Kaethe was born on February 6th 1930 in Cologne, Germany.
She grew up in a strict European household where learning to be skilled at knitting, crochet, embroidery and other needlecrafts was compulsory. By the age of six, Kaethe was sewing her own nightgowns.
During World War II, beginning in May of 1942, the city of Cologne, Germany suffered heavily from Allied bombings. More than 250 separate air raids were conducted by the RAF, and almost 35,000 tons were dropped on the city. The bombing would eventually claim more than just her family's possessions. Kaethe lost much of her family, including her mother. By the early 1950s, she had nobody left and decided it was time to leave Germany. To raise the $1,500 she needed to emigrate, Kaethe feverishly knitted large lace doilies and sold them to American soldiers to bring home to their families. Later she would call these "the GI doilies."
Kaethe traveled extensively after leaving Germany, and at the age of 23 she ended up in Windsor, Canada where she met her future husband Jules Kliot, an aspiring architect from Brooklyn, NY. The two were married shortly after in 1955, and later that year they moved to Berkeley, California, where they started a family.
In 1964, Kaethe opened a small retail store she called "Some Place"—a name taken from the saying "Some Pig" from one of her favorite stories, Charlotte's Webb.
Kaethe's original storefront was small narrow space where you could practically touch both walls with your outstretched arms.
It wasn't a very large space, but fortunately Kaethe didn't need much. Accustomed to privation from her youth, she had become enormously resourceful. Kaethe knew very well how to make the most of what she had.
Kaethe started off working with a friend selling rugs made of carpet remnants from local carpet mills. These were sewn together to make intricate and unique patchwork quilt-like patterns—very typical for Berkeley in the '60s. From time to time, she would come across old garments, which she would then repair and sell, falling upon the skills she'd learned as a child, and relying on the entrepreneurial spirit she'd come to develop since then.
Trends would come and go, and the store evolved several decades to encompass many of the textile arts, from weaving and embroidery to macramé and lacemaking. As it grew, so, too, did Kaethe's need for space. One day a slightly larger storefront became available next door, and she took the opportunity to expand.
The business continued to thrive and develop. Eventually it came to dominate 6,000 square feet of floor space, plus a second and third floor above. As the mail order side of the business grew, that, too kept expanding. Now it occupies a two-story warehouse in Berkeley for offices, shipping and receiving, with a second facility for bulk storage.
© 2021 Lacis Museum of Lace & Textiles
2982 Adeline St., Berkeley, CA 94703