News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

The missing quilts

One might wonder why, in a town like this with such a deep and visceral heritage of quilting, it is nearly impossible to find barn quilts. You know what I’m talking about, right? Those colorful, geometric patterns, usually 20 to 40 square feet, generally square in shape, painted on the sides of barns or farm buildings.

In Tillamook County, where quilting is every bit as essential to local culture and the tourism economy as here in Sisters, there is a well-traveled barn quilt loop trail starting and ending near the Tillamook Creamery. In all, 14 quilts adorn the sides of picturesque barns, most notably the dairy barns with iconic silos.

That’s pale in comparison to Quilt Barn Trail of Oregon in and around the Tualatin River valley, where 59 barns, granges, vineyards, or community halls display a stunning mosaic of outdoor quilt art.

So, what gives in Sisters? In my travels around the county, I have found no more than three such quilted buildings. Let’s say I’m off by 100 percent. That’s still a dearth of barns. The closest you’ll find is not on a barn but the back of a Pine Meadow Village home (shown above).

It’s not for lack of creativity I am certain, as we will all see this weekend. I just don’t think the spark has been struck. At least I’m hoping that’s all it is.

I stopped in at Stitchin’ Post, and, alas, there were no patterns or how-to books, although from time to time they have courses featuring barn quilts. “How hard can this be?” says the man who has never put an ounce of time into quilting, but hours and hours in admiration of the work of others. I have no less than 137 photos of quilts. And those are the ones I kept from hundreds more taken.

I’m pretty sure we have enough barns around Sisters Country, including some spectacularly fancy horse barns. Admittedly it would be some tedious paint work. There are some ready-made options. In fact, there is a large cottage industry that will hand paint or sell vinyl applique barn quilts. They typically come in 24-by-24-inch sections that, when joined with others, can make a fairly infinite, square-shaped, and long-lasting pattern.

You could hoof it up to Lowe’s and get 24-by-24-inch metal and vinyl squares for $86 or pick up a 48-by-48-inch design for $339. There are over 20 mix-and-match patterns, making it a snap to let your inner barn-quilter loose.

Now look, if Sisters is somehow to barnstorm this idea, it’s important to know that barn quilts aren’t just pretty to look at. Done right, they tell a story. Usually about the building on which they are attached or the land on which the barn sits. Or the family ancestors who settled the land. Maybe even the Native Americans who were there first. That sounds just as interesting to me. Kind of like a rolling history museum.

A raise of hands: Who wants barn quilts in Sisters?


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