Christa’s Soap Box – Why I Enter Quilt Shows and a Few More Thoughts

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a series of “soap box” articles. These aren’t meant to be controversial, but rather a chance for me to gather my thoughts on certain topics and share them with you. It’s great to have a conversation about quilting that goes a little deeper than the usual quilt tutorial or eye candy inspiration. I’ve been so crazy busy over last year that I’ve barely had time to think big thoughts, let alone share them with you, LOL!!

Participation Ribbon

My first national quilt entry was QuiltCon 2013. At the time they gave hand made ribbons to ALL entrants. It’s the only QuiltCon ribbon I’ve ever received and I love it to death!!

Quilt show season is upon us so I thought I’d write a little about why I like to enter my work into shows. I do it for three basic reasons:

  1. To give myself a deadline to shoot for. I’ve realized that if I don’t give myself a deadline to do something, then it just doesn’t happen!!
  2. To share my work with a wider audience. Because quilting is my job (and IMHO the best one in the world!), it behooves me to come up with creative ways to get my name out there.
  3. Because it’s fun to see my quilt hanging in a big show and sometimes, on a lucky day, I just may snag a ribbon.Fractured Puzzle RibbonSome shows give monetary awards while others don’t. It depends on the show.

Now, I have to say, entering a show isn’t for the faint of heart. Most large shows are juried, which means that if there are more entries than spots in the show, a small panel of jurors will look through all of the entries and select what they feel will be the best representation for a show. Getting into a juried show can be thrilling; getting rejected can feel like a punch to the gut, especially if you made a quilt specifically for that show.

Facets Quilt

Facets got a ribbon at AQS Paducah, but was a “quiltconreject” for 2017, along with 4 other entries. That’s ok because I know it’s a very subjective process – you win some, you lose some!!

Plus, it’s expensive to enter shows. The average price of entering a quilt in a large show can range anywhere from $10 to $25 per quilt, or more, and there’s no refund if you quilt doesn’t get accepted. Then you have to pay for the shipping, depending on the show it can either be one way, or both!! I look at these costs as business expenses (again, because it’s part of my job), but they can definitely add up!


For the record, here are the other 4 quilts I entered that didn’t make it into QuiltCon: Candy Pop, Feathered Chevrons, Lightning, Square in a Square. I had my 5 second pity party and then I moved on. Each of them has already been in another show, or will be shown in one soon.

With many of us sharing our work online and in social media, getting likes and positive comments all the time, it can feel a bit jarring when the quilt show circuit isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. But in the end, whether a quilt gets into a show or not, or whether it wins recognition or not, I think it’s still tons of fun to try.

Many people enter larger shows forgetting that there are a ton of local opportunities, too. I entered my local guild’s show for many years (and still do), until I finally got up the guts to enter my first national show (QuiltCon in 2013). I knew the competition would be fierce even the first time around, so I did a lot of research into what makes a “show quality” quilt and did my best to adhere to those standards (a clean and appropriately quilted quilt with square corners, flat edges and evenly applied binding). Luckily, one of them got in back then, and each year I’ve submitted, I’ve gotten both rejections and acceptances.


The back of my QuiltCon 2017 accepted entry. It’s all I can show for now since it’s for publication. It’s quilted as heavily as those that were rejected, so it’s all just a big crap-shoot anyhoo!! 🙂

I also enter lots of other shows on a regular basis, too, so I know the drill. However, with each entry, it’s still nerve-wracking, knowing I could be kissing my hard earned money goodbye. Quilting is definitely an emotional outlet and there’s always raw feelings –  elation when one gets accepted and dejection when one doesn’t. But I can say the more shows I enter, the easier it gets. They are all run with similar rules and deadlines so once you know the system, it’s easier to get into a routine.  Plus, the rejections get easier to handle, too. And here’s the biggest tip I’ve learned with quilt shows – enter ALL of them! What gets rejected from one show has many times gotten a ribbon at another show. So you never really know until you try.

fractured-puzzle_resizeMy entry into the MQG challenge that didn’t make in into QuiltCon 2016 but went on to win an award at MQX later in the year. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again – until you are tired of trying and then it’s totally fine to move onto something else!!

So if you are thinking about entering a show, or nursing your wounds from not getting into one that you really liked, just remember your work is amazing because you did it. I bet you had a great time, making it, too. And if quilt show entering is not your thing, that’s totally okay! It definitely takes a thick skin to get over feeling rejected and it’s hard not to take it personally. But here’s one thing I can guarantee: if you share your quilts with me and my facebook friends, we would absolutely love to see them and will give you a virtual high-five!!

Related Reading

Here’s a roundup of posts I’ve written on similar topics – there’s a lot of info here:

List of shows to enter with modern categories:

**Disclaimer*** I welcome your considerate and thoughtful comments on this post. This article came about as my response to all of the chatter about QuiltCon on instagram over the last few days, both positive and negative. If you want to see an amazing virtual quilt show, check out the hashtags #quiltcon2017 and #quiltconreject. There’s some amazing work that just blows me away!!

17 thoughts on “Christa’s Soap Box – Why I Enter Quilt Shows and a Few More Thoughts

  1. Rebecca Grace says:

    Christa, thanks for writing this. I’m currently trying to get up the nerve to enter a quilt for the first time, but I’m having trouble figuring out the basics. Like, is there someplace where I can find a listing of ALL of the major quilt shows with their categories, rules, and deadlines? Do all quilt shows have maximum sizes? I’m really excited about how a current project is coming together that was planned to be a California King, 120″ x 120″ and think I’d like to enter it into a show, but maybe that’s too big?

