I’ve heard so many great things about the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show for years and never had the chance to go before — so on Saturday, Andrew, Pearl and I headed south to Salem and then east through the majestic Deschutes National Forest to find ourselves in the packed-tight town of Sisters, with all major streets closed for quilt purposes! We found a shady spot a little ways out and one thorough application of sunscreen later, we were on our way into the heart of it all.
Through the luck of the draw, as we were walking the very first block we came to was anchored by The Stitchin’ Post, Valori Wells‘ fantastic independent fabric store — I’d been looking forward to seeing it and it was circled on my little map. But there, out front on the store’s porch, were seven of the Gee’s Bend Quilters, being filmed for a documentary — talking about their lives, their community, their inspiration for quilting, how their paths had changed so wonderfully with the chance to show and sell their work nationwide, and even singing three songs together, with one woman leading each time and the others joining in. I was starstruck listening to them talk, and in tears while they sang — it was an amazing surprise. From what I’d seen on the show schedule, they were leaving after teaching workshops on Friday, so I thought we’d miss them (and their quilts) completely, but there they were.
After the interview, they stayed to sign books and talk to quilters, and I got to quickly say hello and how much I loved their work as a collective, and that I’d gotten to see their Portland show this week. I wish so much I’d had my copy of The Architecture of the Quilt with me, but since it weighs about ten pounds I don’t casually take it out to the desert, oh well — and I couldn’t budget an extra $50 for The Quilts of Gee’s Bend on the spot, though it’s at the top of my wishlist. But they were kind enough to sign a copy of the Gee’s Bend journal I bought — and even had a compliment for my husband’s patience in minding the baby in the heat, while I got to talk quilting for a luxurious few minutes… thank you, Andrew!
Later, when we peeked into the (packed with happy quilters) Stitchin’ Post to see Valori’s new Del Hi fabric line (beautiful), Pearl got smiles and waves from several of the Gee’s Bend ladies! It was a fantastic beginning to the day of quilts.
The side of the Stitchin’ Post had over a dozen quilts made by the shop’s employees, all inspired by the Gee’s Bend quilters. I thought they were gorgeous! Here are some closer shots…
So now might be a good time to mention what we were rapidly discovering after leaving the bliss of the small Stitchin’ Post-Gee’s Bend corner of the show: this festival is absolutely huge, and the whole town is covered with quilts for the Outdoor Show. Every business, from City Hall to the tanning salon, has quilts hanging on the porches and fronts and sides of the buildings! I guess I was picturing a couple of blocks of wonderful-ness, but the town was decorated from one end to the other — we made a pretty big loop and I still don’t think we saw more than 2/3 of the whole amazing collection. I took photos of some of my favorites, most of which are credited to the artists, but in the heat and with a toddler in tow, I missed some of the close-ups of the tags! So I’ll post the pictures with some quick descriptions, and all of my Sisters photos are here if you want to see them…
There was not only a quilted ArtCar, but a quilted ArtMinivan.
This was probably my absolute favorite quilt — a tribute to Charley Harper. The stitching and details were beautiful!
I love log cabin (and its infinite strip-quilt variations) most of all designs, and there were some beautiful ones in the show… this Barn Raising Brown + Beige quilt was lovely, with narrow strips and loopy quilting!
This Four Square used such similar colors for such a different effect… and I loved the details the quilter shared on the tag about its creation.
This graphic Straight Furrows Logs and Labels quilt went in an entirely different direction, with repurposed clothes tags adorning the center of each elongated block, as well as the sashing all around the main design…
And this nature-inspired It’s Gotta Be Green quilt tipped the traditional light-and-dark log cabin squares on point for a diamond effect. I also loved the angled, geometric quilting all over the design.
I love vintage quilt patterns, and seeing this sweet, inviting hexagon and nine-patch together in a pairing made me very happy!
After a couple of hours of quilt-admiring we got a second pleasant surprise: the Sisters Library was having a free book sale, with donations accepted, and we found some good treasures, including a stack of vintage Sunset books! So after one last loop back, and a second Nalgene and sippy-cup refill of cold, refreshing water courtesy of the fire department, we headed for our hotel in Bend and relaxed in the pool. Then I mapquested the High Desert Museum, we went out for Mexican food, and we got ready for day 2 of our mini-vacation, quilt edition!