Christa’s Soapbox – On Quilt Show Acceptance and Rejection

It’s that time of year again, where you can find an inspiring virtual quilt show on Instagram. Just search the hashtags #quiltconreject and #quiltcon2018 to see many of the quilts that were entered into next year’s show (happening in Pasadena, CA Feb 22-25, 2018).

HST Remix by Christa Watson

I’m pleased that HST Remix shown above was accepted into QuiltCon 2018. I’ll be blogging more about this quilt and the other one that made it in, so stay tuned!

QuiltCon has been happening since 2013 and as social media has grown, so has the sharing which is nothing short of inspiring. In the early days of QuiltCon, feelings were a little more raw when many who had entered a show for the very first time ever, felt that their quilts not getting in was somehow a rejection of themselves, rather than a simple fact of math. About 1400 quilts are usually entered each year and there’s room to display only about 350 of them. So that means quilt entrants only have about a 1 in 4 chance of getting in. Or in other words, 75% of the quilts that are submitted won’t make it in.

HST Remix Detail

Detail of HST Remix. For each quilt show entry you usually provide two images – an overall view of the entire quilt plus a closeup so they can see the machine quilting.

What I’ve noticed this year is a much more upbeat attitude: sure quilters are still disappointed when their beautiful work doesn’t make the cut. But when they look at the sheer volume and amazing workmanship of others that also were “rejected”, they seem to take it in stride.

I’ve certainly known my fair of disappointment and rejection. I’ve entered quilts into QuiltCon every year from the beginning and each year my non-acceptences or “rejects” have far outnumbered those that were juried in.

(FYI – a “juried” show means you send in a digital image of your quilt during the application process and a group of people who are completely different from the judges look at all the quilts and decide which will best represent the show. It’s usually based on individual scoring of each quilt, and the jurors don’t know who makes each quilt. Those quilts with the highest jury scores are accepted until all spots have been filled.)

Colorweave quilt

Colorweave is the second quilt that was accepted into QuiltCon. It’s simple yet graphic.

I have managed to have at least one quilt in each QuiltCon (see them here: 2013, 2015, 2015, 2015, 2016, 2017, but some of it was pure luck: for the first QuiltCon back in 2013, no one really knew about it until the entry deadline had passed, so the odds of getting in back then were MUCH higher. Then in two of the previous shows, the only reason I got in was because of “automatic” triggers: I had a quilt in the 2017 issue of QuiltCon magazine which was a guaranteed entry, and in 2016 one of my quilts was in the MQG showcase which was also an automatic entry for that year.

Coloweave - walking foot quilting

Detail of the quilting on Color Weave – random crosshatch lines quilted with a walking foot

And you know what? I’ve never won a ribbon at QuiltCon before. I certainly don’t enter to win – the joy for me is in the sharing. But it is kind of ironic, that I’ve been able to get a ribbon at many of the national quilts show I’ve entered, but none at QuiltCon. There’s no bitterness at all there, just a simple acknowledgement that QuiltCon is unlike any other show out there, which is one of the things I love about the show. Heck, some of the quilts that have won ribbons at other national shows never even made it into QuiltCon, which just goes to show that just because a quilt didn’t get in, doesn’t make it less amazing or not worthy.

QuiltCon reject 1

“Rejection #1” – S.W.A.K (Sealed with a Kiss)

If you are one of those feeling a little bruised because your quilt didn’t make it into QuiltCon (or another show for that matter), might I offer this bit of encouragement: you are doing your best work right now and it will only get better!

If you are new to the quilt show circuit then I recommend you start with a local or regional show first. Usually they aren’t “juried” shows which means they’ll accept quilts on a first-come first basis until the slots fill up. This is a great way to see how it all works – filling out an application, getting your quilt to and from the venue, what it feels like to read judges’ comments, etc.

QuiltCon reject 2

“Rejection #2” – Spools. Both this quilt and SWAK above are from my book Piece and Quilt with Precuts which just goes to show a quilt can still be publication worthy and not get into a show.

Then, once you’ve got your “big-quilter” britches on, go for the national shows. They all have a different aesthetic, different jurors, and different judges. Quilt show entering and judging is EXTREMELY subjective, so as long as you know that going in, you’ll be okay.

Machine Quilting Backing Detail

The back of Reject #3 which I can’t reveal yet because it’s slated to be published in a magazine next year. Even though it wasn’t juried into QuiltCon, it will be displayed in the publisher’s booth.

Here’s just a small list of shows that I enter regularly with links to their websites. I only enter shows with modern categories, so that limits things a bit, but know that there are a whole slew of shows out there and if you google “quilt show entry” you’ll find a wealth of information. If there’s a show you particularly like that’s not listed below – please leave details in the comments for others to see.

