What: 41st annual Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show

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

Where: Downtown Sisters. Note: Organizers advise using patience getting into town and remind those attending that parking is not permitted on U.S. Highway 20.

Cost: Free

Contact: sistersoutdoor quiltshow.org

Washington quilter Scott Hansen, 52, just laughs whenever he’s ignored by staff in a quilt shop.

“I’ll go in with my wife, and they’ll ask my wife if she’s a quilter, and she says, ‘No.’ I just laugh at that, because they assume it’s her — but it’s not,” said Hansen, of Sultan, Washington, a small town east of Seattle.

“Some men feel real picked on because they go in a quilt shop and no one pays attention to them. It’s like, well, it’s no different than a woman going in an auto parts store (and being ignored), so I don’t really have a problem with it,” he said. “If someone doesn’t pay attention to me in a quilt shop, I don’t really worry about it. I think it’s kind of funny, actually.”

During Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, some 1,300 art quilts are placed strategically on building exteriors throughout town, drawing more than 10,000 visitors from around the country and world. About 40 percent of the visitors are men, according to Jeanette Pilak, executive director of the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, and about 15 percent of participants are either men exhibiting their own quilts, or who did the quilting — that is, finished the quilts on exhibit after they’ve been designed and pieced.

Hansen is one of three men teaching at Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show’s annual Quilter’s Affair, being held this week at Sisters High School during the run-up to Saturday’s main event, and will also display his work in an exhibit of quilts by teachers.

Not a novelty

Men have been participating in Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show for more than 10 years, Pilak said. She believes most of them feel perfectly at home in the quilting world.

“After 10 years, I don’t think it’s a novelty anymore,” Pilak said. “Because so many of them are long-arm quilters that do finishing quilting and have businesses like that, I think they’re very highly accepted by all the women.”

Recently, a female commenter wrote “Not too bad for a man” in response to a photo of a man quilting that SOQS posted on social media, and “everybody jumped on her for saying that,” Pilak said. “So I think that we’ve kind of gone beyond that (attitude). I think, well, (men) are a numeric minority, but everybody accepts what they’re doing, and they do some excellent work.”

The festival includes “Made by Men,” an exhibit of 27 quilts by male quilters from four states and from as far away as Georgia. “Made by Men” will exhibit on the lawn of Western Title Co. at Hood Avenue and Pine Street during Saturday’s show.

Pilak said that many men regard the sewing machines and long-arm quilting machines as power tools, and generally speaking, usually go big when making quilts.

‘I do my own thing’

“My first quilt was 8½ feet by 8½ feet, with 36 blocks,” said Mike Denton, a quilter from Redmond. He began quilting in 2009, the year he retired. Denton took to quilting “like a duck to water,” he said.

“In high school, I was the class nerd. I don’t have a lot of guy friends. So I do my own thing. When I retired from the John Deere dealership in Madras in 2009, I made up this list of activities I’d like to do after I retired. There’s about, oh, 60 of them on here — golf, hiking, boating, painting, reading, camping — they go on forever.”

Also on the list: fabric arts. His wife, Sue, a longtime quilter, had purchased a long-arm quilting machine in 2006.

“It kind of became a coat rack for a while because it intimidated her, and she’s not very technical,” Denton said. In 2009, he took his first of two quilting classes at The Stitchin’ Post, the Sisters shop that spawned the quilt show in 1975.

He fired up the long-arm machine and went to work on his initial quilts, made for charitable causes.

“I decided that I’m going to quilt them. She doesn’t know how to do it; I don’t know how to do it, but one of us is going to do it,” he said. “So I quilted my own quilts, and then I kept doing charity quilts. I wasn’t great at it, but they seemed to be happy.”

In 2011, he upgraded to a computerized long-arm machine. “I’m a computer whiz. I got my first computer in 1981. I love computers; I love the long-arm, and, poof, it was a match made in heaven,” he said. He continued to make charity quilts, and “a few people I knew decided I should quilt their quilts. I think I quilted five quilts for people that year, and then I quilted a few more for people the next year.” Denton has been keeping count of his quilts since 2011. “I had to start keeping records, because you have to pay taxes on your income,” he said. To date, he’s made over 500 quilts, about 350 of them customer quilts and another 150 for charity.

Hansen has borne witness to men like Denton joining the quilting ranks in recent years. He made his first quilt in 1978.

“Back then, in junior high, everyone took shop and home ec.,” he said. “I did a couple of woodworking things and they were OK, but fabric was easier to work with. It’s a little more flexible, and a little more colorful too.”

Crafts and Americana had remained popular after the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976, and neither Hansen nor his dad was into sports.

“I played piano, and that’s about it. There wasn’t much TV and there were no video games, so I kind of made myself busy with craft stuff,” he said. “The ’70s were full of weird crafts — I made tin can furniture.”

His college years led him to counted cross-stitching, similar to embroidery. Around 1989, after seeing antique quilts at a quilt show, he made a lap quilt for his grandmother, who was in a nursing home. He became more serious about quilting in the mid-1990s, and in 2008 he had his first quilt pattern published in a magazine.

He began hearing from people in the quilting fabric industry, and “little by little I made money on individual projects,” Hansen said. He made his first trip to Sisters in 2012.

Hansen said he’s excited to make his fourth trip to Sisters this week.

“I love how the whole community comes together for this event, how it has grown,” he said. “It’s such a creative thing.”

And if for some reason Hansen gets ignored by other quilters, he’ll just laugh it off. He added, “I just want to be me, you know?”

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