Edmonton’s Gathering Threads Festival

5 July 2023

Sponsored in part by:

Ad featuring a mocked up cover of a book called Quilting, and the words "Essays and exercises for creative exploration. Back the book on Kickstarter from Nine Ten Publications."

Ad for the book Gathering Colour, featuring the book cover and the words, "Use natural pigments to make dyes, inks & paints from the world around you." A button at the bottom says, "Buy now."

In early May, I traveled north to Edmonton to visit Gathering Threads. Formerly known as the Edmonton Fibre Frolic, the festival has expanded and grown into a larger space in the Edmonton EXPO Centre this year, making room for more vendors than ever as well as a stage that hosted local entertainment and a series of panel discussions on fibre and crafting topics.

The weekend-long event included a VIP shopping evening, a fashion show, and skill-building workshops with world-class instructors. A curated gallery showcasing local fibre artists and crafters welcomed visitors as we walked in, and there was a gathering area where crafters could visit and craft and show each other the new treasures they had just acquired.

Gt Gallery

Fibre art in the gallery.

Gt Heroes

A rare occurence: both Kate and Kim from Digits & Threads in the same place!

The marketplace boasted over fifty vendors, ranging from local favourites to businesses from as far away as Austin, Texas. Canadian dyers, fibre sellers, and fabric shops were well-represented, along with crafters selling their own handmade wares. Ceramics artists, jewelry makers, woodworkers, and even a local candy maker joined in to make this so much more than just another fibre show. And Digits & Threads was there, too!

I took the opportunity to talk to some of the vendors that brought a unique Edmonton touch to the festival.

Kalea the Luddite set out to find Alberta wool for her knitting designs and discovered how much wool was being buried or burned rather than being made into yarn. She has made it her mission to rescue that wool and turn it into unique yarns and to educate crafters about these underappreciated wools.

Maple and Rose makes unique stitch markers, knitting and spinning tools, and garment tags from wood and leather. Jenni Keller is a journeywoman cabinet maker who started Maple and Rose so she could work from home as her sons grew up, while still working with wood. She offers a wide range of designs and styles, ranging from nice to naughty and is delighted to be part of the fibre community.

image description: a display of beaded and wooden stitch markers

Nest Embirdery (yes, you read that right, “emBIRDery”) was there for their first show ever with a variety of bird- and wildlife-themed embroidery patterns and kits. Owner Carley Pettitt is passionate about wild birds and about making crafting environmentally sustainable, so all of her materials and packaging are environmentally friendly, right down to her FSC certified embroidery hoops.

image description: a display stand at a yarn show; a sign in front shows the name Nest Embroidery; on a table, there are various embroidery hoops and finished embroidery pieces

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Qiviut, Inc. produces qiviut spinning fibre, yarn, and finished items in Nisku, Alberta, just outside of Edmonton. Tanis Simpson brings her Inuit heritage and traditional methods for processing the fine fibres from the pelts of musk ox to her modern mill, which offers tours to visitors who want to learn more about this luxurious fibre.

image description: a display stand at a yarn show; there are a few skeins of yarn and spinning fibre on the table, also, some notions and novelties

Two Times Infinity aims to provide a “candy shop for spinners” by offering a variety of fibres not easily found elsewhere, in small, affordable amounts. Owner Elana Goodfellow focusses on providing spinners and felt makers with fibres to that do as little harm as possible to the planet and the people who produce those fibres.

image description: a display stand at a yarn show, with bundles and boxes of spinning fibre

All images by Michelle Boyd.

Digits & Threads Is a Member-Supported Independent Online Magazine

The articles, tutorials and patterns we publish about Canadian fibre and textile arts, crafts and industry are made possible by our members.

Copyright © Michelle Boyd except as indicated.

About Michelle Boyd

Michelle Boyd is a Master Spinner, weaver, and writer who lives in Olds, Alberta, located in Treaty 7 Territory, the ancestral lands of the peoples of the Blackfoot Confederacy. Michelle learned to spin in 1995 when her local yarn shop closed, and she became obsessed with the art and science of making yarn. She has taught workshops across North America and instructed for the Olds College Master Spinner Program for fifteen years. She is also a frequent contributor to both PLY Magazine and Digits & Threads and is currently completing her first book about spinning.

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