Contents in This Month's Issue
• A Letter to Our Friends
• Current Exhibit: The Bird in the Textile Arts
• Featured Exhibit in our Museum Shop:
‣ Kuna Molas of the San Blas Archipelago
‣ The Shetland Lace Sampler of Cathy Adair-Clark of Windsor, Colorado
• Ongoing Exhibits: Worn to Dance—1920s Fashion & Beading
• Recently Sold in Our Etsy Shop
• Historical Textile Trivia
• New Products & Publications
• Customer of the Month
• Classes at Lacis
• Textile Arts Calendar
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Welcome to the February edition of our newsletter. We're so glad the weather is warming up, because it means more of us will be spending time outdoors—and be embarking on projects inspired by the outdoors.
Accordingly, we expect to see lots of refreshingly bright palettes, like cheerful floral motifs in your embroidery projects, sundresses and airy shirts and skirts from all you sewists! Remember, our vintage lace trims are primarily made from cotton and are perfect for updating your springtime wardrobe with some lightweight, breathable handmade touches. Milliners, it's time for broad-brimmed sunhats, and hats in straw as well! And, for you vintage costume enthusiasts, this might be the perfect time for you to invest in some crochet lace gloves. They'll usefully offer you some protection from the sun, all while making you look like a million bucks: perfect for your springtime tea parties out in the garden, or elegant picnics at the park.
We have some real treats in store for you this time around. There are exciting new class offerings: Beginning Bobbin Lace and The Pocket: An Essential and Practical Historic Accessory in March and April, respectively. Our Etsy section highlights our recently showcased UFOs (and, as a bonus, some pretty goodies channeling their best Valentine's Day vibes), our Textile Trivia spotlights the quilts of Gee's Bend for African American history month, and our Customer of the Month, Fiona Rockwell, has done some incredible couture beadwork that you just have to see to believe.
Isabelle Leblanc & Mike DiMaria
We love it when our talented Lacis visitors are working on a project and show us a photo, or even bring in the project itself! Inspiration abounds in this place, and that's in no small part thanks to you. Read our Customer of the Month section for even more amazing work done by our Lacis friends.
Isabelle Leblanc, originally of France, made this remarkable toy-sized model of her old horse, Urt. She used just pure wool and a felting needle to bring him to life!
Isabelle's father unexpectedly purchased this troubled stallion for her when she was 16 years old and still in school. She had to get a job immediately to support her horse habit (ie, pay for his rent at a Paris stable), of course, and spent every free moment with Urt. Their bond only grew stronger thereafter, and Isabelle gained not only horsewomanship skills, but also major lesson in personal responsibility.
Urt was very special to Isabelle, and this precious little creation of hers is a gift for the people back in France who helped her to care for him. We cannot think of a more special, more touching gift. And we thank Isabelle warmly for sharing with us the amazing story of her relationship with this creature—and showing us her remarkable little sculpture! We love it. Bien joué, Isabelle!
Lately, Mike DiMaria has been stopping by Lacis for crocheting supplies (vintage crochet hooks small enough to make lace with, and cordonnet thread).
First he was replicating a hanky of his grandmother's (she'd created its pretty crochet trimmed edge), which was simple enough, but this time, he brought in a fantastic red-rimmed doily he'd just completed.
It took him several days, and he's still mastering the art of blocking (he had to improvise, and used his tea kettle; we approve of such resourceful thinking), but wow, look at how good he's getting! It's no joke to crochet with such fine thread. His trick? Practice. And also, here's a tip: he started out with easier, larger thread, gradually increasing its fineness as his skills improved. Let Mike's example be a lesson to us all: we can do anything with enough preparation—and dedication!
Special Donations: A 1920s Boudoir Doll & '50s Wedding Ensemble
We accepted the rather exciting donation of an antique boudoir doll this past month from Jennifer Serr of The Sewing Room in Alameda, as well as Nancy Szczepanski's mother's incredible wedding ensemble, which comes with a little relic of an interesting Polish nuptial practice...
