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Archive for the ‘Quilt Design’ Category

What Do Judges Look For?

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

What do judges look for-


You have just finished your latest quilt, are proud of your accomplishment and want to show it off. You first share it with your family, then with your small quilting “bee” and finally take it to show and tell at your next guild meeting. For some quilters, this is enough. For others, it is not. Many quilters and fiber artists want to see how their work stacks up against the competition, whether that is hanging it in a local, non-judged show or entering it in a major juried and judged competition. In addition to gaining recognition for your quilts, you also educate other quilters and the general public about quilting and its standards. For local guild shows, this is often a primary reason for holding a show. Additionally, if your quilt is entered in a judged show, you can set goals for improvement based on feedback from the judges or your own comparison with winning quilts. And, of course, you might just win a prize, either a ribbon, cash, or merchandise.


Impartiality in judging is important and one way this is done is through use of a panel of independent judges, usually three. Quilt judges may have been trained and certified by the National Quilting Association, or they can be trained through experience. They all adhere to similar standards of judging, although final results will be varied based on the individual judges.


Judging can take place either before or after the quilts are hung, and each method has advantages. Judging quilts after they are hung allows the visual impact of the quilt to be better appreciated. Judging quilts before they are hung is usually faster, but visual impact takes second place to the ability to view the workmanship.


Judges often use scorecards or evaluation forms and either a point system, an elimination system or a combination of the two to evaluate the individual entries. The point system uses a predetermined maximum number of points to judge specific areas, for example, up to 20 points for the color and design, up to 20 points for construction, up to 15 points for finishing, etc., with the total equaling 100 points. Each quilt is judged on its own merits, and the quilt with the highest total number of points is awarded the first place.


The elimination system, on the other hand, allows each judge to evaluate a quilt, make comments on its technique and offer feedback for improvement. If the judge feels the quilt should be held for ribbon/award consideration, it is put aside. If not, it is released from the competition portion. After the quilts are judged in this preliminary fashion, the held quilts are compared to others in its category and the winners are determined.


Neither system is perfect. Regardless, judges evaluate quilts against the same standards. Here are just a few of the commonly held standards that quilt judges use:


General Appearance

  • The quilt makes an overall positive statement upon viewing
  • The quilt is clean and “ready to show,” i.e., no visible marks, no loose threads, no pet hair, no bearding, no offensive odors.
  • The quilt’s edges are not distorted. This is easier to gauge when the quilt is hung.

Design and Composition

  • All the individual design elements of the quilt – top, quilting, choice of fabric, sashes, borders, embellishments, finishing – are unified.
  • The design is in proportion and balanced.
  • Borders or other edge treatments enhance the quilt appearance.


  • Piecing is precise, corners match and points are sharp.
  • Seams, including those of sashing and borders, are secure, straight and flat.
  • Quilting stitches are straight where intended and curved where intended.


As noted, judges consider certain “standards” when evaluating quilts – and the list is really quite extensive – but how do they decide which quilts are the prizewinners? And what is more important, design or workmanship? In the end I think it comes down to design, the quilt with the greater visual impact. But even the quilt with the greatest visual impact cannot rescue poor workmanship.


ICAP offers three resources recommended for those in judging programs. You can learn more about The Challenge of Judging by Jeannie Spears, Judging Quilts by Katy Christopherson, and a audio recording of a conversation on “The Judge’s Perspective” between Morna McEver Golletz and judges Jane Hall and Scott Murkin on our resources page. We also offer a package with all three of the resources. See the Resources for Judges page on our website.


Perhaps you have a different perspective about quilt shows and judging. Your thoughts and experiences are always welcome. You are also welcome to leave a comment on the ICAP Facebook or Google+ pages.

