The Final Word on QFNJ: The Judges’ Comments

March 11, 2010 at 6:00 pm 2 comments

I got home from work Tuesday to find two big boxes had arrived from UPS:  my quilts are safely home.  I can finally exhale that little breath I’ve been holding since I shipped them off nearly a month ago.  Even though I saw them, safe and sound and hanging in the quilt show Sunday, it’s still a relief to have them home.  Of course, the suspense of whether or not my quilts would return to me unscathed was immediately replaced with the suspense as to what the judges had said about them.

Now, I don’t have a very long history with judges’ comments; this is only the fourth judged show I’ve had quilts in.  However, I believe in getting quilts judged, because I really want to get feedback from people who are trained to look at quilts differently and more dispassionately than I do.  Having said that, I also know why quilters don’t get their quilts judged.  Not quite two years ago, I got a judge’s comment that makes my blood boil to this day.  I’m actually impressed that I ever entered a quilt for judging again after that experience.  Here’s the quilt:

"Quilting Bee" (with feline embellishment)

"Quilting Bee," 2008 (with feline embellishment)

It’s nothing special, just something fun I did with a stack of nine-patches from a guild block exchange.  I’ve always liked the honeybee block, and it was an entertaining challenge to pick fabrics out of my stash for the machine applique that coordinated with the nine-patches made by other guild members.  There was a preponderance of blue and yellow in the blocks, so I chose a dilute blue batik with traces of yellow in it as the background.

Detail, "Quilting Bee"

Detail, "Quilting Bee"

That, apparently, was my mistake.  Because the judge said:

Judging "Quilting Bee"

"Appears that marking pen has bled into some of the fabrics."

I recognize that part of this is my problem.  This was never going to be a ribbon-winning quilt; I mainly wanted some feedback on my machine applique and machine quilting.  As someone who recognizes and appreciates life’s little absurdities, I should have laughed at this.  Instead, nearly two years later, it still infuriates me.  Because how could someone who is trained and paid to know about quilts mistake a commercial fabric for blue washout marker?  Besides, I never even touched a blue washout marker to this quilt!  Anywhere!! Part of why I was proud of the machine quilting on this quilt was that it was completely no-mark!!!

Breathe… breathe…

OK, I’m back.  But that’s the history I have when I read judges’ comments, so I thought you should know before I react to the current batch.

Detail, "Blue Butterfly Day"

Detail, "Blue Butterfly Day"

What I thought they’d say: I expected to hear about the fact that I didn’t quilt inside the applique, which was a deliberate choice; I wanted the quilting to help create motion but not to blur the graphic strength of the butterflies.  I also thought they might criticize my decision to use a narrow zigzag rather than a blind hem stitch in my turned-edge machine applique.  There was also some slight show-through of seam allowances in some of the pieced blocks.

What they actually said:

Judging "Blue Butterfly Day"

"Great movement across the surface of the quilt. Blue is a good contrast with the black & white fabric. Amazing collection of black & white fabric. Try for a more consistent stitch length when quilting. Hand stitched binding adds refinement to the quilt."

I can’t really argue with any of that, other than the comment about the binding.  Libby Lehman says that having judges pick on your binding is good, because it means there weren’t more egregious errors to call you out on.  But I also like Ricky Tims‘ perspective on it (he teaches machine binding on his Grand Finale DVD) that they should judge you on how well you executed the technique you chose, rather than criticizing you for choosing that technique.  For the record, I used the machine binding technique taught by Suzanne Michelle Hyland, on her DVD “Sew Precise, Sew Fast Machine Binding.” And I think I did a nice job.

Detail, "Kyoto Ink"

Detail, "Kyoto Ink"

What I thought they’d say: I didn’t quilt the two purple sashing borders sufficiently.  I quilted a spine in each of them, planning on doing a feather variation or something out of Megan Best’s “Spinal Twist,” and I ran out of time before delivering it to Quilter’s Palette.  Then, since it was done in my mind, I never went back to it.  I also expected a comment about thread tension in the quilting, and possibly some criticism of my accuracy in quilting in the ditch.

What they actually said:

Judging "Kyoto Ink"

"Graphically pleasing quilt. Interesting choice of colors reflecting the oriental theme. A difficult binding technique well handled. Take care to get stitch length consistent when quilting."

Again, not much I can dispute here.  I know that quilting stitch length consistency remains a challenge for me (after all, they mentioned that twice!)  But I also know that I’ve gotten significantly more consistent in recent years, so hopefully I will either continue to improve, or break down and buy a BSR (probably not.)  I definitely appreciated their mentioning, for both quilts, my fabric selections; I think that is one of my greatest strengths as a quilter.  I also really appreciated their highlighting the binding on this one, because that was a chore, and I obsessed over it.

Additionally, I like when quilt show judges balance their critiques.  I’m glad that the QFNJ judges, Gloria Loughman and Lois Smith, both amazing quilters in their own right, made the effort to give positive comments as well as emphasizing the areas that need improvement, and that they gave the criticism constructively.  I’m not a delicate flower who can’t be leveled with, but it’s unhelpful for a judge to say, “bad machine quilting,” without clarifying what about it was bad or how the quilter should go about improving it.

So apparently, the judges agree that I’m a promising quilter with room to improve.  That’s an assessment I can live with.

But I’m still going to put some of my bindings on by machine.  And I can live with that, too.

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Entry filed under: Quilt Shows. Tags: , , , , , .

QFNJ 2010: Part III, The Shopping Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. kathleen wu  |  March 12, 2010 at 9:49 am

    personally I think the quilts should have won best in show
    however I recognize I might be slightly biased in my opinion

    Reply
  • 2. Cindy Leen  |  March 13, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    I just tuned into your blog for the first time (it’s my first blog experience), and read all of the entries. What a blast! It has been both extremely entertaining, and very educational. You have real gift for writing, and I’m sure that many quilters reading this blog are thinking, as I am, “oh, that is so true, I know just what you mean!”. I continue to love (covet, lust after) the Kyoto quilt, having seen it for the first time at our December retreat, and I can’t wait to see what fascinating projects you will be working on in April!

    Reply

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