Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sisters: "Uh-May-Zing!!"

Quilts from Gee's Bend were hanging outside The Stitchin' Post
If you've never been to Sisters, Oregon, for the Quilter's Affair and the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, you must go! What an amazing experience. Not just amazing, "Uh-May-Zing!!" This year was my second year visiting Sisters during Quilt Show, and what a memorable experience it was.

I realized I couldn't fit my whole collection in the car anymore.
The drive to Sisters was just gorgeous. Not a cloud in the sky.
The first event for me was the evening lecture at Sisters High School on Wednesday. "Old Quilts" was the topic, and I brought along 16 rare and unusual quilts to share. I displayed the quilts in pairs, and thanks to several local volunteers and Stitchin' Post employees, the set changes were quick and seamless. 

Two very old quilts I showed during my "Old Quilts" lecture
The first eight quilts represented a survey from 1800 to 1982. There was a big gap between 1900 and 1982, but the young quilt was "Night Flight" by Andrea Balosky, a visionary quiltmaker who worked for many years in nearby Camp Sherman. The second eight quilts were all New York Beauties. Judging by the reaction, I doubt many had seen so many of them in one place, especially such nice ones. I wrapped up the talk with two extra quilts and some detail shots projected on the big screen.

Sisters and the Central Oregon region are absolutely gorgeous at this time of the year. Nestled in the high desert, the town of Sisters is flanked by snowcapped mountains in all directions. I enjoyed the scenery on Thursday, along with a visit to the High Desert Museum

Lucy Mingo signs the quilt she made many years ago - 1979, she thought.
On Friday I had a class to teach - "eBay-O-rama" - but the first order of business was: find Lucy Mingo! Eight quiltmakers from Gee's Bend, including Lucy, were in Sisters doing workshops, an evening lecture, a book signing, and other special events. A nice lady overheard me asking about Lucy at the registration desk, and led me straight to the classroom where the Gee's Bend quilters were doing the workshop.

Matt Arnett was there, and Lucy came right over. I gave her a copy of  my "Beauty Secrets" catalog, and before I knew it she had a red marker in her hand and was ready to sign the quilt. While I was talking with Matt, Lucy was busy waving all the other ladies from Gee's Bend over to sign the quilt. Wow!! I was just floored. Not only was I in the presence of these amazing women, but they all signed the quilt!! The following day I also got all of them to sign a copy of "Gee's Bend: The Architecture of the Quilt" for me.

Two of the five quilts I showed during "eBay-O-rama"
Unfortunately, I couldn't linger around. I had to go get set up for my "eBay-O-Rama" class in the auditorium. The presentation started with five quilts, all purchased on eBay. Then I surprised everyone with a pop quiz. The objective was to place a dollar amount next to each quilt. We had fun with the quiz, and followed up with tips for buying and selling on eBay. 

The big event was Saturday, when the whole town of Sisters was literally decorated with quilts and thousands of visitors filled the streets. Lucy Mingo and the ladies from Gee's Bend sat on the front porch of The Stitchin' Post signing books, and there was a 20-foot long line at every register. Owner Jean Wells Keenan brilliantly converts the classroom space at the back of her shop to retail space for Quilt Show day, and the place was full of happy shoppers.

Sisters T-shirt quilt displayed behind The Stitchin' Post.
The quilt show was incredible. I didn't get the number of quilts, but I'm sure there were more than last year's record 1300+ quilts. The influence of Gee's Bend was present, too. Authentic Gee's Bend quilts were on display outside The Stitchin' Post, and Gee's Bend style quilts were all over the place.

One of my favorite quilts, inspired by Alice in Wonderland
A wonderful rainbow star raffle quilt
Ducks meet Beavers
A quilt by Jean Wells Keenan
Detail of quilt by Jean Wells Keenan
Viewers enjoying some amazing decorative quilting. 
A favorite from the Teacher's Tent
Australian quiltmakers displayed several jaw-dropping quilts
Andrea Balosky's Small Wonders quilts on display at Bedouin.
I spent a couple hours walking around Sisters, and I'm sure I only saw about half the quilts on display. That had to be good enough, though, because it was time to hit the road. It was another spectacular day for a drive, and I couldn't stop smiling the whole way. "Uh-May-Zing!"

Great view of Mt. Washington on the drive home
There were daisies by the side of the road


  1. I wish I could be there, but at least you brought some of it to me. Thanks.

  2. It doesn't matter how many times I have attended the show it is always uh-may-zing! This year was no different! You did a wonderful over view. It was nice to see you today and say hi!

  3. Thanks for an informative insight to SISTER'S.

    It's on the bucket list to do.
    Sue in the UK

  4. Well Willy, you sure make things fun....ebay o it! quizes? ..... not so much.... the drama of nature is wonderful and thanks for showing us...

    I got my catalogue!! Have only been through it a couple of times........ it is lovely..... thank you for putting it together.... Texas

  5. I've never been to the Sisters Quilt Show. Maybe next year. How wonderful that you were able to meet all the Gee's Bend quilters! In 2007 I won a scholarship to attend a Rare Books Conference in Baltimore. When I was exploring near the hotel, I found a museum was displaying these quilts and I was able to see them in person. Wow!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  6. LOL! The quiz was fun, too. It was more of an interactive mind-bender. The purpose was to drive home the point about the incredible bargains to be found on eBay, and how eBay allowed me to expand my collection. Actual dollar amounts were provided at the top, so it was more of a matching game than anything. :)

    To anyone who has Sisters on their bucket list, keep moving it to the top of the list and plan to go!! Even if you're on the other side of the planet. Knowing what I know now, I would certainly travel halfway around the world for it.

  7. Worth reading just to see the Gees Bend signatures. Swoon.

    Ducks meet Beavers quilt brought respite from the monsoons. What a hoot.

    For the Sisters Quilt Show in-spirit,
    Thanks, Nyima

  8. The Sisters show was amazing - this was my first visit. I hardly saw any of the quilts, but the Gee's Bend and Andrea Balosky quilts were fabulous. Enjoyed your Old Quilts lecture as well.

  9. It was wonderful to meet you, Tonya. I'm impressed that you came all the way from Florida to visit us. Isn't Oregon lovely in the summer? Hope you got some berries while you were here.

    Nyima, "swoon" is exactly right. I was practically speechless. Good thing Matt Arnett was there. He wasn't teaching, and was able to talk with me while the ladies were giving the workshop. Glad you enjoyed the Ducks/Beavers quilt. It's the kind of wicked humor we relish most.