1,000 quilts will welcome 10,000 visitors to this Oregon town (2024)

1,000 quilts will welcome 10,000 visitors to this Oregon town (1)

After hosting Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show for nearly half a century, founder Jean Wells still gets the shivers when she sees the quilts hung on the morning of the event.

“It’s magical,” said Wells, who has hosted the show since its inception in 1975. “It’s still really exciting for me.”

The show is recognized as the world’s largest outdoor quilt show, according to the organizers. On Saturday, it will hang over a thousand quilts throughout the city.

Economic ripple effects

The show draws over 10,000 visitors from all 50 states and internationally to Sisters, which has an estimated population of 3,823 people, according to Portland State University’s Population Research Center.

The influx of visitors has had far-reaching economic ripple effects on the Central Oregon city according to economic impact studies, said Dawn Boyd, executive director of the show.

“People fly in and if they can’t stay in a hotel (in Sisters), they stay in a hotel in Redmond or Bend and they’re eating and shopping and all those things,” Boyd said. An Economic Effects survey conducted by Central Oregon Research Services in 2009, funded by a grant from the Oregon Arts Commission, showed the quilt show had an economic impact of $1.7 million and the equivalent of 26 jobs in the Sisters area.

“We weren’t trying to do that. It just happened,” said Wells, for whom the economic effects initially came as a surprise. “We were just doing what we like to do,” she said.

The mission of the quilt show, which is rooted in educating the public on the art, skill and heritage of the fiber arts, is evident in decisions that have been made by the organizing nonprofit. Only 30% of quilts in the show are for sale, and outside vendors are not allowed.

“We don’t want every quilt to have a price tag,” Wells said, adding the nonprofit wants to support first-time quilters as much as those who long ago mastered the fiber arts.

1,000 quilts will welcome 10,000 visitors to this Oregon town (2)
1,000 quilts will welcome 10,000 visitors to this Oregon town (3)

The world is watching

The Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show substantially grew in size in 2020 when it planned to display half the usual number of quilts while bringing the show online to make it accessible, Boyd said.

For the first time, the organizers hosted a Facebook live. It received 54,000 views, Boyd said.

“It’s been a game changer,” she continued, regarding live streaming the event. “It’s allowed us to bring in people who’ve always wanted to come to the show, but they aren’t able to travel.”

Those unable to to see the quilts in person will once again be able to watch the magic live on Facebook as Boyd’s daughter, Jeanette Penniman conducts interviews and streams it live online.

Organizers are also creating a book to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the show.

Wells said the working title is “Sisters: Five decades of quilting in America.” It will be published by C&T Publishing and likely available by May or June.

2024 theme inspires fantasy

Each year, a theme sets the stage for the non-juried show. This year, that theme is dreamscapes.

Wells said the creative process lends itself to dreaming.

Boyd said, “When you think of dreaming, you go to your happy place.” Dreams can be inspiring, ethereal and fantastical, she said.

Quilt exhibitors range in age from 10 to 92, according to the website, and adhere to traditional quilting techniques and everything in between.

“We get quilts that are very very traditional and then we get things that are kind of far out. I mean you get a little bit of everything,” Wells said.

One quilter taking a nontraditional approach is Aimee Hobson. Her quilt, “Flower Stack on a Cranky Crow,” features a black crow wearing tube socks. It was sewn with a raw edge, which adds to the playful and imaginative quality.

Hobson drives from Albany once a month to take quilting classes at The Stitchin’ Post, Wells said.

“She’s doing her own thing,” Wells said. “She’s such a breath of fresh air in the classroom.”

1,000 quilts will welcome 10,000 visitors to this Oregon town (4)
1,000 quilts will welcome 10,000 visitors to this Oregon town (5)

Where do I park?

Boyd advises visitors to be mindful of the construction of the roundabout at the east end of Cascade Avenue. She recommends allowing extra travel time, driving slowly and keeping an eye out for construction workers.

Cascade Avenue and all North to South cross streets in Sisters will be open on to cars on Saturday. Hood Avenue will be closed from Larch Street to Pine Street and quilts will be hung on Main Avenue, Cascade Avenue, Hood Avenue and all cross streets between Oak Street and Larch Street, according to the event website.

Parking is available on all streets in the business district and residential areas. It is prohibited on the highway or in spaces that block private driveways or alleyways.

Additional parking will be available in the Sisters High School parking lot and organized by volunteers of the Sisters Parks and Recreation astronomy club. A shuttle will run from the parking lot from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and the club is accepting tips toward its scholarship fund, Boyd said.

If You Go

What: Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show

When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday

Where: Quilts will be hung in Sisters on Main Avenue, Cascade Avenue, Hood Avenue and all cross streets between Oak Street and Larch Street

Cost: Free

Contact: soqs.org, 541-549-0989, facebook.com/soqs.org, @sistersoutdoorquiltshow

— Janay Wright, The Bulletin

1,000 quilts will welcome 10,000 visitors to this Oregon town (2024)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Golda Nolan II

Last Updated:

Views: 6159

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (58 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Golda Nolan II

Birthday: 1998-05-14

Address: Suite 369 9754 Roberts Pines, West Benitaburgh, NM 69180-7958

Phone: +522993866487

Job: Sales Executive

Hobby: Worldbuilding, Shopping, Quilting, Cooking, Homebrewing, Leather crafting, Pet

Introduction: My name is Golda Nolan II, I am a thoughtful, clever, cute, jolly, brave, powerful, splendid person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.