Thoughts on Quilt Shows

I became interested in quilting in the 2000 timeframe.  (From 2000 to 2003 I had 3 back surgeries and had a lot of time to watch TV while recuperating).  During the times I was only able to lay down or walk, I watched every episode of Alex Anderson, who at that time was on PBS with a quilt show every week.  I taped all of her shows so that I could take them on the road when we did our winter trip to Arizona.  I learned so much from the different quilt Designers and all about fabrics.  I met many quilters while we traveled and visited numerous shops.  My favorite technique was needle turn applique.   Piecing was not my first endeavor with quilting.   In 2004 I made my first quilt from a Fons and Port Magazine.  The quilt was called Cozy Christmas.  At that time Robyn Pandolph had a beautiful line of Christmas fabrics available and she was one of the top Designers!  I made that quilt using Robyn’s fabrics but is has never been quilted.  I still laugh at myself, as I knew how to sew, BUT there is a definite difference between ‘sewing garments’ and ‘quilting a quilt’.

By 2005, I decided that I would make quilts to enter into Quilt Shows for the purpose of learning how to become a more proficient quilter.  I had to have a purpose to make all of them and entering quilt shows would be it!  I entered in the New Braunfels Quilt show and I won a 3rd place for 2 of the quilts I entered.  In 2005 I had purchased a Handi-Quilter long arm with a stitch regulator and NO computerized quilting.  Being one who hates to practice anything – my motto – just do it so I did!  I had made a Mariner’s Compass to enter into the show (the first and last quilt that I have ever paperpieced) and I quilted it with a meandering stitch (free motion).  I will never forget what the Judge told me after the show – “You need to rip out the meandering  and have it Custom Quilted – if it had been Custom Quilted you would have had Best of Show”.  I politely told her ‘no’ that I would not do that.

Longarm quilting was just coming into the quilting world and a lot of the quilters were sending there quilts out for ‘custom’ work.  ME?  I was going to do my own.  Why would I pay someone to quilt a quilt that I had made and if I did, how could I say that I made the quilt.  (My philosophy was if I was to take credit for making a quilt, then I would do it all!)   I have shown in New Braunfels, San Antonio, Tucson, Sierra Vista quilt shows and have won 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places with my quilts.  No bragging, just showing that my little ole’ Handi Quilter carried me through other shows and I won ribbons.

In 2013, I had 6 large quilt tops that needed quilting and I just wanted them quilted Edge to Edge (or pantograph).  This would get me caught up with all of those tops hanging around.  In addition, I had 3 quilts custom quilted!  Now that cost me to have those tops done – 9 in all!  But to me it was worth it, until I learned another hard lesson.   Some professional long arm quilters are just not as proficient as others.

If you follow my Blog, you are aware that from 2014 until mid-year last year things did not go very well and I was not as productive finishing UFOs or getting quilts quilted!  In 2018, I was bound and determined to finish all of my UFO projects (exception were the  applique quilt UFOs) and I have accomplished that goal.  I have 3 or 4 quilts ready to enter into the San Antonio Show this September.  I have 2 quilt tops ready for Custom quilting, and then I had a brainy idea to have 7 additional quilt tops done Edge to Edge, to AGAIN get me caught up.

Remember, I have a long arm and am capable of quilting a few different styles of meandering (free motion because my Handi Quilter is not computerized and won’t ever be).  I had found a quilter who would Custom Quilt York Lodge and Brinton Hall and I was on her list for April and May.  On Tuesday a phone call came in and she advised me she had too many quilts to do and could not do mine.  OK end of that story.  I have another quilter lined up to do my custom work.

In looking for a long arm quilter (things have certainly changed since 2013) I have found out that prices have really gone up.  After I was dropped off the first quilters list I had to really have a serious talk with myself.  I feel that York Lodge and Brinton Hall will be highly competitive to place at a show.  I have always wanted to make a quilt that could be competitive for the Best of Show.  I have figured out (and this was confirmed by one of the quilters I spoke with) that no longer do the Judges look at the Quilter’s work for precision,  color,  or complexity first, NO it is the long arm quilter’s quilting!

