Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show

Featuring more than 1,200 quilts during a ‘day of sharing’

When Jean Wells, owner of the Stitchin’ Post, began the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in 1975 with 12 quilts, she couldn’t have imagined that it would grow to be the largest outdoor quilt show in the world. This year, there will be 1,200 quilts from 28 states, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, Ireland, and Rwanda.

“My whole goal was for people to be able to share what they had done rather than to have a judged or juried show to pick the best quilt.” Wells said. “I wanted it to be a day of sharing.”

And Richardson, the Quilt Show’s executive director put it this way: “Think show-and-tell—that’s what our show is. If you’re proud of your quilt, we’re happy to show it.”

Organizing the show is a community endeavor. The show relies on more than 500 volunteers to hang the 1,200 quilts around town on the day of the show. Volunteers made the portable frames, and the Sisters cross-country team sets them up. Richardson said the Quilt Show couldn’t happen without the kind of community support it receives from individuals and businesses.

“Without the financial support of local merchants and permission to hang quilts on their business, we obviously wouldn’t have a show,” Richardson said.

Robin Ryan is the featured quilter this year. Ryan, a contemporary quilter, uses color, line, and sharp edges in her quilts, with circles a frequent design feature.

Quilt entries include Home of the Brave Quilts, quilts made for the families of fallen soldiers; Amish quilts made by Amish women in the Midwest and quilted with beautiful Amish patterns and colors; and Black and White and Red All Over, a group of quilts made by local women.

Other exhibits will present handmade quilts from “near and far and long ago,” unique “folded log cabin quilts” by Sarah Kaufman, Machine Quilters Showcase by the High Cascades Longarm Quilters, and quilts crafted by youth 18 and under.

The show kicks off on July 5 with Around the Block, which includes the Fiber Arts Stroll and the Quilt Walk. The Fiber Arts Stroll will feature more than 30 artists displaying and demonstrating a wide variety of fiber arts from 4:00 to 7:30 p.m., Saturday, July 5. More than 100 quilts will be exhibited inside the stores of local business sponsors for the Quilt Walk. The quilts can be viewed this week leading up to the Quilt Show and the Sunday following.

Quilters Affair, hosted by The Stitchin’ Post, is a weeklong series of classes by some of the best instructors in the quilting world. Classes will run from Monday through Friday, July 7-11.

Twenty “Quilts of ed Shaddai,” handmade by orphaned Rwandan boys, will be for sale with the proceeds going to the boys and the orphanage.

“It’s really special for us to have these quilts this year,” said Richardson.

The Quilt Show raises money for a “near” and a “far organization. The “far” beneficiary is the el Shaddai Orphanage in Kigali, Rwanda, and the “near” recipient is Wendy’s Wish, an appeal of the St. Charles Cancer Center. Wendy’s Wish promotes education and early detection of colorectal cancer, More than 1,000 fabric postcards will be sold to support the foundation’s work. Last year, the sale raised $6,000; this year the goals is $10,000.

“We’re trying to use the power of the show to help other organizations,” said Richardson.

A nonprofit organization itself, the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show’s mission is “to educate and inspire the public about the art of quilting and to benefit the school and community groups of Sisters, Central Oregon, and beyond.”

The Quilt Show is “going green this year.” Complaints at previous shows about the number of cans and bottles ending up in the garbage prompted organizers to set up recycling stations around town. Reusable water bottle will be sold, and water stations for refilling the bottle will be located through the quilt display areas.

Main Street through Sisters, Cascade Avenue, first closed last year, will again be cordoned off to through traffic during the Quilt Show. Closing Cascade Avenue increased safety and enhanced the viewing experience. Wells said it was a positive change.

“You didn’t have the street noise, and you could hear people exclaiming about the beauty of the quilts,” she said.