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 Leonida Leatherdale

    Leonida Leatherdale was a visionary individual bestowed with a broad interest in humanity in general and embroiderers in particular.  Many early members of the Winnipeg Embroiderers’ Guild (WEG) recall the special talents and unique characteristics that set Leonida apart from mainstream embroiderers.  She prodded, cajoled, and pulled promising students into the inner circles of higher learning.  She invited exploration, experimentation, the sense of wonderment – but also perfection.  No matter the colour, stitch, or design, there was always one notch higher that could be attained.  

    Leonida’s quest for knowledge never waned; the comprehensive library in her studio – which she made available to all serious stitchers and thinkers – housed a vast collection of books related to all types of the fibre arts including:  weaving, knitting, bobbin lace, embroidery, canvas work and so much more.

    In the years prior to forming WEG, Leonida attended embroidery Seminars in the United States and often noticed the Canadian delegates also in attendance.  She decided it was time for Canada to acknowledge the art of embroidery so, with much planning and legal advice, the Embroiderers’ Association of Canada (EAC) was formally established in 1974.  At the same time, Winnipeg was getting ready to mark its centennial year and citizens were urged to start something to mark Winnipeg’s milestone.   This motivated Leonida to found WEG.  Over time, WEG and EAC grew into separate but affiliated organizations.

    With Leonida’s guidance and foresight, WEG met for the first time on September 27, 1973 with 60 participants in attendance. Leonida was the Guild’s first President and with her opening speech she proposed that the mission of the Guild be:

    “… 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.”

    Fifty years on, WEG remains a vital, innovative organization.  This mission remains our guiding principle.

Leonida also opened a specialty shop in Winnipeg for stitching enthusiasts.  For many it was a dream come true, heaven on earth, the world in the backyard, that was as much a classroom as a shop.  Many were amazed at the equipment, the fabrics, wools, threads, brochures, books and stitch novelties that she constantly introduced to local embroiderers.

    Leonida passed away on April 29, 1991.  She was many things:  an artist, an embroiderer, a weaver, a spinner, an educator, a culinary connoisseur, a gardener, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, and a treasured friend – but most of all a prime mover.  Whatever and whoever she touched were changed forever.  Thank you Leonida!

    To honour Leonida, the Winnipeg Embroiders’ Guild established the Leonida Leatherdale Award for “Innovation in Embroidery”.  The Award is given out annually at EAC’s national Seminar.  In keeping with Leonida’s ideals, the recipient must demonstrate an original design or adaptation which takes the traditional art of needlework and raises it to new heights.


    ... Compiled by Gail Wence with excerpts taken from an Embroidery Canada (Summer 1991) article written by Dot From, and Our Beginnings, by Sharon Gray and Patty Hawkins

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