Christa’s Soapbox: Thoughts About Being a QuiltCon Juror 2019

QuiltCon – the modern quilting show and conference hosted by The Modern Quilt Guild – has recently opened quilt submissions for their 2020 show, so I thought now would be an appropriate time to share about what it was like to be on the jury of the 2019 show.

I’ve attended every event since the first one in 2013, have been lucky enough to have at least one quilt in every show, and have taught there 3 times so far (2016, 2017, 2019). In fact, I credit QuiltCon and The MQG with changing the course of my quilting career – for the better! So it was quite an honor and great responsibility when they invited me to be on the jury for the 2019 show, which took place in Nashville in February.

Cute QuiltCon Ribbons

QuiltCon award ribbons from the very first show in 2013

Now as you can imagine, I’m taking a bit of a risk here in even talking about this publicly since I know what a heartbreak it can be when your quilt doesn’t get in. Trust me, I’ve read enough “what were they thinking??” comments on social media to make my stomach turn. And I really do wish I could reach out and give every single person a huge hug for entering your gorgeous, wonderful, fabulous quilts!! It was truly a pleasure to see all 1800+ of them!!

Therefore, I thought it would be helpful and educational to talk about the experience in an open and honest way, with my hope for you to understand more about the process. I’ll be as transparent about it as I can, and would ask you the courtesy of being polite in your comments about this post.

My Quilt, “Charming Chevrons” hung in the very first QuiltCon in 2013!!

What’s a Juried Quilt Show?

First of all, let’s start with the basics. A “juried” show means that in order to display your quilt in the show, you must fill out an artist statement and include a high quality digital image of your finished quilt. A  panel of “jurors” (usually 4-5 people) look at each and every submitted quilt and then vote on which ones they believe should be a part of the show. The number one reason why a show is “juried” is simply because of supply and demand. There are only so many spots to hang quilts, and the number of entries far out weighs the number of spots available.

For example, each year QuiltCon receives approximately 1500-1800 entries and only has room for about 350 quilts. So that means 3 out of 4 quilts simply will not hang in the show due to space constraints. By comparison, a large national show (such as Road to California, Paducah, AQS, etc.) will likely have space to display 600-700 quilts or more, and my guess is that they don’t get anywhere near as many quilt entires. In fact, a friend recently told me that the upcoming International Quilt festival in Houston was able to accept about 75% of the quilts submitted this year. So please keep that in mind as I share more thoughts below.

To be clear, the JURY process and the JUDGING process are done by completely different people. The jury decides which quilts will hang in the show for the  judges to see.

Spiraling out of Control

My quilt, “Spiraling out of Control” hung at QuiltCon in 2015. Some day I’ll make a pattern!!

The QuiltCon Jury Process

Most of what I’m sharing here has been shared publicly so I’m not spilling any well-kept secrets. It’s up to an individual juror to decide whether or not they want to let others know they were part of the jury (after the show has ended of course). For obvious reasons, most people tend to stay silent about it.

Click here to read QuiltCon’s published judging and jurying documents.

In a nutshell, each juror takes a look at each and every single quilt that has been entered and gives it a numerical ranking. No juror knows how any other juror is voting and the final number is based on an average of all scores by all jurors. The juror gets to see two images of the quilt – an overall shot and a detail image. They can also read the artists’ statements if they so choose, but the juror does NOT see the names of who submitted each quilt. In this way, jurying is “blind” and fair.

The quilts that get the highest ranking are then accepted into the show, up until the maximum number of entries.  When there is a tie – usually for the mid-range of scores above the cutoff – the jury meets to discuss those quilts in more detail and decide which ones will be accepted until the total has been met. The MAJORITY of quilts fall into this category. So if yours didn’t make it in, I’m sure it barely missed the cutoff! (So try, try again!!)

The only category that was not juried was the youth category (quilts made by members under the age of 18). According to The MQG FAQ, “in order to encourage the next generation of quilters, in this category at least one quilt is accepted per quilter, should space permit it.” So if you know a child that wants to get involved with the show, I highly recommend encouraging them to enter!

My quilt, “Focal Point” from my first book hung at QuiltCon in 2016.

The Jury Takes Their Job Very Seriously

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard false rumors that the jury has an “agenda” on which type of modern quilt will be accepted (or not). That’s simply not true. I can tell you from my experience that the jury is a well-rounded group of folks with diverse backgrounds, quilting experience, and areas of artistic expertise. However, one thing the jury all has in common is that they make modern quilts and understand the modern aesthetic.

I can only speak to my experience doing this one time, but I can assure you that we were not instructed to favor any type of quilt over any other, we were not told to create a certain look for the show (other than modern) and we were expected to look at the quilts objectively without bias or favoritism. If we felt we couldn’t judge a quilt fairly on its own merits, then we could recuse ourselves from judging that quilt. There was no absolutely no drama when it came to any discussions and the whole experience was completely professional.

The jury IS allowed to enter a quilt into the show, (as are the judges) but they are NOT allowed to be judged- AND the jurying is still blind. So none of the jury knew if they were voting on other members quilts! For full disclosure, I did get ONE quilt juried into this year’s show – my Blooming Wallflowers quilt – but I had entered two more that didn’t get accepted. So yes, I got those “reject” letters, too!!

Diamond in the Rough Quiltcon 2017

My quilt “Diamond in the Rough” hung in QuiltCon 2017 and was in QuiltCon magazine that year.
It will be part of the Aurifil exhibit at this year’s International Quilt Festival in Houston.

Why Quilt Photography Can Make or Break Your Quilt

Unfortunately, there were a number of quilts that weren’t accepted simply due to poor photography. If we can’t tell if it’s finished or not, if we can’t see the quilting, if we can’t see the edges or the binding, it most likely won’t get in. If there are people in the quilt photo blocking the quilt, we can’t see what you are trying to show.

Also, some people try to get a “leg up” on the competition by creating a collage of more than one photo in the same image which usually works to their detriment. If we can’t tell what we are looking at, it most likely goes in the “not accepted” pile. We don’t need to see the back of the quilt unless that’s the side you are entering. Just show the front on a clear flat surface, with nothing distracting in the picture. And don’t “style” the shot. We just want to see the quilt, not a beautiful background or distracting props.

Also, it breaks my heart to see a quilt entry with poor lighting or fuzzy focus. There have been times where I’ve seen a gorgeous quilt photo later on social media (after the entries have been finalized) and I thought, why didn’t they use THAT image for their entry instead of the fuzzy one?? So again: good, clear, well-lit, uncluttered photography is a MUST.

Color Weave Quilt

The original version of Color Weave hung at QuiltCon in 2018.
it was in Modern Quilts Unlimited Magazine which is now sadly out of print!! 

My Personal Thoughts

The biggest take away from my experience on the jury is that it was extremely fair. For me, it was a very touching and heart-warming experience to look at each and every one of the quilts and read ALL of the artists’ statements. Some brought me to tears, others made me my heart sing with joy, and many made me think deeply about their work.

With over 1800 quilts to look at, I didn’t keep track of the hours and hours and HOURS I spent viewing all of the amazing, wonderful quilts. But It was the most uplifting quilting experience I’ve ever had – and if there were enough room, I would have accepted them all. I truly felt it an honor to interact with these quilts in such an intimate way.

One of the coolest things I heard this year was that so many quilters who were rejected previously were able to get something in this year. So you never know until you try. And I’ve seen many quilters who didn’t make it into QuiltCon go on to enter (and win) in other shows.

So I welcome your thoughtful questions and kind comments about the process. Of course I can’t speak to any individual quilts in the show as to why they were or were not accepted. And due to the sheer numbers of of quilts involved, there’s no feasible way to share individual juror feedback on any of the quilts. But what I can do is encourage you to enter future quilt shows.

Blooming Wallflowers by Christa Watson QuiltCon 2019

My one and only quilt that was juried into QuiltCon 2019 – Blooming Wallflowers.

It was so wonderful for my fellow jurors and I to be entrusted with your quilts. We all volunteered our time because we are just as passionate about quilts as you are. So please, if you entered a quilt and it didn’t get in, don’t think badly of the process, of THE MQG, or of your quilt. I can tell you personally that I saw your quilt and LOVED it – and would encourage you to keep making quilts, and PLEASE keep sharing them with the world!

I’m happy to continue this discussion in the comments as long as everyone plays nice. 🙂

Blooming Wallflowers Week 6 – Catch up Break & Inspiration

I’m adding in another “catch-up” break so that those of you following along will have plenty of time to work on your quilts. But just remember, you can work on Blooming Wallflowers on your own schedule, too! Scroll to the end for links to all of the previous QAL posts.

Blooming Wallflowers by Christa Watson QuiltCon 2019

Of course I had to match my shoes to my quilt!!
Click here to get a Blooming Wallflowers kit (while supplies last).

It was exciting for me to see Blooming Wallflowers hanging in the show at QuiltCon last week! The biggest comment I got was how much nicer it looked in person (probably due to my inadequate photography skills, LOL!)  and how much everyone loves the Navy Herringbone background from Modern Marks.

Now it’s your turn to show off what ya got so far! Take a look below at these fabulous works in progress being shared on Instagram #bloomingwallflowersquilt and in my Christa Quilts Facebook group. Then be sure to share your progress, too!

Student Work - Sandra C's version of Blooming Wallflowers

Sandra C aka @thebiasedge on Instragram shared her gorgeous quilt top that she’s getting ready to load on her long-arm. I can’t wait to see her quilting in progress!

Michelle H Blooming Wallflowers

I love how Michelle H made hers bigger by adding more blocks. Her print fabrics are fantastic!

Robin P's Blooming Wallflowers quilt

Robin P (aka Palm Beach Quilter) chose a light green background for her version. She made the baby size which is the exact same layout, except the blocks are smaller! I’ve included 3 different sizes in the quilt pattern so you can customize it to fit your needs.

Blooming Wallflowers top by Gayle S

Who says you have to use a dark background? Gayle S is creating a stunning version with white background and a fun polka dot accent fabric. Isn’t it so fun??

Next week I’ll start sharing tips for fun and interesting machine quilting – I can’t wait!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Come See Me at QuiltCon 2019 in Nashville! (And a fun personal update)

I can’t believe it’s already time to get packed and ready for QuiltCon which is happening next week! It’s been a whirlwind of a year for our family so far – moving into a new home and getting ready for our younger son leave for his mission to China this week. The older one will be moving back home for awhile to work for us, and we are sooo glad we got the bigger house with an extra room! During all the chaos, we were even able to sneak in a last minute Disney vacation over the weekend. It was a great way to celebrate all the changes happening this year!

Watsons at Disney 2019

Disneyland is truly our happy place!! Although it was a chilly weekend, I kept nice and toasty warm with my MQG Hoodie I got at last year’s QuiltCon!

But now, it’s time to transition back into quilting mode big time!! And I’m so excited to do that with my first teaching event of the year! If you are planning on attending QuiltCon but didn’t make it into my sold-out workshops, I have great news for you: there’s still room in my lecture, plus I’ll be doing several free events on the flow show all weekend long. So be sure to come up and say hi – I’d love to chat with you!

BERNINA demos at QuiltCon

Here’s my schedule of events:

Christa’s QuiltCon Schedule

  • Friday 1:00 PM Stage Demo – Free Motion Quilting with BERNINA
  • Friday 1:30 PM Meet ‘n Greet – Booth 712 Designs by Sarah J.
  • Friday 5:00 PM Stage Demo – Electric Quilt 8
  • Saturday 11:00 AM Stage Demo – Walking Foot Quilting with BERNINA
  • Saturday 11:30 AM Meet ‘n Greet – Booth 712 Designs by Sarah J.
  • Sunday 10:15 AM Lecture – Modern Machine Quilting

Click here to register for my lecture.

Christa EQ and QuiltCon

So far I have attended every QuiltCon since the event began in 2013. This will be my third time teaching there and it’s my favorite show of the year! I always get inspired when I go and I love learning more about the modern quilting aesthetic. Plus, it’s super fun to meet up with friends, many of which I’ve met because of my involvement with QuiltCon!

Christa and Sarah J

I’m excited to hang out in my pal Sarah J’s booth next week. She’ll have many of my fabrics, patterns and of course my books! Stop by to say hi and I’ll be happy to sign anything you like… (a book, a pattern, your arm, a blank check… just kidding!!)

QuiltCon 2019

Are you planning to attend? If so – I’ll see you there!!

QuiltCon Registration Opens June 26 for MQG Members

Just a friendly reminder that QuiltCon 2019 registration opens for MQG members Tuesday, June 26 at 7:00 AM Pacific Time (10 AM Eastern). Here’s a recap of what I’m offering:

My QuiltCon 2019 Teaching Schedule

DSMQ200 Walking Foot Wonders, Thursday Feb. 21, 9-5

Learn to stitch beyond the ditch and unleash the power of your walking foot to quilt modern or traditional designs. Walking foot motifs to be taught include: wavy lines, decorative stitches, irregular grids, several different spirals, straight‐line designs, and more. You’ll leave class armed with the confidence that yes, you can quilt your own quilts! This is a hands-on machine class with machines provided for each student.

Walking foot Quilting Workshop


QDR010 Plan Your Quilting (A), Saturday Feb. 23, 2-5 PM Or
QDR011 PLan Your Quilting (B), Saturday Feb. 23, 6-9 PM

How do you get from “quilt as desired” to a cohesive quilting strategy? Students
will practice sketching quilting motifs on paper, then learn strategies to apply those designs to an actual quilt top. Students will each have a chance to create several different quilting plans using images of their own quilts printed on paper, as well as learning how to create quilting plans for a wide variety of quilt designs. This is hands‐on drawing workshop.

Plan Your Machine Quilting


lec22 Infusing Modern into Machine Quilting, Sunday Feb. 24, 10:15 AM

This informative lecture is full of examples from previous QuiltCons, demonstrating how the modern aesthetic can apply to the machine quilting process. Learn how negative space, minimalism, graphic geometry, improvisation and other hallmarks of the modern aesthetic can be incorporated into your machine quilting work.

Attendees will gain a better understanding of why many modern quilters choose to employ an abundance of straight line and “industrial looking” designs rather than quilting overly ornate and perfectly symmetrical motifs. Suggestions on how to incorporate graphic and linear free‐motion quilting as an alternative to straight‐ line quilting will also be explored.

View from the stage at QuiltCon

View from my lecture last time I spoke at QuiltCon 2017


Non-member registration opens July 10 and I’m excited to be teaching for the third time with a new slate of workshops. If the prior years are any indication, things will sell out fast so set your alarm, make a list of first and second choices and be ready to roll when registration opens!

HST Remix by Christa Watson

My quilt, HST Remix hanging at QuiltCon 2018

If you plan to attend but aren’t sure if workshops are your thing – don’t worry – there’s still plenty to do. There will be social meetups every night, gorgeous quilts to be inspired by, and of course lots of food, shopping and fun! So make plans to attend QuiltCon in Nashville, Tennessee Feb 21-24, 2019. If you are unable to make it, click here to view my current teaching schedule.

QuiltCon 2019 Catalog Just Released – Here’s What I’m Teaching

I’m excited to be teaching at QuiltCon once again February 21-24 in Nashville, Tennessee. I’ve been to every QuiltCon since it began and this will be my third time as a member of the faculty. I’m most excited about the fact that although I’ll be plenty busy teaching 3 workshops and a lecture, I’ll still have plenty of time for all of the social events, too.

QuiltCon 2019 CatalogClick here to get the complete QuiltCon 2019 catalog.
Member registration opens June 26 and general registration begins July 10.

My QuiltCon 2019 Teaching Schedule

DSMQ200 Walking Foot Wonders, Thursday Feb. 21, 9-5

Learn to stitch beyond the ditch and unleash the power of your walking foot to quilt modern or traditional designs. Walking foot motifs to be taught include: wavy lines, decorative stitches, irregular grids, several different spirals, straight‐line designs, and more. You’ll leave class armed with the confidence that yes, you can quilt your own quilts! This is a hands-on machine class with machines provided for each student.

Walking foot Quilting Workshop


QDR010 Plan Your Quilting (A), Saturday Feb. 23, 2-5 PM Or
QDR011 PLan Your Quilting (B), Saturday Feb. 23, 6-9 PM

How do you get from “quilt as desired” to a cohesive quilting strategy? Students
will practice sketching quilting motifs on paper, then learn strategies to apply those designs to an actual quilt top. Students will each have a chance to create several different quilting plans using images of their own quilts printed on paper, as well as learning how to create quilting plans for a wide variety of quilt designs. This is hands‐on drawing workshop.

Plan Your Machine Quilting


lec22 Infusing Modern into Machine Quilting, Sunday Feb. 24, 10:15 AM

This informative lecture is full of examples from previous QuiltCons, demonstrating how the modern aesthetic can apply to the machine quilting process. Learn how negative space, minimalism, graphic geometry, improvisation and other hallmarks of the modern aesthetic can be incorporated into your machine quilting work.

Attendees will gain a better understanding of why many modern quilters choose to employ an abundance of straight line and “industrial looking” designs rather than quilting overly ornate and perfectly symmetrical motifs. Suggestions on how to incorporate graphic and linear free‐motion quilting as an alternative to straight‐ line quilting will also be explored.

The last time I taught at QuiltCon I was part of a panel lecture/discussion about managing your fabric stash with the lovely and talented Judy Gauthier, Rossie Hutchinson and Mary Fons.

This QuiltCon is shaping up to be one of the best, yet! There are loads of meetups and mixers and the class catalog offers the widest variety of lectures and workshops they’ve ever offered. I’ve got my eye on a design workshop I want to take, and there are plenty of lectures I’m interested in, too!

I hope you’ll make plans to attend, whether or not you take any workshops. QuiltCon is unlike any other quilt show I’ve attended – there’s definitely a party atmosphere there and half of the fun is the socializing! Leave a comment if you plan to attend and let’s get this party started early!!

QuiltCon 2018 – It Was Amazing!

I just finished a whirlwind 3 weeks of fun travel – to QuiltCon in California, Craftsy in Colorado and teaching in Oregon. Now that it’s taken me a week to recover from my adventures I’m finally ready to share my QuiltCon experience with you. It was, in a word, Amazing!!

So far, I’ve been to every QuiltCon since it began in 2013, and I’ve been super lucky to get at least one quilt juried into the show each year. (This year I had two – see below.) I was fortunate to be invited to teach at two of the shows so far (2016 & 2017) and QuiltCon is one show I’ll continue to attend each year because it’s just THAT awesome!!

Christa and Laurie from Modern Quilts Unlimited

Color Weave was one of my quilts juried into QuiltCon for 2018. It’s made from 3 colors of precut strips with simple pieced blocks. The color placement creates a woven illusion.

Here I’m hamming it up with Modern Quilts Unlimited editor, Laurie Baker. It was fun to have my quilt Color Weave hang and get judged in the show. The pattern is from issue 21 of MQU. (You can even click here to download a bonus tutorial on how I did the quilting for this quilt.)

Judges comments for this quilt:

  • Woven illusion is successful
  • Treatment of pattern at top and left give breathing space and add interest
  • Quilting compliments patchwork perfectly

Color Weave Straight Line Quilting Detail

Quilting detail of Color Weave – it was all done with straight lines using my walking foot. I used the piecing structure as a guideline for the quilting and varied the width of the lines using the edge of my foot and randomly changing my needle position.

This year at QuiltCon, it was kind of nice to have a break from teaching so that I could actually see the show, meet up with friends, and spend time networking with many of my quilting industry partners (like Hobbs, BERNINA, & Aurifil) along with the various shops who carry my books, patterns, and fabric).

Quilting Demo with Hobbs BattingI had a great time sharing machine quilting tips and tricks with folks who stopped by the Hobbs batting booth on the first day of the show on Friday. I talked the entire hour I was in their booth, so it was hard to get a picture of me without a funny expression on my face!

Spools Quilt from Piece and Quilt with Precuts

I loaned my “Spools” quilt from Piece and Quilt with Precuts to Hobbs for a few weeks so  they could use it to display in their booth at several quilt shows in which they are a vendor, including QuiltCon. Letting companies borrow my quilts for promotion is a win-win for both of us: they get to decorate their booths with colorful quilts, and my quilts get seen by a wider audience.

In Town Quilter's Booth at QuiltCon 2018

Above, clockwise: Squiggles from Piece and Quilt with Precuts, mini samples of patterns by Sylvia Schaefer of Flying Parrot Quilts, and a hand pieced, hand quilted block showing how Modern Marks plays well with other fabrics.

In-Town Quilters hosted me for a book signing in their booth on Friday of the show and I was pleased to see such a nice display of quilts and minis using Modern Marks fabric. It still makes me giddy when I see my fabric paired up with other designers’ patterns!!

I also did events for BERNINA and Modern Quilts Unlimited magazine on Saturday, but because I was so busy chatting – I forgot to take pictures. Needless to say, it fills my bucket when I get to chat with other quilters who love modern quilts as much as I do!

HST Remix quilt at QuiltCon 2018

HST Remix was my other quilt that was juried into QuiltCon 2018. It was hanging in the overflow room which had great architecture and beautiful chandeliers.

Judges comments for this quilt:

  • Fabric choices render pattern well
  • Quilting patterns fill spaces well
  • Area of gray in middle is really interesting element but feels slightly disproportionate

I actually appreciate the comments that offer constructive criticism even more than the positive ones, because that’s how I learn more about modern design. I’m still a fledgling student in this area and love learning all I can about what makes a successful modern quilt! In fact, each year I attend QuiltCon, it confirms my love for modern quilts and I’m always thinking about how to push myself to create more modern designs.

Quilting on HST Remix

Quilting on HST Remix – this one is big enough that it now fits on our bed!

I’ve been attending QuiltCon since the beginning, and one thing that struck me this year was the variety of modern styles. I think quilters are really branching out, taking risks with their designs and doing a lot more experimenting. There were a good mix of solids and prints, bright and more muted tones, machine and handwork.

And I was pleased to see a lot more interesting free-motion quilting. Don’t get me wrong – I love geometric straight line quilting as much as anyone. But I’m glad to see that more quilters are embracing “modern free-motion” (perhaps after attending my classes and lectures for the last 2 years and realizing it’s ok to quilt swirls and feathers on their modern quilts?? LOL!!). I was also impressed with the quality of the workmanship.

