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Who We Are ... History of our Guild

In 2022 we created a guild history for the EAC-ACB archives

Thank you to Rhonda Stagg for writing everything up for us!

We will be updating some of our more recent history over this next year.

The Calgary Guild of Needle and Fibre Arts
from 1974 to 2022
by Rhonda Stagg

Many times, when you join a group, you ask the members why things are done a certain way or when did something start, sometimes the answer is “we’re not sure”.


So, when the Winnipeg Embroiderer’s Guild asked other Guilds to write a history of their group for the 50th Anniversary of Embroiderer’s Association of Canada – Association canadienne de Broderie (EAC-ACB) Seminar to be held in Winnipeg in 2023, I jumped at the chance to do some research and write something for the Calgary Guild of Needle and Fibre Arts.

Thankfully, Marion Wooden, a founding member of our Guild wrote a very informative article for CGNFA’s 10th anniversary back in 1985 from which I used as a source document for the Guild’s initial years.


Marion wrote: “During the summer of 1974, Olive Newman and other interested ladies including Gina Brown, Carla Cosijn, Julie Prest, Sylvia Richman and Lucy Rutgers got together as founding members of our Guild”.


They produced a leaflet to hand out to people at the 1974 Calgary Exhibition and Stampede. The leaflet asked people to attend the first meeting of the Calgary Guild of Needle and Fibre Arts on Wednesday September 11, 1974, at 7:30pm at the Mount Royal College Room 2025


“Of the charter members who attended that meeting, the following seven remain members of our Guild, Joan Beacom, Sheryl Blackie, Dorothy Heathman, Shirley Mackie, Olive Newman, Linda Slater and myself. (as of 1985)


That fall 31 ladies signed up for the first workshop presented by Olive Newman and Billie Haines in 2 rooms of Gina Brown’s shop at 17 Avenue SW. Fees were $3.00 for members and $5.00 for non-members.”

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Marion continued to write “the first meeting of the Calgary Guild of Needle and Fibre Arts was held in the home of Sylvia Richman, our first president, in January 1975 with 14 members present.


In May 1975 Olive Newman, Billie Haines, Sylvia Richman and Gina Brown attended the EAC Seminar in Winnipeg. In June 1975 we had the third and final reading of our constitution”.


A few months later on 20th October 1975, those four members as well as Julie Prest, Betty M. Miller and Marion Wooden made an application to the Alberta Societies Act to form a new society. The application was accepted and when their Certificate of Incorporation came in the mail it was dated 1 December 1975. They were official.

In February 1976 the CGNFA published their first newsletter, pages, folded in thirds and mailed for 6 cents. Thirty-two members were listed. Six months later in September 1976, Billie Haines was the “Name our Newsletter” contest winner with “The Frayed Edge”.


The Frayed Edge was quite a robust newsletter getting as large as 25 pages at one point. It was packed full of information on such topics as upcoming workshops, retreats and programs, general sewing advice, patterns, book reports, what’s in store, tools of the trade, recipes, member profiles, financial reports, telephone lists and finally advertisers.


The Frayed Edge newsletter continued for many years with excellent instructions and information until the Spring edition of 2018 when it was officially retired due to advances in internet websites and social media platforms.

(We will be uploading copies into our online Archives)

Marion wrote that meetings were “held in homes until May 1975 when we met at the main Calgary Public Library downtown” at 616 MacLeod Trail SE. In January 1981 the CGNFA switched from the Calgary Public Library basement to St. Peter’s School at 108 22nd St NW where it remained for approximately one year.


On January 13th , 1982 the Guild moved to its current location of the Scandinavian Centre at 739 20th Ave N.W. Calgary. Time of the meetings gradually got earlier from 8pm to doors opening at 6pm and meetings beginning at 7pm. Most meetings today are finished by 9:00 to allow out of towners to get home at a reasonable hour.

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The annual fee for a full year back in 1977 cost $10.00 (Jan – Dec) or you could pay just $5.00 for Sep to 31 Dec.

Fees have naturally increased over the years due to inflation and our memberships are now $90.00 with $50 going to the CGNFA and $40 going to EAC – ACB. (as of 2022)


In 1982 the fiscal year was changed to 1 June to 31 May. Today our fiscal year is from 1 Sep to 31 Aug. Memberships have surged and waned throughout the years with our highest intake of 178 members back in 1987. Today our membership is usually around 55 members.


Over the years, I believe only three members of the Guild have ever been given a lifetime membership.

