Winnipeg lady creating leather-based mitts for town’s most susceptible

A Winnipeg woman is making sure everyone in Winnipeg is warm during the winter, one leather mitt at a time.

Sheila Cailleau, a leather artisan, has been converting leather and fur coats into pairs of mittens and making sure they get into the hands of Winnipeg’s most vulnerable.

“This is a project near and dear to my heart,” Cailleau said. “It was born of a visual urgency, seeing it while I’m driving around in my jeep and seeing people who are so cold, and that’s the major complaint.

“A lot of people will give food, they’ll give money, and I’ll ask the person on the medians what they need, and they talk about how cold their hands are.”

Cailleau makes mitts for a living and would give away some of the items she made to people who didn’t have them.

“They should have the right to be warm,” she said.

Cailleau has since expanded, teaching workshops at the C2 Centre for Craft on making leather mitts. More than 50 people have volunteered to learn the process, which involves deconstructing leather jackets. The sleeves are removed and stretched, a pattern is traced and cut, and the mitts are stitched together.

A volunteer traces a pattern for leather mitts to be handed out to the city’s homeless population on Dec. 22, 2022 (Image source: Jamie Dowsett/ CTV News Winnipeg)

Marissa Hoff with ArtBeat was at a recent class and said they’re meeting an important need.

“Especially with our climate and weather, and especially with folks outside right now at this time, it’s imperative that we have spaces they can stay warm as well as items that can help them stay warm,” she said.

Cailleau recently donated 82 pairs to the Bear Clan Patrol in Winnipeg, saying they were the best way to distribute the mitts to people who need them.

“I would really like to see somebody wearing them,” she said. “I don’t need them to know who I am. It just makes me happy to know that they’ve received them, and that’s what is most important.”

Cailleau hosts classes on Wednesdays at the C2 Centre for Craft, which will resume in the new year. She has the goal of creating 200 pairs of mitts. If interested, people can sign up at the C2 Centre, located at 329 Cumberland Avenue.

Volunteers work on leather mitts to be handed out to homeless people in Winnipeg on Dec. 22, 2022. (Image source: Jamie Dowsett/ CTV News Winnipeg)

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