QuiltCon 2015 Judging Results #1 – Spiraling Out of Control

I recently received all 4 of my quilts back from QuiltCon. Three of those were judged so I thought it would be fun to share the results with you along with my commentary. I’m a big advocate of sharing your work in local and national quilt shows and being open minded when it comes to the judges’ critiques. Because I really want to delve into this subject, I’ve decided to write about each of the three quilts in three separate blog posts over three days.

spiraling-at-QuiltConSpiraling Out of Control by Christa Watson, 70″ x 70″

The obligatory picture of me next to the quilt for scale. I’m still figuring out how to not make my quilts wavy when they hang, but the majority of show quilts do this, so I don’t feel so bad.

Spiraling Out of Control. It was placed into the improv category by the show organizers (entrants did not select their own categories this year). That category had the largest number of entries, so it was fun to be one of them. I’m still on the fence as to whether I like the idea of not having to pick a category, or if I’d rather have more say in the process. The great thing about QuiltCon is that it answers the question of “What is a modern quilt?” Just look to any QuiltCon quilt in any category as an example of at least one element of modern quilting.

Many of you may remember Spiraling from the MQG quilt challenge sponsored by Riley Blake last year. The great thing about that contest was that it challenged me to be creative while working within a limited palette.

Here are the judges’ comments for this quilt:

  • Well quilted
  • Good design choices in the quilting
  • Would have liked to see more variety and exploration within the blocks

spiraling_detailClosup of the quilting using lots of straight lines for texture.

I’m really pleased that the judges thought my workmanship was well done. I was a little stressed about the quilting not being perfect because I actually free-motion quilted all of the straight lines so I wouldn’t have to turn the quilt! Getting good feedback on my workmanship makes me feel better about my efforts.

The last point is definitely valid, but this is where it’s tricky for the judge to know the full story behind the quilt. As a design challenge, my variety of colors was limited so I couldn’t explore too much there. Also, I wanted all of the blocks to give the same diagonal effect so I really didn’t want to change the overall look or feel of the block structure. So maybe this quilt would have fared better in the modern traditional category since it also looks like a modernized version of a traditional string pieced block, although the techniques I used are vastly different.


Photo credit goes to planetdorth on instagram. I love the juxtaposition of the guys’ striped tee next to this quilt. It was fun to watch people stare and get lost in this quilt!

All in all though, I’m very pleased that it was part of the show and for sure I will try to go out on a limb more with future designs. One of the best things about having this quilt in the show is that it definitely raised my profile as a quilter and several people came up to talk to me about it. It’s already been featured in a couple of different magazines and has been seen in several shows, so the time I took to make it has been well worth it. Suffice it to say that a pattern is definitely coming, but it will be a few months down the road….


28 thoughts on “QuiltCon 2015 Judging Results #1 – Spiraling Out of Control

  1. Colleen says:

    I had a similar comment on a quilt where they wanted me to use more than one line of fabric. Problem was it was a challenge quilt and they fabrics we could use were limited. They also sais my quilt lines could be straighter. but it was free quilted. Its all subjective

  2. flutefishy says:

    Do you block your quilts? It helps with the waviness. It’s typically done before binding, but I’m finding that applying binding by machine can also contribute, so I like to re-block afterwards. Not foolproof, but I do find the quilts I block hang better than the ones I don’t so it’s worthwhile for show quilts.

  3. Elizabeth Bell says:

    My sister-in-law (not a quilter) joined me at Quilt Con and put up with my running commentary all day long. “Now THIS is a very famous quilt!” I said as we admired Spiraling Out of Control. I was thrilled to see all your works in person. Photos don’t do them justice.

  4. Michele says:

    Thank you Christa for your openness in sharing the judges’ comments on your quilts. I’m pretty new to quilting, so I really appreciate hearing what judges have to say about work I admire. I too am puzzled by the criticism about variety in this quilt. To me what makes this quilt an outstanding example of modern quilting IS the limitation on the fabrics. Whether it was something you would have done without the challenge guidelines, you haven’t said as far as I know. The colors and patterns you used created a strong design statement to my eye and the slight wonkiness gave it the perfect amount of variability to allow the diagonals to be the story here. I don’t think the quilt would have been as beautiful and interesting if it looked more scrappy. But – maybe that’s just me.

  5. knitnkwilt says:

    I too think the third comment rather odd. It would so change the nature of your quilt to do anything other than continuing the diagonal strip pattern. I begin to wonder if the judges felt obligated to make an “improve it by…” comment. It seems a generic comment that could be made to improv quilts.

    It would be interesting to get a certified judge’s comments, as someone suggested above.

  6. Karen says:

    Congratulations, Christa! I have always LOVED this quilt. About the waves–as a new quilter, I don’t know if this is a bad/illegal idea–could you make a temporary sleeve at the bottom and run a dowel through it?

  7. Pip says:

    Thanks for posting your feedback, it is interesting to read what the judges think about quilts. Like others I’m wondering what they meant by ” more variety and exploration within the blocks” – it doesn’t really help you, if they had added on an example it would have been helpful.
    I have really enjoyed seeing all the Quiltcon posts, your quilt was one of my favourites.

  8. frostiest says:

    I’m still trying to ferret out the difference between modern quilting and traditional quilting. Is “going out on a limb” a requisite for modern quilting?

    • Christa says:

      Haha I’m learning too! I’m taking each of the elements mentioned by the Modern Quilt Guild (asymmetry, negative space, improvisation, miminilism, etc.) and trying to use those in my quit making to go more modern. It’s a fun ride!

  9. treadlemusic says:

    Thanks for sharing the feedback/critique info. I’m with Susan, feeling that the judge could have been a tad more specific on “variety” given the type of block they are. Your ‘take’ on the “string” idea really takes it into the mod feel!!!!!

  10. Ellie says:

    Thanks for sharing the judges’ comments. That quilts always been a favorite of mine. Good I’m not a judge everybody would win.

  11. PeggyP says:

    Thanks for sharing your feedback from the judges Christa – that’s very kind of you. I wonder on the last judge comment what they meant by “I would have liked to see more variety and exploration within the blocks”? Did they mean the design/colour of the blocks or could they be referring to the actual quilting of the blocks? Sometimes it is so hard to tell from the written word. It’s a great quilt either way and we’re so proud of you!

  12. Susan says:

    I am a beginner level quilter and I have couple of question:

    1. Are string quilts considered traditional? I have never seen them listed in any traditional block quilt book.

    2. What did the judge mean by “I would have liked to see more variety and exploration within the blocks”? You mentioned you limitations as to colors you could use and you wanted the design you made. Since the judge didn’t know the background or history of this quilt, and he/she didn’t give any specifics or examples it makes me wonder what he/she was thinking. Since you have had several quilts judged in various venues, can you shed more light on this?

    I also like the juxtoposition of the stripes on the person’s shirt that was standing in front of the quilt.

    • Christa says:

      That’s a good point about the string blocks. I’ll have to do a little research! I agree – I would have loved to have more of an explanation about the “variety” comment!

  13. lizdunne79 says:

    Thanks Christa. I love when quilters tell us their judging feedback as it gives us a sneak peak into what they like and don’t like but I don’t think there was anything about your quilts that they didn’t like and rightly so 🙂

  14. Diane says:

    I think this quilt is Amazing !! The quilting is perfect. I could see a lot of time , effort and talent
    Here. Great job! And continued success!

  15. jenetamasson says:

    What wonderful feedback regarding your quilting! Yes – I think I would have put this quilt in the modern traditional category too. What a great photo with the stripey tee!!

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