Visiting a quilt show

With just three and a bit weeks to the Festival of Quilts, all the folks here at Youngish Quilters have only really got one thing on our minds – quilt shows!!  We have our workshops planned, our shopping lists written and a plan for all the exhibits we want to see.  Although Festival of Quilts is the biggest show in the UK, there’s lots of other shows on around the country over the summer months so I thought I’d share some of my top tips for visiting a quilt show.

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From QuiltCon 2018 – group challenge

Different types of show

When visiting a quilt show, you can choose between small local shows and the large national or even international shows.  As well as the variation in scale, you will probably see quite different quilts at the shows.

The smaller shows are often put on by a quilt group who want to exhibit their work.  Here you will see quilts which have been made by new and experienced quilters—there is usually information about why quilts have been made or who they have been made for and you often get to meet members of the group and talk to them about their work.   You can usually expect to find a couple of trade stalls—and a cup of tea and a bun!

Anne Marshall and Trudi Wood - Club Tropicana - 2 person

From Festival of Quilts 2017 – made by Anne Marshall and Trudi Wood.

Then there are the annual national or international quilt shows.  These have competitions and quilters can enter in themed or general classes.  There are usually lots of traders as well as demonstrations and workshops.

What to look for?

Shows are a great source of inspiration.  When looking at the quilts, take note of those you particularly like, or those which could inspire you.  Don’t forget your camera as photography for personal use is normally permitted.  Take a notebook also—it is a good idea to note the maker of quilts you photograph in case you want to post photos on a blog or use them as sources of inspiration.  Also note down colours, patterns or quilting ideas which you may want to refer to in the future.


Office Doodle 1 – Festival of Quilts 2016

If you go to a competitive show, take a look at the winners – they might not be to your taste, but can you work out why they have won?  Judges consider a number of aspects of a quilt when awarding marks—they will look at the quilt’s overall appearance including its use of colour, the design of the quilt top and the design of the quilting.  They will also look at techniques and skill level—expecting to see flawless execution of the design.

Just one thing— don’t be put off when looking at championship quilts —remember these were all beginners once!!  And perhaps consider entering next year!


Many shows offer workshop programmes – from hour-long tasters to two or three day master classes.  These offer a great opportunity to learn something new, work with a ‘famous’ tutor – or perhaps just sit down for a bit!  Festival of Quilts offers a fantastic range of workshops for young people (at a great price!) but many general classes are also open to youngish quilters – check the show listings for details.

Me Machine applique


When attending the big quilt shows, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of traders and the choice of goods available.  So it is worth thinking about what you want / need before you go.   Do you want fabrics , threads, books or notions?  Are you buying fabric for a particular quilt—do you know how  much you need?  Do you need to match fabrics—have you got a sample to take?  Alternatively, you may just want to wander about and see what takes your fancy!!


You can often get a list of the traders who are going to be at the show in advance by looking on the show website —so you can list those you really want to visit.  Be aware that they don’t always take all their stock—so if you need something particular, it is worth giving them a ring a few days before as most traders are happy to prepare an order in advance for collection at the show.

Tell us what you’ve seen

If you go to a show this summer, do get in touch and tell us all about it.  And if you’ve entered a quilt we’d love to see it!  We’ll be posting as many photographs as we can from Festival of Quilts – particularly the Young and Youngish Quilter entries – check out our Instagram youngishquilters for updates from the show.


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