So two weeks ago I went to Sisters, Oregon, to teach at the week-long Quilters’ Affair event that leads up to the famous Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, which is always the second Saturday in July. This year’s show was the 37th annual and was held on July 14. It’s sponsored by the Stitchin’ Post quilt shop, which is owned by quilt legend Jean Wells Keenan. I had heard about the show for years because one of my wife’s best friends goes to it every year for the art and the sun. (She’s not a quilter, but she loves art in all forms.) I had never gone, but always had it on my list. My wife and I figured we would go after the kids were out of the house, because most of our vacations now are built around their activities and interests, with an occasional quilt or bead shop along the way.
I have been friends with designer Valori Wells (and Jean’s daughter) for a number of years from Quilt Market, so a friend suggested that I let Val know I was available to teach. After a series of emails last year, I was thrilled to find out I was selected as one of the teachers for this year’s teaching series. I could not believe the lineup that I was a part of! Gwen Marston, Emily Cier, Barb Shapel, Elizabeth Hartman, Rob Appell, Sue Spargo, and many whom I hadn’t heard of, but was delighted to meet! And here’s the best thing ever: Although I was nervous to be listed alongside these wonderful quilt artists and designers, they all were so kind and wonderful. By the end of the week, I was just delighted to have been in their presence, discussing all that we love in this medium of needle and thread. We all came at quilting from different angles, but with the same passion. The variety of classes and design styles was dizzying. There really was something for everyone.
After a wonderful week of classes, show festivities started on Friday night with the Picnic in the Park, which was held for people just showing up for the show as well as students from the week’s classes. After the picnic, the Folk Art Chicks–Gwen Marston, Sue Spargo and Tonye Belinda Phillips–shared a hilarious and wonderful presentation from each of their studios.
AND then of course came the big day. Most of my pictures are from the early morning as the quilts were going up….ALL over town. It truly was a sight to behold. It was fun watching the people watching the quilts go up, although I did hear one woman lament that the firefighters were wearing far too much clothing for her taste. (That was probably because the new Men Behind The Quilts Calendar by the Stitchin’ Post was the talk of the town this year, and kinda setting the men-watching mood.)
The hanging of the quilts even shuts down the highway that runs through Sisters. The main highway from runs from Eastern Oregon to Western Oregon goes right through town, but on Show Day, it was shut down completely. Tour buses were pulling in and all of the shops that were hawking anything they had that was even slightly quilt related. (I bought the best bags of sorted vintage buttons at the used book store!) Kids were pulling wagons of ice-cold water and lemonade throughout the streets. There were street musicians everywhere. It was like the best carnival ever on the planet.
There was even a chalked-out grid for kids to use sidewalk chalk and make their own quilt squares in a parking area. Which of course subsequently washed quickly away when the torrential rain that closed the show about 3 hours early came in with a bang that afternoon. Note: This was only the second time it has rained in the 37-year history of the show.
I think the most wonderful part of this show, besides the entire town supporting this amazing event, was how inclusive the show was. It made no distinction between modern and traditional quilts. Sometimes they were grouped separately but at other times they were all mixed together. One shop called Periwinkle had all purple and periwinkle quilts hanging on its wall. Clever and witty. And inclusive. Not everyone likes the same thing. But dang near everyone likes this show. And for many, many good reasons.