I entered a quilt show! Last weekend, I traveled with my husband and daughters to Springville, Utah, to see my quilt in the 49th Annual Utah Quilt Show. I had personal reasons for wanting to have a quilt in this particular show. The experience has been more rewarding than I can express.
I was born in Provo, Utah, while my parents attended college there, and then grew up in a little town called Price. This information came into question when I dropped off my quilt at the Springville Museum of Fine Art, and the woman accepting the quilts found out that I live in Florida. According to the rules, all quilts must be hand-delivered by the quilter who made it, and all entrants into the Annual Utah Quilt Show must have resided in Utah. I had planned ahead and brought supporting documents (my passport and birth certificate). However, no one asked for proof that I had ever been a Utah resident.
Why Travel 2,400 Miles to Enter a Quilt in a Local Quilt Show?
Many people asked me why I was traveling so far ‘just’ to enter a quilt in a show. Travel isn’t cheap. And it is exhausting. But the reason I started this whole endeavor and made this quilt in the first place is very personal.
The Springville Museum is currently holding a special exhibit of work created by my Great-Great-Grandfather, Great-Grandfather, my Great Uncle (whom I love dearly), and others I am related to. My maiden name is Fairbanks, and I am a direct descendant of some of those artists. I love their work, and I wanted to have a piece in the museum at the same time.
What is a Show-Worthy Quilt?
I learned about the quilt show in May when planning a trip to see the Fairbanks exhibit. That left me just over two months to plan, piece, quilt, and finish a show-worthy quilt in time to enter it. What is a show-worthy quilt, anyway? Immediately, I started researching that topic.
I watched lots of YouTube videos, read lots of articles, and finally decided that I would do my best work, that’s all. I would try not to stress about whether or not it was good enough for the judges. One source I read stated that some people research the actual quilt show judges for a particular show and then make a quilt to please the judges. I simply could not do that.
If I entered this show to share a place (literally) with other Fairbanks artists, then I wanted to make a quilt that I am proud of, not one that will hopefully please someone else.
I hope this idea is an encouragement to anyone else who is considering submitting a quilt to a quilt show. If you are proud of your quilt, it deserves to be seen! But that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t nervous.
In the days leading up to the big announcement about which quilts had been accepted, I checked the museum website constantly. When the list of accepted quilts was finally posted (a day early, I must say), my hands were shaking as I looked for my name. I didn’t see it! I had to use the ‘find on page’ feature in my phone’s browser to finally find my name. My quilt would be in the show! I printed up the pages and waved them around the house so everyone would see.
Is Your Show Quilt Perfect?
To anyone who isn’t a quilter, my quilt probably looks perfect. To myself and to other quilters, it has lots of flaws. I would make some fabric choices differently now that it is finished. Some of the points don’t match up. Lots of my stitch-in-the-ditch shows. Lots of my quilting stitches are uneven. And I found fabric pleats on the back when I finished the quilting and turned it over.
All of those flaws made me reconsider entering the quilt show at all. I fixed the few flaws that I could and submitted my quilt to the show anyway. You should, too!
What Does It Feel Like to See Your Quilt in a Show?
A week after dropping off my quilt, my husband and daughters accompanied me back to Springville, Utah, to see the 49th Annual Utah Quilt Show and the Fairbanks Family: An Art Dynasty exhibition. The quilt show was on the museum’s main floor, so that’s what we looked at first. Distracted by all the other quilts, we spent the first few minutes searching for my quilt.
Some women were viewing it when we found it, so we stood back. I can’t tell you how amazing it felt to hear them admire my quilt. Even better, one of the quilters told the other that she would gather her scraps and make a quilt like it. To my embarrassment, my younger daughter stepped forward and said that her mom (me, standing right there) was the maker. I shouldn’t have been shy. It was gratifying beyond words to be able to talk to them and share what I had learned when making the quilt.
Did You Win An Award?
Did the quilt judges give me an award? No.
But my quilt had inspired another quilter. That was my prize! It was fabulous. Someone else might make a scrappy, multi-colored, geometric, log-cabin quilt like mine. Previously, I had felt like having my quilt accepted was winning. Now I really felt like I had won.
Upon returning home, some people expressed frustration with the judges that I didn’t ‘win.’ I’ve been explaining to everyone that quilt judges are looking for specific things, plus their judging is very subjective based on personal style preferences.
My dream was to see my work displayed near my family members’ work, which I love. And I got that so I won!
Now It’s Your Turn to Enter a Quilt Show!
I am continually motivated to keep making whenever I see quilts. So many of my own quilts have been inspired in one way or another by a quilt that I saw at a show, online, or at a quilting friend’s house. I probably would not be a quilter or have made as many quilts as I have without the influence of other quilters.
That’s why my advice to you is this: If you want to enter a quilt into a quilt show, and you are proud of your quilt, and you want others to see it, enter it! Please don’t be worried or anxious about whether or not it will please specific judges or anyone else.
Your quilt has the potential to inspire more quilters to make more quilts. That’s the real prize. Why? Because in my totally unbiased opinion, quilts and quiltmakers are the best things in the world.
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