Thank you, Mayor Juba!
In 1973, then Winnipeg Mayor Stephen Juba sent out pamphlets urging citizens to start something for Winnipeg's Centennial Year; it did not matter what you started, just start it!
That motivated Leonida Leatherdale, a prominent Winnipeg embroiderer and stitching studio owner, to found a local embroidery guild — the Winnipeg Embroiderers' Guild (WEG) — and a national embroidery association — the Embroiderers' Association of Canada (EAC) — which shared common beginnings and then grew into separate, but affiliated organizations. This was not a flash of an idea; it had been in Mrs. Leatherdale's mind for quite some time. She felt that Winnipeg was the right place to set up headquarters for a 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.
The first meeting was held on September 27, 1973 in the Hospitality Room of Place Louis Riel in downtown Winnipeg. Approximately 60 women attended. Questionnaires were distributed to determine expectations, what the group should encompass, what phases of embroidery they wished discussed, and what they wanted to contribute to the group. Mrs. Leatherdale detailed her ideas for the purpose of the Guild in her opening speech:
"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:
• Maintain and handle all business pertaining to the Guild’s operation.
• Sponsor and assist in arranging lectures, seminars, exhibitions, field trips, etc.
• Hope, through an Advisory Council, to broaden its educational resources.
• Serve as an informational source for individual needlewomen throughout Canada.
• Work towards schooling, and the offering of examinations for Teaching Certificates.
• Function as the Parent Body of Chapters.
The first Executive consisted of:
President: Leonida Leatherdale
Vice President: Betty Blick
Secretary: Selma Sigesmund
Treasurer: Connie James
Important components of that first meeting included “Show and Tell”, still an important aspect of our meetings today, and a slide presentation demonstrating the many facets of embroidery including crewel and canvas work samples from Mrs. Leatherdale’s extensive collection. Regular WEG meetings were scheduled for the fourth Thursday of each month at the Cornish Library. (General meetings are now held on the first Thursday of the month, September through June.)
Name tags and a logo were designed, by-laws were developed, donations were received for the nucleus of a Library, exhibits and workshops were planned, and as WEG and EAC developed in tandem, the first national embroidery Seminar was planned for 1973.
WEG has now been in existence for over 45 years. Membership currently stands at approximately 60 (a number which has remained largely consistent from the beginning) with regular attendance at monthly meetings of 30-35 people. Following a brief business meeting each month we have an active program which may consist of a stitching project, learning new forms of embroidery, a lecture on a particular aspect of needlework, a group presentation, a guest appearance by a practitioner of another form of handwork, or someone from a community group with something interesting to share. We conclude each meeting with the enduring tradition of "Show and Tell". An important part of our gatherings is the social interaction between members. We have several "Stitch-Ins" each month where our members can gather to stitch together, share problems and successes, and mentor each other. We hold two to four workshops annually, featuring local and national teachers who share wonderful projects with us. We sponsor an annual embroidery sale, the Heritage Needle Arts Sale, each November at which our members sell their lovely hand-made items to the public. Occasionally we go out into the community to promote and demonstrate our activities.
As the founding chapter of EAC we have hosted a number of national Seminars, including the first two, and most recently the 25th and 40th Anniversary Seminars. We hosted the 50th Anniversary Seminar in the Spring of 2023. Our affiliation with EAC and our status as it's original chapter have reaped rich rewards as that organization now boasts a membership of 39 chapters across Canada, a national quarterly magazine, correspondence courses, a lending library, and, of course, the jewel in the crown, the annual Seminar.
We welcome you to join us; you won't be disappointed!
... Sharon Gray and Patty Hawkins
The Founding Charter Members of EAC, Winnipeg, 2003:
(Left to right) Ruby Ashdown, Dot From, Fran McKean, Eleanor Thomas,
Judy Pilgrim-Stewart, Miriam Birkenthal, Jo Hewitt-Nickel, Carol McCann, and Shirley Tyderkie.