What it’s Like to Judge a Quilt Show – My Experience at Vermont Quilt Festival

Now that I’m back and rested from my week at Vermont Quilt Festival, I thought I would tell you a little bit more about my experience judging the show with three other fabulous award winning quilters: Kathie Beltz, Kimberly Einmo, and David Taylor.

Judges at Vermont Quilt Festival

Kathie, Kimberly, Me and David – and no we didn’t match on purpose!!

This was my first time judging a large national show, although I’ve judged locally and online (checkout the Pantone Greenery 2017 winners here). I’ve also volunteered in the judging room of my local quilt guild’s show for many years, and I’m currently serving on the QuiltCon judging and jurying task force which is in the process of finalizing entry rules for next year’s show.

Each quilt show is unique with different rules, number of judges and methods, but they all have one thing in common: they are there to showcase a wide variety of quilts. Judges are instructed to give positive praise as well as helpful encouragement, and judges follow the rules given to them by the show.

Best Hand Quilting VQF

Best Hand Quilting – Cauterskill Rising by Janet Atkins of Athens, NY

VQF Judging

VQF is a non-juried show, which means that entries are selected by mailed in entry postmark, on a first-come first served basis until the number of quilts the show can accept has been met. (By contrast, a juried show means that you submit photos of your quilt and a small pool of jurors selects those that will be accepted for entry and judging.) For all quilt shows, judging is blind, which means that the judges have no idea who’s quilt they are judging. They may or may not have access to the name of the quilt, and the artists’ statement, but that’s it.

Best Machine Quilting VQF

Best Stationary Machine Quilting – Sapphires on Snow by Norma Ippolito of Chester, VT

For VQF, they hired 4 judges and each quilt (except for a couple of special categories) was judged by 3 of the four judges. So one person’s quilt was evaluated by judge A,B,C and another person’s quilt could have been examined by judge B, C, D etc. The entrants were not informed of which judges looked at their quilts, but each quilt received a total of 3 written judging sheets.

Example Judging Sheet for VQF

Example Judging Sheet for VQF

In this show, each quilt was given a numerical score with a total possible score of 100 points. Those that scored within a certain number were then giving a corresponding ribbon: 85-89 points – yellow (third place); 90-93 points – red (second place); 94-97 points – blue (first place); 98-100 points – purple (exceptional merit). What is unique about this show is that quilts were judged on their own merits rather than against other quilt. So this means that some categories could have multiple ribbons of the same color, while it’s possible that other categories may not receive any blues or purples, etc.

Best Mixed Techniques, VQF

Best Outside of USA – Flower Pots by Frances Firn Ceriko of Quebec, Canada

Each judge took a look at each quilt independently of the other judges, and 2 scribes were assigned to each judge to record their scores and comments. The entrant’s final score was based on the average of all 3 scores for the final point total. On the rare occasion that the three scores varied by more than 10 points from high to low, we judges got together – called a “conference” – to discuss why the variation occurred and then decided whether or not to adjust our scores. With hundreds of quilts to score and 4 judges with different voices, it was amazing how few times that happened!

Best Modern Quilt at VQF

Best Modern Quilt – It’s Universal by Anya Byam of Burlington, VT

Once we concluded judging each category, then it was time to move onto the special awards and “best of.” Some of the categories such as best applique, best use of theme, etc. were chosen based on their numerical score. Others such as best home machine quilting, best hand quilting, best piecing, etc. were chosen at our discretion. We were also able to choose 6-7 special additional awards and name those ourselves, such as  “best bling, best graphic quilt” etc. And of course each of us got to choose our own “judges’ choice” which was super fun – and hard to narrow down!

Best Vermont Quilt VQF

Best Vermont Quilt – Whiteout by Mara Novak, Norma Ippolito, Dona McKenzie, Carolyn Niesuchouski, and Lynn Way of Chester, VT

Throughout the judging, we each took notes on which quilts to consider for the special awards. Other than judges’ choice, we conferred with the other judges to make our final decision. It was quite surprising how many quilts overlapped on each of our lists.

