The stockings of Texel

On Saturday the 7th of July in my blog entry from the recent summer school on textiles, I mentioned the third presentation of the day was a blueprint for citizen science and experimental textile archaeology.  Now, that I have more time I want to write up that presentation entitled:

Reconstructing the 17th-century silk stockings from the Texel shipwreck.  The advantages and challenges of a citizen science project-Chrystel Brandenburgh.

The star of the Texel shipwreck excavation was this dress.

Texel stockings

However, the focus of the reconstruction project was this pair of unworn silk stockings.

More informal details on the dress may be read at a blog post from TRC Leiden (Textile Research Centre):

So, why were the stockings the focus of a reconstruction project?

The main objectives was to gain knowledge into the production and usage of the silk stocking in the 17th century using history and experimental archaeology.

The research questions for the project:

  1. How were the stockings made?
  2. How were the stockings used?
  3. Were the stockings custom made?
  4. Were the stockings made to a one size fits all pattern?

The project was designed, of course, to answer the research questions but it was also designed to create knowledge, to share knowledge and to learn by doing through citizen science/citizen experimental archaeology.

The Project Design

  • Research and documentation (questionnaires and workshops)
  • Test swatches production through workshops
  • Testing techniques
  • Knitting full reconstructions through workshops
  • Experimental research-How did the reconstructed stockings fit, how did the stockings perform in shoes over time?


Funding and participants

In order to address the two issues above, the project co-ordinators took to social media and its global connectivity in virtual time. The call was put out for twenty knitters and over a hundred responded but these volunteers needed to be organised in real time and as we know real time takes time. It was a challenge to organise the project from time frames, requirements,  collecting data, to monetary challenges.  For example, the scientific analysis was required to understand the silk structure of the stockings, was it reeled or spun silk?  and the degumming of the silk was required in order to dye, and what of the knitting direction aka pattern that also needed analysis so the 100 knitters could learn how to knit like it was 1699!!!

Crowd funding through social media was utilised alongside sponsorship was also used to fund the cost of materials and for the organisation of workshops.

Workshop One

This workshop gathered about 25 global knitters together where instructions were given on how to knit 5 x 5 cm swatches using three types of silk with needles (1 mm and 0.7 mm). The estimation was that each knitter would produce three swatches and this amount of swatches acted as a template for future costing of complete pairs of stockings (ten pairs required), The end result was a production output of 160 swatches with each swatch taking five hours with various knitting techniques, directions and questionnaires to fill out for any issues that may arise. The platform of Ravelry was used to track the participants progress outside of the workshop.

IMG_1351 (2)
Dr Brandenberg presenting the Texel experimental archaeology project

Workshop Two

This workshop of knitters involved further lectures, demonstrations of various knitting techniques, problem solving and knitting. Assignments were allocated for the stocking knitting, ten pairs and, again, with questionnaires that would act as the citizen science record. This project is still ongoing and currently, TRC at Leiden are writing a detailed publication and planning a conference.

A visual round-up of the Texel silk stocking presentation






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