The attention to detail on this boudoir doll's outfit is particularly exquisite (left). Her coy expression is straight out of a fashion magazine (right). Museum ID: 37445.
Boudoir dolls (we've just discovered) are a wonderful thing! They're dolls... but they're for adults.
Also called bed dolls, sofa dolls, flapper dolls or French dolls, these aren't intended for play, but rather for display. They lounge on sofas, beds, and presumably vanity tables, too. These saucy dollies are used to being the center of attention: their clothing in particular is extravagant.
They're always glamorously attired, including beautiful shoes—and some of them are even smoking cigarettes. This one wears a lot of silk taffeta, elegant shoes that would not be out of place in 17th century France, and delicate underthings trimmed in finest lace.
A Rydlewski-Szczpanski family photograph from May 16, 1953, taken in East Chicago, Indiana (left) and part of Genevieve Rydlewski's wedding ensemble (right). Museum ID: 37447.
"A fine tradition and handsome item," declared our Museum Curator and Director, Jules Kliot, regarding the donation pictured above.
This 1950s bridal ensemble included, among other things, a stunning dress from Marshall Fields, delicate embroidered handkerchief with handmade beaded hairpin lace edge... and, adhering to an old Polish wedding tradition, an apron used to symbolize forthcoming motherhood and wifely duties.
The bride who was adorned in this beautiful gown and apron during the wedding reception was Genevieve Rydlewski. And no, you're not seeing double: she's posed here next to her twin sister.
Detail from "6 Fighting Birds on a Buddhist Shawl" 
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 flowing 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.
For Katherine Bond of Berkeley, the exhibit was, in her words, "Spectacular!" She was "speechless at the display of time, quality, variety and geography of the works."
Visitor Virginia Davis was similarly floored, enthusing that it was "totally FABULOUS."
Paula and Rob Patterson, who came to visit all the way from Colorado, said that, "As birders, we so appreciated this exhibit. Thank you!"
Lacis Museum member Blair Van Tassel felt the same way: "Beyond amazing details," she agreed.
If you find you're still hankering for birds after a tour of our Bird in the Textile Arts exhibit, then be sure to take a look at these beauties, too.
These beautiful examples of Mola are representative of a recent donation from Carolyn Stratton Darby Gragg, of Piedmont. They were obtained—literally—in the waters of Panama:
"We spent quite a bit of time there visiting while we were on our sailboat in 2008. We bartered for some of them with fishing gear, i.e. hooks, lines, buckets and with sewing and school supplies."
The Kuna people would navigate their small boats (dugout canoes called ulu) out into the bay of the archipelago, where Carolyn's own vessel was anchored, to make these trades.
A traditional art form of the Kuna people of Panama on the San Blas Islands, the Mola panels are part of their traditional costume, with matching panels worn on the front and back of a blouse.
The distinctive Mola employs a reverse-applique base using multiple layers of colorful fabric, with surface embroidery embellishments that complement the designs.
Themes range from the purely organic to geometric, with the colorful local bird population as an obvious subject—a fitting tie-in to our newly-opened exhibit, The Bird in the Textile Arts. When you get a chance, drop into the Museum Shop to see eight of Carolyn's gorgeous Mola panels on display!
Can't get enough of these electrifying colors, and tales of ocean voyages, exploration and adventure? Blogger Mira Nencheva of The Life Nomadik extensively documented her time among the Kuna people, in writing and photographs—including about their aforementioned style of nautical trading and their Mola-making tradition. The University of Oregon's Museum of Natural and Cultural History has some nice Molas available to look at online, too.
Sections of the Shetland Lace Sampler of Cathy Adair-Clark
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 Shetland lace 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.
Now open for tours by appointment!
• Masks are required for all individuals
• 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 1:00 PM & 3:00 PM
• Tours have a (2) person minimum & (10) person 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
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 the construction process.
