In the Zone: Reveal Your Threads at Quilt Shows

jake • September 22, 2011 • 4 Comments

You’ve toiled over that quilt for weeks, months or possibly even years. You’re proud of it, and so, it seems, is your significant other (who may just be happy that your machine has finally been turned off). Now what’s a quilter to do besides move on to the next project lurking in the corners of the brain?

Well, before you jump-start your next masterpiece, consider a break-out move. Instead of passing the quilt onto some lucky recipient, consider entering it into a local, national or (gulp) international quilt show, We’re giving you 10 reasons why this is a good thing to do at least once in your q-life.

1. Peer Pressure 1

The pressure of knowing your quilt will be submitted to a show for judging and viewing often means you perform your best work. And if there’s a skill you’re not great at, you may also find yourself taking a class to improve, which means you’re expanding your quilt horizons.

From the International Quilt Festival Facebook photo collection

2. Challenge Me  

If the show you’re submitting to has a theme or challenge your quilt needs to reflect, trust us when we say this is an excellent way to exercise your creative muscles!

3. Show Off!  

Hanging your quilt-laundry for all the world to see is good. Really good. It builds confidence in your abilities and, if you’re lurking near your quilt at a show, it can give you a chance to hear great feedback from viewers. Yes, you need to have a thick skin (or at least wear a sign that says Quilt Maker Here—Be Nice!) but it’s also fun to surreptitiously hear how people react to your work.

From the International Quilt Festival Facebook photo collection

4. Judgment Day  

For any serious quilt show, especially the juried kind (which means you have to be accepted into the show,) the judges’ comments written on your paperwork usually offer an honest evaluation of your quilting skills as it relates to that quilt. Again, a thick skin is sometimes needed, and judges are not perfect, but they tend to be pretty accurate about the pluses and minuses they see in your work. Jake worked harder on making her machine quilting stitches more consistent because of a judge’s comment. (Yes, she wanted to torch their homes first, but mostly because they were right.)

5. Ribbons = Wall Art  

Everyone should feel okay about displaying an award for a job well done. If you happen to win a ribbon at a show, it feels good. Darned good. And it looks great hanging in your studio, too, especially when your uber-critical MIL visits.

6. Humble Pie  

Humility is a virtue, and a quilt show is a great place to practice it. After all, it’s just a blanket, folks. You’re not curing cancer and your quilt is not a reflection of all of the good works you do in the other areas of your life. So it’s okay to accept the hugs or the knocks with grace and charm (and it’s great training for that MIL visit).

7. Marketing 101  

If you’re even secretly contemplating writing a quilt book, teaching and/or competing in the q-universe at some future point, you need to show your work. It’s one remarkably effective way for your name to become known. And yes, the established biggies in our biz almost all started out this way.

8. Peer Pressure 2  

You’ve been trying hard to get your husband/kid/best friend/MIL interested in your quilting but have gotten nowhere. In fact, that significant other of yours won’t even drop you off at the door of the convention center where the show is held. Well, fret no more because if you have a quilt in the show, they no longer have an excuse for dodging the fiber. You may not convert them to the cloth, but at least they’ll have a better idea of why you’re textile-obsessed. (And if they’re really miserable accompanying you, you won’t even want them with you next time.) Cured, we say!

9. Deadlines  

Submitting a quilt to a show involves at least one, if not several, deadlines. Even your home guild’s show has a drop-off date and time. For many of us, deadlines propel action and completion on our part. Use the show’s deadline as a way to finish that UFO growing mold in the corner of your studio.

From the International Quilt Festival Facebook photo collection

10. Show Me the Moolah  

Some shows offer cash prizes. If you win something, it may offset the cost of the materials that went into your pretty. Of course, it will probably represent less than five percent of the cost, and no, we’re not including labor here. Still it feels good, and you can then call yourself a professional. (Can we say tax deductions?)


Call for Submissions: Modern Quilt Guild Showcase to Hang at Fall International Quilt Festival 2012 Houston

Welcome to the Big Dance, modern quilters!

Having a special exhibit of your particular quilting niche hung at the world’s largest quilt festival is kind of like Queen Elizabeth inviting you for a cuppa, and then whispering in your ear that she likes your outfit.

