I was so excited to be asked to judge the handicrafts and needlework categories at Oakworth Village Show this weekend that I sort of forgot how much responsibility there is in doing something like this! I was really nervous as I drove to the Village Hall, having a real “imposter syndrome” crisis and fearing being the victim of some sort of Midsommer Murder about my decisions. The curse of an over-active imagination!
Everyone was so nice though but there was an air of anticipation as the other judges and I went into the hall to see what everyone had brought along. I spent ages looking at the needlework entries – my husband and I had joked that the power would go to my head, but I found I had to be ruthless because it was the only way to pick the best entry. There were some excellent cross stitches that had been entered but, having cross stitched myself, I know that you don’t really defer from the chart. There was also a great framed felt family tree with really cute little owls on, which I adored but it didn’t show the breadth of techniques that other items showed.
One entry that did catch my eye straight away was this whimsical needlefelt wreath. It obviously required a lot of skill and time and the finished result was a really high standard.
Although I was not a fan at all of the colour scheme (really don’t like bright orange – I don’t really know why!) the level of skill in this wall hanging is immense. It was stretched across a hoop and every stitch was even.
After much to-ing and fro-ing, I decided that the needlefelt hoop should win first prize because it was so neat and skillful, closely followed by the knitting needle case. I chose the crochet hoop for third prize.
I also had to judge a handicrafts section and the first thing to catch my eye was these two knitted dolls. I knew immediately that the red-headed one would take first prize – I was tempted to put her in my bag and make off with her! There was also an excellent crocheted dog made out of brightly coloured granny squares. Unfortunately, my pictures of him and his jowls and little button tail came out so terribly I can’t contemplate putting them up.
A couple of the entries were papercraft, which, I’ll be honest, doesn’t really float my boat. There was nothing wrong with them but, for me, fibre arts is where it’s at.
I thought it might be useful to put together a few tips if you’re thinking of entering your crafts into a competition.
– First of all, make sure you’ve read the rules! There’s no point slaving away on a project only to find it doesn’t meet the criteria
– Make something specific for the competition. Judges have to be really picky and, if it’s quite obviously something that’s been hanging on your wall for twenty years (I kid you not) you might find that goes against you.
– If you’re sewing something, make sure that your fabric is pressed and all your raw edges are enclosed or neatly finished. Any visible stitching needs to be absolutely top notch (I was looking VERY closely!) and make sure you snip away all your ends. Also make sure you remove any basting and tacking.
– Try to avoid entering something obviously from kit form unless you’ve made adjustments to it and embellished it in some way. Judges will be looking for creativity as well as technique.
– Don’t be That Person – just enter one thing per class. It’s not very sporting to enter three or four things in one class. I’m all about fairness and don’t think “other people should have a chance of winning” or anything, but, out of politeness, don’t hog the class.
– Bear in mind that judge’s personal preferences regarding crafts will come in to it. I don’t like papercraft, so it was unlikely a papercraft item would win in a class I was judging. If you can, have a snoop about who the judges are and what they like and create accordingly. I’m not saying not to create what you like but, if you were on Bake Off and you know Mary Berry likes booze in her cakes, you’re going to put it in, right?
– Enjoy the process. Everyone likes to win but we can’t all be winners. Just because you don’t get a rossette doesn’t mean you’re not any good. You’ve done your best and showed your artwork. I have no doubt that now that I’m sitting at home there will be people – winners, losers, and spectators alike – grumbling about the choices I’ve made. Don’t lose any sleep over it.
The rest of the show was something to behold! I was too busy chatting to the vegetable judge to take any pictures but I had no idea that vegetable growing was such a big thing. The criteria for judging the cucumbers alone was mindblowing and don’t even get (him) started on the peas. It was genuinely fascinating.
And speaking of vegetables, one of the classes for children was to make an animal out of vegetables.
These two were my favourites. They’re absolutely amazing. So cool! And the detail is immense. I’m such a philistine I’ve got no idea what veg these even are but the animals are incredible.
It was lovely to be part of such a well run show with such a high standard of entries. Let me know how you get on at craft competitions around the country this summer.