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For years I subscribed to various quilt magazines which pictured the winners of the major quilt shows. I drooled over their quilts and was in awe of their talent and ability. Oh, how I wanted to be able to make quilts like those! They were so inspiring to me! Each time I got a new magazine with the contest winners I daydreamed a little. Then I would get out my scratch pad and colored pencils and started sketching ideas. I wistfully imagined the day I would enter a quilt show.
I had made several small wall quilts before I plucked up my courage and considered entering a quilt show. There was a small local quilt guild that was putting on a one day show and they were asking for entries. Well, I had three small wall hangings that I could offer. Two were from commercial patterns and one was an original design. I wondered if I should even bother. What could my quilts add to the show? On a whim I bundled up my quilts and drove to the drop off point before I could change my mind. The day of the show fell on my birthday and in trepidation I went to view the show. It was so exciting to see my quilts hanging among the others and I was a little embarrassed and very pleased when I noticed ribbons on my quilts.
So what benefit did I receive by entering a show? The experience gave me new confidence and a burst of ideas for new quilts. It also helped me see that I didn’t have to be a well-known quilter with fabulous quilts to be able to enter a quilt show. I realized that anyone can enter a quilt, whether it is a simple traditional quilt or a complicated art quilt.
Since that first experience, I have entered several other quilt shows. Some were local guild shows. At a couple of these I had fun being one of the white-glove ladies at a show and listening to the comments made about my own quilts. I have also entered several regional and national contests. The National Quilting Association holds a quilt show each year and opens up the show to anyone who would like to enter. Other shows like the International Quilt Festival and the American Quilter’s Society show are juried shows. They require you to send in slides of your quilt and then they choose the ones they would like to display. I feel the real benefit to these quilt shows is that you receive a written critique of your quilt. The critique will tell you what the judges liked about your quilt and where you need improvement. Whether you make quilts just for your own pleasure or for sale, this feedback will definitely improve your skills.
I would guess that most of us love to go to quilt shows. But every show needs people who will enter. If you have ever been inspired by someone else’s quilt, I encourage you to enter a quilt show with one of your own. Your quilt may be the one to inspire someone else.
Article originally published May 2000
© 2000, Maria Elkins