What: 2019 Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show

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

Where: Downtown Sisters

Cost: Free

Contact: sistersoutdoorquiltshow.org

Quilter Stef Hinton has some advice for anyone attending the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show for the first time, but it’s sound advice even if it’s your 44th time attending.

Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show began in 1975 when Jean Wells hung 12 quilts outside her still-going shop, The Stitchin’ Post. Since then, the annual show has mushroomed. On the second Saturday of July, scores of volunteers — SOQS has some 200 of them — hang more than 1,200 quilts around downtown.

And on that single day, some 10,000 quilters and quilt fans from across the country and over two dozen countries descend to gaze upon them.

That can lead to traffic snarls, notes Hinton and, well, just about everyone.

Her advice: Wait till afternoon.

“Everybody tries to get there at, like, 9 o’clock in the morning,” Hinton said. “And I say wait till after lunch. You’ll find a place to park.”

Cascade Avenue closes to traffic during the show, but other east-west streets will be open. There’s parking and a shuttle bus at Sisters High School (1700 McKinney Butte Road), and organizers note that the usual public parking spots will be available around town.

When you do arrive, make sure to get by FivePine Lodge, where Hinton’s quilts will display. Hers is one of 38 special exhibits peppering the show. Others include “Made by Men” (Western Tile & Escrow); “Bountiful Rainbows,” by the Portland Modern Quilt Guild (Paulina Springs Books); and the 2019 Laird Superfood Sport of Quilting

Challenge (Main Avenue and Fir Street).

Hinton’s been sewing since she was 12 — more than 60 years. It was upon moving to Central Oregon from Southern California 18 years ago that she took up the sport of quilting.

“Quilting is something that is so social, here particularly, and it’s so much fun,” she said. Her introduction to it came when she met a woman in Cynthia’s of Bend, a sewing center.

“There was a nice lady in there. We had the same sewing machine, and we’re chatting. She said, ‘Are you a quilter?’ I said, ‘Well, no.’ She said, ‘I’m in a quilt guild down in Sunriver. You want to come?’”

Hinton said yes, and soon had some new friends.

“It’s a nice way to meet people, because I’d just moved here,” Hinton said. “That’s how I became a quilter.”

Hinton is still friends with the group’s members, but she lives north of Redmond and found the commute too grueling in winter. She’s now involved in the Prineville and Redmond guilds. Prineville clocks in with about 100 members and Redmond about 120, she said.

Challenge quilts

She has several so-called challenge quilts in her special exhibit. A challenge quilt might be made based on paint chips issued by a guild, or from blocks issued in a drawing.

“Luckily, I’ve won a few of those,” she said.

Another challenge required creating a quilt inspired by the Painted Hills, located about 50 miles northeast of Prineville. Beyond the theme, the rules were fairly loose, “so there were just wonderful quilts. Some were real modern-looking, others were pictorial landscapes.”

Another piece in her exhibit comes from a challenge she gave herself.

“We have an old trailer that we bought, and it had this 1950s, retro-looking chunk of fabric in it,” Hinton said. “It had been some kind of a curtain, and I loved the fabric so much.” She took the small chunk to a print shop and had a larger likeness made, which she hung on a wall.

“I measured every color and pieced it again to duplicate that print of fabric in a much larger size,” she said. “It was fun. It’s good for the brain.”

Dawn of a new era

Special exhibits are always fun to see, said Dawn Boyd, the new executive director of Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. But the show is open to all quilters, who can submit up to 10 at a time, Boyd said. Locals such as Hinton are well-represented in the show, but visitors will also find quilts by fiber artists from all over the U.S., Canada and as far away as Australia.

“We have a tour bus coming in from Canada,” Boyd said.

A quilter herself, Boyd attended the quilt show three out of the last four years, visiting from her former home in Grants Pass. In January, she moved to Sisters to take the reins from former Director Jeanette Pilak.

Boyd is a former middle-school library technician, and an experienced event organizer, but much of that experience came through volunteering.

“But it had always been centered around my kids and school,” she said. “When the last one graduated, I was like, ‘Gosh, I wonder if I could do this for real?’”

Six years ago, she decided to plan events professionally.

“I had what my daughter calls a midlife redirection — not a crisis,” she said. “I decided to go to college and get a degree to do this, because it was always a passion and a strength of mine.”

Stepping into the leadership role of a yearly event with such a storied past is both daunting — and not.

“It’s a little of both,” Boyd said. “Daunting because I really want to do a really good job to continue the tradition that’s been set before us. But also, when it’s been here for 44 years, you know that things are in place.”

With a cadre of volunteers and their institutional knowledge at her disposal, it’s also “not daunting,” she said.

“Some of (them) have been helping for 20-plus years. So they know what’s happening, and they know the routine. They just step in and say, ‘This is what I’ve been doing. Can I still help you here?’ And so I’m learning from them in a way.”