Contents in This Month's Issue
• A Letter to Our Friends
• Current Exhibit: Worn to Dance—1920s Fashion & Beading
• Featured Exhibits in our Museum Shop: The Crochet Art of Cathy Adair-Clark
• Upcoming Exhibits: The Bird in the Textile Arts
• Treasures from Our Etsy Shop: 1929 Black Lace Dress—and Handwritten Note
• Arts & Crafts Ephemera: Three Appealing Beading Filament Card-Winders
• Historical Textile Trivia: The Legend of Norse Sails—Wool in the Water
• New Products & Publications
• Customer of the Month: Sarah Neal Simpson
• Textile Arts Events Calendar: What to Watch, See, & Do
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Welcome to the May issue of our monthly newsletter. We sincerely hope this finds you well. There's been a lot happening here—we have so much to catch up on!
For starters, we're very excited to be coordinating with our instructors to schedule classes for you once more. At the outset of the pandemic and the Shelter-in-Place orders, there were many disappointed students who were eagerly anticipating our tambour and ribbonwork classes, but happily, we will shortly be offering them again. As many of you know, our workshops, lectures, and convivial sewist and lace-making group meetings were the lifeblood our communal space.
First, we'll be rescheduling our classes that were cancelled due to the pandemic. Registration will be open first to those students who were originally signed up, and then to all comers (if space allows). We're so thrilled to be reconvening with our clever, creative, crafty Lacis friends again soon!
In other good news, about a month ago, we received a superb donation from Carolyn Stratton Darby Gragg, a descendent of William Randolph Hearst's financial advisor. This endowment included the finely embroidered and lace-embellished linens that once furnished the media magnate's luxurious yacht, as well as Panamanian mola panels—reverse-applique embroidery in electrifying colors—collected by Carolyn in her own sailing expeditions off the coast of Central America. Stop by our Museum Shop to see a series of eight of these on display, and all tropical bird-themed!
Sumptuous 1890 muff, collar, and cuff set made from penguin (or grebe) feathers—plus one dramatically swooping ostrich plumes, perched upon an original hatbox—hearkening back to the days when women of wealth and status proudly declared it by such sublimely coordinated wardrobe accessories.
Also among Carolyn's precious heirlooms was a devastatingly gorgeous Victorian muff, cuff, and collar set, thickly trimmed in what would appear to be... penguin feathers! (Possibly grebe.) Here are some examples of similar sets—you be the judge.
Are you now realizing that you need more feathered muffs in your life? Check out Lacis instructor Lynn McMaster's step-by-step construction of her own fabulous muff for your inspiration.
In other fun news, in the past few months we've sold even more candy-colored and metallic '60s high-heeled shoes to the NYC-based costume department of Amazon Prime's television show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. That makes eight pairs so far now! You'd better believe we'll be watching this upcoming fourth season very, very carefully—with a keen eye fixed on all the feet we can possibly spy, and you should, too. The styles, especially Midge's, are simply smashing.
Again, we sincerely appreciate your continued support and engagement. We hope you enjoyed this newsletter. Take care of yourselves, keep in touch, and carry on making. And this month, for the maternal caregivers among us, we honor you. Have a beautiful, happy Mother's Day. Until next time,
Kind regards, and many thanks—
Your friends at Lacis
Now open for tours by appointment!
• Masks are required
• Tours are $3.00 per person and must be reserved in advance—calling us at (510) 843-7290 is best
• Tours can be scheduled for Monday, Tuesday or Saturday at 1:00PM & 3:00PM
• Tours have a two-person minimum and are limited to 5 guests maximum
• For Museum Members and their guests (4 max), tours are free!
• Please note that the second floor gallery at this time is only accessible via stairs
Back and front views of this magnificent dress. Its highly centralized
and symmetrical motif makes it curiously but unmistakeably reminescent of
Wonder Woman's blue ballgown with concealed sword
in the 2017 Patty Jenkins-directed film.
Almost 100 years ago, with the dawn of the Jazz Age, life changed dramatically for women in America. Suddenly the 1920s woman could vote, drive, spend her own money, smoke and drink in public, cut off her long hair, expose her calves, forgo her corset and—perhaps most iconic of all—she could dance.