Photo: courtesy of Kate Eelkema, National Association of Certified Quilt Judges



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Book Review: Unconventional and Unexpected

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015


 Unconventional & Unexpected


Unconventional and Unexpected
Roderick Kiracofe
Abrams, $50


I gave the new Twitter live-streaming app, Periscope, a try with a review of the book Unconventional and Unexpected by Roderick Kiracofe. My first scope was an experience. It threw me off that people were live and typing on the screen. The learning curve is not too bad and I know I will try again. By the way, I loved Unconventional and Unexpected and recommend it. Look for it at your local quilt shop and if you want to learn a bit more about the book, here’s a link to Amazon.




Book Review: Step-by-Step Free-Motion Quilting

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015


Step-by-step free motion quilting


Step-by-Step Free-Motion Quilting: Turn 9 Simple Shapes into 80+ Distinctive Designs
Christina Cameli
C&T Publishing; $24.95


When I look at the machine quilting on many of today’s quilts, it is daunting. I don’t have much experience machine quilting and know that practice is the answer. When I picked up this book, I was stuck by how simple Christina Cameli makes it. She takes nine elements — circle, curving lines, loop, drop, spiral, leaf, the “s” curve, arc and grass — and sets out to show you how to create more than 80 quilting designs. She includes her imperfect sketches, and when placed with more imperfect sketches, the design just works wonderfully. It should give you the freedom of just “going with the flow” at the sewing machine or longarm. Of course, Christina suggests that you practice by sketching to build up that muscle. If you are looking for “doable” designs to begin your machine quilting adventure, this book is a good choice.


Look for this book at your favorite quilt or book retailer. Here’s a link to Amazon if you would like to learn more about the book.


Book Review: Urban and Amish

Sunday, February 8th, 2015

Urban Armish book

Urban and Amish: Classic Quilts and Modern Updates
Myra Harder
That Patchwork Place; $24.99


Amish quilts have stood the test of time, looking both contemporary and traditional at the same time. In this book, Myra Harder has taken Amish designs, which she knew as a child living for a few years in Lancaster County, Pa., and used them as a jumping off point for what she terms urban quilts with their bold fabrics. The urban quilts are not just reproductions of the Amish quilts in today’s fabrics. They have their own style. She includes eight Amish quilts and their eight counterparts with patterns for all. It was fun to see how the Pineapple block became her Chinese Lanterns or how the strong Amish Bars became pieced Horizontal Lines. You can either recreate Myra’s designs or set off on your own modern interpretation.


Look for this book at your favorite quilt or book retailer. Here’s a link to Amazon if you would like to learn more about the book.



Book Review: Savor Each Stitch

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

Savor Each Stich

Savor Each Stitch  
Carolyn Friedlander
Lucky Spool Media, LLC; $27.95  


I had been looking forward to this book and was thrilled when my copy arrived. For those of you who do not know Carolyn Friedlander, the talented pattern and fabric designer, you will once you have read just a bit of the book. Her voice comes through very clearly in this thoughtful book. Trained as an architect, Carolyn found that quilt making satisfied needs that architecture did not, specifically color and working with her hands. She explores six elements of quilt making — line, contrast, scale, emphasis, color, volume, and texture — with the goal that you will think differently about design and challenge yourself. A variety of eight projects allows you to explore the design elements. While this is recommended for confident beginners, I think more experienced quilters will enjoy the opportunity to be more present in their design process. An added plus is the lovely photography, which showcases Lake Wales, Fla., where Carolyn was raised on a cattle and citrus ranch.

Look for the book at your favorite quilt or book retailer. Here’s a link to Amazon if you would like to learn more about the book.



Book Review: 99 Continuous Line Quilting Designs

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

99 continuous line


99 Continuous Line Quilting Designs
Lone Jacobsen Minkkinen
American Quilters’ Society; $24.95


Danish graphic designer and quilter Lone Jacobsen Minkkinen offers a selection of 99 continuous line designs for hand or machine quilting in this highly original collection. You will find designs in six categories: around the world, transportation, leisure, celebrate, toys for boys and pearls for girls, and zodiac. Examples include elephants from Africa, the Sydney Opera House, a Viking ship, a guitar, Halloween skeletons, and castles. You will also find a selection of words to fit the themes. The designs are versatile and can stand on their own, be used as accents or fillers, or be combined.


