I recently sent a couple of my quilts off to Quilt Con – the first Modern Quilt Guild National Conference for the quilt show there.  I’ve never submitted a quilt for a formal juried show and I was nervous but excited.  I submitted two quilts into the show and was delighted when they were accepted to be part of the show.

The first was a small applique quilt I made as part of a swap.  It’s one of my favorites!

Secret Dreams

And the second was a Zig Zag Twin size quilt I designed and made as part of a QAL here on my blog.

I wasn’t able to be at Quilt Con myself.  The cost was prohibitive for me and I frankly needed that time to sew.  But it sounds like lots of people there had a great time.  And they helped keep Austin weird. 😉

I couldn’t see my own quilts in the show and lived vicariously through the pictures people took of the quilt show.  It was great fun to see all the quilts.

And then, the awards started coming out.  It was quickly clear that I was NOT a winner.  That’s okay.  Seriously.  I was fine.  I did have some hmm? moments about some of the winners but I chalked some of that up to not seeing the quilts in person.  I put that behind me and focused on my current work and the fun time I was having with some quilty friends in Atlanta that weekend instead.

Today I opened the box with my returned quilts from the show, excited to read the judges comments on my quilts.   Excitement quickly dwindled to confusion and then to heart ache as I read what they thought of my work.

Let me preface this by saying I do not know who the judges were and I DO NOT think that they were saying anything about me, Angela Pingel.  I feel that they were talking about my work.  And it’s awfully hard to distinguish that from myself but I’m working on it.  I feel no animosity towards the judges…I’m just sharing my experience with my first juried show.


This quilt… a little piece of me for sure, was unoffensive to them but definitely not their cup of tea.  They found nothing extraordinary about it and it was described as being “overly personal”.

Confusion.  Isn’t quilting about being personal?  Isn’t this about taking a piece of ourselves and putting it out there?  Is Modern Quilting just graphic images and straight lines at wonky angles?  I didn’t think so before this, but now I’m not sure.  There was no mention of the detail or work it took to make this.  Did I make it look too easy? lol  Because trust me.  It wasn’t.

So whatever.  Obviously not to their taste.  So I opened the letter to read about my zig zag quilt.  And my heart sank.


They pretty much hated everything about this one.  They didn’t like my fabric choices…thought they should be “more special”.  They DID NOT like the binding fabric – apparently it cut off the design of the quilt. ???  The quilting did nothing for them.  Apparently it did not accent the design of the quilt.  And the kicker.  They said it had NO VISUAL IMPACT.  They said it was not particularly modern (It was in the modern traditionalism category) nor original.


I’ve got to admit.  That was really hard for me to hear.  I cried a few tears and tried to understand what they would want.  I didn’t EVER think that my zig zag quilt had a chance in hell of winning anything.  I even joked with friends that I thought my quilt was accepted in order to make it obvious that their quilts should win (I think I was right on that).  But I didn’t realize that by entering it I was opening myself to this type of critique.  I want to have a conversation with them and explain that the fabrics were deliberately chosen to highlight the pattern and not the fabrics.  That the quilting was difficult and done by me on a conventional machine using 17 bobbins.  I thought that the juxtaposition of the large pebbles was interesting against the straight lines of the zig zag.

I wasn’t expecting puppies and rainbows but I don’t want to feel like it wasn’t worth their time.  Why did they accept it in the first place?  But most of all I struggle with the fact that they (whoever they are) have made me ASHAMED of my work.

I’ll recover.  I’ll move on, scarred but stronger.  It will certainly take a lot for me to ever enter a competition like this again.  I’d like to think I can take criticism but maybe I can’t.  I don’t have any other experience with juried shows so maybe this is what they are all like.  Regardless, they are not the place for me.  I feel less like I belong than ever before.

