Helpful Hints from Holice Turnbow – Certified Quilt Judge

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Why Should My Quilt Be Critiqued

When we attend a quilt show, we are always drawn to those few quilts hanging proudly with ribbons of blue, red, white, yellow. Sometime there is more than one ribbon on the quilt indicating it was singled out for special consideration for its workmanship in more than one feature. Often times the reasons are obvious yet, other times we stand there and say WHY!

I am a firm believer in an evaluation or critique system for quilts entered in the show. The statement I often hear “oh! We hang quilts just for the enjoyment of the public”, doesn’t move me to a great degree. Let me tell you why I am a believer.

Putting the ribbon/prize money aside, the evaluation or critique of a quilt should give the quilt maker an unbiased review of the entire quilt. The results should be a learning experience for the quilt maker. When we make a quilt, we see it through our eyes based on our own experience, skill and purpose of the quilt being made. We also see most of it up close and when finished give a sigh of relief that it is done. The evaluator sees it as an anonymous piece and can make his or her evaluation based on established criteria and experience in critiquing or evaluating many different types of quilts.

I also believe in a fair and impartial process which is constructive and instructive and not destructive but gives sufficient information for improvement in the quilt maker’s skill.  Now, having said all this, I’ll get down to the details of what the evaluator will look for and make comments.

The following elements are evaluated within the context of the group or guild’s purpose as well as any specific instructions on the entry form. Theme may be one of the added elements determined by the show committee.


Is the workmanship crisp and clean? Are the seams straight and do other shapes retain their intended form? Do the squares, triangles and diamonds retain their intended shape or have they become eschewed in the piecing or appliqué process. Therefore, the accuracy of stitching the pieces together should be true. Are the points true or might they have been cut off or extended in the process. Are true seam allowances maintained throughout the piecing process with little or no shadowing?

Are the borders straight and cut and pieced to maintain the square of the quilt?

Are the bindings even and the fabric used, if directional, cut with the pattern and not look like it is twisted. Are the corners well mitered or does one or more look like Dr. Spock of Star Trek lost an ear. Some judges will want the mitered fold stitched closed.


Is the quilting design compatible with the patchwork or appliqué design of the quilt?

Does the quilting fill the spaces providing uniformity to the quilt?

Does the thread color add to the overall design or the use of contrasting color add a secondary design which may be distracting?

Are the stitches even and consistent whether by hand or machine.

Overall Appearance:

This element can be subjective with the evaluator because we each have our own opinions especially when it comes to color used. Therefore, do the colors enhance the patchwork or appliqué or do they emphasize certain elements which stand out more than others. Overall appearance can also be the general condition of the quilt. Pet hairs and hanging threads detract from the beauty and workmanship of the quilt.

I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that a third party who looks at the quilt can be beneficial in helping the quilt maker to see the quilt through impartial eyes. You and a friend or relative are the first two. The results will give reinforcement to the quilt maker’s workmanship as well as offer constructive and beneficial suggestions where improvement can be made.

Good luck. Finish your quilt and send it for the world to see.

Holice Turnbow