The most iconic pastime of the 1920s was dancing in nightclubs and speakeasies. Here women and men could freely socialize to the rhythm of Hot Jazz.
That rhythm is most clearly made visual in the image of the flapper, with her (relatively) short dress, which sparkled in the dim lights, given heft, form and movement by the innumerable beads sewed to its simple shift-shaped form.
These dresses, like the Jazz Age itself, were never destined to last. With the weight of the beads continually testing their union with the fragile silk, their eventual collapse was inevitable, as evidenced by the beads abandoned on the dance floor when the party was over.
This is why, though the dresses remained the quintessential symbol of the times, so few of them remain today. By attentive restoration, we have been able to present examples of these dresses as they appeared when they first shone, as well as fascinating examples of dresses in different stages of construction process.
Closer views of the intricate beading.
From the collection of LMLT; conceived of and curated by the LMLT staff
Running from November 16, 2019—Extended end date TBD
Shetland Lace Sampler
This generous donation of decorative textile artworks from Cathy Adair-Clark is a tour de force of talent and devotion to the world of needlework, specifically her world of knitting and Shetland yarns: "I fell in love with Shetland sheep and their fleeces, and that has ruled my life since 2007."
The magnificent sampler she constructed in 2012 is 8 feet by 6½ feet, comprising 67 different fleeces of yarn, all hand-spun by Cathy herself. We also have her personally compiled tome of sketches available for your perusal, with each motif and its pattern, along with sources and progress reports, all passionately and fastidiously documented.
Filet Crochet Panels
These monumental window coverings depict a fantastic range of animals, as well as a fascinating pastoral series, concentrating on a theme dear to Cathy's heart—sheep!
On your next visit to Lacis, don't miss Cathy's butterflies and birds, the colossal imposing owl, a lively provincial scene featuring rooster and hens, and the peacock posed in all his glory! In the sheep filet panels, we see a wool industry-related sequence: a dog diligently guarding its flock, a spinner rooing a sheep. (That is, removing its fleece by hand.) Cathy's father, she recalls, "used to shear sheep in his youth; it would take a long time to roo a sheep, but a spinner sitting with her sheep and pulling a lock off and spinning sounded to me like heaven." We have to agree with her there—a sure image of a spinner's paradise.
We can't wait to share this gorgeous exhibit with you all soon!
For the time being, please enjoy this extract from the exhibit commentary.
The bird in literature and on canvas has long held its place through all civilizations and all times. The bird captured in thread and textiles is more obscure and less defined. Depicted by a single thread, a bountiful palette of threads, a thread following a hook or threads in harmony through the bobbins of lace, the bird is captured by the hands of the creator.
This amazing presentation captures this spirit from Pre-Columbian Peru to the earliest of laces to a world of unbound wealth of thread, color and needle.
Crewel Wool Embroidery
Three birds, including a cheeky one that hangs upside-down, congregate in a colorful paradise of thickly embroidered crewel wool. This piece was made in England in the early 19th century, employing the still-popular tambour stitching technique. The fabric is stretched tautly over a frame—think of a tambourine, or the French word for drum, tambour—and rapid stitching is accomplished with an eyeless hooked or latched needle, not unlike a miniscule crochet hook in appearance.
NOTE: When we're ready to begin tours of this exhibit, its opening will be announced on our Facebook page—follow us to be the first to know!
1929 black Chantilly lace formal gown with note from original owner
We love it when a donation comes with a tender, handwritten note. Oftentimes the script of the past was so careful and refined. Look at what this one reads:
My mother, Frances Baker Bigelow, made this dress for me when I was 15 or 16 to wear to a dance—(1929 about).
The lace was 30 or 40 years old then, and had belonged to her old [or odd?] aunts—
I washed it in Woolite in 1981. Notice no zippers then—
Frances Bigelow's daughter was so mindful to make note of the origin of the materials, its construction and its subsequent care...! It reveals much about not only her historical and social context, but her personality. Here is someone who paid attention to detail. She wrote in a beautiful hand. And at Lacis, like you'd expect, we readily identify with people who cherish their sentimental textile heirlooms, which she clearly did.