From the collection of LMLT; conceived of and curated by the LMLT staff
Running from November 16, 2019—Extended end date TBD
This month on our Facebook page, we've been featuring special "UFOs" from the Lacis shop—"UnFinished Objects," that is. And we're glad you all have loved them as much as we do. Some of you all have even been brave enough to try to finish them!
Diane Cheatwood wrote to us, "I just received my beautiful UFO this afternoon on my front porch. I was flabbergasted at the quality of the work and the beautiful materials. If anyone is interested in one of these unfinished objects, I'd sure encourage them to jump on it—it might just turn out to be your new UFT—UnFinished Treasure! Thank you, Lacis, so much!"
Thank YOU so much, Diane! We love that, "UFT." Your initiative is an inspiration!
And Leslie Townsend gamely took on the project of this sweet pair of 1920s linen towels! She fell in love with them instantly (as we did) and told us they're perfectly suited for her 1920s home. They feature a charming chef in the middle of his various duties (wielding a rolling pin, mixing ingredients in a large bowl)... the design is all marked out, so all that remains is for the embroidery to be done!
Later on, digging deep through our troves of textile treasures, we even discovered a third for this set for Leslie—in cheerful buttercup yellow (where he's carving up a turkey!)
As we told Leslie, we're happy when these marvelous UFOs find their forever homes. The shop floor of the Lacis Museum, it is often said, is like the Sargasso Sea of mysterious things: miscellaneous sewing, lace, and other textile arts projects begun and discarded, sometimes strange and incomprehensible, sometimes gloriously beautiful and hardly needing anything done to them at all. But our visitors are, almost without exception, the most creative, imaginative, cunning and crafty sort of people (Berkeley tends to attract those kinds!) They have vision: they see potential where others do not. We are always elated when they take home these unique mystery items—UFTs, if you like, as coined by Diane—to transform them into things entirely new.
These are UFOs that went unclaimed! Explore our Facebook page to read more about them!
This month we honor one of the most celebrated African American accomplishments in the textile arts—and more specifically, the makers behind them. Many of you may already know about the quilts of Gee's Bend. And even if you don't, you may have seen some of their most renown works on USPS postage stamps dating from 2006.
Gee's Bend (in the town of Boykin, if you ever wish to visit) is about an hour north of Selma, Alabama. Some of the most famous American quilts came from this unique ADOS (American Descendants of Slavery) community, where a visually distinctive, arresting style of quilting emerged. Beginning in the 60s, these have been hailed as true American masterpieces and exhibited in fine arts museums all over the world.
"Onliest thing we did after everything else was done, we sit by the fireplace in the wintertime and piece up quilts. Me and my grandmama Annie. She didn't have no pattern to go by; she just cut them by the way she know how to make them. We did it by a kerosene lamp." —Rita Mae Pettway (Souls Grown Deep)
The stunning and unmistakable quilts of Gee's Bend, by necessity, don't adhere the rigid angularity that, by comparison, seem to confine and stifle the voices of other quilts. And perhaps it's the intense planning and fabric-selecting that restricts a quilt's liveliness: writer-quilter Eleanor Levie writes on her blog that "when I worked on needlework and craft magazines in NYC in the 1980s, I studied pictures of American quilts made by European descendants, in order to write directions for recreating them. Typically, these quilts featured hundreds of patches...each patch absolutely identical. Precise and ultra-fine handiwork, heirloom patterns, fabrics from England and France. Such fancy-work could only be made by women living in the lap of luxury, with plenty of time and money. Even the country quilts were mostly made using fabrics off the bolt rather than scraps and repurposed clothing."
And as Levie goes on to point out, just because the designs of the Gee's Bend quilts were mothered by necessity doesn't mean they aren't inspired masterpieces: in fact, with their strong individuality, immediacy, and resourcefulness—not to mention their history—they have the power to provoke especially stirring emotions in a viewer. It is for this reason they "now grace the same museum walls that show minimalist abstract art by Josef Albers, Piet Mondrian, Paul Klee, Mark Rothko, Richard Diebenkorn, and Sean Scully."
