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Eleanor Thomas

It was said of Eleanor Thomas that she “represented the spirit” of the Winnipeg Embroiderers’ Guild (WEG). Eleanor was a Charter Member of WEG having joined in 1975 shortly after the Guild was established. She was a devoted member for 30 years.

Eleanor was always active within the Guild and sat on the Executive of WEG and the Embroiderers’ Association of Canada/Association canadienne de broderie (EAC/ACB). For EAC/ACB, she was the Advertising Manager for its magazine, Embroidery Canada, where she also contributed the regular column, Armchair Shopping.

She was EAC/ACB’s Archivist and chaired its Youth Group from its inception. Once the “Leonida Leatherdale Award” was established, she looked after receiving, storing, and presenting the Award annually at the national Seminar, and she purchased gifts for the second and third place winners.

Eleanor was passionate about promoting all forms of embroidery, particularly with the youth embroiderers. She generously shared her knowledge with these young stitchers. She also often opened her home to host traveling embroiderers. Eleanor attended all EAC/ACB Seminars and through her years of dedication and commitment, she was honoured with the naming of the youth embroiderers’ scholarship “The Eleanor Thomas Award”.

For WEG, Eleanor was Membership Chair for many years. She was also Book Chair, a perfect position for someone who had nearly every aspect of embroidery covered in her extensive book collection. Eleanor was an advocate for owning and using your own books. She did her best to fill the personal libraries of WEG members by sourcing, promoting, collecting money, and ordering books for everyone.

At Seminar 1981, Eleanor organized and helped with a book boutique. The profits from this boutique were invested into a term deposit which continues to contribute to WEG’s financial stability to the present day.

At the February 2005 general meeting, Eleanor was honoured with the dedication of the WEG Library in her name, and plaques acknowledging this tribute were affixed to the Library bookcases.

Eleanor’s favourite embroidery technique was blackwork. Her first completed piece was a fish (see photo). It was so beautifully stitched that the class teacher asked to buy it if Eleanor was interested in selling it! Eleanor also enjoyed crazy quilting and Brazilian embroidery.

WEG has honoured Eleanor through the founding of the “Eleanor Thomas Award” which encourages members to stretch their creative wings. The award competition is held annually at the April general meeting with the winner receiving the “Eleanor Thomas Award” ribbon, a one-year complimentary membership to WEG/EAC/ACB, and a pin to be worn for the next year.

Eleanor’s legacy of passion for needlework lives on among members who knew her, and continues to inspire all those who follow in her footsteps.

 Compiled by Gail Wence, edited by Patty Hawkins

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