As the ink is drying on my first quilt judging feedback it dawned on me that there is quite the variety of types of judged shows which people may not be entirely aware of, so I thought I’d do a little precis on the different options for those of you who may be considering entering your works of art for judging.  If you think I’ve missed one, let me know in the comments!

Option 1 – Large Judged In Person Show, Juried In

This is one of the more familiar scenarios, and is often used for high profile shows with limited hanging space, for example Quiltcon or the AQS shows.

In this setup you do the following:

  • Choose a category, pay your entry fee and send a pre-determined number of photos in to the show for the initial jury selection.  
  • Certain categories may be restricted to specific groups of people such as the Quilter’s Guild Challenge at Festival Of Quilts which is only open to members of the Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles and all European Guilds which are part of the European Quilt Association, and there is often a youth category for under 18s.
  • Should you make it into the show you will be required to attach a hanging sleeve of specified dimensions and there are often specific labelling instructions before you send your quilt off to be judged.
  • Once you’ve passed the jury stage and made it into the show, a set of judges will then assess all the quilts in each category and determine the winners.  
  • There can also be extra prizes outside the defined categories, such as in the AQS Paducah show where a number of sewing machine manufacturers and fabric companies also choose their favourites.  
  • Prizes can range from cash to product (in the form of sewing machines and more), and those who are placed will receive a ribbon too.

Different shows have different approaches to the categories:

  • Sometimes there is a specific themed challenge, such as the Michael Miller challenge for Quiltcon, or the ‘On The Beach’ Quilter’s Guild challenge for FoQ.
  • Beyond that the categories tend towards the dimensions of the quilts, the number of quilters involved and techniques involved.  
  • Interestingly while AQS and FoQ require you to choose a category for a quilt, and that you can only enter one quilt per category, at Quiltcon for many categories it’s more of a suggestion that you choose on the entry form and they can move it if they disagree with you.

In all cases there are entry fees involved which are non-refundable – you pays your money and you takes your chance as they say, so if you get nothing juried in it can be a rather expensive venture.

For info, Quiltcon’s rules are here, AQS’s are here and Festival Of Quilts are here.

Option 2 – Large Judged In Person Show, No Jury

This is another relatively familiar scenario, and these shows work in a very similar way to the juried shows, except that you’re guaranteed that your quilt will be shown and judged.  This tends to be for slightly smaller, more provincial shows with lower value prizes (as a result of lower entry fees), but they can be a great way to experience the judging process, and if you’re lucky, to receive feedback on your entry even if you didn’t win.

I’ve entered the British Quilt And Stitch Village a couple of times, and while I didn’t win it was an interesting experience, not least to hear from one of the show’s assistants that my Madrona Corners below had been a big talking point (even if it had probably been more of the ‘what the hell?’ variety since it didn’t exactly fit in with its neighbours!)

Option 3 – Small Judged In Person Show, No Jury, Specified Judges

This can be as simple as a guild show or even a shop sponsored one.  There may only be one independent judge invited along, and prizes may not be huge, but can be a very good stepping stone into larger competitions in as much as you get advice from a judge without having a large outlay in entry fees and postage.

Option 4 – Small Judged In Person Show, No Jury, Public Voting

This is similar to Option 3 in that it will be a simple show and can be either a guild or shop sponsored show, but in this case you don’t get feedback from the judge and you are slightly at the mercy of whether or not your pal Mary from down the road has a bigger family who can vote than you!

Saying that I did inadvertently win one of these, inadvertent in as much as I thought I was providing a quilt for display and it turned out to be publicly voted for.  I only discovered on the day I won, so I certainly didn’t stack the voting ;o)  It was this Retro Flowers quilt that my lovely Brit Bee ladies and guests contributed to.

Option 5 – Judged Online, Specified Judges

This is the type of show that I’ve just been involved with judging.  As far as categories go, they can be as wide as the in person shows, or can be quite specific depending on who was running the show.

The biggest difference between online and in person shows is that in the case of online judging, the judge is reliant on the photographer capturing the pertinent details.  In my case I was lucky in that all the entries were sent to one person who photographed each entry both overall and in several detailed parts, so everyone’s entry was equally balanced.  What I couldn’t do is turn it over and scrutinise every little thing, but I got the overall impression, and a good enough idea of the details and accuracy to make a judgement.

I wasn’t required to provide feedback beyond ranking my top 5 for each category and a best in show, but others may differ.

Option 6 – Judged Online, Public Voting

The most famous of these types of shows has been the Bloggers’ Quilt Festival which has coincided with Market for the past few years (although this year there are a few changes in the pipeline, keep an eye out!)

In the case of the BQF all photos are the responsibility of the entrant, so it would be fair to say that people don’t start off on an equal footing since some are rather better at photos and staging than others.  Rather like in person public voting the odds can be rather stacked in the favour of those with the most mates, but that’s human nature, so can hardly be helped!

It’s very unlikely in this case that you’ll get any constructive feedback, although you may get some nice comments.


In all cases I would urge you to do the following:

  • Follow the instructions to the letter.  
  • Check that you are eligible to enter – for example to enter Quiltcon you must be a member of the Modern Quilt Guild.
  • No matter how special your work is, if you’re late, you’re out, so make sure you check all deadlines and leave plenty of time if you need to post your work to the show.  
  • Keep it clean, that is to say, don’t let the dog roll around on it, or the cat parade its mucky pawprints over the top, or your kid brush their hair over the top of it, and absolutely don’t pack up and send a stinky quilt, no-one wants to deal with that.  
  • Trim your threads, hairy quilts are just not in fashion these days.
  • Don’t take it personally, and remember that in all cases acceptance and even winning is based on the opinions of one or many people.  If you enter the same quilt into multiple shows there’s no guarantee that in front of different judges and juries it will perform the same, so you may win at one show and not even get into another, it all depends on the criterias of the judges/juries on the day.
I hope this has been a useful start into looking at shows, for the next post in this series I will be getting feedback from some judges.