Quilting Tip #31: Some Perspective

This last quilting tip calls for some perspective on quilt show judging.

Quilt show judges have a very difficult job, and no one will get rich doing it (one told me she accepted payment for judging county fair quilts in pie!).  They can assess over 300 quilts in 2 consecutive eight-hour days.  That’s enough to make anyone cross-eyed.  While they honestly strive for objectivity, judges are human beings with biases and preferences.  Since only one quilt can win Best in Show, someone is ALWAYS unhappy with EVERY decision a judge makes.

When I submitted Homage to my local guild show, it won a blue ribbon in its category, but did not win the professional quilting ribbon here in Tucson.  From there I submitted it to several state and national shows, where it was  juried in but never got more than an honorable mention.  Its last stop was Paducah, and I was THRILLED that it got accepted but figured that would be the end of it because of its showing elsewhere.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that it had won one of the biggies!  Now, Homage faced different competition and different judges in each show, so one explanation for the Paducah ribbon was that Homage was up against some really crummy quilts that year.  I prefer to think that it won because the judges were the most astute, brilliant, and tasteful on the planet…but whatever the reason for the Paducah win, I have learned that judging–and jurying–is really a roll of the dice.  Always take it as it comes and remember that you asked for it–the judging process is voluntary.

So, are you feeling lucky?

Yes, this is my license plate!
Yes, this is my license plate!

4 thoughts on “Quilting Tip #31: Some Perspective

  1. I am just beginning to enter my work into challenges. I guess shows will be my next step. I do have a question, though. If judging and jurying is really only a roll of the dice, why enter shows at all if we can’t rely on shows and judging to give us a sense of whether our work is actually good? But many quilters do and they list their awards in their resumes. So there has to be more to it.

    1. Thanks for asking Arja! I would say that quilt judging is not a pure science, where anyone can look at 2 quilts, add up points, and say definitely that any one quilt is better than any other quilt and get the same answer every single time. If you are looking at why a specific quilt won first place in one show and not another, you are comparing apples to oranges: different judges and different competition, and possibly even different categories.

      Some shows don’t judge to a standard. That means that if only one quilt is entered in a category, it gets a blue ribbon. Even if it is falling apart. Hardly seems fair, does it?

      So a ribbon is a snapshot of one quilt in one show on one day compared to a very specific set of quilts by one set of judges. Few quilts win the best in show prize in every show they are entered in, from the local guild show to Paducah and Houston. But those that win even once at that level are probably great quilts by any standard. Does that make sense?

  2. Mary;
    this is been a really enjoyable bunch of lessons. I bet a lot of quilters out there that regularly read this are better quilters as a result. Keep up the good work. I’m proud of you. Dad

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.