How To Judge Significant Machine Embroidery


As quilt guild, you may have many questions and issues with figuring out how to judge significant machine embroidery in your shows. Read this guide for ideas.

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How To Judge Significant Machine Embroidery

Most quilt show chairs have faced the issue of complaints about the categories for a quilt show. As there are two sides to every story, there are also two sides to this one. Some larger shows are "judged", while some smaller shows have the viewers vote on their favorites in each category. A quilt show judge most likely knows the difference between hand and machine quilted, hand and machine embroidered, and a true self-designed piece of art and a quilt from a kit. But most voters don't. Goodness knows, many people don't care, but the ones who do are likely to express their opinions to the show chair.

How To Judge Significant Machine Embroidery


For a local or small guild show, most important is not to be judgmental in setting up the categories. The technique used to make the quilt may have been selected because the quilter currently lacks a skill that she will later acquire. Or, perhaps the quilter has a disability, such as arthritis, that may limit her choice of technique. The Quilter who uses a kit may donate more quilts to charity than anyone in the guild. The quilt show chair must welcome all to participate. So, what can the chair do to address the comments and still make sure that everyone has fun?

Quilt show ribbon


The topic of quilt show categories can be controversial, and, for many, this is based on the techniques used rather than the size of the quilt. The techniques used in quilts range through a spectrum and certainly are not as cut and dried as the summary below would indicate. But to shine light on this spectrum, I have chosen to represent two extremes in the table below.

Quilt show boutique


  End of the spectrum with the most quilter input End of the spectrum with the least quilter input
Idea In the mind of the quilter In the sample seen
Pattern Made up by the quilter In the kit or magazine
Fabric Carefully shopped for In the kit
Cutting Rotary cutter and ruler In the kit or use die cutter
Applique Designed and created by the quilter In the kit or purchased such as laser cut designs
Pin/Sew By hand or sewing machine No one escapes this step, but some machines pretty great.
Trim/adjust squares To keep blocks uniform in size May not be needed if die cut
Borders Decide size based on ratios, etc. Included in the kit
Quilting Quilt by Hand Long-arm computer controlled
Quilting Hand stitched Machine binding


One approach a quilt show chair might take is to appoint a small committee to meet and discuss the issue. Make sure that there is representation from all points of view. Some compromise will be necessary, but it is possible to give a little to everyone.

Our committee decided that the bed quilt categories would be open to all quilts and be organized by size.

To welcome more special quilts, we added the following categories.

ART QUILTS: These must be an original design by the quilt maker. These may utilize multiple techniques, include embellishments, thread painting, beading, painting on fabric, photography on fabric, etc.

HAND WORK: HAND quilted, embroidered, applique, etc. Over 50% must be hand work.

MACHINE WORK: Artistry of the machine quilting, machine embroidery, or machine applique. Over 50% must be machine work. You can find many more approaches on the Internet by searching for "quilt show categories." Above all, keep your quilt show fun so everyone can enjoy it! And maybe someday we will add a category for "My Favorite Failure"!


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Attaching individual pieces of fabric to a background to form a design.

Same As: Appliqué

See Also: Freezer Paper Applique, Needleturn Applique, Machine Applique, Reverse Applique, Shadow Applique
Binding is used as both a noun and a verb. As a noun it is the fabric that's used to cover the raw edges of the quilt sandwich after it's quilted. This edging fabric is referred to as the Binding (noun). As a verb it is the process of putting on this fabric, and it referred to as Binding a Quilt.
A quilt that is so badly damaged or worn that it's only purpose now is to be cut up for other craft projects.
Machine Applique
Attaching fabric onto a fabric foundation using machine stitching instead of hand stitching.

See Also: Freezer Paper Applique, Needleturn Applique, Reverse Applique, Shadow Applique, Applique
Machine Quilting
Creating quilting stitches on a quilt using a sewing machine instead of sewing them by hand.
Rotary Cutter
A very sharp tool that looks like a pizza wheel which is capable of cutting through multiple layers of fabric.
A heavy plastic measuring guide that can come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Debi Warner
Author and humorist, Debi Warner, retired after many years as a clinical librarian and information specialist. She has her Master’s in Library and Information Science and achieved a Distinguished level in the Medical Library Association’s Association of Health Information Professionals. She has worked on teaching physicians to use computers and electronic resources. She also worked on several grants teaching the public how to use the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus public database and is co-author of several articles on health literacy. She took up quilting after retirement in 2012 and chaired the Rio Grande Valley Quilt Show in 2019. She currently teaches several quilting classes over Zoom and writes for QuiltingHub.
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