Rose's Quilting Blog

What Do Judges Look For When Judging a Quilt?

What Do Judges Look For When Judging a Quilt?

How to Create an Award Winning Quilt that Quilt Judges Notice? 

Have you ever entered a quilt within a show, a major state show, or a

juried show, etc and wondered at just what some of the things are that judges look for within a quilt?

Do you wonder why some people’s quilts always seem to win, when
possibly think that other quilts would have been just as worthy of the awards, as this person who always seems to win awards?

Would you like to enter a quilt within a show but are unsure of what the
judges may be looking for within a quilt?

Do you ponder within your magnificent brain, as to whether
“you’d be game enough to enter one of your quilts within a show”?

Do you procrastinate about entering a quilt within a show?
Sometimes the Best Step Forward is by “Just Doing it”

It doesn’t matter if you don’t win a prize, it’s the amazing feeling,
excitement and pride that you’ve taken the step to enter a show and then to actually see “Your Beautiful Personal Magnificent Masterpiece” hanging there amongst all the other magnificent quilts as well.

This below insight and knowledge will hopefully answer many of the
questions that you may have asked yourself and others over time and possibly even pondered somewhat while viewing the many beautiful and glorious quilts that “dangle” right in front of our eyes when visiting these magnificent quilts shows, that are held all over the world.

Please be aware that this isn’t a comprehensive list, but for any one that
hasn’t shown before and think that they’d really love to place a quilt within a show, then this’ll  help give you an overview, and for those that have already entered into shows, you may find some information that you weren’t aware of.

Please don’t be daunted by this list, as many of these things you just do
without actually realising it.

One of the first things that a judge will look for will be..... 

Their first visual impression of the impact that the quilt will give them.
This can include the design, colour, piecing, appliqué if any, techniques, the quilting design, the mediums used, the borders and the finishing.

Next a judge will move onto things like:

  • Modern or Traditional,
  • The accuracy of the piecing,
  • Grains placed accurately,
  • All threads run into the quilt, not left hanging and uncut,
    (You may like to check out the two below You Tubes on this).
  • The overall design, Is it an original or from a pattern,
  • If the sashings and borders are mitred, are they sitting flat and square.
  • The different mediums used throughout the quilt.
  • Is the technique and use of the different mediums understood,
  • Do the mediums blend well together in their usage,
  • What is the main focal point of the quilt?
  • Do the colours and design harmonize and marry well together,
  • If points are used, do they still have all their points,
    or have they been sewn in or cut off,
  • The overall tension of the sewing,
  • Does the quilt have the correct proportional sizing of objects to create reality,
  • How are the ends finished off,
  • No back tracking to finish off,
  • Is the quilt clean and free from odours, and animal hair,
  • Does the quilting design enhance the quilt design,
  • Is the quilting design evenly placed over the entirety of the quilt,
  • Does the thread choice compliment the quilt,
  • Are the quilting stitches sewn evenly,
  • Is there any unsightly back tracking,
  • No marking lines still showing,
  • Have the bindings been added correctly and smoothly,
  • Is the binding full with wadding to the edge and no ripples,
  • Are the bindings both the same width on the front and back of the quilt,
  • Corners of mitres on the binding need to be sewn closed.

    Always do remember that on the day, the judges decision is final, and it's their choice at that precise time and day. Judges have an enormous job to do when choosing one quilt over another. 
    If your quilt does not win an award on that particular day, then don't lose heart as on another day, a different show, it may take off many awards or even a Best of Show. 

The list is a little endless, but judges will always have their list of the things
that need to be checked off. Generally if you follow these few basic guidelines below then you'll be well on your way to having a quilt of show quality:

  • Good choice of overall design,
  • Good fabric colour choices,
  • Good quilting design,
  • Good quality thread,
  • Complimentary thread choice,
  • Tension working well,
  • Precise workmanship,
  • Thread ends all knotted and run in,
  • Mitres sitting as a mitre should,
  • Sashing's and bindings sitting flat,
  • The smaller and finer details precise,
  • Quilt hangs square and flat when finished.

In general, if you are not 110% happy with something, then STOP 
and FIX IT, then and there.

Don’t keep going, thinking that no one will notice, ten minutes now is so
much faster than hours spent later.
Slow down and don’t be in such a rush to get this quilt finished, to start on the next.

Quilts are a journey and need to be enjoyed during the making process.
It doesn’t matter, if it takes a couple of more weeks to have a quilt finished, that
you feel is then worthy of seeing hanging in a show.

The above are just a few tips. At the end of the day, it’s your personal preciseness that'll make the difference, and of course the absolute love that you have lovingly put into the quilt.

It started off as a piece of fabric and a reel of cotton, then you came along,
and used your imagination, skills, scissors, pins, machine, needles, time, intention, desire and love and  now you’ve created  a WOW factor in the most incredible magnificent masterpiece that you’ve made…….

until the next one anyway………..

As long as you enjoy what you’re making, and for whatever reason, is what it’s
all about.

Not everyone wants to make a quilt for the judges to have to turn
themselves inside out trying to decide which quilt will be the one for that day…the poor judges having to make that decision.

Your four year old won’t mind if some of the points are missing, and the
stitches a little uneven, the fabric not sitting flat or maybe the colours not even matching, if you LOVE what you are doing, then that is the Most IMPORTANT thing…

We all sew for many different reasons, and it doesn’t matter to the next
person, why you chose your particular type of sewing, it’s yours and that’s all that matters.

If you want to make quilts for a show, then the above tips are just a bit of
a guide line, and at the end of the day, it comes down to your preciseness just like this little story from Michelangelo.

Michelangelo came into this world over 500 years ago and he was
almost 90 years old when he died. He left us with some amazing masterpieces that’ll live forever and ever. Sculptures like David and Madonna and Child, paintings like the Sistine Chapel ceiling as well as magnificent architecture, countless drawings, and so many other truly magnificent pieces of workmanship.

How does one accomplish such perfection and lasting beauty?
This is an interesting question if you wish it to be, and this below story may just help you see magnificence through the eyes of a “true artist.

One day Michelangelo was putting some finishing touches to one of his
statues when a friend came by, a few days later the friend came by again and when he looked at the statue he commented that, 

“The sculpture, he couldn’t have done much to it since he was there last.”

And Michelangelo, you know, he raised his eyebrow and he said,
“Well I’ve retouched this part, I’ve polished that, I’ve softened features and brought out this muscle, I’ve given more expression to the lip and more energy to that limb......”

The friend said, “Well, oh yeah, but you know, those are just trifles.”

And Michelangelo said....

 “Well perhaps so, but trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.”

I’ll leave you all here today to “Ponder” on Michelangelo’s answer.


Here are two short videos to show you how I run in All my thread tails as I'm sewing. This way you'll never sew or quilt over a thread tail, as well as when you've finished your quilt, all tails are finished with!


To help you further on your quilting journey, particularly if you're looking for

some finer points to help you "Win Awards Within Quilt Shows", then you may like to read this paperback book that I wrote some time ago.

It has lots of very valuable but very simple information within the pages that'll help you on your personal quilt making journey.

I've won many awards for my quilts but I must admit that over the last
couple of years I haven't made a new exhibition quilt due to teaching and a few other things, BUT I can assure you that there is definitely one growing within my vision in my head... I don't work from patterns I just get an image in my head and that's it.... I work from that.

  My Paperback Book                 

That's it for me today,

I'll be back again before you know it with more inspiring information to help you on your creative quilting journey

Have a beautiful day