Christa Watson judges choice at VQF

Christa’s Judges Choice – Going on a Trip II by G. Wong of Wellesley, MA

Then the best part was at the awards ceremony when each winners’ name was revealed. It felt like Christmas morning, eagerly anticipating the excitement of the recipients as their names were called. Many of them were actually there at the show and there’s nothing like seeing an excited quilter run up on stage to claim his/her award!

Overall, it was a fabulous experience, and I’d definitely do it again! Here’s a couple of general tips if you are considering entering your work at a local or national show:

Quilt Show Tips

  • Read the rules completely and do your best to put your quilt in the appropriate category.
  • Pay attention to details such as stray threads and fabric markings.
  • Stitch the corners of your binding closed (both sides), and take extra care to ensure the quilt hangs flat and straight.
  • Make sure the density of quilting is even across the entire quilt.

But above all, have fun with it and realize that although judges to their best to judge a quilt without bias, it’s human nature to be drawn to a quilt that is more in line with their style. So enter a variety of shows, knowing you will receive a variety of different opinions!

Best Scrap Quilt at VQF

Best Scrap Quilt – On the Fly by Timna Tarr of S. Hadley, MA

Quilt Show Venues

The number one question I get asked is how do I find out about which shows to enter? Start with your local friends, quilt shops and guilds and start asking around. There’s no one all-encompassing listing of shows to enter, but you can start by creating a list of shows you hear about and then get on their mailing lists so you’ll get notified when it’s time to enter. Then pay attention on social media to which shows other people are entering. You can google “quilt show competition entry” for lots of great info, too.

Here’s just a small list of shows I enter regularly, or like to encourage others to enter (in no particular order):

Feel free to add additional shows that you know of in the comments for all to see. If you have any questions about entering shows, feel free to ask them in the comments and I”ll be glad to answer them to the best of my abilities!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

8 thoughts on “What it’s Like to Judge a Quilt Show – My Experience at Vermont Quilt Festival

  1. Mary says:

    Great post! Love see others judging sheets. I’ve had to make up my own for a long time and love see how others set them up. It’s gratifying to see that we all look for the same types of things, really.

  2. Heather Black says:

    What a great post! It’s really helpful to hear about the judging process from the other side. I’m also waiting with bated breath for the new Quiltcon rules, fingers crossed there’s no limit on the number of entries.

    • Christa says:

      An email survey will be going out to the membership next week I think for input. I agree – I’m all for not limiting the number of entries either.

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

      On Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 11:26 AM, Christa Quilts wrote:

      >

  3. Maribeth Benedict says:

    Christa, once again you dazzle me with your wide range of knowledge. Keep up the great work. See you in Las Vegas.

  4. Rose in VT says:

    Christa: What a great post! I get asked all the time what are good shows to enter, and I’ve thought for years that VQF is one of the best to enter for people who want to improve their work. They don’t give monetary awards, but the judges comments are more in depth than sheets I’ve got back from other shows. That does not mean I agree with what they say of course, but having 3 different viewpoints gives more variety of feedback. I really appreciate your list of shows to enter, and I’m hoping to try Road2CA next year. And I cracked up at your mention of point spreads as mine tend to have a wide spread. This years was 9, but I’ve got back as high as 14, so sometimes they fall through the cracks.

  5. Margaret De Palma says:

    Thanks for the detailed information about judging of quilts. This was very helpful. I’ve entered our local county fair and our guild’s show with great results but have not ventured beyond my”comfort zone”. I liked reading how the judging process works.

  6. Helen LeBrett says:

    Great article and information: Thanks!! (and it was fun to see the quilts too!) 🙂 And looking at that list of quilt shows that you enter, please let us know if you have any at PIQF, or Road to California. Those are two that I get to go to, so I’d love to know if you have one in there so I can look out for it! Hugs, H

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s