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!

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Pantone Quilt Challenge for 2017 – Featuring Greenery

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! To celebrate, I thought it would be fun to help spread the word about the upcoming Pantone Quilt Challenge for 2017, featuring Greenery. In my opinion, it’s a much more palatable color than those that have been chosen the last couple of years!

Pantone Color of the Year Greenery

This year’s challenge is hosted by Rebecca Bryan of Bryan House Quilts and Sarah Elizabeth of No Hats in the House.  The basic idea is that you use Greenery to create a quilt and enter into one of 3 categories.

Pantone Quilt Challenge 2017 judges Carolyn Friedlander, Jennifer Sampou and Christa Watson I’m excited to be one of the judges along with Carolyn Friedlander and Jennifer Sampou.

There will be first, second, and third prizes for all the categories, plus several random “door prizes”. The deadline for all entries is May 29th. Check out either of their blogs (Becca’s and Sarah’s) for complete details. I can’t wait to see all of the amazing entries!

The first place winner in the Quilt Top category will win a box of my Piece and Quilt Thread Collection, courtesy of Aurifil.

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Machine Quilting With Style: Ripples Re-imagined

Ripples is the first quilt presented in my book Machine Quilting with Style. The technique is what I call “structured improv.” The basic block shape is a traditional log cabin. However, each of the individual “logs” in the quilt are cut and pieced improvisationally so that no two blocks are alike! I selected teals and grays from my stash, plus leftovers from other projects. Here’s the original quilt as it appears in the book, my abstract representation of rippling water:

ripples_no_background

Ripples 66″ x 88″ by Christa Watson. Photography by Brent Kane.

Let’s Play!

Now it’s time to have some fun, discovering alternate looks for this design! Of course the layout possibilities are endless. Here’s a another version, showing the same color scheme, set in a more traditional “barn-raising” layout. I imported swatches of fabrics from some of my favorite fabric brands into EQ7 to create a “virtual stash” for this quilt.

ripples_bluegrey_barnraising

I design my quilts in EQ7 so that I know what they’ll look like before I make the first cut!

Here’s another layout, and another colorway, using Bonnie and Camille’s Ruby collection, plus coordinates  from my “virtual” stash. I selected reds and greens for one half of the block, with aquas, creams and light grays for the other half. I set the blocks slightly differently so that now the ripples go the other way and are more centered.

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Here’s another graphic layout with very strong lines, called Zig-Zags, using the same fabrics. In all variations, the same number of blocks are made, but each block is rotated differently.

ripples_bandc_zigzag

Isn’t it fun to explore the possibilities? I hope you will enjoy seeing all of the quilts from Machine Quilting with Style re-imagined over the next few weeks. Perhaps you’ll discover that one of the designs speaks to you in a new colorway.

Celebration Giveaway

Each week as I share the re-imagined quilts, I’ll celebrate the one-year milestone of my book release with a giveaway. To start off, I’ll give away a signed physical copy of Machine Quilting with Style to one lucky reader here in the US! And my publisher will send an e-copy to one of my international friends!

Machine Quilting With Style

To enter, leave a comment letting me know if you’ve ever made a log cabin quilt – and if you want to share – how many?? For an extra bonus entry, you can share a picture of your favorite log cabin quilt you’ve made in my Facebook group: Quilt with Christa.

Comments will be open through next Thursday at 6PM PST. I’ll  a choose two winners at random (one US, one Int’l.) and will announce their names in next week’s post on Friday, along with the next virtual quilt!

Click here to see all of the quilts from Machine Quilting with Style.

Scrap Quilt Designer Showcase with Persimon Dreams

Today, I’m pleased to be a part of Kim Lapacek’s Scrap Quilt Challenge over on her blog at Persimon Dreams. On the 15th of each month through October, Kim will be featuring a different designer talking about how they approach quilting with scraps. The funny thing is that I never considered myself a “scrap quilter” until I started realizing that I do love scraps, if they can be organized in a controlled way (yep, that’s a little bit of my type A control freak personality showing!!)

