Entering a Quilt in a Show


 How to Quilt in a Show

The how on Entering a Quilt in a Show. We all love each and every quilt we make. But at a certain point in your quilt-making journey, you might feel as if you have reached a level of proficiency and you want to enter your quilt in a show or fair. It is a rewarding Quilt Showexperience that helps you determine, in case of a juried show, your level of skill and workmanship and helps you improve by getting remarks from experienced quilters and judges.

Quilt shows are held at local level, in a town or group of towns, normally sponsored and organized by local quilt guilds. There are also national and international shows. County and state fairs also sponsor quilt competitions and exhibits. It is important to understand the requirements to enter a quilt in a competition and to complete all steps needed in order to show your quilt.

A good way to become familiar with the process is to enter your quilt in a local show. Check with the quilt guild in your area, look in quilting magazines or search the Internet for dates and entry forms. Photographs of your quilt are normally not required for this type of show. You will have to fill an entry form and place your quilt in the proper category. This is crucial. A great quilt entered in the wrong category has less chances of winning. You will have to take your quilt by the deadline provided after you’ve mailed or emailed your entry form with all the details about the quilt.

Many of these local shows are not juried (meaning your quilt is not reviewed by professional judges), but rather awards are given to quilts based on visitors casting ballots on their favorite quilts in the different categories. Show visitors often times will vote for the quilt with the most “wow” factor, regardless of workmanship. Keep that in mind when you enter one of these shows. Some of the local shows are juried, meaning that your quilt will be examined by a group of judges, normally professional quilters or American Quilt Society trained judges and will evaluate your quilt in several areas. They will check for:


  • Workmanship. Your quilt will be judged based on your workmanship against all other quilts in the category. You will have to make sure that the quilt is square, meaning the sides are plumb and not rippled or wavy. If you are entering a pieced quilt, precision is a must. Points must be sharp, blocks must be square, all threads must be buried, seam allowances must be correct. If the quilt is appliqued, the stitches must be invisible, there must be no fraying whatsoever. Quilting, whether hand or machine will be judged mainly on how it suits the quilt design, it must be evenly applied to the entire surface of the quilt, no thread tails should show on the front or the back. Stitches need to be even, regardless of size. Correctly applied binding is crucial. The binding needs to be applied, whether by hand or machine in a manner that is secure, the quilt edge should feel full, the stitches must be invisible and the corners need to be mitered and secured by stitching them shut and lay at a true 90 degree angle.


For art quilts, use of embellishments, composition, visual impact is judged. Workmanship is also a factor, but second to the artistic Quilt in a Showquality of the quilt entered.


  • Visual impact. This is a more subjective part of judging. Basically ask yourself “if there were ten other quilts exactly like mine, what would make mine stand out”. It can be an unusual color combination, the way the blocks are set within the quilt, creativity in general. The level of difficulty of your quilt when compared to others in the same category affects this part of the judging. A more complex pattern will score higher than a simpler one, if executed properly.


  • Cleanliness. The quilt must be free of odors, threads, pet hair, markings or stains and in some cases, must be entered in a fabric bag. Presentation is very important!


The quilt will be judged and awarded ribbons (if any) and you will also receive a written evaluation of your quilt. Don’t take the comments in a personal way, rather as a step in your quilting journey. Improve on what needs improving and enjoy the positive comments!

Quilt competition in fairs is different from shows in that in many of them, the judging of quilts is based on the Danish System of judging. The Danish System is one in which each exhibit is judged on its own merit not by comparing it to the other quilts in its category, rather judged against a set of standards. A system of points is used in which 100-90 (excellent) awards a blue ribbon, 90-80 (good) awards a red ribbon and 80-70 (fair) a white one. There might also be other awards such as Best of Show, awarded to the quilt with the most points, Judges’ Choice, Best of Class and others, which are awarded at the judges’ discretion. The standards are the same as in other quilt shows regarding workmanship, cleanliness and visual impact. Winners of fair competitions at local level, such as county fairs can enter their quilt in state fair competitions. Check with your county fair board and you will be given an exhibitor’ handbook containing all the information you need in order to enter your quilt.

An important consideration when entering a quilt in a show is asking about insurance/security. When you enter your quilt in competition, it will be out of your hands for several days. In case of theft, damage or any other occurrence, you should Quilt Show2ask about insurance before you enter. Some shows provide insurance for the price of materials used and you must pay an additional fee if you believe you should be compensated more than what’s offered in their standard insurance. Not all shows offer insurance.


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