Column #111

Two Rivers, Three Sisters

These days, positive news about the environment is hard to come by. Climate change, global warming, monster storms, pollution, habitat loss, and on and on—all reports seem so devastatingly hopeless.

And then along comes a story about the restoration of Whychus Creek in central Oregon, and a group of quilters who have done something remarkable to assist in educating the public about the importance of this waterway.

Whychus Creek runs through Sisters, Oregon en route to the Deschutes River. Half a century ago, the winding creek was straightened to assist with flood control, a well-intentioned but misguided effort that caused erosion problems and destroyed steelhead trout and salmon habitat, which in turn negatively affected the region’s Native Americans who depended on these fish for food.

Agricultural interests upstream were allowed to draw water from the Whychus for irrigation, a practice that often caused the creek to run dry in spots during certain seasons. It became a diminished, polluted remnant, bearing little resemblance to the natural, wild river it once was.

Over a decade ago, a group of concerned citizens, non-profits, private companies, and government agencies banded together to literally and figuratively change the course of the Whychus and bring it back to its former status as an integral part of the area ecosystem.

The Deschutes Land Trust bought property adjoining the creek, and working with the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, the National Forest Foundation, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Deschutes River Conservancy, the restoration of Whychus Creek began.

In 2009 crews began to dig nearly two miles of new channel and planted it with 200,000 native plants. Hundreds of volunteers and donors participated in the effort. Completed in 2012, the new channel restored spawning and rearing habitat for native fish.

Sisters, Oregon is not just known for Whychus Creek—it is also renowned for the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, the largest outdoor quilt show in the world. Held annually on the second Saturday of July since 1975, the show is a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and inspire the public about the art of quilting and to benefit area school and community groups. 

The Whychus Creek restoration project captured the interest of the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show organizers, and they took it upon themselves to support the effort and get involved in a way that only quilters can: they decided to make a quilt.

The result is Two Rivers Three Sisters, a 40-foot long quilt installation, made up of 17 quilt panels created by 20 selected quilters with Whychus Creek as the connecting element. The name of the installation refers to the Whychus and Metolius waterways and the Three Sisters Mountains, all of which are part of the landscape around Sisters, Oregon. Here is how the group describes the quilt:

Two Rivers, Three Sisters is a ground-breaking collaboration between the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, National Forest Foundation and U.S. Forest Service to find a new way to connect people to the wild rivers that frame Sisters—the Metolius River and Whychus Creek. Through the lens of fiber art, the project goal is to inspire and educate people about the need to care for the lost river Whychus, a gem that has been forgotten for a century and is only now being rediscovered as its historic name, water flows, and fish return.

Twenty Central Oregon quilters were invited to participate. Each quilter was selected because of their unique style. The installation will unite this variety of styles from abstract interpretations to more realistic depictions. Each unique quilt piece will speak to the quilter’s inspiration while the common thread of the river unites the work into a whole. Check out our Facebook page, our Blog, Video and Press Release for the project!”

The quilt took seven months to complete, and spent a year touring various places in the Pacific Northwest to publicize the Whychus Creek Restoration Project. It was recently featured at the Yokohama Quilt Show in Japan, and now resides permanently in the City Council Chambers of Sisters City Hall. It has garnered praise wherever it has been shown and has provided a unique way to spotlight the importance of preserving wild places in a world where such treasures are rapidly being lost.


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Archived blogs:

Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery
Column 92: The Ballerina Quilter
Column 91: Grandmother's Flower Garden Comes Alive at Texas Quilt Museum
Column 90: Leitmotif for a Lifelong Love Affair
Column 89: Quilting in The Bahamas
Column 88: Joan of Arc: A Quilter's Inspiration
Column 87: Home Demonstration Clubs and Quilting
Column 86: Linzi Upton and the Quilted Yurt
Column 85: A Bounty of Quilts
Column 84: Desert Trader
Column 83: Quilts and the Women’s Liberation Movement
Column 82: Replicating the Past: Reproduction Fabrics for Today’s Quilts
Column 81: Why So Many Quilt Shops in Bozeman, Montana?
Column 80: Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum
Column 79: 54 Tons of Quilt
Column 78: Ollie Steele Burden’s Quilt Blocks
Column 77: Quilting with AMD
Column 76: Maverick Quilts and Cowgirls
Column 75: The Modern Quilt Guild—Cyberculture Quilting Ramps Up
Column 74: The Membership Quilt—Czech Quilting in Texas
Column 73: Maximum Security Quilts
Column 72: Author: Terri Thayer
Column 71: The Christmas Quilt
Column 70: New Mexico Centennial Quilt
Column 69: Scrub Quilts
Column 68: “Think Pink” Quilt Raises Funds for Rare Cancer Research
Column 67: Righting Old Wrongs.
Column 66: 100 Years, 100 Quilts - More on the Arizona Centennial.
Column 65: Arizona Centennial Quilt Project
Column 64: Capt. John Files Tom’s Family Tree
Column 63: The Fat Quarters
Column 62: Quilt Fiction Author: Clare O’Donohue
Column 61: Louisiana Bicentennial Quilt
Column 60: The Camo Quilt Project.
Column 59: Thread Wit
Column 58: Ralli Quilts
Column 57: Preschool Quilters
Column 56: The Story Quilt
Column 55: Red and Green Quilts
Column 54: On the Trail
Column 53: Quilt Trail Gathering
Column 52: True Confessions: First Quilt
Column 51: Quilted Pages
Column 50: Doll Quilts
Column 49: More Than a Quilt Shop
Column 48: Las Colchas of the Texas-Mexico Border
Column 47: Literary Gifts
Column 46: A Different Way of Seeing
Column 45: Sampling
Column 44: Hen and Chicks
Column 43: A Star Studied Event
Column 42: Shoo Fly Pattern
Column 41: Awareness Quilts
Column 40: Tivaevae
Column 39: UnOILed UnspOILed Coast Quilt Project
Column 38: Katrina Recovery Quilts
Column 37: Quilted Vermont
Column 36: The Labyrinth Quilt—A Meditative Endeavor

See other archived columns here

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