Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Thoughts about Quilt Auctions

A couple of weekends ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Kutztown Folk Festival in Kutztown, PA with my family. I only live an hour away from the festival, and quilts are a huge part of it, so I really wanted to go. I went once as a kid and definitely didn't appreciate it as much (though I've always enjoyed the craft stands). Quilts are so important at the festival that the map just says "Quilts!" where they are sold! :)

Anyway, I was really excited to go on Saturday because that was the day of the quilt auction. I'd never seen an auction in person before, let alone a quilt auction. The pavilion was packed, as you can see - and this doesn't count the people watching in the back and on the sides!. Many of the quilts were traditional - by my definition, symmetrical, intricately quilted, Civil War fabrics, etc. Many are made by local Mennonite quilters. Three of the quilts were more modern to me because they made use of solids - and one even had wonky stars! The one in the above picture had a really modern layout! The quilts were all stunning even from far away; you could see the care and expertise of the sewists. Most of the 29 quilts for auction were hand-quilted, too.

It was absolutely thrilling to see the auction take place! One quilt started at $2000 but quickly went down to $1260 when no one took the bid. Then, it kept climbing up and eventually, it sold at $5500! According to the presenter, that particular quilter (no names were announced, which I thought strange and a bit unfortunate) holds the record for the highest bid at the festival ($15,000!).

Above - my brother and I, and below, my mom and dad. We could see the auction from the food tent across the way.

This whole experience made me wonder about the future of quilting and modern quilters. My brother kept encouraging me to submit quilts to be judged for next year (awww!!) but I honestly don't think I would fit in AT ALL into what the judges are looking for. I'm also very uneducated about the whole show process. I heard the presenter comment about how "the points would have to be perfect or the whole quilt would not work." Maybe for a traditional pattern, but for a wonky or improv quilt - how could they judge those in comparison? Is there even a place where modern quilts could be auctioned and appreciated for what they are (besides QuiltCon)? After all, many of us make them in order to be used. Just some food for thought/questions in my head... what do you think?

There were also hundreds of quilts for sale in the barn. I especially loved seeing the double wedding ring quilts in nearly every color. I spotted a couple of quilts that made use of bright solids and even one using Terrain by Kate Spain!

My brother loved the top star quilt! It was auctioned off but I didn't see the auction.


Finally, there was a Visitor Quilt tent, where you had to hand quilt in order to write your name on the quilt. They had quilts hanging there from the festivals since 1996! All the quilts were bright and included lots of solids (LOVE). The lady who showed me where to hand quilt and I talked about the festival and her own projects. I was pretty proud of my stitches! My mom did some, too. :)

Altogether, it was a really enjoyable day, and I know I'll be back to see the quilt auction again!


  1. You have to know your venue. There is a quilt show in Hershey (Quilt Odyssey) this weekend, I've been to it several times, they are mostly "show quilts." AKA Quilts that I doubt are used as quilts, rather as a showcase for precision piecing & extravagant quilting. (I'll be there on Friday.)

    I also regularly go to a "similar" show in Hampton, Virginia in February - last year I saw a quilt in the show that was definitely inspired by Denyse Schmidt, so the attitudes may be changing...

    (It wasn't until well after "everyone" was machine quilting on a domestic or long arm sewing machine that non-hand quilted quilts made it into those shows.)

    They do tend to be juried by people who believe that even wonky needs to be well executed...

  2. That looks like so much fun! I totally want to go sometime! I entered my lone star quilt to the MQX new england festival and they offered appraisals for a fee, and they had all kinds of quilts there. I wanted to get it appraised, but didn't want to spend the money after already paying the entry fee, and shipping both ways. Maybe for another (nicer) quilt!

  3. I like those stars as well. Sounds like fun. I don't think we have any similar events here.

  4. We used to have a small quilt (think wall hangings) auction as part of our state guild's annual show. Even among quilters, it was hard to get a fair value...$20 for most things, and that would barely cover the cost of the fabric! But for show entries, you can usually find a "modern" category now so your stuff is not being compared to traditional piecing. And the "art quilt" categories are more abstract too.

  5. I have an idea, next year you and I will both enter quilts and see what happens. Never hurts to give it a try, you never know what will come from it. You do beautiful work, I remember seeing it at Quiltfest. :)
    I think your Dresden Rainbow would be great (if you want to recreate it for the auction), it has the perfect mix of modern and traditional.

  6. I think it depends on the atmosphere and the people. This spring I actually donated two quilts for a raffle fundraiser. I actually have no idea how much they got for the baskets with the quilts in them, but overall they made $2000. They were bright, simple twin sized quilts for college girls that weren't anything spectacular and (GASP!) may or may not have used fabric on the back.


Let's start a conversation! I love comments and I'd be happy to reply to all who have an email address accessible. Thanks for commenting!


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