QuiltCon Hashtag

To view most of the quilts that were at QuiltCon, be sure to check out the hashtag #QuiltCon on Instragram – or click here. Those little squares in the collage above mean that there were multiple images shared in the same post – tons of amazing eye candy!

To be sure, QuiltCon places more of an emphasis on design and originality than workmanship and I think that’s totally fine. I attend and teach at a lot of shows and while they are all unique, most other shows emphasize workmanship over original design. Again – nothing wrong with that either, it’s just a different point of view.

When QuiltCon first opened, I was worried that many quilters would be intimidated to enter because they had less quilting experience or couldn’t afford to pay for expensive professional long arm services to bling up their quilts.

But I was comforted by the fact that at that first show, and each show since, more and more quilters are actually doing all of their own work, from start to finish. It has been fun to see many of these newer quilters gain confidence and experience in their work, and just five years later you can see that their efforts have paid off.

QultCon 2018 hashtag

Search #QuiltCon2018 on Instagram for even more fabulous inspiration!

One last thing to share: I served on the judging committee for QuiltCon – a volunteer position I’ve helped with over the last few years. No, I had nothing to do with this year’s judging or jurying. I just helped rewrite some of the policies so they’d be easy to understand for all who enter. One big change we made for 2018 was limiting the number of acceptances for any one person to 5 quilts and I think that was a great decision because created a more dynamic show that seemed fair to everyone.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience this year I and I truly hope you get a chance to attend in the future, if you haven’t already. QuiltCon will be in Nashville, Tennessee in 2019 and then back in Austin, Texas in 2020, where it all began. You can bet I’ll be there again for sure!!

Click here to view all of the winners from QuiltCon 2018.

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Meet Me at QuiltCon 2018: My Schedule of Events

I’m super excited for QuiltCon 2018 which takes place next week, February 22-25 in Pasadena California. Although I taught there the last 2 years, this year I’m excited to take it a little bit easier by being a student and attendee, and I can’t wait. However, I’ll still be super busy with a full lineup! If you plan to attend, I’d love to see you at one of my events listed below:

Christa’s QuiltCon Schedule

Christa at QuiltCon with Hobbs

On Thurs. Feb 22, from 12:15-1:15 I’ll be in the Hobbs Batting Booth #122 for a meet ‘n greet. I’ll have some small samples on display and will be happy to answer your questions about batting, machine quilting, and anything else! Rumor has it, there might even be a giveaway!!
Later that day, I’ll be helping out as a general volunteer from 4-6 PM. I’m sure I’ll be wandering the show, pitching in wherever help is needed. Volunteering is truly one of the best ways to get the most out of any show!
Christa at QuiltCon with Hobbs
On Fri. Feb 23, from 12:30-1:30 I’ll be having a book signing with InTown Quilters at booth #624. They’ll have copies of Piece and Quilt with Precuts for sale and some Modern Marks precuts. If you know you’ll be at the show and want to reserve a copy of the book ahead of time, be sure and contact them right away before they sell out.
star Shadow by Christa Watson
Star Shadow, designed and made by Christa Watson, featuring Modern Marks
On Saturday, Feb 24 from 10-11:30 I’ll be hanging out tin the Modern Quilts Unlimited Booth #105. They will have my quilt Star Shadow on display, and you can get the pattern in their latest magazine issue! For those of you enjoying Quiltcon from home, click here to purchase the latest issue #22.
Christa at QuiltCon with BERNINA
Later that day, starting on Saturday at 1:15 PM, I’ll be performing a live machine quilting demo on stage, followed by a Meet ‘n Greet & book signing in the BERNINA booth #502. I’m pretty sure BERNINA will have a machine or two in their booth that you can try out and see why it’s my favorite sewing machine!
The MQG book
Finally, I’ll end my day on Saturday from 5:30-7:30 hanging out at The MQG Book Signing Party, to celebrate the launch of the new book Modern Quilts: Designs of the New Century. I was thrilled to have 2 of my quilts featured in the book, which you can read about here.
QuiltCon 2018
I have to say, QuiltCon is my absolute favorite event – it features over 300 modern quilts and tons of great vendors. So far I’ve gone to every single show (since the first one in 2013). QuiltCon changed the course of my quilting career for the better and I’ve been pleased to have at least one of my quilts included in the show each time. For those not able to attend be sure to follow #quiltcon on social media, and check out a fun event that will be happing at the same time: #quiltconfromhome.

check out My Other posts from Prior QuiltCons:

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!!

