Thank you for continuing with me on my journey exploring different ways to make quilting your business. Quilting is such a vibrant industry with an incredibly supportive community surrounding it. Some people quilt for business and others for pleasure, ensuring that this highly addictive hobby will continue to thrive!
Quilting for Show by Karen McTavish is a wonderful resource!
Quilting for Show
Today I’d like to address the topic of quilting for show. Can you really make money entering your quilts in shows? Yes, you can – but it can be a lot of work, with no guarantee of success. Whereas in most other areas of the quilting industry you can earn guaranteed income by working hard and following one of several paths to success, winning monetary awards by entering your quilts into shows can sometimes be pretty arbitrary.
Don’t get me wrong – I think anyone who ever wins an award for their quilt is well deserved! But whether or not your entry wins can often times depend on who’s doing the judging, what the category structure is, and how the competition stacks up in any given show. As someone once said, “It’s all a big crap-shoot anyhoo!” Moreover, not all shows hand out monetary awards, and some shows only offer cash prizes for the overall winners.
That being said, there’s a lot at stake if you decide to pursue the show-quilting route. Large companies (such as AQS and Quilts, Inc. etc.) put up huge rewards for their winners. Best of Show winners at some of the larger venues can earn upwards of $10K to $20 or more per win. Many of these larger value awards are purchase awards which means that if you win, the company gets to keep the quilt and put it on display in their museum. So you may need to balance the desire to win with the willingness to give up your quilt.
However, there are quite a few awards up for grabs at shows all around the country, and most of them do allow you to keep the quilt. Most of these shows are put on annually, so multiply that by the sheer volume of major shows out there and that’s nothing to sneeze at. Most shows allow you to enter your quilt within 2 years of completion, even if it has won awards at other shows.
Superstar quilt by Marilyn Badger. Photo taken by Christa Watson at Road to CA 2012.
One way to look at it is this: if you are pursuing a full time job, you can calculate your hourly rate. Most major award winning quilts can take hundreds of hours to complete. This is a significant amount of time to spend, but it can pay off with just a few “wins.” For example, the beautiful quilt above by Marilyn Badger has won more than a dozen awards at various shows. Not bad for a day job, right?
Don’t overlook the value of placement awards either. Because I just started entering my quilts in national shows last year, I never really paid much attention to the monetary prizes given out for 1st, 2nd or 3rd place finishes. I was super excited when my String of Pearls quilt won an honorable mention along with a $50 check at MQX in 2013. That pretty much covered the cost of shipping there and back, so in a sense I “broke even.”
But then I was blown away when I learned how much my ribbon for Colorful Chevrons at Paducah earned me. I got a whopping $750 for a 3rd place finish! That definitely covers the cost of shipping for many shows to come, plus maybe even a little travel. I never set out to be a “show” quilter, but that kind of money certainly gives me food for thought. :-)
I found it kind of hard to find out the individual amount of monetary awards offered by many of the big name shows. Most of them will mention on their websites how much total prize money is up for grabs (which is pretty generous), but they don’t all list details of specific award amounts per category. However, just for comparison here are a few that I was able to find:
- My local guild show – $300 each for Best Large Quilt and Best Small Quilt
- QuiltCon – $5000 Best of Show; $500 – $1000 for 13 specific category prizes
- Road to CA – $5000 Best of Show; $500 – $1500 for specific awards; $50 – $250 each for placement awards (1st, 2nd, 3rd)
- AQS – $10k-$20k Best of Show; $3k-$12k for specific prizes; $750 – $1500 placement
As you can see, there are a wide range of prizes given out and I can see why people would pursue show quilting as a serious business!
Cory Allender with her collaboration quilt LilyPad.
My friend Cory (shown above) has collaborated numerous times with her sewing partner(s) to rack up the awards at several venues. Lilypad shown above, won a 2nd place at Road to California in 2013 plus a judges choice ribbon at the Pacific International Quilt show in 2013. She also scored an individual win at the same show for her Lotus Blossom quilt, shown below.
Lotus Blossom by Cory Allender also won judge’s choice at our local show in 2013.
Cory told me that she and her collaboration partner decide ahead of time who will ship the quilt, who will pay the entry fee, and how they will split their winnings. She’s given me a few quilting tips for making award winning quilts, including using a double batting to give the quilt more stability when it hangs. In the near future, she’s going to teach me how she blocks her quilts so that the corners are are nice and square and the quilt hangs flat.
Although I’ll continue to put my quilts in shows here and there, I don’t plan to pursue it as a full-time career. In fact, I was very touched by one of my reader’s comments on my post last week about receiving recognition at Paducah. She said, “thanks for being more wrapped up in your love of quilting than awards.” That thought truly means more to me than any award. :-)