The process for judging the quilts is orderly and objective. All the quilts in a category are laid out face up in a stack on a table. The top quilt is held vertically by volunteers for the judge to see. It is laid back on the table, and the judge rates it “excellent”, “good”, “satisfactory” or “needs improvement” in four different categories – Color and Design, Top Construction, Quilting and Finishing. She adds her comments, and all of this information is recorded on a form which is given to the quilter when the quilt is returned after the show. This quilt is removed from the top of the stack, and the next quilt goes through the same process. As she goes along, the judge “holds” quilts that she feels might be prize-winners until she has viewed all the quilts in a category. She then goes about the difficult job of selecting the top three quilts for that category. Other outstanding quilts may be awarded other ribbons such as “Best Machine Quilting”, “Best Hand Quilting’ and “Artistic Merit”. “Honorable Mention” awards are for quilts that are outstanding in their category, but not one of the top three. “Judges Recognition” ribbons go to quilts that have a very unique facet that is worthy of notice. The overall quality of workmanship may not qualify it for one of the other awards, but it catches the judge’s eye because of its design or use of color or unique pattern.
QuiltFest judges are provided by the National Quilting Association, the only national organization with a certification program for quilt judges. There are currently sixty-three Certified Judges qualified to judge quilt shows of all sizes throughout the country.