters? This was a puzzle, until someone looked more closely at the samplers, initials and dates.

The set of two simple samplers has different initials that identify the embroideress. One of them reads J. Wijers Arnhem Maart 1909, the other A W Arnhem 1912. Considering the (limited) skill required for these simple samplers, the girls were probably around nine years old when they stitched their samplers. Johanna ('J' for Johanna), who was born in 1900, made her sampler in 1909. Someone else ('A') worked her sampler in 1912. Her surname started with 'W', probably short for Wijers. Could this have been the younger sister?

This younger sister could also have made the second of the set of far more ornate samplers. These samplers have no initials nor dates. But why would the same person make two almost identical samplers? 

The puzzle is a little closer to being solved —the identical samplers were made by two different girls. They were Johanna and, perhaps, her younger sister, whose (official) name probably started with an 'A'. 

Maybe the TRC should change its initials to the (textile) C.S.I.?

Shelley Anderson, Saturday 3rd March 2018

Workshop on the reconstruction of 17th century hand knitted silk stockings, TRC, February 2018.Workshop on the reconstruction of 17th century hand knitted silk stockings, TRC, February 2018.As part of the Texel Silk Stockings Project, and following an initial workshop on the island of Texel some weeks ago, the TRC Leiden recently hosted three further workshops, namely on Sunday 18th February (twice) and Friday 23rd February. Each of the three workshops was attended by some 25 volunteers. The Project has the aim of reconstructing the silk stockings that were discovered at a shipwreck that dates to the 1640’s. The ship was found off the coast of the Dutch island of Texel a few years ago.

The TRC is involved in writing a detailed publication about the stockings, how they were made, who made them and indeed who might have worn them. The Project is led by Leiden city archaeologist Chrystel Brandenburgh and helped by TRC volunteer, Lies van de Wege, and a large group of dedicated knitters who come from all over the world – literally. The vast majority of knitters come from the Netherlands and Belgium, but there are people involved in the Project from Hungary, Portugal, Germany, England, as well as America and Canada.

George Stark at the TRC, 14th February 2018George Stark at the TRC, 14th February 2018Georg 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.

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 email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. W http://www.annelienvankempen.nl  Luchthollers: https://www.pixum.nl/mijn-fotos/album/5833342 

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

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TRC in a nutshell

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

Open on Mondays - Thursdays
from 10.00 - 16.00.

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

Entrance is free, but donations are always welcome!

TRC Gallery exhibition:
5 Febr. -25 June 2020: American Quilts

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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
Financial donations to the TRC can also be made via Paypal: