Class Review — “Win, Place or Show” with Cathy Wiggins


Cathy Wiggins

Browse through Cathy’s website and you will see that she knows her stuff. Her award-winning quilts are extremely creative and the details are exquisite. To top it off, she is a vibrant and enthusiastic teacher, so her classes (I took three at MQX) were a total pleasure.

This class answered the question: “What does it take to make a winning quilt?” Unfortunately there is no guaranteed-to-win formula. One of the best parts of the class was seeing the judge’s comments on Cathy’s quilts. The same quilt that won a ribbon at one show would receive negative comments at another. Her philosophy is to pay attention to comments that are repeated and ignore the rest. She, for example, got numerous comments that her binding was badly done and realized that was a legitimate area for improvement.

Quilts are judged in two ways. The first is using a points system, where each judging category is ranked from “1” to “10.”  The quilt with the most points wins. Easy enough.

The second method is the elimination method. Using this method, judges are shown a quilt and decide whether to hold it or pass on it. Once they have seen all the quilts, they will go through them again (and again) until they have found a winner.

Sometimes a combination of judging methods is used. A points system will be used to whittle down the quilts to the semi-finalist stage.

Quilts are judged based on design and workmanship. According to Cathy, a winning quilt will generate an emotional reaction from the viewer. It also needs to have a pleasing interplay of design, threads, motifs, etc. Quilts with a high degree of difficulty will win over those that were easier to create.

The second part of judging is on the workmanship. Winners do a great job of everything from the piecing to the binding. Curves are smooth. Pointed tips aren’t cut off.  And the quilt is square.

Different shows will have different judging criteria. MQX, for examples, awards 2/3rds of your points for workmanship. Ugh! A different show will rank artistry and workmanship equally, or use an elimination system where the quilt is looked at in totality. Also, some entry categories have more competition than others, and that will influence your chance of winning.

I found this class to be extremely informative. It helped explain why a winning quilt at one show didn’t place at another. It also gave me a method for looking at quilts and trying to understand how they were scored.  I quickly realized things I hadn’t done with my own quilt entry (the two major items were blocking the quilt and burying my threads), so that I could do a better job with future show quilts.

You can find out more about Cathy and her work at


One response »

  1. Enlightening Post , I did not know that the way one show scored quilts would be so different from another. Though there are certainly those shows when you can clearly see the kinds of quilts the judges like! Aka certain patterns or use of repros, etc. glad you had a good time.

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