Ponoka Quilting Retreat host Kathleen Mennell treasures the quilt made for her by the quilters last year to inspire her in her fight against breast cancer.

Ponoka Quilting Retreat host Kathleen Mennell treasures the quilt made for her by the quilters last year to inspire her in her fight against breast cancer.

Quilt provides the fabric of friendship

“They’re like family to me...I look forward to seeing them every year. They’re just a beautiful bunch of ladies.” Kathleen Mennell

Brightly colored cloth and tight stitching has bound together women from across western Canada in friendship; and the annual Ponoka Quilting Retreat has brought them together once again.

The retreat began Aug. 11 and welcomed 65 quilters from British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. “I think the farthest one away is from Victoria, B.C.,” said host Kathleen Mennell.  It will continue for four days and end on Thursday, Aug. 14.

Three vendors also set up shop during the event and each quilter receives a goody bag to sweeten their experience. A two-night show and tell is also an anticipated aspect. Mennell says, between the 65 entrants, an average of 150-180 objects are shown each year.

There are approximately 12 newcomers this year, as some regulars could not make it due to other engagements. Mennell welcomes the new faces from the waiting list. “There’s always a waiting list,” she explains.

The quilters bring their own sewing machines and projects to fill the days. “So we see a real variety of quilting items, from placemats to tablecloths to quilts,” said Mennell.

Along with Mennell, the continuity of the retreat is supported by half a dozen volunteers. “I’m really grateful for the volunteers . . . without them it’s pretty hard to do it.”

The friendship among the women of the retreat is so strong that last year they banded together and created the blocks needed to make a quilt and bestowed them to Mennell — to trim and put together — as a token of strength in her fight against breast cancer. “I call it my Journey quilt.”

This quilt is being featured in high regard at this year’s retreat. “There’s a piece of everybody that was here last year. When you’ve got beautiful friends like that, that’s what gets you through the tough times,” said Mennell.

“They’re like family to me . . . I look forward to seeing them every year. They’re just a beautiful bunch of ladies,” she added.