The Making of Diamond in the Rough Part 2 – The Quilting

Click here to read about Part 1 – My design process for Diamond in the Rough.

Meeting up with Craftsy Acquisitions Editor at QuiltCon

Diamond in the Rough hanging at QuiltCon 2017. I’m with Linda Permann, my editor at Craftsy. I credit her with helping me put a name to the process I use to figure out how to quilt each quilt. It’s called “The Quilter’s Path.” Click here to register for my class of the same name.

Now I’m excited to tell you about how I quilted Diamond in the Rough, since that’s my favorite part of making any quilt! First of all, I printed off a copy of the EQ7 design on a regular 8 1/2″ x 11″ piece of paper. (You can do the same thing by taking a picture of your quilt top and printing it onto paper – black and white is perfectly fine!!)

Machine Quilting Plan

This is the actual sketch I submitted to QuiltCon Magazine when it was accepted.

I always, always make a quilting plan before I quilt so that I can figure out the quilting path I’ll take to get it done. It’s like a puzzle – figuring out what designs I want to put where and how to maneuver around the quilt with the fewest stops and starts. I’m not too worried about scale here. I’m more interested in seeing how the texture of the quilting will look and where I may need to switch thread colors.

Of course, I have to sketch with black ink to see my design, so my quilting plan is pretty rough and quite stark when you look at it. However, from experience I know that I prefer to use a blending thread so that all you see is the overall texture, rather than the individual stitches.

Diamond in the Rough quilting detail

Overall, I’m really happy with how the quilting turned out. I’m just a little bummed that you can’t see the quilting in the black areas. I quilted a textural pebble design in the black triangles. Although I love the contrast of black and white, each time I quilt on black, I remind myself that it doesn’t show up as well as I would like. So I may need to use less black fabric in the future!!

I’m really happy with how the “Switchbacks” and “String of Pearls” quilting turned out in the white areas of the quilt. I teach how to quilt both of those designs in my book Machine Quilting with Style. It was super fun to combine them together in this quilt!

Quilting Detail on Diamond in the Rough

I used very dark gray, red, and white 50 weight cotton thread from my Aurifil Piece and Quilt collection for the machine quilting which I did all on my BERNINA. You can sort of see the pebble quilting on the top row of black diamonds in the image above.

Here’s a view from the back of the quilt where you can see the pebbles better. I normally use the same color thread in the top and bobbin so that any tension imperfections are not noticeable. However, since I didn’t want the dark gray thread showing up too strongly on the light back, I used an invisible thread in the bobbin when I quilted the pebbles. Here’s a tip: wind your bobbin slowly and only fill it half full!

Managing the quilt bulk while machine quilting

First I stitch in the ditch with the BERNINA dual feed before adding free-motion quilting.

Here’s the quilt in progress underneath my machine. I use a very technical process I call “scrunching and smooshing” to wrestle the bulk of the quilt. It’s really no more complicated that twisting and shoving enough of it out of the way so I can see what I’m doing. Here’s another tip: when working with a large quilt on a small machine, just remember you are only quilting about 5-6 inches of the quilt at any time, so it’s normal to stop and shift a LOT!!

QuiltCon 2017 Cover

Right now you can get a digital copy of my Diamond in the Rough quilt pattern in QuiltCon magazine. It includes the instructions for the piecing only, but when the rights revert back to me next year, I’ll release it on my own, most likely in multiple sizes with quilting suggestions.

I was pleased with the comments I received from the QuiltCon judges about the quilt:

  1. Strong offset focal point.
  2. Varied quilting motifs were well chosen and fit areas well.
  3. Strong geometric shapes create graphic visual appeal.

I’ve had at least one quilt in each QuiltCon and have yet to win a ribbon, but it’s still fun to get them accepted. In fact, the main reason I submitted this design for the magazine was that it was a guaranteed entry into the show. Since the other 5 I entered didn’t get in, I was really happy that this one did.

Diamond in the Rough by Christa Watson, at QuiltCon 2017

Making this quilt reminds me what I love most about the modern aesthetic: strong geometric forms, minimalist designs, and plenty of negative space for fun machine quilting. Although I love ALL quilts, making those on the modern end of the design spectrum truly make my heart happy!

