In the Summer issue of The Professional Quilter, NQA certified judge Scott Murkin shared his thoughts on judging garments. Here’s an excerpt from that article:
Many quilters either started out as garment sewers who later developed an interest in quiltmaking or conversely, after mastering many quilting techniques, decided to apply them to garment making. Whichever came first, a significant number of quilters participate in garment making to various degrees.
In response to this trend and to showcase the creativity and talent of these skilled sewists, a significant majority of quilt shows have either an associated garment show or categories for garments within the judged show. This means that the active quilt show judge is going to be called upon at some point to judge garments. For the judge who has experience in garment making, this may pose no great challenge, but the judge who does not have this experience will need to seek out continuing education experiences to prepare for this eventuality.
A good starting place for assessing the completed garment is to consider the quiltmaking techniques that were used in the construction. Techniques such as piecing, appliqué and quilting are judged by the same criteria of design and workmanship as they are in quilts. Surface design techniques are also held to the same standards as they are in quilting. Embellishments are seen quite commonly in garment making, and they should be well secured and integrated into the overall design and construction of the garment.
In addition to the traditional quiltmaking skills, a number of specialized skills are required to turn this constructed fabric into a three-dimensional object that can be worn on the body. The garment field has its own specialized terminology, such as French seams, a Hong Kong finish and frog closures. Specific resources will allow the judge to become fluent in the language of garment making. Being able to use these terms properly when providing feedback to entrants will enhance the judge’s credibility inestimably.
The final, and arguably most important, element of judging garments is the aspect that makes them most unique from quilts. Because garments are designed and constructed to be worn, the drape, wearability and appearance on the human form become paramount in the evaluation. The fact that quilted clothing is meant to be presented in three dimensions affects both construction and design decisions.
The amazing inventiveness and creativity in today’s quilted clothing world, along with expert sewing skills and cross-fertilization between garment and quiltmaking, provide an exciting opportunity for quilt show judges to be involved in assessing this art form. If this is not your area of expertise, find a mentor from the garment field (in addition to one or more of the listed resources) so that you can carry out your responsibilities with aplomb. A working knowledge of the language and skills of garment making will serve you well throughout your career.
Please share your thoughts on judging garments as a judge or garment maker in the comments below.
If you would like to read more of Scott’s article, including details on the terminology of garment making and resources to build your knowledge, it’s included in our Summer 2011 issue of The Professional Quilter and available to IAPQ members. The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.