  2. Jen - A Quilting Jewel says:

    So, I think one of the reasons it can be so emotional to have a quilt not be accepted into QuiltCon is that the modern quilt movement is so social. We go on Instagram, blogs, Facebook, etc. and see all sorts of quilt being accepted into the show. What other quilt show do you see people posting about getting in/not getting into the show? Maybe Houston or Paducah to a degree, but not many. The Modern Quilt Movement was born out of social media, and we see everything play out online. I love that I get to see some of the quilts submitted that didn’t get into QuiltCon through the hashtags, as I wouldn’t have otherwise seen them. No other show can say that they have created a community like that.

    Sure, I wish MANY more quilts could appear in QuiltCon and other shows, but I understand the reasoning behind it. I’m lucky to have had quilts hang at every QuiltCon to date, but I’ve also had quilts rejected at 3/4 QuiltCons as well. And every time I go to QuiltCon, I get why the quilts that I submitted that didn’t get in (I refuse to say rejected) weren’t chosen – it’s because there were so many more amazing quilts. And seeing so many amazing quilts pushes me and inspires me and spawns my creativity. And for that, I’m grateful.

  3. Julie says:

    I’ve never entered QuiltCon or any other big show. I have in my local guild show. I have one that I made that one first place viewers choice (original pattern), and I know another one of my (retail pattern) was voted second choice. I don’t know that I will ever feel good enough to attempt to enter a big juried show. However, entering the show and winning a viewers choice was really special. I’d rather win viewers choice. It may not have been the most pieces, or best retail pattern as it was an original … but I get a lot of comfort and pride out of the fact that most people thought it was the best.

    • Christa says:

      Congrats on your ribbons! I entered my local show for about 15 years before I was comfortable entering nationally 🙂

      Christa Watson Instagram @christaquilts website/blog: Click here to join my facebook group: Quilt with Christa

      On Mon, Dec 19, 2016 at 9:33 AM, Christa Quilts wrote:


  4. FlourishingPalms says:

    This is a thoughtful post, Christa, and I appreciate everything you said, even though my reasons, reactions and responses to entering shows are different than yours. For example, I don’t enter to make a deadline, or for business purposes. It also takes me way longer than five seconds to get over the heartache of not being juried into a show. In fact for me, the more often I enter a show, and am not accepted, the more difficult it is to want to enteri… and yes, the costs come into play here. If nothing else, my QuiktCon rejects have given me a reason to pause and think. I’m leaning toward not attempting to enter QC again.

  5. Zina Clark says:

    Thank you for the information and your encouragement. I’m a two-years-in-a-row #quiltconreject, but I’m going to take your advice and try to enter some other shows. My hide is becoming as thick as a rhino’s, and I am still hopeful that my quilts will get into some show, somewhere! Your work is amazing and is an inspiration to us all!

  6. moderndayquilts says:

    Just a little note, QuiltCon does pay for shipping back (the quilters don’t) unless you want to ship it UPS or FedEx.

    And Beth – we’d LOVE to expand QuiltCon for more quilts, but we can’t increase the space without more attendees. Exhibit space, pipe and drape, electricity, signage, all that costs $$. Right now, QuiltCon is the size it is because that is what we can support based on the number of attendees. A bigger space = a bigger budget (and budgets come from attendance).

  7. Rebecca says:

    Christa: I enjoyed your thoughts. We all quilt for myriad reasons and the medium allows us to express ourselves in our own fashions. Any artistic medium is by its nature is subjective. I try to experiment to stretch myself beyond my comfort zones.
    I wish you success in your show entries and in your business!

  8. onecreativefamily says:

    I enjoyed your post. I have entered only 2 quilt shows because I feel so intimated by the other quilts. This is for me to get past and I will, and you have made me stop and rethink entering. I will have to try another one.


  9. Barbara Sindlinger says:

    I enter in our local show (not modern though) and it does feel good to get in. And I actually love getting the judges comments. I just remember it’s all subjective but sometimes you get a good hint on what to improve on.

    • Christa says:

      I agree – getting the comments is so educational 🙂

      Christa Watson Instagram @christaquilts website/blog: Click here to join my facebook group: Quilt with Christa

      On Thu, Dec 15, 2016 at 7:43 PM, Christa Quilts wrote:


  10. Paula S. Pike says:

    Christa, you’re an amazing artist. Keep up what you’re doing.
    Remember, Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…sometimes the beholder may not see as clearly as we do.

  11. Gail says:

    Thanks for your perspective, and all the info on other shows to possibly enter! I didn’t enter Quiltcon this year since I’ve entered every time and have yet to have a quilt accepted… just not up for the rejection this year – but next year might be different 😉 – I do understand how hard it can be to pick 300-400 quilts out of 1500 or more.

  12. Beth says:

    Great blog on entering shows. I think the most difficult show to get a quilt accepted is QuiltCon and I have entered many different shows. Last year I entered 2 quilts in QuiltCon and both were accepted. This year none of mine were accepted. I wish QuiltCon would enlarge their show and accept many more quilts into the contest. Maybe even expand their category selections. However, I still plan on having a great time at QuiltCon and look forward to your EQ7 workshop.

    • Christa says:

      I look forward to seeing you as well! I agree, I wish the venue were larger so they could accept more quilts. There’s some amazing stuff out there!!

      Christa Watson Instagram @christaquilts website/blog: Click here to join my facebook group: Quilt with Christa

      On Thu, Dec 15, 2016 at 2:36 PM, Christa Quilts wrote:


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