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How to Enter a Quilt Show
I just got back from a national quilt show and was blown away by some of the beautiful pieces. Inspired, I came home ready to make my masterpiece for next years' show. Reality slowly crept in and I remembered my pledge that I would not start a new project until I finished at least one that was already in the works. Oh well, my "masterpiece" has been relegated to my sketchbook temporarily.
Thinking back to the first time I actually entered a quilt show, I have to laugh at my bravado. I was in way over my head. In total, I have entered five quilt shows with mixed results, but I have learned a few things in the process.
A little quilt show info
Everybody likes to show off his/her artwork. Quilt shows are a great vehicle for this. You get feedback on your piece and if you are lucky enough you get a ribbon. Bigger quilt shows have additional prizes including things like cash or sewing machines. There are two types of quilt shows.
- Juried - A juried show is one where you have to apply to get in, and only some of the applicants get in. These are normally larger shows, either local or national.
- Non-Juried - A non-juried show is one where you bring your quilt and enter it into the show. All quilts are accepted.
Both types of shows award ribbons and/or prizes in various quilt categories. Some non-juried shows don't award ribbons or prizes. I would consider those more like exhibits.
Juried quilt shows
The first quilt show I ever entered was one of the biggest and well known national juried quilt shows, and was well above my talent level. It was only the 3rd quilt I had ever made, the pieced corners didn't match, the quilting was uneven, the cat had used it as a bed and it didn't lay flat. However, as I read the show announcement in my magazine, I figured I was a shoo-in for the grand prize. Heck, my mom and dad told me it was the most beautiful quilt they had ever seen, the guy I was dating told me it was divine and I thought it turned out perfectly. So, after getting the application, filling it out, and attaching a couple of blurry photos, I sent the paperwork off and eagerly awaited my acceptance letter. A letter came a few weeks later with a polite note telling me that my quilt had not made the cut. Like I said before, I still chuckle about the experience. It taught me a lot about entering juried quilt shows and it was a long time before I tried again.
The following tips may help you when you enter a juried show:
- Know the show you are entering - Many national juried shows get hundreds of applications and only accept a fraction of them. The quilts they accept are the cream of the crop, some of which go on to appear in magazines.
- Read and re-read the application - There are specific rules for each show and every show is different. Make sure you know them and follow them.
- Send in your application on time. You will be rejected if you don't send it by the date specified. Some applications need to be received by the due date and some just need to be postmarked by the due date.
- You will be asked to choose a category that your quilt should be entered into i.e, "small wall quilt" or "large bed quilt". Choose wisely. Some shows will change the category for you if they think your quilt will do better in a different one, some will not. You don't want your art quilt to be judged in the traditional category.
- Take good pictures! The application will tell you what quilt views they want to see.
- Fill out the application completely and make sure to give credit when due. If the quilt you made is a copy of a pattern from a book, you'll need to credit the designer. If your quilt was professionally quilted, you will need to credit the quilter.
- If your quilt gets accepted, make sure to follow all of the procedures you get with your acceptance letter. If you don't, you could get disqualified.
Non-juried quilt shows
Non-juried quilt shows are a lot less daunting. Anyone can enter, usually by bringing in your completed application and quilt on a specific date. I have entered three of these and have had some success, winning two second place ribbons and one best in show. Non-juried shows are usually hosted by local quilt guilds or churches and are smaller in scope. While I can't speak for all county and state fairs, most have a quilt competition. The county fair that I entered was non-juried. Check out their websites for more information.
Here are a few tips for entering a non-juried show:
- Read and follow the quilt show rules. Every show is different.
- Make sure you get the quilt to the venue on time. I volunteered at a show a few years ago and I cannot tell you how many people came in over an hour or two late and just assumed it was ok. It was not and they went home disappointed.
- Make sure your quilt is clean and free of any odors or animal hair.
- Make sure your quilt is ready to hang. Don't expect the show staff to have time to help you with this. There is usually a long line of eager participants who are anxious to get their quilts processed.
- Once the quilt show is done, pick up your quilt on time or, if you know you won't be able to pick it up, make arrangements for delivery before the show.
- Label your quilt with your name, address and phone number and the title of the quilt. It would be terrible if there was a mixup and your quilt got lost.
- While some shows have insurance, check into your insurance to make sure your quilt is covered. Accidents happen even when the utmost care is taken.
Have you ever entered a quilt show?
In the end......
Whether your quilt is accepted into a juried show or you enter a non-juried show, enjoy the ride. It is very exciting to see your work hanging up for all to see, even more exciting to see a ribbon on it! An added bonus is that when you take your quilt home you get judges comments which can be a big help. While I have heard that some people have received harsh feedback, I have always gotten honest and supportive comments which have helped me become a better quilter.
After my experience entering a juried show years ago, I finally got up the courage to try again and guess what, I got in. I didn't win anything, but that's ok. It was worth it and my piece now hangs proudly in my dining room.
Quilt shows, big or small, are a lovely thing. They can inspire and amaze. It's a great place to meet other quilters, learn new techniques and even buy things to make more quilts!
If you are thinking about entering a show, go for it! You have nothing to lose.
Good luck and Happy Quilting!