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Controlling the Chaos

This actually goes well with my approach to improv as well. It’s hard for me to go completely willy-nilly as I still like to have some structure in my quilts. Today I’ll share are a few examples of quilts and blocks where I’ve mashed up “controlled scrappy” together with “structured improv” to create some really dynamic quilts!

my_stash

I don’t keep a separate scrap bin – I just sort my fabric chunks by color and then try to use as many different prints as possibly in my “controlled scrappy” quilts. I don’t let my stash get too big so it’s easier to work with. If I don’t love something on the front, I’ll throw it on the back.

The following three examples are all from my first book, Machine Quilting with Style. I didn’t even realize what I had done with the controlled scrappy/structured improv thing until the quilts were finished. No wonder they are 3 of my favorites from the book!!

Lightning

This is “Lightning”. I pulled out all of the black, white and gray fabrics from my stash to put this one together, creating improv rail fence blocks. To add a pop of color, I added some solid yellow/green. I didn’t have enough of either color – so I just used both!!

My approach to fabric selection is why choose 1 or 2 fabrics when 20 will do?

Ripples

I used a similar approach when combing through my stash, pulling fabrics for “Ripples” above. Again, I started with a controlled palette of aqua and gray, pulling every fabric I had in those two colors ranging from light to dark. I love the movement that is created when many different fabrics are used.

I think more is more when it comes to fabric selection, don’t you?

Facets

“Facets” above is my absolute favorite quilt I’ve made to date. Although I “cheated” a little and started with a 28 piece fat quarter bundle for this quilt, (using my Kona Designer palette), I really wanted to show that you can still get a scrappy look and feel using only solids. The solid white background sets it off and provides contrast, but I’m really tempted to remake this using scrappy backgrounds, too!

By combining scraps with improv – you can use even the tiniest leftover bits to make your own fabric, then cut it up into recognizeable shapes!

Scrap Happy Blocks

I used the same approach to combining scraps with improv when making these two blocks that are part of a larger designer block program.

scrappy_heart_finished

My Scrappy Happy Heart is part of The Splendid Sampler block series. It’s a paper pieced block that uses up to 16 different fabrics. Can we say scrappiness galore?? Wouldn’t a whole quilt of them be just fabulous??

Click here for the free block pattern to make Scrappy Happy Heart.

1b_improv_star_flat

Improv Star was made for the Aurifil Designer of the Month Series. I had just made a quilt using the colors above and had enough leftovers to create this fun block from the scraps! I’m starting to explore the idea of taking traditional blocks and making the individual block units from scrappy improv. I think it makes for a much more interesting block, don’t you?

Click here for the free block pattern for Improv Star.

Join the Challenge!

If you are inspired to start using up your scraps, be sure to join in on the Scrap Quilt Challenge and link up your project. Complete rules are listed on Kim’s blog and you have until Nov. 3rd to link up! When you do, be sure to also share your scrappy quilt over in my Facebook Group so we can all ooh and ahh over it!!

And finally, as my welcome gift to those of you who are new to my blog, be sure to click here to to get my free Puzzle Box PDF pattern. It’s perfect for using up leftover scrappy strips!!

Puzzle Box Pattern

 

Facets Quilt Wins 2nd Place Modern in Paducah 2016!

This week has been crazy busy and exhilarating! I was packing up to teach at EQ Academy earlier in the week when I got the email notice that Facets had won an award at AQS Quilt Week in Paducah, Kentucky – the mother of all quilt shows! Knowing I wouldn’t be able to attend due to my prior teaching commitment, I lamented the fact that I’d miss the awards ceremony and hoped someone I knew would be able to take pictures for me and let me know how it did.

By the way, when you get these emails from quilt shows, they don’t notify you of placement – they just say you have won “an award.”

Facets Quilt

Facets, 2nd at AQS Quilt Week Paducah 2016 – photo courtesy of Cassandra Beaver.

Then when I heard that AQS would be broadcasting the awards ceremony live on You Tube I was so excited to watch! As I’ve said many times before, I don’t enter to win – I just want my modern quilts to be seen out there in the world wide web of quilters!