*shutting down the comments so we can all move on.  Please feel free to email me if you have further concerns.  I’m doing well and I will be happily sewing in the future.*

208 thoughts on “Judged”

  1. Aw. 🙁 I love your quilts and your blog, and I'm really glad you were open and honest about this, as you are about many things! But I'm sorry they made you feel bad, because you seem very cool and I don't like people making other people feel sad or ashamed! Also, I loved your quilts–actually, I pinned your zig zag the minute I saw it on this post, before reading anything more! So I guess Judgy McJudgerson would get his/her panties in a twist over my Pinterest board. Whatever.

    In my line of work, I get a lot of criticism, and I have to give a lot of criticism too. It sucks, both ends of it. I hate being criticized. I'm the first to admit that "judging" others' work can be really difficult, and giving constructive criticism is definitely a skill, one that it sounds like your judge might not have had. Even if I agreed with their comments on your quilts (I don't happen to), I can think of much better ways to broach those issues. Very few people are driven to succeed by someone being purely mean to them.

    I wonder if this particular quilt show needs to spend the next year or so really thinking about what they hope to achieve with the judging portion of the show. Modern quilting is pretty open to interpretation, which I think is what draws a lot of us to it. But that also makes it hard to judge. Perhaps they need to decide what they will be evaluating, and then at least entrants know what the standards are. Or, if they'd like to keep the open interpretations of modern quilting, they might need to have judges who are on board with a different aim for the comments–a commitment to improving one's craft, but who also have an open mind about how "modern quilting" is interpreted.

    I hope this won't dim your love of your happy and beautiful quilts. I agree with you that our craft is wonderfully personal, at least as most of us practice it. If you love it, or your recipient loves it, then you have achieved an amazing thing. In time, you might enter another show. But if you don't, don't feel bad about it. You're not a lesser quilter if your quilts aren't hanging in the "big" shows. It's a hobby and a labor of love, so do what is fun and fulfilling for you, whatever that may be.

  2. Angela, I wish I still lived in IN so I could come over and we could have a little ice cream and chocolate party!! Maybe we could get everyone together and have a little bon fire with all of those judges comment sheets 🙂 I just want to say thank you for writing this post. I too shed a few tears over my quilts judges comments and being able to read all these comments, while directed at you, have helped me too and I so appreciate that. I love your work, I have been privileged to get to work with you in a book and a bee, and am grateful for your friendship through this amazing virtual community!

  3. Angela,
    I've been a quilter for over 40 years. I've been to many big and small quilt shows. I've seen the judged quilts at the International Quilt Festival in Houston and many state and local shows. I have taken classes from individuals who have submitted countless numbers of quilts to juried shows and heard their stories about the disparity of "rules" when it comes to judging quilts.

    What I have learned is that the judging is all about personal taste and much less about a measurable set of criteria. What gets the top honors at one show wouldn't make honorable mention at another. Your experience has an unfortunate ring of similarity to other stories I have heard.

    What is also unfortunate is that you will likely remember more about the rude and unnecessarily critical review of your work from the judges than you will about the supportive and enthusiastic comments from your followers. My advice is to listen to the supportive people in your life and turn a deaf ear to the "haters" as they are so rightly referred in current lingo.

    Quilters express our personalities through our quilts. Yours is obviously happy, cheerful, optimistic and joyful. Thumb your nose at those haters and sew!

  4. I too am just shocked. People who are so harsh should not be allowed to judge shows. While constructive criticism is helpful, this kind of bashing does nothing good for anyone. I hope that you can take all of these ^^ opinions of your work more personally (in a good way, of course!) than the horrible words that these women said.

  5. I live in a tiny tiny town in rural Australia. When I started out quilting I was at least 20 years younger than the youngest quilter in the local quilting group. I didn't have kids yet and so the older members decided to help train me up to learn how to judge in the local shows so that one day I might be prepared to do it. I was completely amazed at the process. It was not what I thought it was going to be like at all. The judges looked at things that I didn't think mattered and picked each piece apart. I have been allowed to follow judges about 4-5 times now and each time it was a different judge. It was so different each time and what they looked at was so different. What I want to say with this is that entering a show for judging is allowing yourself to be judged against their parameters. It doesn't mean that your work isn't awesome! I personally have been inspired by your work for years and many prize winning quilts do not inspire me. Keep up with what you do and know and trust that your work is great! Be your own best judge–you know your work best!

