The Winnipeg Embroiderers' Guild
In 1973, Mayor Juba sent out pamphlets urging citizens to start something for our city’s Centennial Year. It did not matter what you started, just start it. That motivated Leonida Leatherdale to start an embroidery guild, national no less, here in Winnipeg. This was not a flash of an idea; it had been in her mind for quite some time.
Mrs. Leatherdale felt that Winnipeg was the right place to set up headquarters for the guild as Winnipeg is the centre of Canada. Mrs. Leatherdale was an avid stitcher and promoter of embroidery. She had attended many workshops on spinning, weaving, macramé and embroidery overseas and in the United States.
On September 27, 1973 – a very warm evening – a meeting was held in downtown Winnipeg at the Fort Garry Hotel, in the Hospitality Room. Approximately 60 women attended; no men. However, men were not to be excluded from this endeavour.
Questionnaires were handed to each individual on arrival to determine expectations, what the group should encompass, what phases of embroidery they wished discussed, and what they wanted to contribute to the group. Many of these were completed and handed in at the conclusion of the meeting.
The meeting was opened by Mrs. Leatherdale and in her speech she detailed the purpose of the Guild:
"The purpose of the Embroiderer’s Guild of Canada is to encourage and promote the practice and knowledge of the art of embroidery in all its forms. To have a fellowship of persons who enjoy embroidery – not necessarily skilled craftswomen, but primarily those who enjoy needlework and wish to learn and share their knowledge.”
The printed material available further states:
It is the purpose of the Embroiderer’s Guild to:
President: Leonida Leatherdale
Vice President: Betty Blick
Secretary: Selma Sigesmund
Treasurer: Connie James
A “show and tell” program brought forth many pieces, including surface embroidery, crewel, and canvas work. A slide presentation demonstrated many facets of embroidery and included crewel and canvas work samples from Mrs. Leatherdale’s extensive collection.
Each “member” was asked to embroider a name tag, in a medium of personal choice, to be worn at all future meetings. The name tags were to be judged by popular vote at the November meeting.
The minutes of this first meeting show a Target Date: First Seminar – Spring of 1975.
Monthly reminders would be sent out in the form of letters and a Bulletin with input from the members, tips on embroidery, and a “Problem Corner” would be developed.
The Parent Group would meet regularly the fourth Thursday of each month at the Cornish Library at the corner of Westgate and Cornish Avenue at 8:00 pm. (This time was eventually changed to 7:30 pm to accommodate library requirements.) “Members” were encouraged to attend regularly and to bring a friend. A suitable educational program would be presented.
It was announced at this meeting that all who signed up for membership during the first three meetings would be considered as charter members.
The meeting adjourned at 10:00 pm
The History of the Guild
The First Executive Meeting
The first recorded Executive Meeting for the Association was held March 21, 1974 in Betty Blick’s home with the following members present:
Leonida Leatherdale - President
Betty Blick – Vice President
Connie Stevens – Treasurer
Eleanor Johnston – Archivist (Known to us now as Eleanor Thomas; she continued as archivist until she was forced to leave the guild due to poor health, in 2005)
The following discussions were recorded in the minutes:
A competition is to be held. Must use the following letters – E A and C. The logo will be used for letterheads, jewellery, thimbles, etc. The competition will be announced in the May Bulletin and judging will take place in July.
2. Study Boxes
Members are to choose canvas work or crewel stitches to be worked on 5 x 7 samplers to complete a book on various uses of the stitches.
Some donations have been received for a national circulating library.
4. An embroidery exhibit was discussed with no conclusions.
5. A finishing workshop for October 22, 23, and 24, 1974 conducted by Bea Erickson.
6. Kits for a workshop by Jean Ray Laury regarding ground fabric and the assembly of the kits by Executive members.
7.A list of Charter Members to be completed.
Members joining up to and including August 31 will be considered Charter Members. In September the annual fee will be $10.00: $5.00 to the Group, $5.00 to the Parent Chapter. Founding chapter of the Embroiderers' Association of Canada, Inc.
8. Educational Fund
The purpose is to work up lessons and correspondence courses, bringing in teachers as required. A problem is finding a teacher for embroidery and surface stitchery. It was suggested that Judy Pilgrim Stewart be asked to do a program for a monthly meeting.
9. Seminar 1975
Small favours were discussed and the members will be asked for ideas.
No motions and carries in this report. The minutes were not signed.
Included with these minutes is the Oakville Stitchery Guild President’s Report from its Annual Meeting March 26, 1974. This Guild had a very active first year with visits from Ontario Government (advising of resources available to the Guild), staff from School of Design of Sheridan College, the Royal Ontario Museum, and Mohawk College. Monthly Dayshops and Nightshops were held. A four part Design and Colour Workshop by Sybil Rampen was stimulating, instructive, inspiring and great fun. To publicize the Guild, posters were displayed in local libraries and needlecraft shops and monthly meetings were announced in the Daily Journal Record and the Oakville Beaver. The President’s Prize Tree Competition winners were Elizabeth Loosely and Fay Rook. An article and photograph of their work was published in the Daily Journal Record. The Oakville Guild started their first year with 23 charter members and ended the year with 54 members. Each monthly meeting averaged three visitors.