I scheduled an entire family vacation around getting to the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in Sisters, OR. It made sense, every other year we go up to this beautiful lake house in Washington to spend a week with my brother’s family. My dad comes too, which is key, since he is the one that drives the boat for all the tubing fun. It occurred to me that we were going to drive through Oregon in July, so why not make sure we do it the weekend of the quilt show. It worked out rather well, too. We drove up to Bend, OR in one very, very, long day.
The plan was for me to spend the next day at the quilt show and the rest of the family would entertain themselves in Bend. Sisters is 22 miles from Bend and over breakfast we were trying to figure out if the family should drop me off or if I should take the car. I didn’t really want them to have to spend an hour roundtrip twice that day in the car taking me to Sisters, but I also didn’t want to leave them without a car for their own adventures. Then, I had an idea. A wonderful, evil, awful idea (not really). We were eating the free breakfast at the hotel. There was an older couple eating there too. I thought ‘I bet she’s a quilter and I could hitch a ride to the show with them, if only they knew I needed a one’. So I said (a little loudly), “I wish there was a bus I could take into Sisters, so that you wouldn’t have to drive me”. Bingo. Through the corner of my eye I saw them exchange looks and say, “Are you going to the quilt show? We could take you.”
They turned out to be very nice, as quilters generally are, and on the ride there suggested that my family would probably enjoy checking out Lava Lands that day. One phone call later and off to Lava Lands they went. I am fairly certain that they enjoyed Lava Lands more than they would have enjoyed the quilt show. I think they would have enjoyed the quilt show, for about 30 minutes, which they actually got when they drove all over town looking for me when they came to pick me up.
The show was spectacular. Sisters is a charming town of about 2000 people. They hang the quilts all over town on the outside (and inside) of most buildings. There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of quilts. I found out that they start hanging them at 6 am the morning of the show. It takes hundreds of volunteers to do it, and a little amazing that they pull it off. The first thing that struck me as we drove into town is that the quilts are beautifully color-coordinated to the buildings. They also hang them by theme: a tractor quilt hung at the hardware store, an Indian-style quilt hung outside a southwestern-style art gallery, baby quilts outside a children’s clothing store.
The next thing that I noticed was that while the were all beautiful, many were just normal quilts that you might see at your guild’s show-n-tell. That, apparently is the point of the show, it is a non-juried show where anyone can submit a quilt to be hung. I liked that because I could picture myself making many of these quilts, where at the Long Beach Show, I felt that most of those quilts are unobtainable for me.
I enjoyed the art quilts, which were very inspiring. I think I’d like to try my hand at an art quilt someday.
They had a block challenge, where everyone was given the same fabrics and each person came up with their own block. It was interesting to see the range of ideas and abilities.
Over time, I realized that I was really drawn to the improvisational quilts. There was on building that had about six of this type of quilt done by the same maker hung all in a row. Stunning. Just wonky improvisational blocks exploring different color palettes.
Another highlight was going to the Stitchin’ Post, where the Gees Bend quilters were signing autographs on fabric and their new DVD. They had been there the previous week doing workshops. That would have been very cool- maybe next time. Some of the Gees Bend quilts were hanging outside the store, it was fun to see them close-up. A conversation with a quilter who took the workshop revealed something that I had never quite put my finger on about those quilts. Scale. Their scale is huge compared to most quilts and that is a big part of what gives it that Gees Bend look.
I walked out of the Stitchin’ Post a hour later in a cold sweat and light-headed clutching a bag of Valorie Wells new Wrenly fabric. Crazy. That’s what that shop was. It was beautiful though, and I would love to go back sometime when there are not 200 people in it.
After lunch, during which I had a lovely conversation with a quilter from Eugene, I realized that I was reaching overload capacity. I sort of wandered around, trying to take in the last bits, stopped by the $1 wine tasting table, and then felt certain that I had made a wise decision to leave the show a little earlier than I had originally planned for the next adventure of the day: white water rafting on the Deschutes River.