How things have changed.  The first thing I did was to measure all 7 of the Edge to Edge quilts and at $.03 a square inch that would about to close to $700.00.  Then I estimated how much it would cost to quilt my to custom quilts – I figured I was looking at close to $1,000.00 for the 2 quilts maybe more.  I was getting close to almost $2,000.00 to have 9 quilts quilted.

It doesn’t take a fool too long to realize that, ‘hey idiot, you can quilt the Edge to Edge yourself’ and save that money.   I use to quilt all my quilts as I made them but that was before 2014!   I know that I cannot do the custom quilting that would make my 2 quilts competitive for a Blue or a Best of Show award so there will be a cost incurred on those.  The cost for Edge to Edge can range from $0.15 to $0.05 per square inch – even that can become expensive.

So here is how I made the decision.  Horse Judging and Quilt Show Judging are the same – CRAP SHOOTS!  The horse can break a leg, have a bad day, or just not be good enough.  A lot of $$$ spent on raising those horses to get them to the race!   I spent a lot of money on my ‘hobby’ and it took time to make the 2 quilts that I feel are going to be competitive, BUT all Judges are different and one never knows what they are really looking for.  Therefore, I will not go to the most expensive quilter, but someone who is more reasonable and if the Judge thinks my quilts warrant a Ribbon so be it – if NOT – then so be it.  The public loves looking at the hard work that has been put into making quilts.

I do know that critical elements are the quilt top construction, color, technique used, and now they want the back to compliment the quilt top.  This equates to more dollars to finish the quilt!  And if they are wanting every inch of the quilt quilted so that it can walk into the Show on its own, count me out of that group.  I want my Show quilts to be quilted pretty, but not overly done.

Yesterday I fired up my Handi Quilter and did some practicing!  I have 2 baby quilts to quilt and one is already loaded and ready to be quilted!  Let the quilting begin tomorrow!

Thanks for listening to my experience in showing quilts in a Judged Quilt Show.  Have a great day!




11 Replies to “Thoughts on Quilt Shows”

  1. good luck on your quilts. I guess one reason I have slowed down on making my quilt tops is that I am in the category you used to be in that I refuse to have someone else quilt my quilts as it then doesn’t feel like it is mine – heck half the time if I machine quilt my quilt it no longer means all that much to me LOL I could care less about having a quilt in a show so it works for me. I think it is a pity that the person making the top no longer has the honor of getting the ribbon that it is all in the way it is quilted. I really can’t afford to have someone do my quilting for me – it just cost too much and I don’t care for the edge to edge style anyhow for me. I will stick with my hand quilting and occasional straight line machine quilting 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I could not believe how much the quilting can cost – anywhere up to $0.10 a square inch – for that they had better guarantee a Best of Show ribbon! LOL. I have backed off of my little goal and have found a great lady who will do a good job. She is not as expensive. Meeting her in 2 weeks. Then I will decide if my quilting will suffice and continue on with my quilts. I just need to decide what to do with them when I am gone. Maybe I will donate to a Museum! So really I agree with you – just not worth it! It took me about 2 days to get my mind working and thinking on the stupidity of paying to have them caught up when I can work on one a week and be done!


  2. One time, I made a very large quilt, and decided to pay a long arm quilter to quilt it. She quoted a price and we discussed how she would custom quilt it and all was well. Until I received my quilt back. It was quilted edge to edge. No apology forthcoming.

    I know there are excellent long arm quilters out there, but my preference has always been to quilt my own quilts. Except once. I doubt that I will ever send my quilts out for someone to quilt them again.