National Quilt Shows I Usually Enter:

Now, let’s go make some more fabulous quilts, whether they are included in a quilt show or not!!

10 thoughts on “Christa’s Soapbox – On Quilt Show Acceptance and Rejection

  1. Susan says:

    You are right, it is very subjective. When I look at your quilts above, neither of the QuiltCon acceptances are my favorite. That would be S.W.A.K. and that didn’t get in. I like to go to shows, have for decades, but I don’t enter them. I guess I never feel the push. =)

  2. WoolenPearls says:

    I certainly appreciate all of your views that you have shared on this particular topic through the years. But I think that the one thing that keeps stinging people is: Maybe there would be a little bit more room for more quilters to have their quilts accepted if there were not so many people that enter 5 quilts and get 5 in the show. Or 4 quilts entered and 2 or 3 quilts in the show. Yes, if a quilt deserves to be selected then by all means it should get it. But if the organizers of the show know that each year they will have 1400 +/- quilts entered for 350 spots maybe they could think about limiting the number of quilts accepted per person. Force those entering the quilts to pick the best of the best. Obviously, everyone can’t get in. But it just seems unfair to see quilt after quilt from the same person. Maybe cap it at 2 quilts per person and not in the same category. It is true that one can’t please everyone all of the time but I really feel this would go a long way in helping people feel less hurt about their quilts not getting in if they felt that they had a fair chance at a spot in the show.

    • Christa says:

      Thanks for joining the discussion! That’s a very valid point and was discussed at length via the committee in charge of updating the rules each year. Originally you could get as many quilts in the show as you wanted. This year they lowered that number from unlimited to 5. So that’s a huge change. I’m sure they’ll monitor the feedback and be open to making changes in the future as needed.

  3. Patty says:

    As a proud owner of 2 rejects this year (and 1 last), your post is timely. I’m quite proud that I entered two quilts and although I was bummed, I am already excited to try again next year. I love your suggestion of entering the quilt into other shows and will do that.

    Thanks and congrats on your stunning quilts.

  4. Bobbi Penniman says:

    I highly recommend the Mancuso shows, there are regional shows across the US.

    It’s David Mancuso now, brother Peter retired a few years ago. David and his team love modern quilts. I’ve worked with them for the past 4 years, getting special exhibits in place for Philly, Lancaster and Pittsburgh MQGs for the PA show. That show now had a clear modern spin.

  5. Glenna D. says:

    Thank you for this bit of advice and encouragement. If you are not always accepted then that makes me feel better about mine not making the cut. It does make sense, with so many entries in some of the shows, and knowing that even the jury process is anonymous takes away the feeling of rejection. I always learn something from you.

  6. patty says:

    You are lucky to have your pieces picked for QuiltCon because it is hard to figure out what they want. I have tried several times and my work was not appreciated and therefore rejected. I went to QuiltCon 2015 and took a quilt that was rejected. I showed it around and many quilters asked me why I didn’t enter it. I explained that I did and it was a reject. They were astounded. I was too once I saw the quality of some of the quilts that were accepted. I think it is great that QuiltCon exists and it does serve a segment of quilters that had no place to show their work, but I will not enter any more and waste my money as I am not part of the in crowd.

    • Christa says:

      Thanks for adding your input! There’s really no way to know what any show wants because it’s a new jury and judging team each time. I’m from Las Vegas and a friend of mine says entering shows is like “quilt casino” – you never know how it will turn out, LOL!!

      There’s definitely no “in-crowd” in any juried quilt show because jurying and judging is always blind, which means those scoring the quilts never know whose quilt it is. The quilts are compared to others that were submitted at the same time, so the variety of quilts can vary widely depending on what was submitted in a particular year.

      I think the key to having a positive experience and not feeling bitter about entering is submitting the same quilt in to multiple shows to get different feedback, and no matter what, enjoy the feeling of a job well done. You never know when one show’s “rejection” will be another show’s blue ribbon winner. 🙂

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

      On Fri, Dec 15, 2017 at 5:12 AM, Christa Quilts wrote:


  7. Judy says:

    Thanks, Christa, for all this information. Good to know the hows and whys. The only show I have ever entered is my local guild’s show….I make quilts to be given as gifts and that’s where I receive my satisfaction. Oh I LOVE attending shows and seeing it all, I LOVE seeing the quilts at “the Big” shows, too. It is all eye candy to me and always such inspiration. I am not on Instagram anymore…I was spending too much time browsing and not enough of my time sewing… we each have our own level of time commitment and energy.
    I appreciate YOUR energy, and your sharing.

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