  6. Angela,
    I attended art school many years ago. One of the things they try to prepare students for is criticism. They tell a lot of stories about artists who are now famous but during their time totally unappreciated. Many of them lived in horrid destitution and not their works sell for more than some small countries annual income.
    It does not hurt any less. One of my art instructors actually jumped up and down on one of my pieces. Ironically the same "professor" said that for a piece of art to be considered successful it should elicit an emotional response. My thought to the jumping was 'if that was not an emotional response, I don't know what one is…'
    Anyways, the moral of the story is that not everyone is going to love our work. You are an artist. I have followed your blog for a year or more and have found many of your works to be spectacular. Some of them I go back to again and again. I think you are very talented.
    As for what makes a quilt modern, well I have not been able to determine that myself…so you are not alone on that front. I think you should not let this experience take away the joy you get from creating. It is clear to me that you really enjoy it and it is reflected in your work. I am sorry the experience was so poor. Hang in there and keep sewing!

  7. Angela, I love both of your quilts. I have seen a lot of the quilts entered (pictures only) and have to say that yours are every bit as good as any entered. The judging seems to have been done by people who had no experience with judging at all, and that is too bad as it reflects badly on the MQG. I have entered shows (not quilting-needlework) before and always had wonderful constructive comments on my sheets. I even won ribbons-and those also had some constructive comments on them. As for their comments on your fabric choices-that seems to be completely off base as everyone's choices are different and based on their personal preferences, something that is really outside of their realm to dictate. If it was a challenge, that would be different. I think the MQG owes everyone an apology for the poor choices in judgement made by their so called "judges". Maybe by 2015 they will find some judges that have some actual experience and can do their job without tearing everyone else down. I know it will be hard to get past this, but please try as you have a very special gift and I would hate to see you disparage your own worth because of these very ill chosen words on a critique sheet.

  8. A judge's comments can certainly take the wind out of your sails! I entered two quilts in a state quilt show and I received very disheartening comments. I think it took me 3 or 4 months to even attempt to free-motion quilt after that. My pieces were interesting and well done but they were not traditional quilts at all. Both of your pieces were beautiful, heck, they were juried into the Quilt Con show – and that's saying something!!! Tuck those judge's sheets away and move forward!

  9. oh Angela, I've never commented on your blog before but I had to now. I live in Australia – so going to QuiltCon was never going to happen from here! I loved seeing all the pics on instagram. I have never entered a quilt into a juried show, and have never had anyone pass formal judgement on anything I've made. So I have no idea exactly what you are feeling.

    But I wanted to say I have long loved your gorgeous heart mini – I pinned it the minute I saw it, as it makes me think of my daughters and their constant reading and imagining. I think it captures that beautifully, for so many of us. I love the tiny details inside the imagination bubble too, especially the Heather Ross mermaid and van.

    The zig zag quilt is fabulous, I love the colours and that the bands of zig zags are separated by the white.

    I'm so sorry you have been upset by the comments you received in having them formally judged. I know I would shed a tear too, as it's so hard to separate yourself from your quilts and again from them being a piece of 'judged work'. They are both beautiful. I hope that you are able to look at them again and see that they are beautiful, and to remember how much you loved them before they were formally judged. take care, Catherine

  10. oh Angela, I've never commented on your blog before but I had to now. I live in Australia – so going to QuiltCon was never going to happen from here! I loved seeing all the pics on instagram. I have never entered a quilt into a juried show, and have never had anyone pass formal judgement on anything I've made. So I have no idea exactly what you are feeling.

    But I wanted to say I have long loved your gorgeous heart mini – I pinned it the minute I saw it, as it makes me think of my daughters and their constant reading and imagining. I think it captures that beautifully, for so many of us. I love the tiny details inside the imagination bubble too, especially the Heather Ross mermaid and van.

    The zig zag quilt is fabulous, I love the colours and that the bands of zig zags are separated by the white.

