Now that the air is crisp, the fall leaves have colored the trees, and Thanksgiving is around the corner, I find myself longing for a hot cup of cocoa or chai tea and the comfort of a warm quilt. These feelings also bring back memories of the time that we spent in central Oregon this past summer.
Our stay in the Bend/Redmond area was memorable for several reasons. The first, and most important, was that we got to see our West Coast family and friends. They were there to greet us and it was great to catch up with everyone.
We were also looking forward to being in the Bend area for a few weeks since this is one of our favorite areas to visit. This region offers impressive views of the snow-capped Cascade mountains, idyllic alpine lakes, and lots of hiking and kayaking opportunities. There are always interesting places to explore and things to do in central Oregon. Fortunately we were there during one of the region’s most renowned festivals held in the town of Sisters, Oregon.
Nestled in the Deschutes National Forest, about thirty minutes from Bend, is the small, quaint town of Sisters. Named for the Three Sisters Mountains, this town has about 2,000 people who live there year round but it blossoms and is very busy during the summer months. Sisters has many specialty stores and galleries that attract many tourists. Every fourth Friday during the year, they host an art walk. During the summer and fall months there are a number of special events in Sisters like a rodeo, a car show, a folk festival, and an artists’ studio tour. The one that we wanted to see was the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. Many friends and family told us that this event was the highlight of their summer. We had wanted to go to it for some time but we kept missing it. This year we didn’t!
The Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show is held the second Saturday in July. This year marks the 46th anniversary of this event in Sisters. Every year the Quilt Show has a theme and this year it was “Renewal.” The Quilt Show features quilts from around the country and even around the world. Many people traveled great distances to attend and participate in this quilt show. There were quilting guilds who spent the weekend in Sisters.
The entire town works together to display more than 1,300 quilts throughout the town. Some of these quilted works of art are hung inside the local stores but the majority are displayed outside in front of the stores or on the exterior walls of the buildings. The town is blanketed with amazing quilts. Due to COVID, they canceled the event last year and this year they limited the number to just 500 quilts. Even so, there were plenty of them to see and enjoy.
We were impressed, not only by the workmanship and artistry of the quilters but also by the variety of the entries. There was an abundance of both modern and traditional quilts. Some are whimsical and heart-warming while others are historic. We found that each one was unique and beautiful.
The Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show organizers also always sponsor an annual art poster for the event. Most years, it is a painting but this year it was a quilt designed by Donna Rice, a Bend resident. The quilt captures the beauty of the Cascade Mountains and the Metolius River. At the end of the show, the quilt is auctioned off to help fund future festivals. The Quilt Show board also designed and raffled off another lovely quilt. They also print a guide that indicates where to find all the quilts on display. Be sure to pick one up when you arrive.
All over the town of Sisters, there were different groupings of quilters’ artwork. Different quilting guilds, such as the Central Oregon Modern Quilters Guild and the Portland Modern Quilters Guild, showcase their unique creations downtown.
Various quilters (Carol Dixon, Kim McCray, Sue McMahan, Helen Brisson, Sandy Koch, and Freddy Moran) had dedicated areas for their works of art. Here we will highlight only one of them. Freddy Moran is a 91 year old quilter who resides in California. She has shown her designs at the Quilt Show for decades. Inspired by Henri Matisse, she creates colorful “face” quilts. She experiments with different materials which result in each one having its own personality. She says that “the faces become all kinds of people, just like all of us.”
Cherrywood Fabrics chose the theme and color palette for a special collection of quilts. This year the theme was works inspired by the PBS painting instructor Bob Ross. (Bob Ross appeared on the 30 minute painting show called “The Joy of Painting” from 1983-1994.) The artists could create whatever they wanted based on the theme. Of 400 entries, 200 quilts were chosen by a panel of jurors. This collection of quilts has also been traveling around the country. Some of the quilts were from as far away as Japan. If you showed up at the community center to view these quilts, you could also have a photo taken with “Bob Ross.”
In addition to enjoying the quilters’ masterworks, there were also quilting demonstrations at the Stitchin’ Post, a top notch quilt shop in Sisters. We have several good friends who are amazing quilters and we are always in awe of their handiwork. We were fortunate that one of them, Jan, joined us for the Quilt Show. That made it extra special for us.
The Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show was truly a “bucket list” item for us and we were so glad that we got to attend this year. We hope to return to Sisters next year.
We wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving full of family, friends, and warm memories.