The air at St. Peter’s College is filled with excitement and the whir of sewing machines as fabric artists from across the country gather once again to ply their craft. The Saskatchewan Stitches Conference is back on, from May 27 to June 4, and like the swallows to Capistrano, stitchers, quilters and knitters have all made a return to the familiar Abbey grounds for the event after a pandemic interlude.

Conference organizer and owner of Humboldt’s Haus of Stitches, Wendy Toye, was as excited to welcome back the participants as they were to attend. Presenters have come from Vancouver, and participants are attending from across the prairies and one, Linda Pringle, from Carcross, Yukon Territory,. 

“This is about my fourth or fifth,” says Pringle, “Two years without this was absolute agony. I’m so happy to be here; this is the best thing since sliced bread.”

Pringle’s enthusiastic endorsement speaks to the passion of the stitchers when it comes to their craft and their community. Toye says that the extended off season brought challenges, but the conference migrated to an online forum last year. This year, the stitchers have returned in person to square off in several challenges, explains Toye.

“The challenge for 2020 was that you would have “orphaned blocks” from a quilt left at home - everybody has them - and you would make it into something else. When it didn’t happen in 2020 and 2021, we revived it and called it the “COVID-19” Creative Challenge. You could enter your orphaned block work or whatever you worked on - whatever kept you sane during the pandemic.” 

The challenge resulted in over 60 entries into the competition with the wares on display in the Jerome Assembly Room at the Abbey. There are three new sewing machines up for grabs to the winners of the challenges. Viewers are welcome to take a look during the hours of the conference. Other challenges include a long lost conference project, projects inspired by a conference class, garment art, fibre art, and handwork.

The conference has a bit of a different look this year. Following the online year, Toye elected to keep some of the distance elements, given the capability of St. Peter’s College to stream classes. Hybrid instruction is provided this year with some instructors providing remote guidance while on site instruction can be streamed to participants who are back in their own homes. This year 39 people are attending virtually. 

Next year will be the 20th edition of the conference, so you can be certain that once this year’s event wraps up on June 4, plans will quickly be underway for an anniversary celebration.