Sunday, July 13, 2014

Oregon July

My quilt, "Oregon July" was part of the ManLand special exhibit at Sisters
The 39th Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show was a huge success, and after missing last year's show, I was delighted to be back. This year, I noticed something very intriguing about the quilts in the show. Modern Quilting had arrived, unmistakably!

I was happy to be part of it in my own way. My quilt, "Oregon July" was in the ManLand special exhibit of mens' quilts, and I conceived it as a work of modern art, its beauty materializing in an unexpected and unpredictable way. I'm sure most people walked by without discovering what was so interesting about the quilt, and I was amused by that. You have to work to figure it out, and that was fully intended.

The quilt is about visiting Oregon for the first time in July, 1998, and being completely undone by all the bright colors and bigness of the landscape. It is also about falling in love with Oregon and discovering its secret beauty. One of the things I love about the quilt is the gentle way it conveys its message. It doesn't have to yell, "I'm art!" or "I'm a Modern quilt!" from the hilltops. Its hidden beauty must be discovered, just like that of Oregon.

"Oregon July" reverse view - quilted by Jolene Knight
From the front, the quilt is big patchwork, and it looks like many of the pieced quilt backs seen today. The patchwork represents the big, bold Oregon landscape. If you pause and look at it long enough, you'll realize there's something unusual about the quilting design. It is not edge-to-edge, computer guided, quilting-- it is varied, hand-guided, free-motion quilting.

The solid green back reveals the quilt's secret, a landscape drawing of Oregon with Mt. Hood, Trillium Lake, the reflection of Mt. Hood in the lake, a fish jumping from the water, foliage, grass, a tree, a tree stump, and a blazing sun spiraling above the terrain. Jolene Knight of Good Knight Quilts, a native Oregonian who is relatively new at long-arm quilting, created the drawing, providing a stunning finish for the quilt.

Jolene is a member of Portland Modern Quilt Guild and the Northwest Quilters, and we saw each other at one of the meetings as the deadline for Sisters was approaching. The long-arm quilter I  worked with previously had been hospitalized with chronic pain, and the last thing she needed to worry about was my quilt, so I asked Jolene if she could do it. She was ready.

Not long after the meeting, I drove to bring Jolene the top, which was still in a few pieces, and started to wonder if we could do something special with it. I wanted the quilt to be about falling in love with Oregon, and I thought it would be amazing if she could draw a free-motion landscape over the entire quilt. We talked about it for a long time, and she really got it. Creatively and technically, it was something new for her, but she was up for the challenge and very inspired by the idea.

The quilt was done in about a week, and Jolene brought it to the Portland Modern Quilt Guild meeting the night I was doing a presentation about 1970s quilts. When I saw what she had done, it brought tears to my eyes. It was even better than I'd ever imagined, but at the same time, exactly what I'd hoped it would be. The way Jolene rose to the challenge was inspiring, as was the end result.

Niagara Park, where we stopped for lunch on the way to and from Sisters
So, that is the story of Oregon July, my entry in the 39th Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. I hope to exhibit the quilt again in the future, and maybe have the front and back visible at the same time. Many thanks to Jolene for a job well done, and to all the volunteers in Sisters for another tremendous event. Mom loved being there, and so did our friends Bill and Robin Carter from Maine. On the way to and from Sisters, we stopped at Niagara Park, one of those places where you can discover the remarkable hidden beauty of Oregon.


  1. stunning - can you post some detail pics of the quilting?

  2. Jolene did a spectacular job on the quilting. Was your mom surprised by your entry?