    I'm so sorry you have been upset by the comments you received in having them formally judged. I know I would shed a tear too, as it's so hard to separate yourself from your quilts and again from them being a piece of 'judged work'. They are both beautiful. I hope that you are able to look at them again and see that they are beautiful, and to remember how much you loved them before they were formally judged. take care, Catherine

  11. I really feel for you, any nasty comment about anything you have created and obviously pored a lot of love in will be hurtful. I wish people would remember the quilts may not have feelings but the quilters do!!!
    Both of those quilts are so wonderful in different way, your mini is just perfect to me and I would adore anything like that hanging in my home, it's so original and different.
    The zig zag quilt is so fresh and modern to me and to me the binding pulls all of the colours together!!

  12. Angela, I am sorry for your experience. This is the reason I do not enter shows of any kind. We all have our own doubts about our work and judges are extremely critical. Part of it is that they are supposed to criticize. I think there should be a class for anyone who wants to judge shows. They need to learn how to critique without damaging a fragile ego. To say it is not my cup of tea is fine, not every quilt appeals to every quilter. To rip one apart, verbally, is completely unnecessary. For the record, I think both of your quilts are lovely. And yes, I do think they accept some of the quilts just so the winning quilts have something to stand up against. I do not believe for one second that this is an unbiased judging. I often feel that some, and I stress some, of the MQG members are elitist. It's why I don't join. That way I only have to please myself. Please keep your heart and your quilting as it is, continue to grow and share your lovely works with us here. I truly appreciate it.

  13. I happen to LOVE the zig zag quilt. and the quilt with the girl dreaming is very nice. I understand why people have quilts judged.. but that's it JUDGED.. I am the creator of my quilts. I have control of every step of the way. I have noticed some of the attendees are very CLICKY.. there are a few that were in attendance to the show that I follow on blogs, who are designers for certain fabric manufacturers and,I hate to inform them. they have no people skills. and sadly because of that I will not purchase their fabric.. sad I know, and I did not comment to bring anyone down, but we buy and love fabric and we enjoy creating things for friends and family. I think when things are being judged it is their judgement not someone who would cherish the quilt. keep your head up and do not let the judges break your creating spirit.

  14. I'm still waiting for feedback on my quilt that was in the show, and after reading your feedback, I'm not exactly looking forward to it. I was at the show, and the biggest thing I found was that there were quilts that ribboned with very little technical merit to them. I questioned how a quilt that didn't lay flat won a ribbon while other quilts that were technically excellent didn't ribbon. Seeing the winning quilts made me realize that the judges seemed to pick quilts they liked and totally dismissed the technical nature of quilting. We have fought to have outsiders of the modern quilt movement view our quilts as more than just improve pieced quilts with no regard for complex piecing and technical merit, but I felt the judging here took us a step back by totally dismissing the technical element. I wish they disclosed the judging criteria because I'm left wondering why certain quilts ribboned while others didn't. Your quilts are beautiful and you should be proud of them. I think a lot of the issue comes from who the judges were – a fabric designer and a fabric/yarn store owner. Please be proud of your quilts. Your work is beautiful.

  15. Both quilts are AMAZING! I absolutely love the one of the girl with her dreams and life in thoughts. So personal….I think I can see parts of your life in that and I don't even know you. I just made a Chevron quilt and it was lots of work. I love your interpretation of it with the narrow strips of fabric.

    Years ago I entered a small wall hanging in a show and after I got the "critique" back I decided I would never enter another. After all, most of us quilt for ourselves and the enjoyment and the relaxation and the creativeness…and we hope others enjoy, not pick apart, what we have created.

  16. I'm a lurker/reader, so you don't know me and I hope I'm not stepping on toes by commenting. But I wanted to say that both these quilts (along with the rest of your work) are imaginative and beautiful and creative, and that I can't imagine how anyone could judge them so harshly. "Overly personal" seems like a particularly bizarre criticism – I know that for me, crafting and quilting are intensely personal. I really hope you don't feel too discouraged.

    – Martha

  17. oh, that's really not easy. There are many thoughts going through my head. Too much to type down here. Keep on sewing and having fun in doing so. That's what matters.

