What Judges Look for
in a Prize Winning Quilt

Judges look for various things when evaluating quilts. Here is a general list of what you might expect:

Overall appearance. Both front and back, judges look at both sides.

Emotional appeal. Does the quilt produce a response from the viewer?

Theme quilts - does it carry out the theme?

Effective use of color. Is there visual appeal? Is there original use of color and design?

Appropriate use of prints. Have a mix of large, medium, small prints, be careful not to overpower some prints with others.

Bindings. Bindings should be tight, narrow, and firm. Don't have limp, loose, un-stuffed bindings.

Hand Quilting. Nice, even stitches should be dispersed across the quilt. Make sure there is sufficient quilting over the entire surface of the quilt, and that it is balanced. Don't leave large unfilled areas.

Machine Quilting. Don't overdo it. Too much detailed machine quilting obscures the pieced design and can cause quilts to "belly" or "waffle". Bury the ends of the threads in the quilt.

Cleanliness. No smudges, no pencil lines, no dog or cat hair, and ideally unwashed and unused.

Construction. How well is it put together, are seams straight, do points come together? No floating seams, no pitches in seams, all pieced blocks should lay flat, make sure corners are 90 degrees, etc.

Balance. Do the design and quilting harmonize, or does one overpower the other? Is the quilting proportionate to the size of the blocks?

Category. Is this quilt entered in the right category for judging? Does it belong more appropriately in another category? It might be passed over completely if it does.

Innovation. Is this quilt truly different, in style and design, or have you just used the newest bright color palette?

Embellishments. Should be appropriate and serve a purpose in the design of the quilt. They should enhance the design, not detract from it.

Here are some more hints:

  • Use mitered corners in borders.
  • Measure top, middle & bottom widths of quilt, they need to be the same.
  • Your quilt should hang nicely, not be friendly and "wave".
  • Don't have quilting knots visible on front or back.
  • If your quilt is tied it should not further than 4" apart. (Note, most shows don't even accept tied quilts)
  • Don't cut the ties too short, and on baby quilts put a drop of crazy glue on knot to keep them from coming undone.

Finally, some quilts will simply appeal to some judges and not to others. You will have luckily (or unluckily) picked something that judge has a personal interest in (or lack of). Many judges will be drawn to styles that they have not seen repeatedly in other shows, so a "different" design, an original pattern, or unusual twist on an old favorite might just put you into the winner's circle.

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