This post will share with you what the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show is all about and encourage you to attend whatever your creative pursuit’s penultimate experience may be.
I had the distinct pleasure of attending for the first time July 2016, the Sisters Outdoor Quilt show in Sisters, Oregon. I have been hearing about this quilt show ever since I started working at my beloved college job at Joann’s. When I would say I grew up near the Oregon/California border, quilting enthusiasts would ask if I had attended this world famous outdoor quilt show. I had not, but as my sewing skill has grown it has been in the back of my mind that I should go to see what all the fuss was about.
My grandmother, 84 years young, and a combination of various aunts have been going every year for some time. My youngest child is 2 ½ now, so I felt like I could leave for a wild weekend of quilt showing.
I went and am so glad I did. We lodged two nights in Bend, which is a lovely little city about 20 minutes drive from Sisters. Because this is THE quilt show, rooms all over the greater area have been booked up for this event for a year or more and truly, there were old ladies as far as the eye could see wherever we went. It was easy to spot other quilters who were mom-age or younger and it was fun to meet them in the crowds.
Sisters is a beautiful town, seated at the foot of 3 mountains, which are known as The Three Sisters. I was overwhelmingly impressed with the cleanliness of the streets, availability of bathrooms, walkways, the perceived safety due to well marked and lit roadways and parking lots, and the ease that which all these mostly older ladies could get around by car, bus, or on foot.
My family is a very routine oriented family. That is to say, we stayed in the same hotel they always stay in, ate at the same delicious Mexican place they always eat in, on the same night of the show as always, found parking on the same street as the year prior…and it all was delightful. Our trip routine was to arrive Friday afternoon, visit the quilt stores in the town of Sisters including The Stitching Post, dine on fish tacos and amazing margaritas at said Mexican place, sleep in Bend, wake at an ungodly early hour to be back to Sisters by 7am. When we have walked and taken in as much as we can stand, we drive back to Bend to fabric shop at a variety of quilt stores, stay one more night in Bend, and fabric shop on our way back to reality.
The basic arrangement at the quilt show is that street after street, storefront after storefront, is lined with master-level quilts. On the first street, I remarked to my aunt with a yawn that I felt so inadequate after seeing such astonishing skill. She laughed and told me to get used to feeling like that because I would feel that way all day long. And she was right in the best way. I felt inspired, enthused, and generally amazed at the skill, creativity, dedication, and technique on display. Over 1200 quilts were shown this year and I definitely didn’t see all of them.
They are organized thematically on many streets so for example there was a whole street devoted to quilts featuring portraits of famous people like Julia Child. There were more than one street devoted to quilts sewn by men, streets of black and white, and hand quilted, and multi-dimensional, and landscape, and on and on. Some are for sale and at a wide range of price points. There were quilts that truly took my breath away and there were ones that I know I could make someday and others I know I could never.
One of the best parts of the trip was that because everyone there was attending for the same reason, for their love and interest in quilting, everyone was polite, kind, and happy to be there. The lines for the many, readily available portable toilets were pleasant, and strangers offered to hold one another’s bags while they used the facilities. A nursing mother was offered a shady spot to sit on a bench, everyone had a cheerful “oops, excuse me” when passing one another on the street, and it seriously felt like the happiest place on Earth. All the shops were open with seemingly happy shop owners behind the counter, readily answering questions about their antiques, gifts, food, Western wear, and of course fabric for sale.
The lunch plan for my family is always to walk a few blocks to the local Lutheran church, where a feat of great organization and hospitality greets quilting enthusiasts. Upon entering you will see that you pay for your lunch, $10 I think, get a lunch tray and are served a homemade variety of salads, wraps, a selection of cold drinks, and the best part is the homemade pie and ice cream. The church was clean and very well organized, getting our food was very fast, and the outdoor seating was comfortable and inviting. Did I mention the homemade pie? Made by someone’s grandmother? It was so, so nice.
Show attendees can shop at various quilting-themed vendors, buy foods like kettle corn and hazelnut flavored vodka (just for an example 😉 and generally soak up the beauty created by both God and artist.
I don’t usually write about “me, me, me” and what I do; I care to share what YOU can do, if that makes sense. However, I wanted to share this experience with you so that you felt inspired to make a pilgrimage to YOUR creative mecca, to your version of the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. Being surrounded by the best of the best of your craft makes you feel true awe, and that is a very powerful source of inspiration. To see what others create fuels your own creativity. To challenge one’s self to reach even greater creative heights is exciting and to marvel at the mastery of another’s technique is humbling.
I want to know, Wildflowers, what is YOUR version of the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show? What creative mecca do you want to, or get to attend?