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My Trip to QuiltCon 2017

QuiltCon 2017 which took place in Savannah, GA, was such a flurry of activity and excitement! I taught 5 classes, gave 1 lecture and had 2 book signings, not to mention multiple meet ups and business brunches. It was a fantastic experience, although quite exhausting. The only thing I regret was not having more time to see the show. I could have spent days staring at all of the amazing quilts and reading all of the artists’ statements. One thing is for sure, I returned home on fire, ready to make some more modern quilts! Here are just a few of the highlights for me…

Meeting up with Craftsy Acquisitions Editor at QuiltCon

Linda and I took a picture in front of my Diamond in the Rough Quilt at QuiltCon.
I’ll share more detailed pics about this quilt in a future blog post.

One of the fabulous people I ran into was Linda Permann, the acquisitions editor for my Craftsy class. We discussed how well my current class is going and talked about future collaborations as well. I’ll be sure and keep you posted as that unfolds! Oh yeah, and she totally made her top. Isn’t it cute???

Machine Quilting Practice, student work from a class by Christa Watson

Student work from “Free-Motion Alternatives to Straight Line Quilting”

I taught three machine quilting classes and was so thrilled watching my students unlock the power of domestic machine quilting. Each time one of them would tell me how much fun they were having, I made sure to let them know it’s just as much fun for me, too!

Student work from Christa Watson machine quilting class at QuiltCon

Student work from “Free-Motion Improv” class

In each class, I shared inspiration images and a mini trunk show so they could see how I apply the motifs I quilt onto actual quilts. Then we practiced drawing out each design so the students could get a feel for how to quilt each shape. The most fun part of any class is when a student takes one of the designs and really makes it their own. I also love it when I hear comments like “I think I can DO this!!” Yes – you definitely can!!! 🙂

View from the stage at QuiltCon

View from the stage before my lecture. I love how everyone chats and makes  friends!!

I gave a lecture about tips and tricks for quilting on your home sewing machine. My #1 tip is to make a quilting plan and find your path so that you know what you are going to do before you get there. It was really fun to speak to an audience full of enthusiastic quilters and I even brought a few of my quilts so they could come up afterwards and see them “in the cloth.”

Student Work in EQ7 Class

Caroline from Sew Can She attended my EQ class and wrote up a really nice blog post about it.

I also taught 2 Electric Quilt classes plus had a book signing in their booth. The best moment of class for me was when a student said “Now I don’t need to actually sew quilts any more. I can just make them virtually in EQ!!
The Gals of EQThese gals that work for EQ are so amazing! From left to right it’s Jenny, Sara, Christine and Ann. They helped me out in the booth during my book signing as well as during my class. If you ever need technical support for the software, they are happy to give it! (That’s my Square in a square quilt from Machine Quilting with Style that was hanging in their booth.)

Pam and Lynn from The Stitch TV Show

While getting ready for my book signing in the EQ7 booth,  I ran into some friends of mine, Pam and Lynn from TheStitchTVShow.com. They ended up helping me set things up and they hung around for a bit, so I always had someone to talk to, LOL!! Lynn is the one that is the same height as me so we decided to put Pam in the middle and create a “Pamwhich.” 🙂

Angela Walters, Christa Watson, Tula Pink at QuiltCon 2017

Tula and I both agree that Angela is the best co-author ever!

Probably the funniest moment of the show came when Angela and I were signing copies of our book The Ultimate Guide to Machine Quilting. Tula Pink heard that we were there so she ended up crashing the party and it turned into the 3 of us signing both our books we wrote with Angela.

While Angela and I were writing our book, she was also working on the book with Tula. I joked around with everyone that I totally didn’t mind that she “quilts around” LOL!!! 🙂

Stephanie and Stephanie, the Quilting Podcasters

Two quilting podcasters, both named Stephanie

I personally think that QuiltCon is the most interactive quilt show out there. Not only could you hear squeals of delight as internet friends met each other for the first time, but you could take part in the show even if you weren’t there. QuiltCon set up a podcast booth right on the show floor where they invited 4 well-known podcasters to record interviews during the show. I was fortunate enough to be invited to chat for a few minutes with Stephanie from Sit and Sew Radio.

Sit and Sew Radio Podcast

Click here to listen to Sit and Sew Radio – the first QuiltCon edition.

You can also check out thousands of pics on instragram with the hashtags #quiltcon and #quiltcon2017. Plus the MQG has posted images of all the winners.

Machine Quilting Detail from Best of Show at QuiltCon 2017

Machine Quilting detail of Bling, the best of Show winner by Kat Jones.

QuiltCon 2018 will be Pasadena, California with keynote speaker Carolyn Friedlander, then in 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. So far, I’ve attended every show, and I plan to keep going to it every year because I personally think it’s the best party around!

QuiltCon 2018

For further reading, check out my experiences from:
QuiltCon 2016
QuiltCon 2015
QuiltCon 2013