To start off the awards presentation, names of all of the Honorable Mentions were rattled off at once. When my name was not listed among this group, my heart skipped a beat and I thought, “OK, this is cool – I’m up a for another 3rd place finish.” After all, I had scored a distinctive yellow, pink, and green dogwood ribbon two years prior for Colorful Chevrons – the very first time Paducah debuted the modern category. At the time I considered it a fluke, thinking the only reason I got the award is that there wasn’t much competition.

AQS Awards Ceremony

Then they announced 3rd place and it wasn’t my name. Say what?? Anyone who’s ever entered or won at Paducah realizes that even a 3rd place finish awards more prize money than many 1st place finishes!! (Enough to pay for many more quilt show entries – the fees really add up fast.)

When my name was announced for 2nd place, I whipped out the iPhone, my hands shaking so badly that I barely managed to snap a dark picture on the computer screen before it disappeared from sight. I completely missed the first place finish because I was still in shock. (Thank goodness for social media so I was able to catch up later in the day).

Modern Quilts at Paducah

Paducah 2016 Modern Winners – From left to right: Facets (2nd), Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts by Cassandra Beaver (1st);  Big Love by Sheri Cifaldi-Morrill (3rd).

This win is especially validating because I had entered Facets into AQS Phoenix earlier in the year, with a bittersweet story as the result. Although I wasn’t disappointed that it didn’t ribbon in Phoenix, I was pleased to learn that AQS wanted to feature the quilt in their 2018 wall calendar. However, my excitement was quickly dashed when they had to rescind the offer about 5 minutes later, after learning the quilt had already been published in my first book.

Quilt_montage

Machine Quilting with Style features 12 show-worthy quilt patterns, including Facets!

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with entering published quilts into quilt shows of course, but since AQS also publishes books, they didn’t want to feature a competing publisher’s quilt image, even though the pattern wouldn’t have been included.

The audible sigh on the other end of the phone line was followed by a meek, “well….. just let us know…. if you have anything else we can consider…..” (I promptly gave them my email so they could send me details on how to submit a calendar entry, but all I got back was crickets….)

Facets Quilt AQS Paducah

Pat Sloan at Paducah with Facets – I love this pic!!

So yes, getting a ribbon for Facets was extra meaningful to me!! And now the best part of this story comes full circle. The lovely and talented Pat Sloan first invited me to be a guest on American Patchwork and Quilting Podcast back in 2014, shortly after attracting her notice with my first Paducah ribbon. Since that chance encounter she’s become a great mentor and friend. After the news of my win, she sent me this adorable picture of herself standing next to the quilt.

Thanks to social media, I felt like part of the action! Maybe one day I’ll get to go to Paducah. 🙂

Facets Machine Quilting

Facets Quilting Detail – photo courtesy of Kathy Mathews.

Facets Quilt Along Week 8 – Binding

If you’ve been following along each step of the Facets Quilt Along, it’s now time to bind your quilt! If you are just now finding my blog, you can still make one from the beginning – all of the blog posts are here.

FacetsQALbig

Although there are a million different ways to bind your quilt, I pretty much stick with one main method for binding and then finish either by hand or machine. To help you out, here are a couple of binding tutorials for you to reference:

My tutorial on basic quilt binding.
Binding by machine. (This one is older but still relevant.)

Prizes to be awarded next week!

As mentioned previously, everyone who participates in the Quilt Along and shares at least one picture of their progress on my Facebook group is eligible to win. You have from now until next Thursday, March 31st to share your pics. I’ll pick the winners on Friday morning and announce them here and the blog and on Facebook. Here’s a recap of the prizes:

  1. Everyone who shares a pic wins a free PDF pattern of their choice from my Craftsy shop.CQ-Patterns

2. Three random Grand Prize winners will each win a signed copy of my book (you choose which one),  a charm pack of my Kona solids, and an Aurifil thread spool of your choice from The Precut Store. Random winners will be chosen from all of the entries – the more times you entered (up to once per week), the more chances you have. Max entries is 8 per person (one for each step of the quilt along).

book-covers2

cwpalette_cropped

3. One bonus prize entry for those who complete their quilt by March 31. One winner will receive a jelly roll of their choice from The Precut Store.