  18. I find your work beautiful. Please don't let this stop you from quilting. Your work is way more meticulous than mine has ever been, but I just remind myself that the reason I quilt is to make something pretty and warm for someone I love. As long as I love it and they love it and it will bring a smile to their heart than my time was well spent. Anytime you put yourself out there it's difficult to hear the 'rejection'. But who cares? Who are they anyway? Stay true to what you love and quilt on!

  19. Oh my…I've never entered a judged show, but quilts are so very personal and take so much of our time, energy and heart. Getting judgment like that must feel like getting told that your child isn't good enough! But please, please focus on all the love and support that you are getting through these comments. I've loved your blog for ages – it might be one of the first ones I added to my Reader – and your quilts big and small are such a source of inspiration to me! Keep up the gorgeous work 🙂

  20. It takes A LOT to put your work out there and have it judged. I am so sorry they chose to find the negative in your work and not the positives. All judges are NOT like that – they can critique without being cruel.

    You've hit exactly on my struggles with the modern movement versus the more traditional methods of quilting. I think a lot of us wonder where we really belong – I think the bottom line answer is… we quilt because it makes us happy to make something for someone else (or ourselves) with our own two hands. Nothing else should matter. Keep up the great work!

  21. Those judges are completely ridiculous and that kind of criticism is uncalled for, even if your work wasn't spectacular, which I actually think your quilts are!! I know it must have been very upsetting but hope that all these comments will give you some comfort. I know that you will continue to inspire so many people with your wonderful works of quilt art!

  22. Well, you have a LOT of support here, but I'm still going to write my 2 cents! First of all, quilting IS personal. All my quilts have "stories" and that is what makes them special. Your quilts are gorgeous, Angela. I have no idea who the judges were, but I think they missed the mark. That said, critiques of our work are very hard to hear (I am a writer and belonged to an online critique group for years – my first critique devastated me and I cried for three days before I could begin writing again). BUT, a critique should not just be what the critiquer thought needed improvement (or what they did not think worked), it should also point out the strengths of the work. No one, on one, can "hear" a critique which is all negative. And in my opinion, that kind of critique is just mean.

    I also want to say, I think you showed tremendous courage to submit anything to QuiltCon…and you deserve a BIG congratulations on having your two quilts accepted to the show. Don't let the judges' totally subjective, limited view of your work discourage you. Quilting, as everything in the "art" world, is subjective. Those particular judges were critical, but the very next show you could have judges who see the special qualities and beauty of what you have done. <3

  23. I have always loved your blog and I am always inspired by your talent. Apparently the judges at QuiltCon have never heard "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" or The Golden Rule. I bet they would be crushed to hear those words directed at them!!!!

  24. Goodness! It's awful that you had such a bad experience in your first show. Now, this is the first post of yours I have read. Because I heard about this from Traceyjay. And I'm nosy!

    Now my questions for you. Do you belong to a guild? If you do, find out who does quilt judging for your state guild or something and, perhaps, make an appointment to have your work looked at by someone who judges quilting while you are there to discuss their findings. If nothing else, you will learn what judges look for.

    I think you were very brave to enter your quilts in the show. I don't do criticism of myself very well, so I will never send one of my quilts off to be judged.

  25. Oh, Angela. I hate that they made you question yourself for even a millisecond. Personal taste is one thing, certainly…I follow your blog because I personally like what you make. However, I also recognize your skills as a quilter—your work is not just creative and lovely, but well executed! It does not sound like the judges even noticed that aspect. Plus judging shouldn't be mean.

    Your Daydreamer piece is one of my favorites (!!!) of all time, anywhere. Your ZigZag entry is great as well, fresh and pretty and technically sharp. And I admire your bravery in submitting your quilts at all–I can't even work up the confidence to give one of my quilts to anyone outside our home! =P (of course my quilts don't look like yours!) I hope you can brush this off and continue to focus on your art, which is personal, beautiful, and so inspirational to so many people.