We appreciate these distant strangers, who took the time to leave us these notes. We feel close to them for having handled their garments with care, with love. And we feel a certain responsibility to ensure these items get a second chance at life. In part, Lacis's Etsy shop functions as something of a way station, a place for textiles to rest—sometimes to clean up or receive some mending attention—between one loving owner and the next.
Seeing how this piece of young Miss Bigelow's is in poor condition now—its brittle lace being extraordinarily delicate and liable to tear under any amount of strain—we can only recommend this garment to you for display or study. Wearing it would be quite out of the question (and anyway, it's an XXS). There are already several splits and tears throughout, but it remains a splendid example of a late-'20s formal dress. If its ethereal nature, its black lace roses, are calling to you—or if by chance the way Ms Bigelow penned that note resonates in your heart—you can examine it here, where it is for sale, ready to come back to a good home once more.
This month, take a look these clever cards on which beading wire and braided silk were wound and sold. We especially love the vintage marketing—the illustrations, vivid color palettes, and typography.
Observe, for your inspiration: with just a scrap of cardboard and a few strategic cuts, you, too can make a clever little thread-winder for storing and stashing your odd bits of flosses and string.
One of our favorite kinds of textile donation are the boxes (sometimes biscuit tins) full of assorted old buttons, sewing notions, and other charming household supplies. Sometimes we find a bit of string wrapped around saved scraps of heavy paper and cardstock... and it's always fun when we unwind them to find a bit of old ephemera with markings, secreted within. Even if it's just cut from a cereal box or a random business card, it's helpful for placing and dating objects of unknown origin and age. We once even discovered a floss-winder made from a piece of an old plastic ruler!
Imagine your ancestors, decades from now, pondering your curious pieces of hidden paper, tightly encircled by precious lengths of twine, fiber and floss. What an evocative mystery it would be! Consider this, when selecting what ephemeral oddities to wind your thread upon, or conceal beneath.
Take, for example, this little rectangle of cardstock.
Wrapped in a machine lace made to resemble tatting, it reads, mysteriously:
"The British Buford '98'"...
Did you know that Vikings once felted wool sails by submerging them in the tide? Odyssey Traveler—a travel agency that specializes in guided tours for everyone from students and curious world explorers—actually has a really excellent article about this!
"Next, the [sailcloth-producing] family would full and dry the fabric. Fulling is more or less the same as felting. Material is soaked in water and pressed together to mesh the fibers together and create a large clump of material, with fewer holes than the weaved product. According to St Clair, another method used was with large bodies of water; 'cloth would simply be placed just within the tideline and weighed down with stones, letting the ebb and flow of the water do the job' (p.110). The sailcloth would then be stretched into a square and dried."
If this is a topic that's interesting to you, you should read No Wool, No Vikings. Hakai Magazine is a Canadian publication that delves deep into "coastal science and societies", and as textile lovers know, the history of human use of fiber materials and our lives spent occupying the natural world are inextricably linked—culture and cloth bound together forever.
Don't forget, Lacis Museum Members receive 20% off of books purchased in our Museum shop!
$16.00 — DU23
At the working end, a little brass chuck-key grip firmly holds your latch hook or tambour needle in place. At the user's end, the luster and polish of the rosewood shaft gleams warmly in your grasp.
This handle is about 5" in length, and is the prettiest way to embroider your tulle in haute couturier style. It's functionally the same as our classic wooden handle, but aesthetically, it's a significant upgrade. Because who doesn't want to be using most attractive tools possible?
$6.00 — XO12
Want to cut down on your—or someone else's—screen time? Just perch some these little fellas on your (their) fingers. They instantly spark joy, and make using a touch screen impossible. After all, children (and grown-ups of all ages) should be playing with toys that stimulate their imagination and invite them to tell stories, invent and develop characters and relationships, and roleplay.
Our cast of sweet, colorful finger puppets are handmade and fair trade from Peru, in soft (not to mention hypoallergenic) alpaca wool. There are, of course, parrots of all kinds, a gorgeous pink flamingo, a bold peacock—and dove, rooster, chickens, spoonbill and stork... Each little bird is already ablaze with personality; all that remains is for a someone's fingers and voice to bring them to life.
Penguin Random House, $25.00 PQ74
Punch needle crafting is making a huge resurgence at Lacis, and looking at the pretty projects Stacie Schaat cooked up for this book, it's easy to see why. Classy, modern-looking lampshades, pillowcases, rugs, tapestries... The best part is, our very own Lacis Classic Rug Punch Needle [RP27] is perfect for these jobs.