    I have participated in quilt shows in the past, and that was fun, but times have changed and I no longer care to enter shows. I agree with a statement that you said…it is about the long arm quilting…not so much the artistry of the quilt taken as a whole anymore. Why even piece, or applique…just enter a whole cloth custom computerized long arm quilted quilt. Gorgeous…absolutely! But there is so much more about quilting!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The SA and the 2 in 2020 will probably be the last time I enter! I will find another avenue to show – maybe a county fair, or other smaller shows. I had a disaster in 2013 and absolutely no apology from the quilter. I put her on the list of bad quilters along with my NP who forgot to tell me in 2015 that I was a diabetic! (Hum what a comparison) LOL.

      Yes it is sad that the quilter does all the difficult work to either design, or make a quilt top only to have the Judges make the quilting more important just to keep the long arm business going. I remember in 2002 when the ‘contempory’ art designers decided to get in our quilting world. I think between them and the modern quilts, traditionalist like myself are just not important. BUT the good news is that it will swing back someday to our traditional quilting will become popular again! But I do believe that the Statler comuter business is going to win out as far a quilt shows and that is a shame because not all quilters can afford to pay the $$$$$ to try for a winning quilt!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Very good post Nanette. I have absolutely zero experience with shows and have absolutely no desire to gain any. However, I watch a lot of YouTube videos on longarm quilting – Angela Walters, Jamie Wallen, Leah Day, etc. and know that what they do is something I simply could never, ever do, but if you want to be competitive in shows, you need someone with their skills. I took a hands-on class with Claudia Pfeil up in Austin last year, who has won shows around the world including at Dubia of all places, and people with that type of ability is ethereal. I applaud your desire to do all of it yourself because I’ve felt the same. I started longarming because I didn’t like paying someone else part of my salary when I made quilt tops for other people. Piecing is my thing and I’m fairly good at it, but the longarming had to come later. Now that the kinks are all worked out of my frame, my longarm quilting is humming along and I’m about to begin doing it for others commercially. But of course, that’s with a robot. You’ll need to quilt a combo of ruler work, feathers, and pebbles. If you need any rulers, let me know. I have many I can lend for you to try out. But if you do ruler work, you’ll need the right foot and a ruler table for your machine. Good luck!


  4. Oh I have all the rulers needed and all the pantograms needed but I had just gotten out of the habit of making a top and then quilting it right away to complete the process. I would not want to do this on a full time basis, although I have quilted some quilts for friends. The two quilts are special and not all would tackle them. BUT competing with modern quilts, machine embroidery, paper piecing, and Judy Neimeyer patterns is impossible when one makes a quilt the traditional way!

    Your machine is computer driven – correct? I decided to stay with the free motion. It is like doodling on a piece of paper. I played with the machine Saturday and started working on new designs It is fun to just play!

    My table is 12′ long and I have a plate that attaches to the machine that allows me to use the rulers. Now feathers are fun too, but I have not perfected them and really do not want to.

    I hope you do well with your quilting for the public. There are a lot of quilters in Floresville and probably in our area that would use your services.



  5. I must be in the stone age of quilting as I had absolutely no idea the price or complexity of this business. In fact, I had my first 2 hand pieced quilt tops professionally machine quilted back in the late 70’s and would you believe they cost $35 each. (full size bedding) Your pieces are gorgeous I give them a first place ribbon – Best in Show!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I tell you i guess it has now become a business. Takes the true meaning of a Quilt Show away. I am re-thinking this. To be honest I have enjoyed quilting more as a Blogger than being in a Guild and showing quilts. It is a stressor to even do the paperwork.
      I had a pipe dream.


  6. Hi Nanette! What a wonderful journey of your quilting process throughout recent history. I have a very similar outlook as you in almost everything you mentioned. Certainly with FMQ – I’m not big on practicing so I just jump in. Also, I am 100% certain you can easily do most edge to edge quilting designs with confidence. Even the custom designs are in your bailiwick but are you willing to devote the time needed to complete it. I loved reading your thought process and how you reached your decision! ~smile~ Roseanne


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