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What Makes a Winner?

News from Virginia’s Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival


I do love a day out at a quilt show, don’t you? I’m willing to endure the physical and mental fatigue of roaming the aisles of a huge convention center for a day or more. The payoff is returning home inspired to make a new quilt, try a different technique, or look up a quilter I’ve never heard of. And let’s not forget the dozens of vendor booths loaded with tempting fabric and clever new tools to buy!

I just got back from the Mid Atlantic Quilt Festival in Hampton, VA where I was teaching. The show had some really special winning quilts I’d like to share with you.


Best of Show was 'Serenity' by Molly Hamilton McNally of Tehachapi, CA


If you’ve ever had your quilt accepted into a show, you will know the thrill of seeing your work hanging in the exhibit, and you will have also received feedback from the judges. These critiques are useful pointers that can help improve your work.

Quilt show judges are looking at many elements as they evaluate your quilt.

The first and most obvious quality is visual impact. Does this quilt catch the eye? Are the color combinations and the composition successful and interesting?

Then follows some scrutiny of your technical skills. In the traditional category, precision piecing and sharp points are important. In the modern or innovative category, there’s more acceptance of mis-matched seams and lost points, but good construction still counts.

When examining the quilting and any appliqué, the choice of thread and an even stitch length matter. If you’ve added embellishment, how is the quality of your embroidery or beading?

So much for the front of the quilt - Wait; there’s more!

How does your quilt hang? Points off if the quilt doesn’t hang flat and the edges flare like a sting ray. Kudos if your quilt edge fills the binding and you’ve closed the corners of that binding with tiny, neat stitches.

Turn to the back and a beautiful fabric choice and label won’t go unnoticed.


All these elements contribute to whether a quilt is in the running to win a ribbon.

Next time you’re at a quilt show, take an up-close look at the fabulous quilts that win prizes.

You’ll see the trouble the maker has gone to to create not just an eye-catching piece of textile art, but a true show stopper - a winning quilt.


'and...(dot, dot, dot) by Gail Stepanik and Jan Hutchison 2nd Place, Traditional



'Fairest of Ten Thousand' by Audra Rasnake of Virginia; First place, Traditional Category




'Jacuzzi Jazz #2' by Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry, First place, Innovative Category


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