It's that sense of unstudied abstraction which makes a composition feel wholly improvised and spontaneous. What results are patterns that sing and dance. Perhaps if jazz or R&B could be manifested into a physical textile form, this would be it. These are quilts full of soul. Contemplate them for long, and they very nearly seem to have heartbeats.
"I didn't like to sew. Didn't want to do it... I helped Grandmama when I was little: thread the needle, cut the pieces, rip the pieces, pick them out for her, put them together. I first pieced a whole quilt when I was about eleven." (Souls Grown Deep)
Don't forget, Lacis Museum Members receive 20% off of books purchased in our Museum shop
CUTENESS OVERLOAD ALERT. These handy little scissors live in super-adorable sheaths made to look like birds! They're called "Purse Parrots," and they're perfect for keeping your thread-cutting instruments close at hand. They're so compact, they'd even fit nicely in a pocket.
Actually, since it's getting close to Valentine's Day, we'd like to think that the orange-headed ones are lovebirds, and the gray ones with purple wings are mourning doves (who mate for life). Whatever they are, we adore them.
The bird's eye is a snap—just a little added security feature that keeps your scissors from flying away. And the scissor handles are polka-dotted, as if it wasn't cute enough. We'll have the entire flock ready and waiting for you at the front register of the shop—don't miss them!
This non-toxic fabric glue pen dries clear and washes out cleanly! And if you're having second thoughts about placement, don't worry, it's forgiving—you can reposition your pieces for about three minutes after applying the glue.
"Choose from over 25 of Lexi's whimsical, bestselling designs for baseball hats, totes, bandanas, fanny packs, patches and jean jackets to add a trendy bohemian touch to your wardrobe. You can also get creative and adapt these patterns onto all kinds of clothing, including flannels and jeans, and even home accessories like tablecloths, tea towels, pillowcases and napkins."
Our talented visitors are always making the most interesting & beautiful things.
We love it when you share your creations & their stories with us!
Folks, we could NOT get over how gorgeous this purse was—front, back, and inside-out!
Made by visitor Fiona Rockwell, it effectively shows off her immense beading skills and ultra-refined sense of style. And no wonder. She spent seven months studying hard at the École Lesage in Paris, and was a Hand & Lock Prize Embroidery Finalist for 2021!
Take a closer look at the intricate grid of beading on this purse. Go on, we dare you! It'll take your breath away.
If she only knew then what she knows now, Fiona would have begun her formal studies in fashion at a much young(er) age. Instead, she dedicated herself to more practical matters in her college career: Russian Literature. This is an impulse that we totally understand. Books come before everything.
Look at Fiona's work on Instagram!
A St. Valentine's Day Tatted Heart
with Kevin Baum
Saturday, February 8, 2022 — 12:30 PM to 4 PM
Come celebrate Valentine's Day with this festive tatting class designed for past students of Kevin's Beginning Tatting Classes. Elevate your tatting skills to create an heirloom tatted Valentine!
Students will need to know the shuttle tatting basics: the double stitch, and how to create and connect rings and picots. Under Kevin's guidance, students will begin their Valentine Day's projects. Students will choose one from several hearts, from easy to advanced. Finishing and blocking your finished heart will be discussed.
Beginning Tambour: A Two-Session Workshop • SOLD OUT!
with Zoya Parkansky
Saturday, February 19 & March 5, 2022— 10 AM to 4 PM
$150 + $50 material fee (plus tax)
The embroidery of Haute Couture has become one of today's most popular techniques. It is particularly suitable for bead and sequin work, fast to execute while encouraging freedom of design.
FIRST SESSION: After a brief history and examination of tambour work, you will be introduced to the tools, set up and use of the unique needle. By the end of the session you will be working with beads and sequins on organza fabric.
SECOND SESSION: Working on a selected design, perfecting technique, introduction to new stitches and developing design ideas.
