So What Do The Judges Say? Print E-mail
Written by Steffani McChesney   
Monday, 23 February 2009 00:00

I was very lucky to be able to act as a scribe at the judging for our 2004 quilt show. It was quite a learning experience. Even if you are not interested in entering your quilts in a show for judging, knowing what the judges look for can really improve your work.

The whole process of taking down the judges’ comments for the critique sheets was fast and furious so I may not have included every point they made. For that, I’m sorry, but here is what I remember. These points will help you to achieve your personal best.

  • Batting must fill the binding.
  • Corners should be 90-degree angles.
  • Edges should lie flat and smooth. No ripples. Quilting to the edge of the quilt should solve this problem. Also using a walking foot to sew on your binding will help.
  • There should be equal amounts of quilting over the entire surface of the quilt. Most quilts could benefit by adding more quilting. Especially in wall hangings, which need lots of quilting for support. Quilts were marked down for not enough quilting.
  • Judges looked at the effects of techniques used to see if they will stand the test of time.
  • They wanted the quilt to “tell a story,” meaning the title, the choice of fabric, the patchwork and/or appliqué design, and the quilting should assist each other in making a complete statement of what the quilt was about.
  • These judges liked to see a quilt that is a historical unit. For example, if you use 1860s reproduction fabric you should use quilting motifs from that same period.
  • They always checked to see that appliqué was securely sewn down around the edges.
  • They even smelled the quilt. One quilt had been washed with lavender fabric softener, which was still very strong. There should be no odor in the quilt.
  • One of our judges was allergic to cats. She had to step outside briefly because a lot of the quilts had cat hair and dander on them. Quilts should be brushed as free of pet hair as possible. I know it’s impossible to keep your cats completely away from your quilts (I have two cats. One likes to lie on the quilt as I try to machine quilt it) but do try.
  • The judges liked a lot of contrast and good use of print scale and color to enhance the quilt design.
  • They were very conscious of how the quilting enhanced the patchwork and appliqué. Some quilts were not considered for a ribbon based on whether the quilting enhanced the design or not.
  • They liked invisible appliqué stitches but were not overly concerned about really small quilting stitches. Even stitches were more important. There were several “big stitch” quilts submitted that the judges liked because the large quilting stitches enhanced the folk art look of the quilts.
  • All marking on quilts should be removed. Quilts were marked down for visible quilting markings.
  • All quilts should lie flat.
  • Edges, border seams and sashing should be straight. No waviness.
  • Straight quilting lines, such as grid lines, should be straight.
  • They did not like points that were not sharp. Especially when the binding cut off points along the edge of the quilt. Same with corners in patchwork.
  • They seemed to prefer thin binding (one quarter inch or less) to wider binding.
  • Binding should be mitered and sewn closed.

Hope this will give you an idea of what judges look for. Remember, though, judging is very subjective and every judge has his or her own special pets and peeves. A quilt that might be rejected by one judge might be to the liking of another. So keep on improving and never give up.


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