These three members were Marion Wooden, Olive Newman and Dorothy Heathman.

Membership dues have not always been the Guild’s sole source of income. The Guild has applied and received a few grants over the years.


In June 1978, an application was sent to Alberta Department of Culture. One year later they received what they asked for, $1,700.00.


Another grant was awarded to help offset the expenses of the Alberta ’75 celebrations in 1981 to the amount of $200.00 and later again for the 1988 Winter Olympics, ($686.00).


During the 2001 Seminar, the Guild received grants from Shell Canada for $3000.00 and another $1000.00 from the City of Calgary. Other sources of income were received from advertisers, donations, raffles, bake sales, entrance fees as well as revenue from Seminars and workshops.

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The first provincial workshop was held at Olds College May 5 – 7, 1978. The cost for the two days was $40.00. The classes included traditional Crewel, Canvas, Dyeing, Contemporary crochet, and pulled thread.


The following year the Calgary/Edmonton Needlecraft weekend was held from 1 to 3 June 1979 at the Camrose Lutheran College. It is at the third annual Provincial Needlecraft Workshop at Olds College from 2-4 May 1980 that the term “Fibre Potpourri” is first used. Interestingly, it was the fourth year of Fibre Potpourri (May 23-24 1981) that saw the venue change once again… this time to Red Deer College.


The 1982 program for Fibre Potpourri returned to Olds College. 1982 was also the last year that both Calgary and Edmonton shared the sponsorship as the two Guild started to alternate the hosting with Edmonton taking 1983 and Calgary taking 1984.


The Olds College remained the venue of choice until the summer of 2017 when CGNFA returned to the Red Deer College. Edmonton hosted Fibre Potpourri in the summer of 2018 and Calgary had 2019 with its’ “Sound of Music” theme. Unfortunately, it was cancelled in 2020 and was held virtually for 2021 and 2022 due to the Covid virus. It appears that the Calgary Guild will be returning to Red Deer College in the spring of 2023.

The Fibre Potpourri workshops were not the only events that the Guild had going on an annual basis. The influence of the Guild has been felt for many years at the Heritage Park Fall Fair and at the Calgary Stampede.


The earliest documentation states that the Guild had displays and entries as far back as 1974. Back then, the needlework sections and displays at the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” were called “Women’s World”. An article from Family Living in the Albertan by Linda Curtis dated Friday 4 Jul 1975, had a little plug for the Guild and aptly explained that the words “Women’s World” was a misnomer as they would interest everyone. “Do tour the Women’s World” display in the Stampede Corral. The workmanship is excellent, and the displays are for all people”.


Marion Wooden’s candid comments in the September’s Frayed Edge dated Sep 1977 were “there has been an improvement in the organizational set up of the “Women’s World” display. The candy floss and lollipop crowd has been kept at bay by glass partitions… You must, however, agree that there is much room for improvement, especially when you note the vast amount of room given over to gambling on the main floor of the Big Four Building.” Marion also wrote “congratulations went out to Mary-Lou Richardson, Kathi Richardson, Linda Slater and Shirley Mackie, each of whom received awards for her entries.”

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Today, the Calgary Stampede is still going strong and CGNFA is still submitting entries into the Creative Living Exhibition.


At some point, the guild had been asked to perform as early female Settlers and stitch at a little fairway exhibit called the Heritage Cabin, also known as the Country Kitchen. Guild members dressed up in aprons appropriate to the period of about 1850 to 1940 and explained how a Country Kitchen worked and spent time with the public sharing their embroidery work.


CGNFA still continues with this tradition today.

Other places that the Guild has made their mark around Calgary started with quilt shows at the Wainwright Hotel in Heritage Park, the beautiful displays and exhibitions at the Devonian Gardens from Feb 16 – Mar 4, 1979, and the demonstration and display at the Oak Room at the Banff Springs Hotel back in May 8 – 10, 1980.


This display was interesting as the conference was organized by The Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta. A needlework demonstration on Hawaiian Quilting was given by Sandy Hand and Marion Wooden and the display of needlework the following day was deemed a success as exemplified by the handwritten thank you card by lead organizer, Theresa Leitch.

Important events over the years have included juried and non-juried exhibitions. One of the Guild’s first juried exhibition was at the Southland Leisure Centre on Sunday Oct 23 – 30, 1983. The following year another exhibition was scheduled at the Southland Leisure Centre on Oct 21, 1984, but it was not juried.


