History

Next year the Vancouver Lace Club will celebrate its 60th anniversary. One of the founding members, Betty Carlile, describes how she and her mother started the Club. (from an article originally published in the Canadian Lacemaker Gazette)

Mother and I had done many crafts, but could never find anyone to teach us bobbin lace. One year we saw in the Pacific National Exhibition program that lacemaking was to be demonstrated. I must have been in 1952. Out we went early, before the place opened–we were so interested! Two ladies, Mrs. Maggie Graham and Mrs. Catherine Swann from the Denman Island Club arrived. Mother and I stayed all day, and took the ladies home to where they were staying, and as far as I can remember, took them back the next day. They were there for three days; so were we! Needless to say, we became great friends.

Each evening we would go home and try to duplicate what we had observed. Our equipment consisted of pencils with the lead broken out and a groove around the top to attach the thread (my father had quite a job carving that groove with his jack-knife!), and a living room cushion for a lace pillow. Results … awful … but we tried, and the two lacemakers didn’t laugh. They were real ladies, extremely tactful and diplomatic.

Mrs. Swann sometimes visited her daughter who lived here in Vancouver and each time, she would come to us and give us a lesson. We tried, but it was a slow way to learn. If anyone from the Denman Island Club was in the city, and had some time, we got another lesson, and often a pattern, usually drawn freehand. The person would sit on the couch and draw the pattern on a piece of paper, no photocopying in those days, only the lines for us to follow!

Books were non-existent. I could see that the pattern was a 90-degree grid and I would try to draw on graph paper.

The next year, Mrs. Graham and Mrs. Swann were back at the PNE; so were the Carliles … . A third year, they were back–need I say, so were the pests. I’m sure they thought so, but didn’t show it. They were most generous. That year, they made a list of names of people who wanted to learn bobbin lace. Having struggled with us, they were not about to tackle more mail-order students. They gave Mother the list and suggested we start a club. Mother wisely decided the fall was not the time to start a new venture, what with garden cleanup, Halloween and Christmas preparations. We waited until after Christmas to begin the phoning.

From the list of 30 or 40 names, only 3 were interested. Aside from Mother and me, there were Mrs. Aiken, Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. LeGrande (the LeGrande bobbins were later made by Reg, Janie’s husband). The first meeting which we were going to have in our home had to be at Mrs. Aiken’s. Her husband was ill and she was unable to leave him. That was January 27, 1955.

Not long before that Mother passed a clearance table at one of the local department stores and noticed a book entitled “Bobbin Lace” in French. She pounced!

That evening she looked at it, only to find it was in what must have been a dialect. Mother was bilingual, but this book was indecipherable. We looked in all our French dictionaries and even asked among our French-speaking friends, but apart from a few small words, we did not understand it. Luckily the pictures were clear and we could follow the threads. There were no patterns. However, the pictures could be copied with tracing paper.

As far as the club was concerned it was the blind leading the blind. Mrs. Aiken had had maybe one or two lessons, and we had had very little more. But we persevered. It was not long before the club began to grow. Some of the new members were lacemakers who had learned in their home country, Holland, and they were able to help the others. One of the things mother set up was we each helped each other, and there was no charge for lessons.

The club met in the home for a number of years until it outgrew the space. In 1970, it moved to the Hastings Community Centre where it has been ever since.

 

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