Wednesday, April 8, 2009

To Show Or Not To Show

So you think you may want to enter a quilt show, but you're just not sure if you are willing to put your creation out in the public eye and if it is of quilt show caliber. Should you do it? There are lots of things to consider.

There are many quilt shows with varying degrees of selectivity. Most quilt shows put on by local quilt guilds will show all the quilts that are submitted for consideration. Then, at the other end of the spectrum are the top echelon of quilt shows that are extremely exclusive with a rigorous screening process. There are shows for traditional quilts and there are shows for art quilts and then everything inbetween.

The first thing to know is that most of the time you have to pay an entry fee. This fee can range anywhere from $5 to $40. The lower fee would be for a local show with no monetary prizes. The higher fee might be for a national/international show, where you might be able to win money.

The first question you have to ask yourself is if you want to share your quilt with the public. Then, is it worth paying out money for what you are going to receive? And the next question is - what am I going to receive? The answer to this last question is based purely on my experience. I have had quilts in local shows, national and international shows and exhibitions.

If this is your first experience, a local show may be the best place to start. There are lots of local shows. Many quilt guilds mount a show, usually every other year. Membership in the guild is usally not a requirement. You may be entering the show for many reasons:
  • Share your quilts with the public (family and friends included)

  • Get a critique of your quilt that might include workmanship, color selection, design choices

  • Recognition

  • Win a ribbon/money

If you are looking for a critique, make sure there will be judges. Whoever puts on the show, usually hires NQA certified judges. These judges go through a very rigorous training course that includes mastering many quilting techniques.

My best experience in entering a show was my first show. It was a local show put on by the quilt guild that I belonged to at the time. The year was 1994 and I entered "Whitney Lake" It was machine pieced, hand appliqued and hand quilted. The 2 comments that I still remember (and that was over 10 years ago) were that 1. The binding was empty 2. The plaid fabric triangles should match.

After the initial sting of criticism, I have made sure that I have never had an empty binding again. The matching of the plaids was a personal choice and I chose to ignore this comment. It is really your choice in how you view the critique.

After years of making quilts of my own design and teaching, I decided to enter larger shows with more exposure. I also entered some of my quilts in exhibitions. Both of these types of events involve submitting photos and being accepted (or juried in). They also usually involve an entry fee. To enter any of these types of shows, your quilts really need to be your original design. And you need to match your style of quilting with the type of show. Places to look for shows to enter include magazines, such as Quilter's Newsletter Magazine. There are also a few great websites to look for potential shows:

If you know other great sites, e-mail me and I will add them to my list on my sidebar.

The benefits of participating in a large show/exhibition are many. Although I have found judges comments to be limited , just based on the number of quilts they are seeing. Recognition is a great thing too. Exposure to a wide audience, sometimes in many different areas of the country, is the most exciting thing for me. This exposure can lead to being included in magazines, calendars, other exhibitions, teaching opportunities and even commissions.

So you have to decide if this is what you want to do and if this matches your goals. I have to tell you, it's a great feeling to see your quilt hanging in a show and watching people viewing it. (Ribbons are the icing on the cake, but many times I have seen quilts win a first prize ribbon in one show and win nothing in another. Judging is very subjective and should not deter you from your path.)


  1. Cheryl,
    An interesting post with good information!

  2. This is great information. Thanks for putting it here.

  3. I ma glad you found this information helpful. I will continue to update the sidebar as I become aware of other quilt show calendar listings.

  4. I agree with you about shows. I completed my first quilt in 2006 and started to enter shows right away for feedback. Have had some success and have had a piece in Houston the last 2 years and you are right, don't let a negative comment from a judge get you down.


Thanks for stopping by. I'd love to hear from you.