It was a really special night for me because I was awarded with my very first Best in Show award for Release Your Light!
I've gotta say, it's one of the most amazing experiences to enter shows and win ribbons, and I love helping other quilters learn how to quilt show winning quilts.
But one question many quilters ask is:
What is the difference between a quilt that wins awards and one that doesn't?
In truth the answer to this question isn't easy, and I don't pretend for a second to know exactly what judges are looking for in ever show.
But here's what I do know: a show winning quilt is one that has been QUILTED for show.
While this may seem really obvious, look where I put the emphasis - right on your quilting!
Most American quilters piece. That's not a judgment or a criticism, that's just a plain Jane fact. We developed quilting in a patchwork style and piecing remains the #1 way to create a quilt top.
So most quilters spend the largest amount of time focusing on 2 aspects of their quilts: fabric choice and piecing arrangement.
But you can have the most stellar, intricately pieced, amazing quilt, and still lose your shirt at a quilt show because your quilting design stinks.
The judges for our show shared the following criticism of the show as a whole (and I'm paraphrasing here from memory):
"There are too many all-over quilting patterns used on the quilts that have nothing to do with the design as a whole. Also, the quilts need more quilting."
Okay, so what does this mean?
The first sentence is easy to explain. Most quilters will use an all-over pattern, like a large scale meandering to fill a big quilt quickly.
This style of quilting is perfectly fine if your quilt is a bed quilt, meaning you intend to snuggle with it and find it particularly cozy and comfortable.
But large scale meandering is not show quilting!
First off, large scale meandering completely ignores the piecing design. You spend all that time piecing your blocks together and creating this masterpiece design of color and shape, only to slap a giant leaf shape over the whole thing.
What the heck does a leaf shape have to do with a monkey wrench block? Nothing!
Instead of slapping any old pattern over those blocks, stop and look at your quilt for a minute. What can you draw attention to? What can you add in texture that hasn't been added in color or shape?
This leads perfectly into explaining the second sentence. Show quilts require more quilting.
You need more quilting stitches, and much less space between your stitching lines, in order to be competitive.
If you look closely at most of the filler designs created in this project, my standard distance between quilting lines is slightly larger than 1/8 inch. This means that whatever parts of my quilt that are not filled with puffy quilting motifs, those are filled with dense filler stitching.
Of course, if you want a bed quilt that's going to be warm and snugly, stitching this densely is not the way to go!
This level of quilting results in a quilt that has both the texture and feel of cardboard. Not all judges like this level of quilting either! Many have a problem with machine "overquilting" because it's absolutely not something that traditional hand quilters would ever have done.
But this level of quilting is very hard to ignore because it's so dramatic.
So next time you decide to quilt a quilt for show, hang your quilt on the wall for a few days (or weeks) and look at it.
Literally sit and stare at your quilt. Look at how the piecing design works and think about ways to add or subtract from that design. Try sketching the quilt on graph paper or even taking a photo and printing a picture in black and white color and sketch the quilting design on the image.
Ideally you should take just as long planning and quilting your quilt as you did picking the fabric and piecing it.
And of course, all this goes without saying that after piecing and quilting a quilt for show, you will take the time to bind it, tag it and attach a sleeve perfectly.
Quilting for show is not for everyone and please don't feel pressure to quilt in a way that you don't like. If you love making bed quilts - make bed quilts!
But if you crave ribbons and the thrill of competition, start spending a bit more time on the quilting process and I promise your efforts will pay off!
Let's go Quilt!