  26. I'm just catching up on my blog reading from the weekend, and I was so sorry to read about your experience this morning, Angela. Quilting is art. It's intensely personal, and everyone has their own taste when it comes to what they like. I've found myself so many times in the past year struggling to understand what people want to see and why things that I'm so proud of are sometimes met with a yawn. I guess I'm learning that I need to be sewing what I love because I love it. Sometimes it's better to tune everything else out.

  27. Angela, Your quilts are so SO inspiring to me personally. I'm glad you've received so much support from talking about this! I understand that part of judging is picking a favorite, so obviously not everyone can win. I just don't see the value in sending out critiques that aren't constructive. Do you think the judges knew these would be sent back to the quilters??

    Anyway, your mini is one of the most incredible quilts I've ever seen, and your zigzag quilt is so bright, fun, and innovative. (And I've used that rainbow binding on at least three quilts, so that one stings to me too!) Hope you know how well respected you are in the modern quilting community!!

  28. I attended QuiltCon and just wanted to add that I actively sought out the smaller quilt because of all the pictures I saw on instagram. Both are beautiful pieces of art. I'm so sorry you received negative feedback, but I hope that won't hold you back from creating!
    Oh- I'm a new to this whole quilting business and I just found your blog through the fat quarterly flickr site. Can't wait to read/see more 🙂

  29. Judging at quilt shows has always been a mystery to me. The ones I think are amazing almost never win. I would not expect this meanness from the quilting community, hopefully the judges were just poorly chosen.

    I really like you zig zag quilt, for what that's worth. Creativity is in the heart of each individual.

  30. I received similar notes on my quilt, and I had a similar reaction. I have lots of experience with design critiques both in my education and professional practice as a landscape architect, and I welcome constructive criticism. It can be hard to take, but good criticism is a gift. The problem with the Quiltcon critique is that there is not a single crumb of useful information – just trivial opinions. And that I did not expect.

  31. 1. I'm a fan.
    2. Keep being you.

    I think the judging was "overly personal" and they will learn from the experience. It's not normally an episode of Dance Moms.

    Years ago, a friend complained about receiving a juried comment which read only "Uneven stitches." You see, after paying to receive the comments, she wanted something meatier. I should send her this link.

  32. Adding to the love – I do wonder why they accepted it in the first place. Your work is beautiful and moving – what more could you hope to achieve?

    I struggle with following blogs because I'm disheartened by how little time I have to sew and hate that I'll never achieve what so many of you achieve. Then I get over it and follow just for the fun of seeing so many beautiful quilts (and other items) – please know that you're inspiring others in addition to the joy you get from quilting.

  33. I love your quilts Angela, they're so very inspirational! I loved your girl dreaming from the moment I saw her, she is just beautiful. You make the most amazing swap gifts! I'm so sorry that you have had a bad experience. I hope you take heart from all the love here in these comments and carry on creating, you truly have a gift!

  34. I've never been to your blog before, I come via Tracey. But, I love your quilts! Brush off those comments and keep doing what you do best 🙂

  35. Angela,
    Your girl quilt is absolutely darling! I have to make a self portrait for a small group that I'm in and I found it very inspiring. I pinned the zig zag quilt before reading this post. It's an inventive take on the "regular" zig zag quilts. These judges obviously weren't QUALIFIED and CERTIFIED quilt judges. Suzanne Marshall, an internationally recognized and award winning quilter, once did a program for our guild where she read judges comments for the same quilt. One set of judges loved it and it won a prize and another set at a different show didn't care for it at all.
    You are a very talented artist. Don't doubt yourself.

  36. I love what MuleHill wrote. I think art is subjective. To me, your quilts are amazing. I recently discovered the blog of another quilter who entered a quilt as well, and it didn't place. Looking at the quilts that did win, well, some of them I thought were nice, one I loved, and the others I thought, again–art is subjective. It didn't trip my twanger but maybe it does for somebody else. But, that's okay… it's all about what makes you happy when you're making it. I love your zig zag quilt–it's all kinds of happy–and your mini is particularly amazing. I think of what you will think of it 20+ years down the line, as each image sparks a memory of the time you were making the quilt. That, to me, is amazing.