Hints for Entering Embroidery Competitions

Hints for Entering Embroidery Competitions
There are lots of embroidery competitions around – from competitions held at fetes and local guilds, to state fairs, needlecraft conventions and some big worldwide ones.

On the surface, these seem fairly straightforward – put your entry in, make sure your needlework is up to standard and hope.

There is, however, a lot more to it than that. Often you lose your chance because you haven’t followed the instructions exactly – many people enter in the wrong category – and sometimes it’s a case of technique. Your stitching may be perfect, but there are some stitching technique tips that can give you an edge.

These tips will help your chances with your competition entry.

Do your Homework

When you decide to start entering your embroidery in competitions, do your homework first. Don’t enter the competition the instant you learn about it – wait for the next year.

By doing this, you will be able to visit the competition exhibition and see the entries to ascertain how your stitching compares. You should, however, request from the organisers the information about categories and the competition entries so that you can familiarise yourself with them.

Most competitions have multiple categories, but the criteria for these don’t change from year to year. By familiarising yourself, you can then decide exactly which category you want to enter, and then plan your project.

Choose your Entry Category and read the instructions carefully

Many people have disqualified themselves from competition by not reading the entry instructions carefully or by choosing the wrong category.

If you are entering a category for original design then in 99% of cases, competitions require you to also include your original designs as part of the entry. If you don’t do this, you will disqualify yourself.

Other times people misread a category and enter their work in the wrong place.

By taking that extra time to read carefully, you will prevent you disqualifying yourself!

Stitching Techniques

I can’t keep stressing the importance of keeping the back of your work neat! In competitions the judges, where it is possible, look at the back of your work.

In some competitions, it’s so important that they ask that mounted pieces have any backing removed so that the back can be seen.

Knots on the back of your work will eventually press into your work and become visible on the front. Long carrying threads – even if they are stitched over, especially if they are dark, will show as shadows on the front of the work, and if they aren’t stitched over, can catch and pull the front of the work.

A very important technique is called railroading. This technique is used when you are using two or more threads to stitch with and will keep the strands flat rather than twisted together.

It’s easy to do this – when you go to make your stitch in the front of your work, instead of just putting the needle through the fabric, pass if first through the threads. This will separate them and make them lie flat next to each other, rather than twisted or on top of each other.

Make sure you use the correct needle for what you are doing. If doing work on non-evenweave fabric, use a very sharp needle that will pierce the fabric cleanly. For evenweave and canvas fabrics, use a rounded point needle that will pass between the threads.


This is one area that is absolutely vital when you’re going to enter a competition. If the item can be laundered and ironed – then make sure you do so. When ironing embroidery, always iron the back of the piece only on a well-padded surface. This will mean that no raised stitches (like French or bullion knots) are crushed, and it will have the effect of raising the embroidery from the surface fabric.

If your piece is to be displayed in a frame, then make sure you block it square. If it’s distorted, then it will be counted against you in a competition.

Most importantly, go over your work with a magnifying glass to check for any missed or incorrect stitches. Especially if you have done canvas work or cross stitch this is vital – missed stitches, to a person looking at it with a fresh “judge” eye will stick out like a sore thumb.

Once you start entering competitions, you will quickly find the categories that suit you. Don’t worry if you don’t seem to be getting anywhere – each competition will improve your stitching and experience.

Have fun – and don’t forget to have a look at the other entries. You will get a great deal out of them!

Is there anything that you would particularly like to see an article on? If so, please contact me with your suggestions.

Happy Stitching

Happy Stitching from Megan

© 2010 Megan McConnell

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