You can look for the book at your favorite quilt shop or book retailer. Here’s a link to Amazon if you would like to learn more about the book.



Book Review: Set the Table

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

Set the Table

Set the Table
Mary V. Green, ed.
Martingale; $16.99


Are you looking for a simple, stunning project? You are sure to find one in Set the Table, a collection of 11 table runners by 10 designers. You will find both traditional and modern designs as well as simple and improvisational techniques. I found several that made me want to get out my fabric and start to work, including “Standout” by Josée Carrier and “Calamity Cross” by Jenifer Dick. Other designers include Natalie Barnes, Audrie Bidwell, Thomas Knauer, Heather Jones, Angela Walters, Candi Weinrick, Amy Ellis and Jessica Levitt. I am sure you will find several that appeal to you. In addition to the complete instructions, extra tips are interspersed throughout the text.

If you found a specific project that stood out to you, I would love to hear about it. Just leave a reply below.

You can look for the book at your favorite quilt shop or book retailer. Here’s a link to Amazon  if you would like to learn more about the book.

Book Review: Beyond Neutral: Quilts Inspired by Nature’s Elements

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

Beyond Natural


Beyond Neutral: Quilts Inspired by Nature’s Elements 
John Q. Adams
Martingale; $24.99

For long-time quilters, neutral meant muslin, off-white, cream or white fabric. Maybe you might venture to a light gray. At some point, quilters used black as a background. Neutral did not mean a color. In Beyond Neutral, John Q. Adams created 16 original quilt where he used the colors of nature as his inspiration for his neutral – no cream or white here. He organized his quilts around the themes of wind; earth; water; leaves and grass; and lava, coral, and stone. I loved the movement and freshness of his quilts. Some of my favorites: Canyonlands, inspired by a flock of starlings in flight with a peachy tan as a neutral; Katmai, which had its roots in a traditional block that kept growing; and Pacific Crest, with its image of flying birds on a navy background. You’ll find lots of inspiration in the book and you will look at neutrals differently, whether that is in using John’s patterns or your own creation. 

Book Review: Quilting … Just a Little Bit Crazy

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

Quilting ... Just a Little Bit Crazy

Quilting … Just a Little Bit Crazy
Allie Aller & Valerie Bothell
C&T Publishing; $29.95

Both harboring a love of Victorian crazy quilts, Allie Aller and Val Bothell joined forces to create this resource for traditional and innovated crazy-quilting skills. The book includes 30 techniques giving you a variety of options. One of their major goals was to show that crazy quilts could be functional, and they succeeded at that. More than half the 10 projects are lap-size or bed-size quilts. I liked looking at two different approaches to the same concept. If you would like to try your hand at a crazy quilt, either using your stash or new fabrics, you will find ideas here.

Look for the book at your local quilt shop or book retailer. Here’s a link to Amazon if you would like to learn more about the book.

Book Review: Stack, Shuffle and Slide

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Stack, Shuffle and Slide
Karla Alexander
Martingale; $24.95

In her latest book utilizing her “stack-cut-and-shuffle”plan, Karla Alexander introduces the “Slip ‘n’ Slide.” This technique gives you more control over different values and colors in each block. While you are free to set off on your own creative adventure with Karla’s technique, she includes patterns for 15 quilts, which appeal to both modern and traditional quilters. I was particularly taken with Shattered and its mosaic feel and Paint Chips, which is featured on the cover. I love Karla’s suggestion of a WRAP when you’ve finished a project: “wonder” about how the quilt might have been different; “reflect” on what you have learned; “appreciate” what you have accomplished; and “plan” your next step.

Look for the book at your local quilt shop or book retailer. Here’s a link to Amazon if you would like to learn more about the book.


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