Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thoughts From the Bloggers Quilt Festival

Whew!  I just finished viewing the last of the catgories for Amy Ellis' Bloggers Quilt Festival and voting for my favorites.  This is the fifth year Amy has hosted this online event which she holds twice a year in conjuction with the vendor Quilt Markets. 

Like all of the previous years, this was a great festival -- truly a chance to see what so many quilters around the world are working on.  This year Amy did it in a new format -- rather than just having one huge linky list, quilters added their projects into specific catagories like Bed Quilts, Wall Quilts, Hand Quilted, Art Quilts, ect.  This definitely made it less overwhelming to view all the entries.  

However, I also realized something while deciding what to vote for in each catagory.  Trying to choose between all the beautiful quilts I saw, I felt like I got a taste of what it must be like to be a Quilt Show Judge.  There were times when it was really, really hard to choose just one favorite.  Years ago, I listened to one of Annie Smith's podcasts where she talked about her experiences as a judge and what quilters entering contests should keep in mind about the process.  I did find all of what she said to be true as I tried to make my own selections from all the online entries.

I now really get the challenges involved when you have to try to pick a favorite from 50 or 60 quilts in a catagory.  Your first reaction will be to narrow it down by going for the visual --- choosing those quilts that most catch your eye.  You may like a lot of the quilts but there will probably be just a few that stand out visually above the rest to you.  With the online show, I found that then reading the stories behind them often influenced whether a quilt stayed in the running or not.  Maybe it was the effort the quilter had to put into getting the quilt from idea to finish or the inspiration behind the quilt or unique materials or techniques that were used (or invented) to make it.  I don't know if show judges have that information when they judge but for this festival it definitely was a factor. 

Another judging quilbble is making sure your quilt is in the right catagory.  There were a few instances in the festival where I saw quilts I liked but not for the catagory it was in.  In those instances, juding a quilt based on what the catgory is supposed to represent meant it scored lower for me than it would have if it had been placed in what I believed was a more appropriate catagory for it.  This is also something I've read is true for live judged shows.

The limitation of judging an online quilt show like this is that you can't actually see the quilt in person.  Bad pictures really work against the maker (something that I know I need to work on for my own projects).  This is also something that I've read is true when people send their quilt entries in for initial selection even before judging.

I have to say that even taking into account what I liked about some quilts it was still hard to choose just one to vote for!  So now I understand why at the quilt shows, the skill of construction of the quilt comes into play.  When faced with two quilts both equally visually beautiful, well executed, and with equally successful interpretations of design or theme, the only other factor that might distinguish the two might be how well it was made -- right down to the last stitch!  As quilters, we laugh when people tell us about judging critiques that talk about "the fullness of the binding (or lack thereof)" or being chided for "not hiding knots in the back of the quilt" or "uneven quilt stitching".  But if you're in the position where you  HAVE TO make a choice and some seemingly inconsequential issue is all that seperates one outstanding quilt from another, you're going to use it! 

This also brings to mind something else Annie said: that quilters need to remember that there is no doubt that judging does have a big subjective element to it.  Beyond the established or outlined judging criteria, a judge also brings their own preferences to the table.  So a judge that prefers hand work might boost that over an equally beautiful machine done quilt.  Or if you like intricate piecing over "liberated" or favor original works over intrepretations of published pattens those things may sway your vote towards a particular quilt.  As a quilter however, this also means that you must take judging comments and choices with a grain of salt.  You must remember that your quilt is not being judged just on its own merits, it is competing against other quilts.  Not winning or getting a ribbon DOES NOT mean your quilt is bad, it just means that when all the factors came together, someone else's quilt pushed more of the judges' buttons than yours did in this particular show.

All that said, all I can say is "thank goodness for Viewers Choice" --- although even there I could have really use more than one vote!  This is the chance for you to elevate a quilt that held a particular appeal for you towards the award platform.  We should all make it a point to take the time to fill out those Viewers Choice cards at any show we go to and give a boost to the quilts that might not "take the cake" but do "steal our hearts".

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bloggers Quilt Festival -- Spring 2013

It's been a while since I've posted so what better way to get back in the groove than to participate in the Bloggers Quilt Festival hosted by Martingale quilt author Amy Ellis of Amy's Creative Side.

Spring Blogger's Quilt Festival -

 This is a wonderful biannual tradition that was pioneered by Amy and allows quilters and non-quilters alike to sample all the glorious creativity going on in the quilting world today.  This is the first time in a few years that I've had something finished in time to coincide with the festival so I'm excited to contribute again.

The project I'm offering up is my Brrr! quilt in the Throw Quilt category.  Finishing at 65" x 88" it's large for a throw but too small to consider it a true bed quilt for my queen bed even though that's where I plan to display it during the winter months.

I'm happy to say that this one was a UFO that had been sitting around since 2009 awaiting quilting but is now finally done!  The pattern is "Brrr Park" by Minick & Simpson and made from their Moda fabric line "Winter" from a kit purchased in 2008 from Keepsake Quilting.  The backing, a lovely flannel (one of my favorite kinds of fabric) was also purchased from Keepsake.  I thought the theme of it was the perfect complement to the patten design.

I didn't make this right after purchasing it for one reason:  all those Half Square Triangle Squares (known in the quilt world as HSTs)!  I was put off by the prospect of making so many HSTs (there are 40 in each tree and another 166 around the first border).  The thing that jumpstarted the project for me at the time was Quilt-Pro coming out with their Print & Sew: Triangle Magic software.  This allows you to print out a sheet of paper (letter or legal, your choice) with HST sewing and cutting lines on it for the finished size HST you need.  Then you layer your fabrics right sides together, sew on the sewing lines, cut on the cutting lines and voila you have anywhere from 4 - 48 HSTs (again depending on the finished size needed) done in no time!
These were not from this project but you get the idea!

Brenda Henning also makes a similar program called Trianglulations that will do the same thing.  I highly recommend them if you have a project that calls for making gobs of HSTs (and any of you still waiting to start your Civil War Chronicles BOM will know what I mean!)

Once the top was made and promptly layered, this quilt sat around waiting for quilting.  I've spent the last few years trying to build up my machine quilting confidence.  Every machine quilting expert says that you have to put in the time on the machine to get better at it and they are absolutely right.  Every project I do shows some improvement in my stitching and (to use Carla Barrett's term), "quilt whispering" (deciding what to stitch where).  I particularly had a lot of fun with that on this quilt as I did a lot of different motifs:


Free-form interpretive on the Trees



and even a little straight-line with a walking foot

As I often do with quilts that will be displayed on the bed, I also stitched up some coordinating accessories to go with it.

The print pillowcases and the neckroll cover were made from fabric from Moda's "Figgy Pudding" line by Basic Grey from a few years ago.  Now I just have to wait for Winter to return (but there's no rush there I assure you)!

So thanks for stopping by and please continue on your tour of all the fabulous projects being presented in the Bloggers Quilt Festival.  Postings will be added through Friday 5/24.  Then you can vote on your favorites in each category from 5/27 - 5/30 and the winners will be announced on 5/31!  Enjoy the rest of the show!!