A pretty wool rug decorating our space, the smaller of a matching pair donated by a generous Lacis supporter.
And just so you know, we also carry monkscloth, felt, and crewel wool in every color of the rainbow—all the things necessary for your punch needle art. If you need inspiration, just drop by the museum: you can see some really stunning examples of authentic midcentury ('40s-'50s) wool rugs made with this technique on our shop floor (literally, they're on our floor).
Abrams Books, $25.00 HA61
Everything from the photos, design, typography and organization make this book a visual treat, but it's also book written with real heart. Rodabaugh rejects "convenience in fashion", staunchly and compassionately espousing instead a philosophy of personal, material commitment. Her 2018 book Mending Matters is already a well-established and well-loved title among our Lacis friends. Watch how Katrina practices what she preaches even more deeply in this new book full of extensive, useful, sensible examples of sustainable fashion practices.
Trafalgar Square, $25.00 TU37
Walk like an Egyptian, but knit like a Norwegian. This means cool Bernie-esque mittens, fancy hats for your noggin, a nifty hat and matching cowl set, and (our favorite) "snowtrack socks"—contrasting vertical stripes with small, simple, repetitive motifs within the stripes. These look extremely cozy and beautiful. Oh, and of course, traditional Scandi-style sweaters and even shirts.
Thames & Hudson, $40.00 NQ32
Wow, wow, wow! This generously proportioned, 200-page paperback book from the Victoria & Albert museum is mind-blowing. The photos and text are instantly immersive. Its scope is profound (footwear!—accessories!—children's clothes!) and its scholarly detail briskly informative. If you find the Japanese aesthetic even half as fascinating as we do, you're going to have a very hard time putting this one down. For gaining key insights into a culture, you can't do better than learning about the clothing.
Thames & Hudson, $40.00 NQ32
This book takes you on such an expansive and magical ride through so many different cultures and environs! From Turkey and Egypt in the west to Tanzania on the southern coast of Africa, to Kazakhstan in the north to Afghanistan, Iran, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Yemen in the south, you'll feel the influence and consequences of thousands of years of successive empires, even if the objects shown in the book are mainly from the 1700s onward.
"Textiles convey stories," Fahmida begins, but "some are easier to read than others." And thus she spins us endless stories through these weaves and embroideries, attire and amulets, curtains and tent-hangings. The colors, textures, and patterns and pictures in thread are full of sensory surprises. Brace yourself before opening this book! It's overwhelmingly emotional, and the disclosure of so many perfect little tales—histories and fables alike—fires up the imagination fast.
Thames & Hudson, $25.00 NQ32
If you're a beginner in need of a crash course in practicing—or even just identifying—all kinds of embroidery, this book was designed with you in mind. Applying shisha mirrors or wool appliqué? Trying your hand at traditional counted thread and canvas work? Chinese silk embroidery or goldwork? It covers them all. This would make the perfect gift for bright, inquisitive, creative children potentially aspiring to become textile-art creators—it's approachable, inviting, organized, and thoughtfully, richly produced. A double gift, as their parents are liable to enjoy it, too.
Thames & Hudson, $40.00 NQ34
The endpapers are a handsome dark navy with neat white dot pattern; the pale blue hardcover material is reminiscent of a smoothly waxed canvas or sports jacket. In every respect this book is a dude's guide to dressing with style and class—by design, it's something to be emulated. And it'll school you! For example, did you know that Paul Reubens wears a Glen check in The Pee-Wee Herman Show, just like the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII)? Even GQ's style article The History of the Suit by Decade gives it an honorary mention—although, as they mention, Pee-Wee's is a bit shrunken.
You'll find this dapper bible of style shelved in our dedicated Menswear section of our bookshop. It would make the perfect gift for young men who need a helpful hint or two on dressing well. Anderson writes so passionately and knowledgeably on men's fashion, they'll surely be moved to up their clothing game by several factors. Just reading the glossary alone will open their eyes to the manifold nuances of men's fashion.