Modern Quilt Guild members are being invited to submit quilts for possible inclusion in the first-ever Modern Quilt Guild Showcase, a special exhibit that will hang at Quilts Inc.’s International Quilt Festival in Houston Oct. 26-Nov. 4, 2012.

The exhibit will feature about 25, possibly more, examples of modern quilt designs, and is limited to submissions from MQG members only. We talked with Quilts Inc.’s special exhibit coordinator, Amanda Schlatre, to get more information. It’s a natural follow-up, she says, to the growing buzz about modern design influences and younger stitchers in a craft that is often laughably misunderstood and filled with stereotypes of grandmothers hand stitching at quilt frames.

“We’ve noticed in the last couple of years that this has really become a movement and that a lot of younger people are coming to learn and know about quilting through the Modern Quilt Guild,” Amanda says. “And if the craft itself is going to survive, you’ve got to pull in younger people.”

She also referred to similar special exhibits of art quilts that began appearing in the 1980s, when art quilts began staking out some of the quilt-show real estate, expanding the classic definition of quilting. Quilts Inc. opened the door to art quilts then, she says, and now it’s helping to open the door to modern quilts.

The four founders of the MQG—Alissa Haight Carlton, Latifah Saafir, Jacquie Gering and Elizabeth Hartman—will be a part of the jury that will select the finalists for the MQG showcase.

Amanda says she and fellow special exhibits coordinator Carmen Valls are particularly excited about this new exhibit because they are personally interested in the modern movement.

“We’re from the younger generation and we’d all been following blogs of some of these ladies, so it’s really exciting for us,” she says.

The deadline window for submitting quilts for this special showcase begins Jan. 6 and ends March 2, 2012. But don’t just take an iPhone pic and email it to Quilts Inc., for pity’s sake. Get the details at!/notes/international-quilt-festival/call-for-entry-the-modern-quilt-guild-showcase/10150811422955112.


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  • Jean F • 9 years ago
    COMMENT #1

    I just entered my first piece for a public challenge last month. I’m excited and nerved about it. Hoping to attend the opening next month. My skill is young and I’m hoping to grow from this.

  • Lisa Sipes • 9 years ago
    COMMENT #2

    I’ve been thinking for the last week or two about entering a quilt or two for this exhibit, but what it comes down to is: TIME. I don’t have enough of it. So I can’t say whether or not I will actually get anything entered.
    At least I’ve gotten the show stuff out of the way though! YEAH!
    What I’m *really* curious to know, is if any of the GenQ ladies will be attending the MQG meet up at Houston Market on Saturday night?????? Because I’m totally planning to be there. Just sayin’!

  • Krista - Poppyprint • 9 years ago
    COMMENT #3

    I couldn’t agree more! I was terrified to enter my first quilt in my traditional guild’s bi-annual show. The women in my guild are extremely talented, but all abilities were encouraged to enter, so I did. I was so proud seeing my quilt hanging in the gallery and it was a great excuse to invite my friends to come and see just what all this ‘quilting’ was about. Many of them left the show utterly amazed at what they saw and a few were even inspired to start quilting themselves! Showing your work legitimizes all those hours you spend alone in your sewing room, or at the dining table, stitching away on a masterpiece. Share it! It is true that there are a few critics at shows, but by far, the accolades are louder and more meaningful than the one person who frowns at your skipped stitches or the one point on your queen-sized quilt that doesn’t match up (oh yeah, these people actually walk among us).

  • quiltzyx/sue • 9 years ago
    COMMENT #4

    I can remember, back in the way-back ages, being afraid to enter a quilt in a show. Then, one year, at the L.A. County Fair, while looking at the quilts – which at that time were “displayed” inside glass cases, most of them folded & partially obscured by other handcrafts* – I saw a quilt with a blue ribbon on it. I think it might have been a nine-patch…and the corners didn’t match! HA!! That took all the pressure off of me & made it immeasurably easier for me to piece & actually get things put together. This is not to say that I don’t try to match my corners & make sure my points are where they are supposed to be. Just that I don’t obsess about it any more.
    I’ve entered at least one quilt in every show my guild has put on. We have a no-stress “members’ showcase”, and the quilts are awarded ribbons via “Viewer’s Choice”. I am always in awe at the range of talents in my guild too – from hand pieced & hand quilted to amazing art quilts. I haven’t yet entered into a juried show, but one of these days….

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