2022 Quiltcon Reject: Why My Quilt Wasn’t Chosen

About 10 years ago I entered my first ever quilt show. You can bore yourself with the details here, but in essence, it was a nightmare. My quilt wasn’t even displayed. It was used as a table cloth for other exhibits. I knew it wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t care about quilting or stitch length. I was all about the piecing, and that didn’t seem to jive with other quilters.


After that experience, I distanced myself from the quilting community until I gained the confidence to show off another quilt online. People love it. The encouragement they gave me persuaded me to have another go at a quilt show. Though, if you couldn’t tell from the title… I didn’t even make it into the show. I was a 2022 Quiltcon reject. The disappointment stung deep, but I wanted to talk more about why I think my quilt wasn’t chosen.


Why I applied to the 2022 Quiltcon

I designed the Space Travel quilt after years of experimentation. You see, after my incident with the first quilt show, I wondered if I was doing quilting wrong. Were my designs too outlandish? Was my quilting too simple? I tried simple quilt designs with detailed quilting (that one went in the trash after a Sharpie failure…), I tried traditional patterns, and I even designed some repeating block patterns. None of them pulled me to my sewing machine. Quilting had become a chore.


Space Travel Modern Quilt Pattern


Then I bought a pattern than changed my life forever: Elizabeth Hartman’s ‘Fancy Forest’. I had one month to complete this behemoth for my friend’s wedding, and somehow, I did it. The traditional piecing made it so easy, but still created these detailed designs–I knew I had found my way.


Fancy Forest, pattern by Elizabeth Hartman

Designing the Space Travel quilt and writing the pattern, took as long as a journey to Mars, but when I had finished, I pieced the whole quilt in 2 days. The quilting took me as long as a journey back from Mars, but when she was done, I was ecstatic. It was everything I had dreamed of and more. She was the first piece of art that I shared with more than just my family and co-workers. I put her on the internet and the response was resounding.


More than one person online commented that I should enter Quiltcon. I had been so far removed from the quilting community that I didn’t even know what that was. I quickly learned it was the Modern Quilt Guild’s quilting show and was becoming almost as popular as AQS Quiltweek shows.


Was I good enough for that? Entering a show had never been my intention. Space Travel had been made for my bed. The backing is minky, because I wanted to be cozy and warm when I cuddled up on the couch in winter. But, the entry cost was low, and I figured that maybe it was time I try to get more into the quilting community again.


2022 Quiltcon Reject – why I think my quilt wasn’t chosen

The design

The design? Didn’t I just say that was why I was entering this darn thing into the show in the first place? Yes, but I still believe the design may have been one of the reasons for why my quilt was a 2022 Quiltcon reject. But not in the way that you would think.


I love the design and colors of the Space Travel quilt (obviously)–that hasn’t changed. But you see, quilts submitted to Quiltcon need to be completely original or you need to have permission from the pattern designer. While I was the pattern designer, I think I still had a strike against me that I ‘used a pattern’, even if I had my own permission.


Second, the Space Travel pattern isn’t completely original. I used an image to help develop it. The image in question is the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s ‘Voyager: the Grand Tour’ poster. Now, this image is copyright free, and I still gave attribution to it in the pattern and in my quilt placard. But, I think it’s still a potential liability for the show.


Voyage: the Grand Tour

The piecing

As I mentioned earlier, Quiltcon is becoming one of the more popular shows, getting up there with the AQS Quiltweek. This means, in order for Quiltcon to select you, your work needs to be perfect. Perfect. Now, I think the Space Travel quilt design is pretty close to perfection, but my actual construction of it could always use improvement. Sometimes, after 8 hours of sewing, you just call it ‘close enough’ and move on instead of resewing a point for the 5th time.


2022 Quiltcon Reject: Points
Close, but not quite points

The quilting

Honestly, over everything else, I know the quilting is my downfall. I try to be really up beat that anyone can be a quilter and you don’t need crazy expensive machines to do it. And you really can–just not at the highest levels of competition.


Even just looking domestic machine category, there is such a vast difference between a thousand dollar sewing machine made for quilting and a three hundred dollar machine made for general sewing. No matter how much you practice, having a few extra inches of throat space and machine regulated stitching will make a product I can’t compete with on my mid-beginner machine.


So, I do what I can, and, lot of the time, that means I just get her good enough to be done. Stitch spacing is the least of my worries. Fabric shifting is usually my biggest threat. If you’ve read my other blogs, I’ve been working on ways to get cheaper/better basting, and I’m still working to make Elmer’s glue the winner.

Fabric shifted and wrinkled between the quilting.
2022 Quiltcon Reject
Excess fabric from shifting had to be tucked into seams.


Anyway I look at it, the best solution to fix my quilting is to get a machine specifically designed for quilting. This means some sort of long- or mid-arm. It also means at least thousand dollars. I’m not quite ready for that. And that’s okay.


For now, I’m going to keep enjoying quilting and sharing it with others. I’m sure I’ll try another quilt show in the future, but I don’t know if it will be next year or in ten years.

Sew on!

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