Thames & Hudson, $40.00 NQ33
Lavish photography and explicitly clear diagrams bring the sumptuous embellishments and painstaking techniques of 1700s fashion to life for your delectation and delight—everything from separable pockets to waistcoats, tassels and trim, stomachers and aprons. A veritable tour de force of fashion and an absolute must-have for costume history enthusiasts.
This month, we celebrate an embroiderer extraordinaire, one of our friendliest and most talented customers by far. We fell in love with Sarah's recent star tambour embroidery project, wherein she obtained an old wool blazer of her brother's and embellished it with a dazzling combination of rhinestones, sequins, bugle beads, and satin-stitch embroidery. That, to us, is the purest expression of creative ingenuity—not to mention fashion genius!
And, as so many of our brilliant visitors are wont to do, she kindly shared with us how she went about accomplishing this feat of artistry and craftsmanship—a most gratifying conversation for us. Sarah Neal, we salute you, your drive and your refined sense of style. This blazer you've enlivened with sparkles radiates sheer chic! You're an absolute treasure, and we learn something new every time you visit.
Observe these photos of her project, taken at a middling stage in the process:
"Eventually the rhinestone, sequin, bugle beads, and satin stitch will cover the sleeves and shoulders of the blazer."
As you can see from this photo of one of the partially-completed sleeves, she carefully deconstructed the jacket and temporarily affixed the pieces to a tambour frame for the addition of the stars. What follows is Sarah's illuminating step-by-step explanation of her star-making operation.
Step 1: Sew on the 10mm rhinestones and then encircle them with 3mm rhinestones.
Step 2: Tack on the sequins.
Step 3: Do a rough stitch of the perlé cotton filling of the stars. Then I go back and do some sketchy satin stitching to better fill in the stars.
Step 4: Add the bugle beads as star rays in the remaining area. Here you can see how the embroidery fits on the arm piece.
Originally from North Carolina, Sarah has years of experience in marketing for major luxury brands—names you'll recognize, such as Tiffany & Co. and Vogue—so it's no wonder her personal work exhibits such glamorous style and exquisite taste! Now, however, she's boldly altered the course of her career during this new pandemic era, taking advantage of otherwise disrupted days to branch out, chase her creative dreams and follow her ultimate bliss.
Don't Sarah's stars remind you of this incredible Jeanne Lanvin 1924 swimsuit? It lives at the Palais Galliera, and the Vintage Fashion Guild just featured it on their Instagram feed recently. It made us do a double take!
The textile arts, obviously, are a special passion of Sarah's, and this passion has lately translated into a blossoming small business. Sarah has a beautiful and burgeoning shop on Etsy where she sells her original and customized needlepoint designs as kits for do-it-yourself, festive Christmas stockings. They're a wonderfully inspired way to commemorate the holiday season for—or even with!—your family.
If you're the crafty Christmas type, we urge you to check out Sarah's pieces. They manage to be both utterly charming and jaw-droppingly gorgeous at the same time. (Our favorites? The timeless clementines and classic Christmas tree lot.) She paints the illustrations directly onto the canvas, according to her customer's specifications, when need be, which allows them to stitch their own personalized monograms and names onto the stockings, conveniently IDing to ensure Santa's successful delivery.
These make for magical gifts—and in due time, after enough decades of wintertime family traditions and building fond memories, true heirlooms! However, if needlepoint stitching takes you as long as it takes us, you just might want to get started on your Christmas stockings... yesterday.
Are you promoting an educational textile event,
and you'd like to see it posted in a future Lacis Newsletter?
Contact us, and let's see if we're a good fit!
International Organization of Lace, Inc.
A non-profit organization dedicated to the study and preservation lace
Yes, some of their best events are members-only, but they sound so good, you'll want to sign up!
IOLI is an admirable group of lace enthustiasts: their goals include teaching and promoting lacemaking and lace identification. They also encourage educational programs for public benefit, such as lacemaking demonstrations and exhibits of lace collections.
Femke Speelberg gives this talk. She's the Associate Curator of Historic Ornament, Design and Architecture in the Department of Drawings & Prints at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Before the standardization of textile pattern books, they were at first fascinating and idiosyncratic products of individual entrepreneurs. Femke will examine these books, their content and physical form, to discover more about people who made them, and their purposes. (Members only.)
Starting in the 16th century, textile pattern books began to emerge.
