Here is the story of how Liberty Lacers came to be, as told by Jane Kingsley.
I started learning to make lace about 1981 from a teacher who lived in New Jersey. I spent one full day each month driving over, having my lesson, and coming home. After about six months, she became ill and had to stop teaching, but, by then she had told me about: a) the IOLI, which had conventions every summer, and b) Doris Southard and her wonderful book for beginners. I got that book and began working my way through it. By the summer of 1984, I felt ready to attend a class at the IOLI convention which was in Arizona that year. I wouldn’t say I was over-eager or anything, but I signed up for *two* bobbin lace classes! (The last time I ever tried that!) To my surprise, I was by no means the slowest in the class. Of course, I was quite overwhelmed by trying to keep up with two classes, but that’s another story. Another thing that impressed me at that convention was a group of lace makers from Pittsburgh. They seemed to have a thriving chapter and I came home wondering why they could do it and we couldn’t. So I decided to have one more try at finding any lace makers around here. I took an IOLI directory and sent post cards to all the names listed with nearby zip codes, inviting them to a Sunday afternoon meeting at my house if they were interested in lace making, collecting, or any other aspect.
About six women came, and I learned for the first time about Nell Copson, who had a small group meeting in Media. I was interested and did attend her group for a year or two. But they met in the evening, and there really was not enough time to make lace. The meetings consisted mainly of learning things that Nell wanted to teach, and sometimes they were quite helpful, but I wanted something else. One of the other women, Margaret Kressin, and I began meeting one day a month, taking turns going to her house or mine. This went on for about a year and then, at the opening of a store in Manayunk called Uncommon Threads, (I had gone to see if they had any lace supplies but, alas! no), I met Wini Blacklow. She was interested in joining Margaret and me, and she had this friend (Judith Civan) who had just come back from England. She and Judith joined us. From then on, we had a real group.
For several years, we went on meeting monthly at one of our homes and generally enjoying ourselves in a largely goofy, unorganized way. Then, in 1987, for some reason we got to talking and decided it would be nice to have a name (rather than just: that bunch of people I make lace with). I think I proposed Liberty Lacers (in honor of the Bicentennial of the Constitution) and Wini thought of Arsenic and Old Lacers, which was my personal favorite. But Liberty Lacers won out, so that was it!
In the meantime, Judith was teaching classes to beginners and our group began to grow. Betty MacDonald and Nancy Weiss joined us, and then in the spring of 1989, faced with a prospective jump in membership to about 10, we decided to take the plunge and began meeting in a public place. We settled on Haverford Friends School, which was across the street from Nancy, and quite reasonable. But in order to pay the rent, we would have to have dues ($25 that first year!) and this meant having a treasurer and probably a president too. We elected Judith President (because she was absent that day!); Lillian Brunner volunteered to be Secretary; and I became Treasurer. Betty MacDonald handled Public Relations, and her main work seemed to be baking delicious cookies for our lunches! The next year, we met at Haverford Friends but, as the year went on, our attendance dropped, so after that we went back to meeting at our homes as before.
In 1995 Liberty Lacers became a chartered chapter of International Old Lacers, Inc. (IOLI). The membership has ebbed and flowed since then with current membership averaging 30-35 members.
I personally feel rather proud of the group. Not only do we have some good lace makers and teachers, but there is a really good feeling of friendliness and helpfulness. I almost never go to a meeting without both giving and receiving some help in lace making or in other ways. I hope we will continue to thrive in Philadelphia!