Karen Shadley of the East of the Cascades Quilters restored this quilt top and then completed the construction and quilting process. photo by Sue Stafford
Karen Shadley of the East of the Cascades Quilters restored this quilt top and then completed the construction and quilting process. photo by Sue Stafford

The back room at The Stitchin' Post last Friday and Saturday was awash in colors and patterns and prints as precious quilts were being laid out on large tables to be physically examined, evaluated, measured, and photographed with attendant documentation recorded for posterity.

Sisters was the final stop for the Oregon Quilt Project, a 10-year program that documented over 1,600 quilts throughout Oregon. Nine project volunteers and 13 members of the East of the Cascades Quilters conducted the two-day event.

"The documentation provides a record of an object that embodies elements of both history and art, within its geographic context. If the quilt comes with a detailed history of its making and its maker, that opens a window into the life, cultural background, and motivation of its maker, usually a woman, whose contributions to society may have otherwise gone unrecorded," said Eileen Fitzsimmons, the project co-chair.

The quilts brought in held wonderful stories and memories. Lynn Cole, of Sisters, brought a cotton muslin quilt top made by her grandmother Nellie Ferris, a teacher, who came to Oregon from Michigan with her carpenter husband. The quilt is a four-patch random pattern made using fabrics from family garments from the 1800s to the 1930s. The project volunteers identified the black broadcloth in the quilt as probably from Nellie's mother's mourning clothes after her husband died. A red and white small patterned fabric they believed to be the cloth from a feed sack.

Cole plans to finish the quilt with batting, backing, and quilting to be given first to her elder daughter, Kim, who lives in Portland. Kim's guest room Murphy bed will be adorned with the quilt so it will be on display but not receive hard wear and will be out of direct sunlight to avoid fading.

When her younger daughter, Kelly, who lives in Bend, is older and her young children are more grown, she will receive the quilt and the family tradition will continue. The record of the quilt will be preserved on the Quilt Index at the University of Michigan. Each data entry takes about an hour to enter the quilt information and another hour for the photographs.

Karen Shadley of the East of the Cascades Quilters registered a stunning quilt called Home Garden created from an old Better Homes and Garden pattern for her husband's grandmother. It had never been completed when it was discovered in Yuma, Arizona by one of her husband's half-sisters. The quilt top was dirty and stained and at some point someone had added some strips of pink polyester to it. Knowing Shadley was a serious quilter, the quilt was sent to her and the restoration began Christmas Eve.

For over three months, Shadley worked every single day on the quilt, sometimes for as many as eight hours, other times one or two. On March 30 the restoration was complete on Grandma Aggie's quilt. Shadley had washed it, carefully removed stains, removed the polyester, added batting and backing, and quilted it using echo stitching around the flowers in each square, which is embroidered with the name of the quilter who created it.

If the 2015 photo of the original quilt top had not accompanied the finished quilt, it would be hard to believe it was the same collection of fabrics.

Zeta Seiple, of Sisters, registered her mother-in-law's quilt, which was completed in November 1989, two months before her unexpected death. The fabrics in the squares included alternate blocks of solid colors coordinating with small floral prints, all set on a cream background. Many of the florals were from matching mother-daughter dresses worn by Seiple's husband Richard's sister and mother.

The entire quilt is all hand-stitched. It was given to Richard and Zeta because his mother thought the quilting around the outside border looked like Ss for Seiple. It hangs in their bedroom.

The Three Sisters Historical Society registered two antique quilts made by the women of the Plainview Grange in the early 1900s. The names on the squares are a wonderful record of many of the original families in Sisters. It was Seiple's interest in registering those two quilts that provided the motivation to bring the Oregon Quilt Project back to Sisters where it started 10 years ago.

Quilt historian Mary Bylaw Cross of Portland, and one of the original members of the project, shared, "Quilts are historic documents that often reveal the stories of women whose voices may otherwise go unrecorded. The information we collect about the maker and why the quilt was made provides insight into culture and communities throughout Oregon, from the mid-1840s to the present. Quilts are visual records of the human experience."

This event in Sisters was sponsored by the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, East of the Cascades Quilters, Three Sisters Historical Society, and The Stitchin' Post.

For information about the Oregon Quilt Project, visit their website at www.oregonquiltproject.org.