Explore them with IOLI and the Met's Femke Speelberg!
I.O.L.I.'s 2021 UnCon 2.0 will be offering a plethora virtual classes, this year brought to you by the Lace Museum of Sunnyvale. Members can register starting May 15 and the general public starting June 1, 2021.
These online lectures feature experienced stitchers and historians on the subjects of embroidery and other fiber arts. Each month SNAD will have available two separate special guest events for registration. These compelling speakers will share their specialized insights into their favorite aspects of a fascinating fiber-related topic.
A discussion about Russian embroidery at the end of the Imperial period, when middle-class women increasingly created their own needlework, aided by a proliferation in pattern books, concurrent with a revived national interest in folk embroidery.
A magnificently plush embroidered butterfly by Kate Cross
Author of the RSN Appliqué techniques manual, and also the author of Projects and Pure Inspiration, embroiderer Kate has worked on some prestigious projects, including work as a member of the team that created HRH The Duchess of Cambridge's wedding dress. In this talk, Kate will discuss important events that have made up her exciting career.
Greater Bay Area Costumer's Guild
Virtual gatherings and workshops for costume enthusiasts
The Greater Bay Area Costumers Guild is a non-profit organization made up of people who share an interest in recreational costuming. Located in the San Francisco Bay Area, they offer a variety of activities including workshops, costume salons and costumed events. Check out their new schedule of innovative pandemic-friendly events!
Create your own Merfolk inspired crown to wear while attending sea inspired events throughout the Bay Area, for a swim, or just everyday! This class is also perfect for any small Mers in your family, with Adult supervision. Workshop taught by Mermaid Member Rachel Smith.
Tickets haven't yet gone on sale for this event, but it's so exciting that we just had to share! Have you ever wondered why nobody in Netflix's new TV series Bridgerton is wearing a bonnet or hat? Where have they all gone to??
Stay tuned for the details on this intriguing and much-needed virtual workshop led by The Sewing Room in Alameda's very own Jennifer Serr!
MISSING: All the hats and bonnets of Bridgerton!
Where have they all gone to??
The Gawthorpe Textiles Collection is an internationally renowned collection of global textiles located in the heart of Pennine, Lancashire. Explore beautiful historic textiles from the comfort of your own home through their world-class lectures and workshops!
Through high-resolution photographs you will be exploring construction details such as seam finishes, fastenings and internal supports as well as decorative details such as trimmings and embellishment.
You'll be looking at high-resolution images to explore the very finest details of each piece; including priceless 16th and 17th century needle laces, gossamer fine 18th century binche lace and elegant Point de Gaze dress trimmings.
National Arts Club
All these lectures are currently available to watch on YouTube!
The mission of The National Arts Club (The National Arts Club) is to stimulate, foster and promote public interest in the arts and educate the American people in the fine arts. The NAC hosts both members-only and public events, including exhibitions, theatrical and musical performances, lectures and readings.
Dr. Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, author of "Worn on This Day", presents a mash-up of styles, stories, personalities, and the history of fashion, one day at a time.
A conversation with Amelia Rauser, author of "The Age of Undress", and an exploration of neoclassicism recast as a feminine, progressive movement through the lens of empire style fashion.
A lecture on style of Queen Alexandra of Denmark from fashion historian Dr. Kate Strasdin.
The Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. We are a unique legacy museum located in Berkeley, California. We host a wide range of hands-on workshops, several galleries of rotating exhibits, and our museum shop carries an extensive supply of vintage goods, craft- and costume-related books, and needlework supplies.
Our purpose is to:
• Preserve lace and textiles of all cultures from all periods
• Provide a resource center for research and documentation of these objects
• Educate and disseminate knowledge of lace and textiles
For just $25.00, you can become an official, card-carrying Lacis Museum Member for a year and enjoy exclusive benefits! Get your membership via our Etsy shop, or alternatively, contact us in a number of other ways to join this vitally important circle of Lacis friends. We thank you for your support!
• 10% discount at our Etsy shop for purchases over $50
• 20% off books purchased at the Lacis Museum shop
• Free museum admission for you and up to (4) guests
• Special invitation to show openings
• Class discounts
The Lacis Museum of Lace & Textiles
2982 Adeline St.
Berkeley, CA 94703