The Title for the show was Fibrecise ’84 and it had nearly 40 entries by more than 20 members. On Sun May 4, 1986, the CGNFA presented a fashion and juried show entitled “Looking back – Going forward”. On May 2 – 18, 1990 the Calgary Contemporary Arts Society at the Triangle Gallery presented an exhibition titled “Fibre Magic”. CGNFA had 29 members display their work including Nona Fleming, Kay Jamieson, Lore Hewson and Kerry Leslie.


On April 30, 1994, another exhibit was unveiled at the Lakeview Community Hall titled “Stitches through Time – A Historical and International Display of Fibre Arts”. This show had 165 pieces displayed.


A non-juried member’s display was exhibited on April 6, 1997, at the historic Lougheed House in downtown Calgary. CGNFA members included Hilda Gee, Judy George, Mary Given, Thelma McDonald, Shelley Petersen and Jenny Wolter. This exhibit was HUGE with over 300 exhibits. In 1999 Shell Canada sponsored a CGNFA member’s show entitled “A Show of Hands” with Dorita Grant’s “Heritage Collection of the Nine Maiden Aunts” from 17 – 18 April. It was held at the newly renovated Lougheed House.


Seven years later another show with the exact same name was presented on April 29, 2006. This time it was held at the Southern Alberta Pioneers Memorial Building. This show might have been the last big exhibition put on by the Guild except for the member’s show at the 2015 Calgary Seminar.


The Guild did exhibit some pieces at local Seton Library in SE Calgary in 2020 but unfortunately the pandemic has prevented any further venues from being explored.


Two important years to acknowledge are 1983 and 1988. In 1983 CGNFA became a chapter member of the EAC.


1988 will always be remembered in Calgary as our year for the Olympics and naturally, CGNFA was there as well. The Olympic Project as it was known had designs submitted to the CGNFA from across Canada. Flo Dutka and Pam Godderis, CGNFA members, both got a $200 cheque for their submissions, but the winning submission was a work by artist Elizabeth Taylor from London, Ontario and she received a $1000.00 cheque.


Elizabeth’s 243 squares of embroidery were stitched by the Guild members and Audrey Morgan won the contest to name the artwork. The “Shades of Alberta” was presented at Canada Olympic Park on Friday Dec 4th, 1987.

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1989 was a huge year for CGNFA as it was the first time that Calgary ever hosted a Seminar. The Seminar was run from 28 May – 2 June 1989 at the University of Calgary. The theme of the Seminar was “Contours”. The basic fee was $395.00 for two 2-day workshops or 1 four-day workshop. Tours to Banff and Tyrell Museum in Drumheller was offered as well as a Heritage Park BBQ.


Our next Seminar was held May 4 – 9th 2001, and its theme was “A Stitcher’s Odyssey”. It was also held at the University of Calgary and Mayor Al Duerr even sent a plaque to the CGNFA to welcome the delegates and commend the Guild for “their efforts in organizing this conference”.


The last CGNFA Seminar was May 12-17, 2015, and it was held at SAIT. The theme of the 2015 Seminar was “Stampeding Stitches”. Tours were organized to Banff, Drumheller and Theatre Calgary. There were 142 participants (of which 24 were CGNFA members and 2 teachers – Tanja Berlin and Freda Murfin).


All three Seminars were a smash and it is very likely that the Guild’s next Seminar will be in 2025.

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If that wasn’t enough work the Guild has always been community minded and tackled many different types of charity work.


The first charity that the CGNFA sponsored was the Women’s Emergency Shelter. The Guild was to make toys and clothes and donate them before the end of the year in celebration of the International Year of the Child (1979).


The Guild also participated in the Montreal Trust Company Contest who gave away dolls to different clubs to design and make doll clothes. Later these dolls were given to charities to give out to children. An article in the Embroidery Canada magazine dated May 1985 has a write up on one of our charity endeavors “Jane Jefferis and Terri Illingworth of the Calgary Guild of Needle and Fibre Arts were the coordinators of a marathon quilting bee in which 30 members, working day and evening shifts managed to make 3 of these colourful quilts in 3 days. The quilts were donated to the Ronald McDonald House”.


In 1987 Ronald McDonald House was the recipient of Christmas ornaments, decorations and toys donated by the Guild members. Over the past decade or so CGNFA has raised funds for the Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative, Days for Girls, Indigo’s Love of Reading Foundation, and most recently, Wood’s Homes.

CGNFA has had many “pop up” displays over the years which included the Homemaker’s Fair at the Western Canada High School Oct 26 – 27 1980 and the same event at Viscount Bennet High School on Nov 8, 1981.


