A Few Words About Judged Quilts Part 1 – The Beginning of a Journey

I’ve had a few people ask me to go into detail about some of the comments I’ve received for quilts I’ve entered into quilt shows.  I thought that would make a pretty good blog topic! It will take more than one post to explore this idea, so be sure to follow my blog for updates.

First, here’s a little  background – I’ve been quilting off and on over the last 18 years, but up until this year have previously entered my quilts only in local shows. I have received my share of ribbons in this time and have earned a variety of critiques, most of which I never thought about keeping for “quilt posterity”.


Christa’s Quilt Ribbons – and one for Jenna!

I’m getting smarter now about keeping all the documentation relating to my work. I’ve also realized that if I want to enter my quilts in shows I’ve got to be able to take the heat, even if I don’t agree with a judge’s comments (but for the most part, good or bad, I do see their point!)

So here goes, I’ll start with some of my earliest competitive quilts and work my way forward. I don’t have the judge’s comments but I’ll share what I remember.

This mini quilt was the very first thing I ever entered, way back in 1997 – can you believe it? It was for a guild challenge and all that I remember was that we were supposed to use a a basket, a heart, and a flower.

Mini Quilt FrontIt’s one of the very few hand quilted pieces I’ve done and my first attempt at mitering corners. Now I only use straight borders and I machine quilt all of my quilts. ‘Nuff said! But I did earn a second place from a vote of the members so that was my first taste of “competition”. I just ate it up!

Mini Quilt BackOver the years I started getting better at my machine quilting and was pleased when my pieced heart quilt won a second place at my traditional guild’s annual show in 2002. I enjoyed adding lots of detailed quilting which has kind of set the stage for my style of quilting – more is more!

Pieced HeartsThe big mistake that I made on this quilt was using too many busy prints, so that all my fabulous quilting was hard to notice! You just can’t see the gorgeous cabled border I quilted in metallic threads (really!) Hmm, maybe that’s why I’m so fond of solids now?

Original Hugs N KissesThe 2002 quilt show was a banner year for me – nearly every thing I entered won a ribbon. I finally landed a first place with my original Hugs and Kisses. (I did a remake of this quilt recently for one of my quilt alongs). I remember only one written comment from the judge – “I love this quilt!” That made my day until I realized this quilt was the only one in it’s category.

This was the first year our guild started separating out professionally machine quilted quilts into their own category. Since I was definitely NOT a professional and I quilted this one myself, there was no competition in the home-machine quilted category, LOL!! But we’ve come a long way and more members are machine quilting their own quilts, for which I’m very proud! (And the organizers told me a judge won’t give it a blue ribbon unless the quilt deserves it – regardless of the number of entries).

Rose of Sharon AppliqueNext, I got into my applique phase and won a couple of 1st place ribbons for these appliqued beauties. They were fun to make but since I followed a pattern, they weren’t exactly originals.

Mini BaltimoreYou can see I was definitely a traditionalist here but these quilts are where I realized my techniques – small machine button hole stitches with matching thread and lots of quilting. Now to translate these techniques into more modern quilt designs!

After this I kind of took a break for about 8 years where I didn’t enter hardly anything. Sure, I taught a lot of quilting classes, made tons of samples and got into stipple-overload. I also started my fabric business, but the competition side of me really waned. I also sold quilts at a local craft mall for several years. This threw me into mass-production mode which really stifled my artistic spirit!

Tune in next Monday for part 2 of this (breathtaking) saga!

16 thoughts on “A Few Words About Judged Quilts Part 1 – The Beginning of a Journey

  1. Bobbie says:

    Enter your quilts in shows to get unbiased feedback. The judge is not your friend that tells you that everything you do is wonderful. The judge is also not you, who looks at everything you make with an overly critical eye and finds ALL the mistakes. The judge IS the neutral person who will tell you what you are doing very well, and what you need to work (learn more about) on. The ribbon is always just the frosting, the comments the cake.

  2. Cari says:

    Interesting topic! I’d be curious to know more about the judging. Do you know beforehand what they are evaluating? And is it the same things typically from one competition to another?

  3. Sara says:

    This IS an interesting topic and glad you took it on! I have never entered anything yet thinking it would have to be pristine work and that just isn’t fun to me. Maybe someday when I have time for precision and not a 5 yr old running loose. hehehe for now I will enjoy my 5 yr old and my kinda quilting!

    • Christa says:

      Yep, I’m going to go back to the Bernina dealership this weekend when they are having a one-day financing deal. We’ll see how that turns out…

  4. Lou says:

    Thanks for the great message today.
    My mother entered a Lone Star that I had made for her years ago…prob 20 years so it has been a long time but the negative impact had steered me away from entering shows for years!
    Well under the strong urging of a great friend I entered 2 last year and won a first and a second place:) I also got quite a few fan fav votes but didn’t get that one. I was thrilled!!!!
    I guess I just don’t feel that is what I want to do. I quilt for the enjoyment of it all:)
    As long as I am happy with it it is a blue ruibbon winner:)

  5. Corinne says:

    Thank for sharing, I do not like mitered corners either. I love the honesty about being the only one in that category.

  6. D Simmons says:

    Inspirational post Christa. Great recommendations too! Fun to see your collection of beautiful ribbons and how your quilting has evolved. I hope you enter more quilts in shows and win more ribbons in the future. And thanks for encouraging others to do so too!


  7. June @ QuiltQuest says:

    Interesting – thank you for sharing this! I have not attended a guild meeting yet. In San Diego they seem to be traditional quilting or the modern one is too far away. Now in Cambridge MA I’m too far away from the ones I’ve found out about. So I depend on the internet…

    • Christa says:

      Thank goodness for the internet! Reading everyone else’s blogs has really helped encourage me to share. I get immense fulfillment from it, too!

  8. Gladys says:

    Every thing is just stunning im new to Quilting and at the minute i cant get enough of it im pattern,fabric mad, every you do or show is beautiful. I hope as i go along with my efforts i can only get bettter beautiful work . Gladys

  9. Sue Moore says:

    I’m sure a lot of us have followed a similar path, with colours , styles or time frames varying! It’s interesting looking back but also important to always learn. I know that I cringe when I think of some colours I once used! But if I hadn’t used them would I have grown? I love hand quilting still but I’m determined to get better at machine quilting! Love your quilt alongs 🙂

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