It’s the 20th year for the Saskatchewan Stitchers Conference going on this week at St. Peter’s College. The time-honoured artisans event draws sewers, knitters, quilters and fabric aficionados of all kinds to the annual gathering. 

It’s a labour of love for organizer Wendy Toye of Humboldt’s Haus of Stitchers. Wendy, her staff and volunteers put hours into organizing and facilitating the workshops and presentations that draw participants from across the continent.  

“This year, there are 175 participants,” says Toye. “The farthest travellers are from Raleigh, North Carolina and Carcross, Yukon.” 

First time attenders marvel at the expertise and at the beautiful prairie surroundings of the grounds at St. Peter’s Abbey. Regular returnees will always find something new and innovative to try their hands at. This year, it’s knitting with wire.  

“It’s done with knitting needles. You make jewelry like bracelets and necklaces. The chain mail for knight’s armor hundreds of years ago was all knit in the round with needles, and it was metal. So, this is just a finer version of that, and probably a little more decorative.” 

Marci Baker, from Denver, Colorado, is one of the featured instructors in quilting. Toye says the appeal for Baker is she can teach one day and “play” one day during her stay, allowing her to be both presenter and peer participant.  

The event underwent changes for a couple years due to travel restrictions, but being back full-time face to face is a blessing for organizers and participants alike. However, for those who couldn’t make a lengthy trip to Muenster, there are still online sessions available. The key, says Toye, is that all of the instructors are on site at the College and accessible to the 175 participants.  

Each year the members are presented with a challenge to stretch their imaginations and make best use of materials. This year, instructor Dianne Jansson came up with the idea of creating a work that has 21 different techniques integrated into the finished product. The 23 entries in the challenge were on display in the Jerome Assembly Room in the Abbey.  

“Marci Baker donated 20 quilts, some finished, some partly finished with everything available to finish them, that we use for our silent auction,” explains Toye. The auction concluded on Tuesday evening with all the proceeds donated to the Alzheimer Society of Saskatchewan. 

In 20 years, the classes have spread from a single gathering room in Severin Hall over a five-day span to occupy most of the classrooms in the College during nine days. Judging by the enthusiasm and productive output of this year’s group, the Stitchers Conference will be a prairie treasure for many more years to come.