Saturday, June 30, 2007

Lacis Safari

The life of every lace knitter must include a visit to Lacis in Berkeley at least once, or many times if possible. One must make all necessary accommodations and do so without fail.
~ a Lace Knitter’s Tenet

I made the journey on Tuesday, June 26, with Laritza of the Knitted Lace forum. She was in the Bay Area for a conference, and I offered to play safari guide. I had been to Lacis in the past with my knitting group, the BAWDies (Bay Area Wool Divas) and on precious few other occasions.

The trip was not difficult, since we were in good company, knitting and chatting the whole way on BART. We disembarked at Ashby Station and walked one block to the lace Mecca that is Lacis.

Lacis is many things. First, the definition of Lacis is Filet lace (also known as Embroidery on Knotted Net, Lacis, Filet Brodé and Poinct Conté), a needle lace created by darning on a ground of knotted net or netting.

But in Berkeley, Lacis is:

A shop
A lace museum
A library
A costume research center
A showplace
A 501 (c)(3) nonprofit
A tribute to Kathe Kliot, its founder

The displays alone are worth a lengthy pilgrimage – for Laritza, a plane, a car and two trains were required. Lacis Museum, adjacent to the shop, would soon be displaying a special exhibit of handknitted lace. In fact, the exhibit opened to the public on June 30, but we were there a few days early, in time to see the beginnings of what promised to be a fantastic exhibition.

When we walked in, we first noticed a two-tiered display dedicated to lace knitting. The items included lovely handknitted laces, books on lace knitting, and tools of the art. One example was knitted by museum staff member Yasmin Syed from the Lacis publication Knitted Lace Designs of The Modern Mode, Book 1, by Kazuko Ichida. The pattern is based on the Glockenblume design by Herbert Niebling (Elsa Kunststrickheft, 3044, Modell 122). This new Lacis publication includes 31 designs of the “Niebling school,” and I was thrilled to thumb through an advance copy on display. Another lace tablecloth was knitted by Kathe Kliot herself, the late founder of Lacis.

But this lovely table only whet our appetites, for more discoveries lay further inside this magnificent shrine to the love of lace. Lacis is in a huge space comprising several storefronts at the corner of Ashby and Adeline in Berkeley. The main room houses examples of lace of every kind imaginable. Along the righthand wall, we found an amazing display of laces: pre-Columbian, Teneriffe of the Canary Islands, Chantilly Lace, Irish Crochet Lace … it went on and on.

In the back of the main room, an incredible assortment of books mesmerized us for quite some time. The lace knitting books were abundant, more so than the last time I had visited. I chose to bring home Muestros y Motivos, Tricot Hogar #1, a book I had wanted for a long time. I had only seen a few photos of the designs in this book online, but picking it up and leafing through its entirety convinced me to purchase it. In addition, we found books on costume, bobbin lace, nalbinding, and a protected shelf of vintage and rare books. All of these were for sale. Lacis’ collection is so enthralling, it nearly stopped us in our tracks.

But there was so much more to see. The back of the store held walls of needles and tools of every shape and size for every type of lacemaking, as well as other needleworking arts. I was delighted by the assortment of needle cases, the many thimbles, the bone knitting needles, the Inox I-cord maker (which I had never seen up close), the grommet punches, and unique thread cutters. At one table nearby, a young lady sat attaching lace to a bride’s veil – a special service Lacis provides. She said they were especially busy during the June wedding season.

In the middle of the room were boxes of threads in numerous colors from DMC, Flora, and others. They not only carry a wide variety of colors, but also numerous thread sizes of each color. I also spotted a recent shipment of Kaalund classic 2-ply wool – beautiful Australian laceweight merino in gently undulating colors that lend themselves well to lacework.

Then we took a turn into another room and found ourselves admidst a slew of glass-topped display cases, filled with beaded bags that would make a bag-lover cry. The work was lovely and meticulous. You could imagine the delicate gloved fingers of Victorian ladies clutching these bags as they strode to the opera or a cousin’s wedding. The finest handwork made these bags either by sewing them or by weaving them on a bead loom.

A few steps into another room were steps into another world, another time. We had found ourselves in the Bridal Laces exhibit. The lights were off to protect the delicate relics. A young lady turned them on for us and we marveled at the beauty of bridal gowns of centuries past. If we only had more time! Alas, it was nearly time for us to leave.

I asked the clerk if any other pieces of lace knitting to be included in the exhibit were hanging in the shop, and to my delight she pointed upward – toward the light fixtures and a black drape that hung over a wall, close to the ceiling. I gasped when I looked there. Shetland lace, doilies, and Orenburg laces were draped above our heads! These would be prominently displayed during the Knitted Lace exhibit to begin on June 30, but for now, they were hanging nonchalantly on a wall above us. I asked if I might snap some photos, and came away with a sneak peek of their newest exhibit.

I must admit I nearly always avoid the checkstand and the cashier when walking into a shop. Why is that? So it is not surprising to me that I nearly missed the jaw-dropping display of vintage tatting shuttles, chatelaines and other surprising gadgets and gewgaws in the display case under the register. Thank goodness I purchased something.

On the long ride back, we talked about the wondrous things we saw and said more than once, “It was worth it.” I will return.


Laritza said...

I had no idea this was your blog! I read it regularly. This is great!
Thanks for a wonderful review on our trip to Lacis. I have this obsession with beaded bags, I am digging into my stash for beads to crochet one. It will be one of those with the round gates we saw at the store. See you!

Debby said...

I didn't know about this shop. Thank you for posting...I'll try to visit next time I'm in the area.

Louisa said...

Thanks for the tour of Lacis! I finally got there last fall for the first time and totally loved that place. Wish I could clone it and plant one in my city!

Anonymous said...

Oooh, gotta see the exhibit! Wasn't it worth the time getting there? That is an amazing! store. There was so much to soak up. Terry

BadCatDesigns said...

Thanks so much for posting this. The photos are excellent. I wish I was closer to Lacis. I might need to take a trip...

Jane said...

Your discription of Lacis is right on the money. I just made a trip to Lacis myself and have been going there for different types of supplies for years. I have always loved the shop and the increase of lace yarns is really a nice change. I pre-ordered the new book and I can't wait to get it. I have no idea if I will ever knit anything from that book or the smaller one (I already have that one without the translation) but they are such beautiful patterns that it's hard not to have them for my book collection. Anyone who can get down to see this show should really try to go. It's really a wonderful place. Bring lots of money and expect to spend lots of time.