Remembering the Beginning of the Lacy Knitters Guild
One day, as I was staffing in our Lace Museum here in Mountain View, California,
a lady came in, looked all around and asked if we had any knitted lace. Since there were
so many samples of different lace techniques on display, I was embarrassed not to find
any that were knitted. She quietly suggested that it would be a good idea to have some.
I agreed -- but wasn't sure who would provide the samples. I told her that our members
were very proficient in the most well-known laces -- such as bobbin, tatting, crochet and
needle -- but, not much in the way of knitting. She smiled sweetly and asked if we would
allow her to teach a few classes since she was afraid that the technique would be lost if it
wasn't shared with others.
That was in 1986 -- and that lady was our own Mary Schiffmann. We did set up a
series of ten classes beginning with the simplest of edgings and progressing on to a
large doily -- all Mary's original or adaptation of designs. However, as knitting itself creates a functional textile, and the making of it is not as glamorous or as popular as some of the other techniques, interest soon faded.
A few months later, Mary returned and with a tear in her eye she said that if we
would not do another series of classes, at least she would like to donate a few pieces of
knitted lace so the public could see what the technique looked like. The Lace Museum at
that time, was housed in a very nice Mall -- but unfortunately, within a year, we had to
leave due to renovation of the building. Sadly, we had to pack up all the lovely laces,
books, patterns, and miscellaneous equipment that we had collected over seven years and go into storage.
In the meantime, Mary and I had talked about perhaps publishing a small collection of her patterns that could be used by anyone who would like to start knitting lace. She agreed, and we set up the original ten we used for her classes and then added a
few more. Next, we would have to find someone to publish the book. That has proved
more time-consuming than collecting the knitting patterns.
At a Lace Convention in Vancouver, Canada, in 1991, we saw a gorgeous Lace exhibit. There were samples of small doilies, baby clothing, adult blouses, tablecloths, bedspreads and everything in between. ALL KNITTED LACE!!! That evening, six of us got
together and agreed it was about time to start a Knitted Lace Pattern Bank, since it was
obvious that there were very few patterns available to everyone.
When I returned home to California, Mary Schiffmann, a few of our knitting friends
and I decided to do just that -- with the purpose of collecting and sharing patterns with
those who wished to have them. Thus, the "Lacy Knitters" came into existence and Mary
Schiffmann became our "Local Treasure." She rarely missed one of our meetings -- very
alert to everything, helpful in every way -- never missing out on anything. But now, we are missing her.
- Gracie Larsen - (c) June 1996
She had such a special way of communicating her thoughts to everyone she came in contact with and those qualities have left us all with so many good memories. Family, baseball and knitting were on her passion list -- and somehow, they all became interwoven with each other.
In the Summer of 1991, after attending a Vancouver, Canada Lace Convention, it was so exciting to share the event with Pat, my special knitting friend. I also told her about overhearing a woman lamenting the fact that there were so few pretty and unusual knitted lace patterns available. Pat, in her matter-of-fact way, countered with, "Let's create a Bank of Patterns." "And maybe a quarterly newsletter to share them with others," I said. At that moment, the Lacy Knitters Guild was born!
Neither of us, at that time, had the vaguest idea of what we had given birth to, nor a clue how to nurture it! Oh, well, now that we started, we would just have to muddle along. With six members to begin with, it seemed easy enough. And, since it was just the two of us, we made a lot of executive decisions through the years -- everything, from the color of the front pages of the newsletters, to who would do the xeroxing and when we would have monthly meetings. (Those were mostly at my home.)
Being so knit-savvy, Pat marvelously set up the PATTERN BANK -- and I was happy to be the go-fer for everything else. When we figured out what it would cost for printing and mailing, we realized that there must be a subscription rate to cover the expense. So far, it has been sufficient. Now, we are going into our 12th year [ed. - now 25th!] with over 200 members Internationally. Who knew?
Pat and Mary Schiffmann were always on the same page, so to speak, as they interpreted Mary's pattern collection. Nancy Nehring interviewed Mary, Pat knitted the patterns and soon a book of them was published by Interweave Press in 1996 [ed. - re-released as an eBook in 2015].
Lisa Neidinger and Pat visited Mary Schiffmann shortly before Mary passed away. Mary took their hands in hers and said she had spent many, many years collecting lace knitting patterns and asked them never to stop looking for more. Pat said later, "I guess we never will. I can only hope to pass on her love of mankind, her quiet acceptance of others and her legacy of lace knitting!"
Surely, Pat has done just that and more. She was always on the lookout for old patterns, many of which have already appeared in the Lacy Knitters newsletters. Pat often had to update and chart them from yellowed and torn pages of notebooks given to her. Students that were in her classes have a much better understanding of knitting because of her. With the Pattern Bank in place, so many patterns have been made available -- especially to those members who may not have had access to them otherwise. Also, thanks to Pat, interest has been generated in an old technique that may very well have dissolved in dusty attics and damp cellars.
Dear Pat, you have left quite a legacy of your own. All of us are thankful that you left your mark on our lives. We can never forget you.
Patricia Ann Shannon passed away on June 18th, 2002.
- Gracie Larsen - 2002
We are grateful for the initiative and inspiration of our esteemed founders:
Mary Schiffmann, and Gracie Larsen.
Remembering Our Founder Pat Shannon