From Sept. 20-22, big plastic bins containing lace and linens occupied The Lace Museum (at 552 S. Murphy Ave. in Sunnyvale) for its Semi-Annual Vintage Lace Sale. Customers could browse tablecloths, handkerchiefs, accessories, pillowcases and clothing and even try on the wedding gowns draped on mannequins.
Also on display was the latest exhibit, which included a needle lace tablemat of a Chinese Dragon (circa 1920). Volunteer Florence Bass shared information, like showing how raised flowers in certain styles of lace identifies Irish crochet.
“This semi-annual lace sale is a fundraiser that basically keeps the door of our museum open,” said Beth Miller, volunteer retail sales manager. “It’s held on the fourth weekend of every March and September. Everyone here is a volunteer. All the lace we have for sale is from donations from the public — locally and nationally and some, internationally. An estimated 10,000 pieces or more of lace and linens are on sale at the vintage sale…It’s not so important to preserve old things as much as it’s important to preserve the art and love that went into these old things.”
According to Miller, The Lace Museum is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and donations are tax-deductible. The majority of items carried here are vintage. But volunteers are not allowed to legally do appraisals. Volunteers also can’t prove an item is vintage unless it comes with a provenance.
“Oftentimes, the lace would come to us in horrible condition with terrible water damage, yellowing, or worse,” Miller said. “My volunteer angels help me launder and iron these pieces to bring them back to life. Then I decide which one goes to the year-round gift shop and which one goes to the vintage sale. Part of the fun is when we wash pieces, and it isn’t until after we iron it, we realize what the piece is. For example, a magnificent Berthe collar came in dark brown and was covered in makeup. But I had a feeling what it was. I went home and washed it and the piece was sold to an elated costumer for $165. It was valued at $200. The vintage sale merchandise must be cleaned, tagged, bagged, priced, folded and sorted.”
In Miller’s opinion, the most commonly made intricate lace among lace makers is bobbin lace and tatting lace. Belgian lace and Point de Gaze needle lace are considered the most beautiful. Miller also explained that crochet is the most common of all laces. But for the longest time, crochet wasn’t regarded as lace. (A leaflet with pictures identifying different kinds of lace is available for pickup at The Lace Museum.)
According to Miller, machine-made lace from the late 1800s or early 1900s still have vintage and antique value, even if these items were not handmade. At The Lace Museum, Miller encountered a number of Silicon Valley residents in awe of the old lace making machines.
“Some of these engineers are amazed at how a machine in the late 1800s or early 1900s could’ve been designed to create these intricate and complicated patterns,” Miller said.
Visit www.thelacemuseum.org for information about future events, classes and exhibits.