What I Learned by Entering My Quilt in a Competition


What I Learned by Entering My Quilt in a Competition

I got a bee in my bonnet early this year and decided that if I was going to make this V and Co. version of a Tessellation quilt, I was going to enter it into a competition. I had never entered a quilt into a competition and had absolutely no idea what to expect. I assume I’m not the only one in this boat, so I thought I’d write up a little bit about what I learned in the process of the quilt competition in the hopes that it will be helpful to someone else considering entering a competition.

  1. Know the target audience of the competition. There are many competitions that have different categories in which you can enter your quilt. If this is the case for you, awesome! This will mean there are judges who are more familiar with each style of quilts and you are likely to be better received in an appropriate category. This would have been awesome. Tessy would fit in a Modern category very nicely. However, this show I entered was a one size fits all type of show. This is great because there are different types of quilts represented, but not so great because the judges are likely more prone to like a certain style over another. The show I entered is a VERY traditional show with VERY traditional quilts. As you might imagine, Tessy did not receive great marks from those most suited to enjoy traditional quilts. She was marked off in use of color and value as well as design, scale, and composition.
  2. Do not expect to take home the Best of Show ribbon on your first try. The quilt show I entered Tessy in is a local county competition that is then housed at the Springville Museum of Art. This year was the 43rd year it has been held! There was an awards ceremony, which I also did not expect. Once I heard this, I thought that just *maybe* I might get a chance at the Director’s choice. She is the director of an art museum, after all. After all 12-13 ribbons were awarded, I did not win any and that’s ok. It was hard at the time and even harder as I looked around and a quilt that didn’t even have a proper binding won an honorable mention, but once again, that is the genre of this show. Traditional quilts. Traditional colors. Applique.
  3. Be prepared to have every aspect of your quilt looked over with a fine-tooth comb. I knew going in that I had many areas where my triangle points did not perfectly align. I find this very hard to achieve every. single. time. I have points that meet. I was not prepared to be marked way down on my “precision in piecing” portion of this quilt. I know it’s because my points are not perfect, and that’s ok. I am not perfect in my piecing. I have a good area to work on improving.
  4. If your love of your quilt will be tarnished by negative commentary or not winning a ribbon, don’t enter. I love Tessy just as much as the day I finished putting the binding on. It doesn’t matter to me that I didn’t win a ribbon or top honors because Tessy will always be #1 in my book. If you rely heavily on outside sources offering praise and adulation, then I would not enter your quilt that you love so dearly into a competition. If you can’t love your quilt as much after it’s been critically judged, then it’s probably better off if you don’t put it up to that much scrutiny. Quilting is a joy. It should be something we all enjoy doing and no matter whether you win the $20,000 prize at Paducah or just have a quilt that you snuggle under and share with your family, don’t let anything take away from that joy.


4 thoughts on “What I Learned by Entering My Quilt in a Competition

  1. So well said and why I could never enter a quilt, I’m all about the fun cuddles after its done and the pretty stack in the family room. I’d like to pretend getting graded wouldn’t affect me, but I think any negative comments would take all of the fun out of it for me. Tessy is still #1 in my book too – she’s an absolute beauty!! If I were ribbon hander-outer you’d have one for sure!!

    • You’re so sweet, Meg! Thank you so much for all of the love. It was a fun thing to do and I honestly think I’ll do it again, just with my loins fully girded for battle first.

  2. I love your insight, Jen. I’ve never considered entering a quilt in a show before, probably because I make quilts for snuggling under, not for show. But maybe it’s something I’ll consider in the future.

    • It was fun to do, especially with a quilt I consider to be so visually impactful, but definitely not something I would do for any other quilt. Mine are just for snuggles, too!

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