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How To Create An Award Winning Quilt That Judges Notice

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INSIDE: How To Create An Award Winning Quilt That Judges Notice

Recently, I had the privilege of meeting award winning quilter, Linda Neal. She was speaking about How To Create An Award Winning Quilt at a quilt guild meeting. 

Linda is known for her spectacular appliqué quilts and shared some tips that will get you noticed by the judges.

But don’t be intimidated by Linda’s exquisite quilts because these tips apply for all quilt shows, even your local county fair. Follow them and you’ll be heading home with a blue ribbon!

What makes an award winning quilt that judges will notice? #awardwinningquilts #awardwinningquiltshouston #beautifulawardwinningquilts #awardwinningmodernquilts #awardwinningquiltpatterns | seasoned homemaker.com

How To Create An Award Winning Quilt That Judges Notice

Linda shared that she spends anywhere from one to two years making her award winning quilts. That is what it takes to get your quilts into shows like Houston and Paducah.

However, don’t let this discourage you from taking some of her advice and entering your best work in local and nearby quilt shows. I assure you, other quilters will love seeing your work.

An example of this is the Austin Quilt Show which I attend every year. There are quilt categories for beginner, intermediate, and advanced quilters. Even if you don’t win, judges are willing to share with you things that you can do to improve and possibly re-enter next year.


1. Visual Impact and Color

What makes an award winning quilt that judges will notice? #awardwinningquilts #awardwinningquiltshouston #beautifulawardwinningquilts #awardwinningmodernquilts #awardwinningquiltpatterns | seasoned homemaker.com

 When planning a quilt you hope to show one of the first things to think about is the the visual impact the quilt will have from a distance and up close. Keep in mind is the quilt may first be judged from a flat position. Several quilts laid one upon the other and then an aide will flip through the quilts when shown to judges. This means you only have a short amount of time for your quilt to be noticed.

A winning quilt will likely get shown on magazine covers, so you will want to think about how well it will photograph. Be sure the quilt has lots of contrast.


2. Piecing

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When piecing a show quilt, judges will look for sharp points, matching points, and thread colors that blend. Example: Don’t use white thread to piece black fabric.

Another thing they look for is shadowing. This occurs when you have a darker color fabric that shows through on a lighter fabric. If you plan to show a quilt, be sure to decrease your stitch length and then trim the darker fabric so it won’t show through to the quilt top. You can also back the areas that might show through to prevent shadowing.


3. Award Winning Workmanship

How To Create An Award Winning Quilt That Judges Notice

This kinds of seems like a no-brainer, but quilt show judges know exquisite workmanship when they see it. When working with appliqué, be sure to watch for the following:

  • Well-secured edges
  • Smooth curves
  • Sharp points
  • Matching thread.
  • No shadowing (back with a lighter color, if needed)

For pieced quilts, judges are looking at these details:

  • Do intersections meet perfectly
  • Sharp points
  • Does the seam thread match the piecing
  • Stitch size – are the stitches small enough to secure all of the piecing
  • No shadowing

Judges also pay close attention to the quilting. They are looking for the following:

  • Small, straight stitches
  • Consistency in the quilting density
  • Even stitch length
  • Backtracking should match
  • Quilting should stay off the applique

4. Binding and Edge Treatments

  • One of the things quilt show judges look for is binding filled to the quilt edge. That means the binding feels “stuffed” and not flat.
  • Corners should be 90-degree angles and stitched shut with small, invisible stitches. The thread should match the binding.
  • Edges should not buckle or wave.
  • The edges should hang straight.
  • Edge treatments such as scalloped edges, cording, or beading get noticed when they are done well.

5. The Quilt Back

The quilt back matters to judges. The seam lines on the back should be straight and square. Adding an amazing tag or some sort of stand-out feature to the back of your quilt and judges will notice.

How To Create An Award Winning Quilt That Judges Notice

6. Quilt Show Readiness

I know this sounds like I’m stating the obvious, but the quilt should be clean, and free of lint and pet hairs. Use a sticky roller several times across an entire quilt before sending it to be judged.

The quilt should also hang well. If you attach a border incorrectly, this could cause your quilt to ripple while hanging. One way judges look at how well a quilt hangs is by pulling the bottom up to the top. If these don’t match, it will be noticed.


7. Stand-Out Elements

If you want to take home the Best of Show prize, add a stand out element. Even if all of the other areas of your quilt are pure perfection, adding a detail that stands out will get you noticed. Check out the binding on Linda Neal’s award winning quilt in this video. Each of those binding loops were hand made and knotted before being meticulously attached.


Creating an award winning quilt doesn’t have to be intimidating if you follow these seven steps. Start at the local level and listen to what the judges have to say about your quilt. Or aim for the stars!

For more inspiration, I’ve created a Pinterest board with previous award winning quilts from major quilt shows. Click here to see some amazing quilts!

P.S. If you love this post, please share it on Pinterest and Facebook. It would mean the world to me.

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4 Comments

  1. Your article answered a couple important questions for me, such as the stuffed binding which I always wonder about and the show through fabric in appliqué. I was making Dresden plates and the fabric showed through because i was using batik’s. I was worried I was not supposed to use batiks for appliqué, but I did cut out the backs which solved the problem. In the back of my mind I was wondering if this was right. Thankfully, I did right.

  2. Really helpful tips which laid out your way just make great sence. Going to print off and have by my machine. The stunning original quilt pattern was by Nancy Berreth(?) do you know where I can find the publication by any chance? Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Sorry, I don’t know where to find the quilt patterns. You might search Etsy or Ebay and see if someone sells it there.

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