The Homemaker’s Fair later changed its’ name to Creative Woman which may have been the percussor to the Creative Stitching and Crafting Alive Show.


Stitch in public days were organized at locations including the Leighton Art Gallery, Lougheed House, Reader Rock Garden, Devonian Gardens, public libraries, and in the last recent years they have been held at Creativ Fest at Spruce Meadows in September.

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CGNFA has had quite a few “15 minutes of fame” moments. I discovered that the CGNFA had been on TV. On April 12th , 1978, Marion Wooden, Susan Uhl, Joan Clark, Jean Beakum and Pam Godderis joined Charlene Prickett for an episode of “Accent on Calgary” on CFAC.


The program was viewed on April 19th, 1978. Many years later I found out that Tanja Berlin and Dianne Kazakoff had been on the Big Breakfast Show from 7 – 9 pm promoting the 2001 Seminar and exhibition.

Group projects were a big part of how the Guild did things when they first started up. Marion Wooden wrote “In October 1977, we started on our first Group project – a quilt with the theme ‘Colour’ which was won by Sandy Hand. It proved to be very popular and in November 1978 we started our second group project – another quilt, the theme being ‘Nature’ which was won by Sheryl Blackie.


In September 1979 we made plans for celebrating Alberta’s 75th anniversary in 1980 – a 3-panel project using canvas work for the middle panel and two quilted panels with an Alberta Heritage theme to be donated for public display. It was presented to Mayor Ralph Klein at Fort Calgary during the summer of 1980, and it hangs in City Hall.” In 1992 – 93 CGNFA made two more quilts and 6 pillows.


The theme of the quilts was “Scenes Through a Window” and they were won by Judy George and Marion Wooden. Other winners included Marilyn and Neil Humphrey who were the co-creators of the new CGNFA logo of crossed needles.


The logo was first unveiled in December 1982 would have started to be put into use by the New Year. Jean Stengl was the close runner up. Another lucky winner was Pam Godderis. In recognition of all the hard work that many of Guild members do, the Guild nominated Pam Godderis for an Alberta Achievement Award in 1988, “in recognition of her development in the needle and fibre arts arena and her contribution to the development and education of the Guild”. (Vol 13 No. 1 March 1988 Frayed Edge). She won!


Guild meetings have almost always had a program component where members are taught a small craft or stitches, shown videos or had a guest speaker during their General Meetings and the CGNFA had so many that I cannot name them all.


One program that I do want to mention was the CGNFA Banner and it is something the Guild still uses on a regular basis. The organization of the banner was taken on by Annette Dinnendahl and Guild members and took approximately one year to complete between 1993 and 1994.


It incorporated the sixteen corner squares, each stitched in a different counted thread embroidery technique, the CGNFA logo, the full name of the Guild and the letters EAC on the bottom.

Show and Tell has been a vital part of the CGNFA program. Back in 70’s and part of the 80’s, Show and tell was limited to just one month, usually either April or June. Later it became a monthly occurrence thereby minimalizing the need for extra tables at the end of year party.


Speaking of parties, the Christmas party was originally held at a member’s house each year. However, when the Guild moved into the Scandinavian Centre, the Christmas party location was changed as well. Interestingly, a handmade gift exchange has almost always part of the Christmas celebrations with the early cost not to exceed $3.00. I believe our last Christmas Gift exchange cost was not to exceed $5.00.

When the ladies weren’t stitching, they went on retreats so that they could do more stitching. Venues for retreats have been many and interesting including the Yamnuska Centre west of Calgary, the North Bow Lodge, the Bell Cabin at the Alpine Club of Canada Clubhouse near Canmore, Bragg Creek Hostel, Ribbon Creek Youth Hostel near the foot of Mt. Allan in Kananaskis Country, as well as the Buffalo Cabin at Rafters 6 Ranch near Seebe, Terra Tima, the Glen River B&B and the Blooming Inn in Pincher Creek.


For the past decade or so, we have used the Sunshine Christian Retreat in Sylvan Lake twice a year for our retreats.


I won’t bore you with the four changes to the constitution and bylaws that we have had over the years, or the introduction of the FOIP (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act forms that we now fill out, so I won’t.


The last item I want to leave you with is that over all the years, not once did our name change. We have always been the Calgary Guild of Needle and Fibre Arts and hopefully with the continued support of our wonderful members, we will continue to be for many more years to come

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