Early on, Leslie developed her fondness for clothes; she would pour over the Sears Catalogue. Unlike many young people born to the era when mass marketing found its targets, though, she didn’t always long for store bought over home made.
She recalls, “In the 1970s, my mom learned to sew with knit fabrics and made me an outfit that I loved. Everyone in the family sewed, my mom, her mom and her sister. My sister knits and sews and many of my cousins are fantastic quilters. It is in our genes.” Leslie soon joined the fold as her mom encouraged her to try new things with fabric. Although she says as a kid she was not the most fantastic sewer, she was never embarrassed to wear the finished project.
After Leslie’s family settled in Lethbridge, her mom became involved in weaving, spinning and dying wool. Leslie had learned to knit from her dad’s mom on a family trip to Pittsburgh. Even so, it would not be until she was a young adult on her own that Leslie discovered the knitting process could offer her something vital beyond what emerged from the needles.
In the late ‘70s, early 80s, Leslie studied modern languages (French major), history and library science at the Universities of Lethbridge and Alberta. She found that knitting could ease her mind from the turbulence of falling in and out of love and also keep her from trying to party her troubles away.
When her marriage ended in 2007, she turned to her needles for peace of mind. “I made cable hats for everyone in my female community from a pattern in Canadian Living Magazine. Some of them still wear them.”
“I also wanted to travel. I had a friend who took a knitting tour to Ireland that inspired me to take one to Scotland. I was working on an Aran sweater in a tweed forest green and made sure to finish it beforehand so that I could fit in with the knitters.” She and her new knitted sweater were heartily embraced and Leslie had her first introduction to knitting communities.
Leslie went to Portugal in Spring 2016 with the same group and, that summer, she discovered knitting communities at home. She began hanging out with the Wandering Woollies who meet Wednesday nights and Saturday afternoons. It was there that she met her future Fibre Nook partner Ros as well as Clifton Price, who is now the shop’s manager and Diana Crump, who also works there. In fact, it was on a Knit Away weekend (an offshoot of Wandering Woollies) that the idea of The Fibre Nook was born.
The Fibre Nook opened on September 5, 2017, initially with a third partner, Brenda Kerber, whose strong retail background was instrumental in setting up a solid business operation. After three months, Brenda left the shop.
“It is wonderful to have a dream and see it come to fruition,” says Leslie. The shop is steadily growing and it’s very exciting. I hope we are filling a need.”
The Fibre Nook has been nurtured to be much more than a store. “Ros and I are intent on having it be a place of community. We share similar leanings in social justice and caring for humanity.” Leslie and Ros support such endeavours as Shades of Colour YEG, Black Women United YEG, Bissell Centre, Edmonton's Food Bank and the Pride Centre, amongst others, through donations from their net proceeds.
If Leslie was born in New York, New York, she couldn’t be more proud of her heritage — the generations of farmers, sewers and knitters who taught her the value of making one’s own. She is grateful that her mother is alive to see The Fibre Nook thrive and be woven into the new venture — her Lethbridge loom was, for a time, featured at the shop. Mom says that Leslie’s knitting has improved during her time at The Fibre Nook.