Quilt Judge-One Person’s Opinion? Yes and No.

by Featured

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Tula’s Village made from the Moda “Be My Neighbor” sew along pattern.

Do you ever enter your quilts to be judged at a fair or a quilt show?

As I was white-gloving at the fair this year, I heard one woman, who had a quilt featured on the “Wall of Fame” where the best of the best hang each year say the following: “When it comes down to it, it really is just one person’s opinion.” Now, I have heard people who didn’t get a ribbon say that fairly often (I have to admit that I have said that very thing myself). However, I have never heard a winner say it. She was thankful to have received an award of merit, but I think her point was that the quilt itself is its own reward. No matter what someone else thought of it, she was happy with her quilt, and that was the most important thing.

Every year, I send entries to the Nebraska State Fair to be judged by a certified professional judge. Why do I do this? Am I just crazy for ribbons? Is it a throwback from all my years in 4-H? Do I like taking a quilt that I love, and think is great, only to see it hanging at the fair without a ribbon? Or maybe I do it because all my friends are doing it?

None of these reasons really compel me to take my entries to the fair. Over the years, I have won many ribbons, including several 1st place. I’m not that competitive of a person, I guess, because they really don’t mean much to me. I make quilts for myself and for my own pleasure, not for the sake of winning a ribbon at the fair. So, why do I bother taking them to the fair?

There are a few good reasons for me to take my quilts to the State Fair.

1. It’s free advertising for me and for my longarming business, LTD Quilting. Where else would I be able to show hundreds or thousands of people my work for no cost to me? I have customers who take their quilts, too. The more I see my name, the happier I am. It shows potential customers the type of quilting that I like to do.

2. My family and friends love to see my quilts at the fair. I hear all the time from people at church, family members, and friends, “I saw your quilts at the fair. They were gorgeous!” I love that! Sometimes, like this year with my Tula’s Neighborhood quilt, I take a quilt simply because it’s fun or unique. I know that it probably won’t win a ribbon. I just like to see it hanging there for others to enjoy. There certainly wasn’t another quilt like this one at the fair:)

3. Whether or not I win a ribbon, the judges comments are helpful. When I first started entering quilts eight years ago, I heard on every quilt, “Binding technique needs work.” Guess what? I don’t hear that anymore. Why? Well, when you hear something two or three years in a row, you start to think that maybe your binding technique needs work! Lol! The judge is just one person, and whether or not I receive a 1st, 2nd, or 5th place ribbon, or even no ribbon, it often comes down to his/her personal taste and preferences. Still, the judges are trained and certified professionals. Their comments on what was done well, and what could use some improvement are legitimate and helpful to hear. Constructive criticism is just that: constructive.

The bottom line is that we make quilts for a variety of reasons, but one of those reasons is to be seen.  What better way to be seen than to show them at a fair, local or state?  There’s plenty of time to enter this year.  Let’s do it!


Sandi Griepenstroh

Sandi Griepenstroh


I started quilting in the early 90's as a young mom while I was still teaching high school social sciences and English. Now it is my full time job, and I love sharing the joy that quilting has brought into my life through lecturing, trunk shows, teaching everything from piecing to machine quilting, and longarm quilting the pieced quilt tops that others have made. I am a maker through and through, and I can't wait to meet my fellow makers and talk quilting!

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