Easy Lunardi Hats, 1780-1820
with Catherine Scholar
Saturday, February 26 — 12:30 AM to 4:30 PM
Stressed by straw? Bothered by buckram? Worry no more! Finish off your late 18th-century look with a fabulous and easy Lunardi Hat!
These hats were popular during the 1780s and 1790s. A variation called a Capote was worn during the Regency Era. Named after the first person to fly a hot air balloon in England, the Lunardi Hat consisted of a puffed crown over a straw or wire-frame brim.
Together we will make a simple and pretty version of the hat, which you can then trim to your heart's desire to make a confection wholly unique to you.
3-Petal Flower with Vintage Ruffled Edge
with Patrice Krems
Saturday, March 12 — 12:30 AM to 5 PM
$55 + $20 kit fee (payable to instructor)
Learn how to make this exquisite vintage 1920s-inspired, hand-gathered Ruffled Edge 3-Petal Flower with leaves and a bud using thread for the stamens. This dramatic and exquisite flower can transcend an ordinary garment with an over-the-top accessory or can be attached to a pillow, crazy quilt or any other project.
Beginning Bobbin Lace
with Eva Gergely
Saturday, March 19 — 10 AM to 4 PM
$65 + $64 bobbin lace kit (less 20% for students)
Bobbin lace is the classic lace of Western civilization, captivating virtually every culture since 1500 when it became a very necessary and expensive part of fashionable clothing.
Bobbin lace making is a multi-thread technique based on two basic motions working in a plaiting fashion using no more than four threads at a time. The threads, worked in the hands, require minimal eye acuteness, making it accessible to students of all ages.
This class will cover preparation of materials, the basic motions, and the basic stitches and grounds based on these motions.
Continuation Bobbin Lace
with Eva Gergely
Saturday, March 26 — 10 AM to 4 PM
Designed for those who have already taken the Beginning Bobbin Lace class, as well as anyone else who is familiar with the basic motions and stitches of Bobbin Lace (Whole Stitch, Half Stitch, Linen Stitch). You will learn how to combine the various stitches and create simple patterns, motifs, grounds and spider stitches; as well as the basics of Torchon Lace and Idrija Lace, and how to use a crochet hook for basic joinings.
with Kevin Baum
Saturday, April 2, 2022 — 12:30 to 4:00 PM
This class concentrates on the double stitch, which all shuttle tatting is based on. Once this first step has been mastered, we will learn to make rings and picots, and then how to connect rings through picots. The goal of these classes is to create, with practice, a simple edging of connected rings and picots.
The Pocket: An Essential & Practical Historic Accessory
with Catherine Scholar
Saturday, April 9, 2022 — 12:30 to 4:30 PM
Before the 19th century, a woman's pocket was a separate accessory item, not a feature built into a skirt. Women carried their personal necessities in these pockets which were tied around the waist, including items like keys, thimbles, handkerchiefs, spectacles and coins. It was bit like a fanny pack or money belt today.
In this class we will hand-sew our very own pockets, to use with costumes or just for everyday practical fun. Appropriate period embellishments will be discussed. This class is perfect for both people new to hand-sewing as well for those with more experience.
Clones Lace: Irish Crochet
with Máire Treanor
April 20—23, 2022 — 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM
$300 for all 4 days (or $100/day with a $200 minimum)
Learn to make Irish crochet lace! Students just need to know how to chain stitch, single crochet, and double crochet. You'll learn how to make the sumptuous, wildly organic motifs that comprise gorgeous Clones lace: the small rose, the large wild rose, shamrock, vine leaves and grapes...
Hey, lovely lace-makers! Did you know the Doily Free Zone is offering TEN scholarships for students currently enrolled in tertiary courses of: Art, Fashion, Textile & Industrial Design, Architecture, Engineering and Mathematics? One scholarship will be given every month until the symposium in June 2022. Winners get to attend the DFZ 2022 Symposium AND lifetime access to all the Lace Camp workshops!
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