Juried Quilt Shows – Why some make it and some do not

Many quilters dream of entering their quilts into a show with the hope of winning a big prize.  While a large monetary prize is cloud9certainly a bonus that one would not turn away, for many quilters it is the acknowledgement that they seek; recognition that they “got it right” and know what they are doing.  It’s an ‘attaboy‘ and a major pat on the back. It’s a super “feel good” moment that puts a smile on your face and sends you to Cloud Nine for awhile. 

Let’s take a look at some of the things judges look for. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list…


  • Visual appeal – The first thing a judge looks at is the outward appearance of the quilt.  Does it grab their attention?  Does it make them smile?  Does it make them go “Ahhhhhh, yes!”   or does it make them think, “Oh my goodness…Why…”
  • magnifying-glassDoes the quilt drape nicely?  Are the corners squared properly, do the sides hang in straight lines, or do they pucker and wobble?

With a slightly closer look, do points that are supposed to match up actually match, or do they kind of, sort of match?

  • Do darker fabrics shadow though lighter fabrics?  Shadowing can be controlled somewhat by grading the seams during the making of the quilt top.  That means that as you piece the quilt, you trim the darker seams just a little so they hide behind lighter seams.
  • Is there any loose applique’ on the quilt?  Applique’ should be stitched to the quilt with small, secure stitches and matching thread.  You should never be able to see a gap where there is puckering fabric or where you could slip a finger underneath the applique’.  Note:  Some quilts may have contrasting thread around the applique’ as part of the design (i.e. Sunbonnet Sue).  That is acceptable.
  • The Quilting – Does the quilting enhance or detract from the design of the quilt?  Is the quilting even across the quilt, or are some areas more heavily quilted than others?  If it is machine quilted, does it follow normally accepted machine quilting standards?  If it is hand quilted, are the stitches even in size?  Are knots in the thread visible on the front or back?  Do thread tails shadow from behind the fabric?  
  • The binding – Is the binding in a nice proportion and evenly stitched?  Is it secure and evenly filled?  Are the corners square and mitered edges sewn properly?

These are just a few of the things judges look for.  Judges know that everyone is at a different experience level and that your quilt is loved just as much as the next person’s quilt is loved.  Judges know the time that goes into making a quilt.  Most judges are also quilters!

Why should you enter your quilts into quilt shows? 

There is nothing like the feeling you get when looking across a large room and seeing your quilt hanging there with others.  That in and of itself is well worth the entering.  You have worked hard on your quilt.  Your quilt was a PART of you while it was being made, and 30 years from now, you will still remember what you were doing while you made that quilt.  Show it off!  Share it with others!  Remember that even if it is just your second quilt, you might be two quilts ahead of someone at the show who has not even picked up a needle and thread yet. They may be looking at your quilt and thinking to themselves, “Oh, now THERE is what I want to be able to do!  That is GORGEOUS!”


One thought on “Juried Quilt Shows – Why some make it and some do not

  1. I only entered a quilt show once and before I sent my quilt off to Padukah Don't know the spelling) I looked at a few writings by judges to see what they looked for. One judge wrote she eliminated and quilt with pet hair on it. Hmmm.
    I didn't win any prize but I did get a letter with very nice compliments from the judges, They did comment on small even stitches and applique that didn't show. One thing noted was shadowing on some seams.
    Glad to see your computer is cooperating.


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