How To Impress the Judge & Get the Blue Ribbon

I have recently been asked to consider being a judge for fiber arts at a county fair in a community nearby. This would entail giving all entries within divisions and categories placement of at least first through third, and highlighting the best in shows. I am not sure how this offer might play out and if I will actually participate or not, but it did get me thinking. It is nearing the season of fairs and country competitions, and there are a couple of things that help a piece really stand out and become the grand prize.

The biggest thing that sets one knit or crocheted item apart for the rest is the finish work. Each piece obviously has had hours of work placed in creating the stitches and putting the colors together; so the pieces that demonstrate the extra time worked in weaving in ends, in blocking, in finishing and edge creating take the edge.

A judge should leave personal opinions aside, the colors you choose or the pattern you decide upon should not be a determining factor. The judging should be comprised of the skill and execution of your work itself. That is why these final touches makes such a difference.

Another factor that curries favor in judging is taking the skill to another level. This could be adding bead work to your shawl, or adding buttons to your wrap. Taking a little extra to ensure that all your fine craft work does not just blend in, but stands out. Sometimes this is created in the yarn selection for your project. In just a simple shawl yarn choice can make a great difference, such as in the drape. A yarn with a lot of spring or bounce, such as a merino, will drape differently than a yarn that has no memory, like a silk or an alpaca. This can create a shawl that has a stand out personality, and possibly make it a winner.

Ultimately, I advise anyone and everyone to enter some type of competition if you ultimately want to improve your work. The best judges often provide feedback on your work, constructive criticism. If your competition allows for judging that is open to the public, attend. This is a tremendous opportunity to gain extra insight in your work and learn how you can take your work to the next level. Even hearing commentary on the work of others will help in the growth of knowledge of your own work.

Bruges Lace and Best of Show

ScannedImageSome take one look at the pattern length of Bruges Lace and feel that it is to overwhelming to work, however once you understand the principals it really is quite easy and can create beautiful works.


Bruges Multi Shawl Photo courtesy of Annie’s

Bruges Lace is essentially like a ribbon; each row is created with just a few stitches and is joined to other portions of the “ribbon” with large turning chains. It is these turning chains that create the open lacy effects that this technique can create.

One of my latest designs uses this technique, the Bruges Multi Shawl in the Summer 2015 issue of Crochet! Magazine. This shawl begins at the base of the neck and curves outward in rows that end up more like arches. The ribbon is comprised of only 5 stitches, but is also designed to create more open work.


My “Best of Show”, it is laying flat on the table at my local county fair.

This design was originally created as a personal challenge. I often enjoy limiting my ideas to what can be created with only one skein of yarn. This shawl was originally created that way, however it was with a different skein of yarn then what the published version is in. I made the original shawl with 1 skein of Lisa Souza Dyeworks Baby Alpaca/Silk yarn in the color of Cranilicious, and entered it in my local county fair. I do not enter my local fair for the ribbons or prizes, but more to inspire others to beauty that can be created in crochet, yet this shawl won me a “Best in Show” (my one and only).

I really enjoy the structural appearance of this shawl; it almost reminds me of old fashion iron work. This shawl almost seems weightless, yet adds just enough warmth to take the chill off. Another point I love with this design is that the front comes over the shoulders enough that it really stays on! I do not use a shawl pin or anything, I just throw it on and go, and it stays where I put it. That is something that I really enjoy.


The original version of the Bruges Multi Lace Shawl

I hope that you take up your hooks and give Bruges Lace a try, its unique construction is easier then it seems and can be quite fun. Any continuous line you can draw can be worked as a ribbon of Bruges Lace, imagine the possibilities.

Encouraging Crochet with a little Courage

ScannedImageIt is that time of year again, when local communities have a celebration of our agricultural roots. I am referring to county, state and various topical festivals and fairs. Often these gatherings highlight livestock, baked goods, blue ribbons and carnivals.Ferris Wheel Glowing at Twilight But few people actually participate in the entry of these events. I really don’t need any ribbons (and there are many talent artisans in my community, so I may not see any), I enjoy the crochet I do; but I enter some pieces in a hope to inspire others with the art of crochet.

Granted this can be difficult, there is a lot of insecurity in the fiber arts. We artists are never confident in our work, believing that anyone can do what we do, and it is really not that special. We constantly down play are skills; I don’t know if it is that we are being polite and wanting to put our work above someone else’s, or if it is the idea that because I learned this skill from….(insert blank, mom, grandmother, grandfather, neighbor lady, friend, ect.) that we don’t know if we are actually proficient in the skill. Well to this I am a strong believer that there is no right or wrong in crochet (or any art/hobby medium for that matter). You may not do it the same way as another person, but that is what makes it yours. No brush stroke on a master piece is identical to another, but that is what makes it a master piece.

Dean Ranch

A Charolais calf at Dean Ranch in California

It is one thing to duplicate a written pattern exactly, and execute each stitch with such precision that the no error can be found; but in honesty, this is a human, free-formish kind of art, and mistakes give character. Now fairs and festivals may judge against others work, and look for precision, but that should never discourage you from entering your work for review. There are some positives to this; some allow the public to be present during the judging- with these you receive immediate feedback about your work, you learn to look at your work more objectively and find ways that you can improve your skills. Another positive is that you encourage others to learn this (or other) hobbies, you help others gain appreciation for the skill, and help yourself to learn the ability to take a compliment.