The 38th annual Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show has 1,300 quilt entries. Ranging in size from 36 to 100 inches, entries total 6,128 feet of quilt—over a mile if you laid them end-to-end. Enough to solidly blanket (ah ha! quilt joke!) the entire town of Sisters, transforming every bare wall and exposed eve into a work of sewn art.
Sisters is known for the quilt show, which brings more than 12,000 people to a town with a permanent population of one-sixth that number. This ain't the biggest little show in the world (trademark Sisters Rodeo; in business since 1941), there is nothing little about it. This year has entries from Japan, Canada and the UK, and it is the largest outdoor quilt show in the world—at least the organizers think and claim so.
"We started calling it that and no one argued with us," admitted Executive Director Ann Richardson.
What sets this festival apart from other conventions of its sort is that the quilts are not juried or judged, just submitted by their designers for others to enjoy.
"Our show is based on a concept called show and tell, you'd remember that from kindergarten," said Richardson. "It becomes a show for everybody. We have people's first quilts, kids' quilts and three to five to six thousand dollar art quilts in the show."
Valori Wells, daughter of Jean Wells, who founded the show nearly 40 years ago, and co-owner of The Stichin' Post, a well-loved quilting supply store in Sisters, explained that the festival has snowballed from a small-time operation into something she and her mother never imagined.
"It is unique," explained Wells. "There is no other show like ours anywhere. Everything is hung outdoors, it's one day, you're not judged to enter," she continued. "Most quilt shows are inside and you pay a lot to put your quilt in the show, and then you have to get it through a judging. This is a show for everyone."
Wells said she has seen the demographic of quilting shift from a grandmotherly covenant to a slightly younger crowd (still 97 percent women, though) who tend to twist classic patterns with bright colors and varied fabrics. In fact, this year's show hosts a couture quilt show using fabric from European design houses in the Sisters Library for the entire month.
"These aren't the log cabin quilt on the bed that your grandmother made," said Wells.
Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show
9 am-4 pm