Somehow I wasn’t so laden with lovely new fabrics after my tour of Berkeley that I couldn’t find the energy for my final stop, the Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles. Really I should have gone earlier in the day, as it’s actually only about a fifteen minute walk from Stonemountain and Daughters but it is very conveniently located near Ashby BART station so my tired feet could escape back to SF relatively easily. Even more convenient considering how many extra bags of embroidery supplies I ended up with from here!
From Lacis’s website, you might get the impression this shop is a little old-fashioned, bordering on outdated. Arriving at the shop front to be greeted by some ghostly lace shapes that might have been racy, Victorian undergarments. Don’t be too scared by the prospect of being buried under yards of Christening gown materials though, because what lies inside is absolute magic.
Lacis is a combination of one of the best craft shops ever, that feels like a living museum, and an section that is actually dedicated for museum exhibitions too. It’s not just a shop though, it’s a place of charming magic that really captures something of the crafter’s spirit between shelves of Brazilian embroidery boucle and strange millinery creations.
If you don’t get engulfed by the cloud of white lace garments at the door, there are plenty more shelves of fantastic lace pieces, from trim to curtain material, hand and machine made. Some of the pieces of vintage items and if you’re looking for cute accessories, there are all sorts of pieces like beaded Victorian bags and parasols. There’s something for every price point, and so much gorgeous, unusual stuff that it’s a history lesson just going through the shop.
Lacis was originally co-founded by Kaethe Kliot, who sounds like a multidisciplinary crafting and business genius, (you can read a very heart-warming account of her story here) and I think the store is a perfect tribute to that. I just love that this is a place where you can have a kumihimo stand next to the best, most international craft book collection I have ever seen, with corsetry and quilting supplies not far behind, all set against a background of beautiful vintage items.
If you’re looking for lace supplies, unsurprisingly there are a great range here. If you’re into tatting or appreciate crafting tools that could double as household ornaments, the collection here is sure to delight, including abalone tatting shuttles, something I’ve been hunting for a very long time. The fun doesn’t stop there though. What really makes Lacis stand out as a store is that they stock a huge number of things you’ll never find anywhere else, from wooden kumihimo stands, bunka threads, Japanese-language craft books and Olympus crochet cottons! Embroiderers be warned, there are some very, very nice threads in here. They’ve even got all the Appletons crewel wool colours if you find yourself itching for some nice fibres to shed and break all over your work.
This was the first time outside of Japan I’ve seen someone stocking the Olympus crochet cottons that I love. I use their #40 for all my fine crochet, hairpin lace and tatting (here it is being used for one of my Fan Bookmarks) and I highly recommend it. It’s nearly completely indestructible with respect to frogging and the balls are a cute and convenient size for portable projects. Just be a bit wary of yarn barf if you’re carrying them around.
If you’re not wowed by the sheer menagerie of buttons, tools, costume making supplies, tassels, handkerchiefs, and even some shoes, then definitely go and check out the book collection. I don’t know if they make an effort to keep all the titles in stock or if they are ‘one-offs’ but wow, wow, wow. I think when I die, I could be quite happily left here. There’s old, new, a whole smattering of languages, tatting things, historical things, patterns and just a wonderfully extensive collection for the poor shelves to groan under the weight of. It’s ordered by section and technique, divided by someone who knows the difference between ribbonwork, goldwork and crewel embroidery, so it’s even easy to go through all the amazing surprises in store.
Lots of shops offer classes and have amazingly helpful staff but not all of them are home to a museum which bleeds effortlessly into the old-world feel of the shop. There are guided tours several times a day, but if you visit outside of these hours, just ask (or spend long enough pacing around and gawping until the next tour) and you may still be able to visit the collection.
When I visited, the exhibition was a privately donated collection of piña, a fibre made from the leaves of the pineapple plant that often comes from the Philippines. The collection didn’t claim to be extensive, mostly being women’s clothing as that was what of most interest to its former owner, but I think that just added to the charm. I love museums with wonderfully curated collections of priceless artefacts, but this felt like rummaging through the suitcases of someone’s attic, breathing in their history and story. If the suitcases had been carefully and expertly labelled of course.
I’ll let the photos do some of the talking for this charming collection, which spanned an impressive number of items.
I’ve been to a lot of craft places in a lot of different countries and met many nice people who were incredibly generous with their knowledge but there’s something about the atmosphere of Lacis that just completely charmed me. I think I enjoyed seeing somewhere that just took every possible technique for making things and cramming them all in one place and its quiet homage to the skills and arts that still persist despite there perhaps there being plenty of good reasons for them not too. It’s well-worth a visit and supporting somewhere that is not just about selling supplies, but is trying to preserve and curate these artforms too.