Even if you are just getting started, be sure to share your progress over on Facebook at Quilt with Christa! And yes, if you cram and get more than one step done per week, you can still share and enter!

 

Fun Things Happening Around Here – Share Your Good News, Too!

I have two quick things I’d like to share!

First, I found out this week that my blog is one of the finalists in the National Quilter’s Circle blogger awards. Thanks you guys for nominating me – that makes a girl feel so great!! Click here to check out all of the finalists and vote for your favorites in all 4 categories. 🙂

20150321_blogger_awards

Second, I just got word that my quilt, Modern Logs won a 2nd place ribbon in the modern category at HMQS (the Home Machine Quilting Show in Salt Lake City, UT). It’s an amazing show full of very stiff competition!! I have entered quilts in that show now for the last three years and attended in person the last two times. Of course, it’s one of the ironies of life that the year I am unable to attend the awards ceremony is the year I receive recognition. 😉 I have a running joke around here that I only get ribbons at the big shows I don’t attend, LOL!!

Click here for a list of all of the HMQS 2015 winners.

HMQS_2ndThanks to Michelle Freedman (aka designcamppdx on Instagram) for the pic!

But enough about my good news – I’d like to hear about yours! What good things have happened to you or a loved one this week? (And if you are having a particularly bad week – here’s a virtual hug for ya!! XOXO!!)

Now it’s time to go sew!

Check Out National Quilter’s Circle Blogger Awards

The National Quilter’s Circle is now accepting nominations for your favorite quilting and fiber arts blogs. I had honestly never even heard of this before until they contacted me letting me know my blog had already been submitted by several different people (thank you).

20150321_blogger_awards

Nominations run through April 29th and the top four blogs with the most nominations in each category will then move onto the voting round which runs through May 15th.

Categories include:

  • Best Traditional Quilting Blog
  • Best Modern Quilting Blog
  • Best Quilting Patterns Blog
  • Best Fiber Arts Blog
  • Best Art Quilts Blog
  • Most Humorous Blog
  • Best Overall Quilting Blog

Click here if you’d like to nominate your favorite blog – including your own!

I always like to support contest like these because I think it helps get the word out about other quilting bloggers and brings the blogging and quilting community together. 🙂

Optical Illusion – The Finish

I was able to finish Optical Illusion just in time to submit it to QuiltCon (the all-modern quilt show and conference). Then I got the exciting news that it was selected for judging along with two of my other entries, Abacus and Spiraling Out of Control. There were over 1300 entries submitted this year which totally blew away the amount of entries received the first time around. What an awesome show it’s going to be!

cwatson_Optical_Illusion_1800Optical Illusion, designed, pieced and quilted by Christa Watson

Here’s a detail shot where you can see the quilting a little better:

cwatson_opticalillusion_detI had a lot of fun sharing this one on Instagram, because when my followers scrolled the reduced sized picture up and down, they could get the lines to move. What a fun trick! See if you can get it to move when you scroll this blog post up and down – it’s an interactive quilt!

Another “optical illusion” for this quilt was totally unintentional but added a fun surprise: when you hold it up to the light, you can see the geometric backing fabric shining through the white squares, creating a “stained-glass” effect. Cool huh?

stained-glassThis quilt is as fun to play with as it was to make! Since I finished ahead of schedule, I took a little time to make a not-so-fancy but utilitarian label for it, using the embroidery stitches on my machine. (It’s a Bernina 710 – since I know you are going to ask!)

labelI know several of you have asked for a pattern for it, so that’s in the works. I probably won’t release it though until after QuiltCon, to give me plenty of time to get it ready (and to see how it does during the judging process, LOL!!)

Now, it’s onto the next quilt….

Kona Cotton Solids Winner!

Congratulations to Karen M. whose favorite new Kona Solids color is Mediterranean. Great pick, Karen! You have just won this lovely custom parfait bundle:

Kona New ColorsThe next giveaway will start on Monday, October 13 and, trust me, you are going to want to win this one!!

Be sure to check back tomorrow for the next step of my Abacus Quilt Along!

Abacus - Kona's Pick

Doesn’t it look pretty made up into these pretty pastels? The possibilities are endless!