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Judging Quilts Then and Now

John Flynn was one of the original judges for Road to California, judging quilts at Road’s very first show. He was invited back to be a judge again for Road to California’s 25th Anniversary Show in 2020. John shared what it was like to judge winning quilts 25 years apart.

Who is John Flynn

judging quilts

John Flynn got interested in quilting in the 1980’s when he was testing the quilt frames that he was designing and building for his wife, Brooke. He soon discovered how relaxing hand quilting was and has been working at it ever since.

John has an engineering background so he finds inspiration in the geometry of objects and from old traditional quilts.

The Flynn Quilt Frame Company is a family owned business, consisting of John, Brooke, and their daughter Kate Flynn Nichols. The Flynn Multi-Frame is a simple, lightweight, three-rail scroll frame that can be held in your lap for hand quilting or used with your home sewing machine for no-baste machine quilting.

Today, John designs, reinvents, leads quilt workshops all over the U.S., demonstrates the Flynn Multi-Frame at quilt shows, solves Sudoku puzzles, and rides his road bike up the Beartooth Pass in his spare time. He is also involved in judging quilts for various quilt shows.

Judging Quilts in 1995

Back at Road’s first show, John recalled that judging quilts was a lot easier. There were only about 50 quilts entered in the contest.  Of the fifty quilts entered, only a half dozen were machine quilted. The rest were all hand quilted which was perfect for his judging skills since hand quilting was his expertise.

A big difference judging quilts between 1995 and 2020 was that there was no prize money given out to the winning quilts in 1995. Quilters entered the contest for “bragging rights” only so there wasn’t as much pressure being a judge.

Judging Quilts in 2020

John said judging quilts in 2020 is a lot more  “intimidating” and “difficult” especially when you consider you are responsible for giving away $10,000 for the Best of Show quilt.

Best of Show 2020 – Christmas in St. Andrews by Marilyn Badger

There were 275 quilts to judge for the Anniversary Show. This time around, most of the quilts were machine quilted. Only about ten were hand quilted—the exact opposite from his first-year judging.

He was also impressed with the number and quality of volunteers that assisted the judges in 2020. “They were fantastic.”

John was honored to be judging quilts with his “very experienced” teammates, Pepper Cory and Pat Harrison. “It is fantastic that we are all still here,” commented John.

2 Responses to “Judging Quilts Then and Now”

  1. Kerry says:

    great interview!

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