Needlework Judging Criteria

Needlework Judging

General Criteria

In judging, the following criteria is reviewed:

  • Article must be clean, if soiled judges will not judge
  • General appearance
  • Pressing, blocking
  • Finishing
  • Workmanship

Yarn or thread ends: On most all needle work the yarn or thread ends are to be woven into the back of work instead of being knotted for a smoother finished appearance.

Seams: A seam should be inconspicuous unless it is a design feature. It should secure the pieces together; yet not be too tight to cause puckers. Most seams are worked in a weave pattern that looks similar to the needlework technique of the article.

Awarding Merit

  • First Place: Met all standards
  • Second Place: Most standards are met
  • Third Place: 50% of the standards are met
  • Honorable Mention: Standards are emerging
  • Special: Above and beyond First Place. Additional criteria to look at:
    • Beauty, style, harmonious colors
    • Creativity
    • Originality
  • Best of Show: Each Category has one item that is “Best” amongst all Special Awards. One Best of Show in Afghans, Crocheting, Hand Embroidery, Hand or Tote Bags, Hand Knitting, Machine Knitting, Pillows, Quilts, Rugs, Sewing, Various Needlework, and Wall Hangings or Pictures. It is at the discretion of the judges to determine if a Best of Show is worthy in each Category. If there is limited entries and there are no Special Awards in that Category, there will be no Best of Show in the Category.

Each category’s Challenge class receives one Special Award to be displayed with all Challenge Class Special Awards. If there is limited entries and no First Prize, no Special Award in the Challenge class will be awarded in that Category.

Community Service category will not award Special Awards or Best of Show or Points.

Crochet Judging Standards:
Afghans, Crochet, Community Service, Various Needlework

  • Even tension throughout
  • Accurate pattern, stitches formed correctly
  • Blocked well—not over pressed
  • Ends woven in—no knots
  • Seams firm, yet stretchy—neat and flat
  • Suitable choice of thread or yarn

Broomstick Crochet

  • Loops the same length
  • Same number of loops crocheted together throughout article
  • All loops turned counterclockwise
  • Suitable choice of thread or yarn

Hairpin Lace

  • All loops attached when joining
  • Loops in each strip twisted uniformly
  • Joining should be same tension throughout

Crochet used as trim

  • Colors –either same or contrast should blend well
  • Total piece is compatible
  • Weight of thread used is compatible with fabric and design
  • Size of trim should enhance the overall piece
  • Tension maintained throughout
  • Patterns made accurately

Embroidery Judging Standards
Hand Embroidery, Various Needlework, Wall Hangings or Pictures, Pillows

Crewel or Chicken Scratch

  • Neat and clean
  • Appropriate stitches for design
  • Thread suitable for fabric and design
  • No knots or long threads carried from place to place
  • Pattern outline covered by stitches
  • Pressed or blocked
  • Should be finished ready for use
  • Colors, materials, textures, shapes, harmonious
  • Design place on the fabric evenly
  • Stitching should not be flattened into the fabric
  • As neat on back as front


  • Stitches uniform in size and equidistant apart
  • All French Knots turned in one direction
  • Fabric should be shrunk in hot water after the embroidery is done. This shrinks the fabric and tightens the knot
  • Fabric pressed well and not puckered by stitches
  • Pressed on wrong side with knots cushioned in towel.


  • Stitches uniform in size and spacing
  • No changes in the pattern where the new thread is added in a line
  • Ends of thread secured
  • Fabric pressed well and not puckered by stitches


  • Stitches formed accurately
  • No knots or long threads to carry work from place to place
  • Embroidery is raised (not flattened in pressing)


  • Stitches formed accurately
  • All petals of the flower equal in length
  • No knots or long threads to carry work from place to place
  • Three dimensional effect achieved
  • Threads not flattened

Cross Stitch

  • Top stitches all cross in same direction
  • Tension should be light and even
  • Stitches exact and on straight grain of fabric
  • Crosses worked in sequence should touch (use same hole)
  • No knots

Counted Cross Stitch

  • Needle goes between threads and does not pierce them
  • Top stitches all cross in same direction
  • Tension light and even
  • No knots or long threads to carry work from place to place
  • Ends should be run through work in same direction

Black Work (Queen’s stitchery, Spanish Black Work)

  • Designs made accurately
  • Definite repetition of pattern
  • Partial patterns formed around edges to fill in outline
  • Needle goes between threads and does not pierce them
  • Stitches come together using same hole
  • When threads are crossed they cross in same order throughout pattern
  • Outlining done evenly (stitches may be split)

Chicken Scratch (Teneriffe Embroidery, Hoover’s Lace Snowflaking, Mountain Lace)

  • Lines always cross in same direction
  • Smooth—no puckering or pulling
  • No knots or long threads


  • All designs worked over 4 thread units
  • Pattern accurately made
  • Stitches are straight with fabric threads
  • Needle goes between threads and does not pierce them
  • Cutting done accurately with no thread ends showing
  • Wrapping done tightly and evenly

Swedish darning or huck weaving

  • Proper tension—neat, even appearance
  • Even, uniform stitches lying flat against the fabric
  • Floats picked up by needle—fabric not pierced
  • Design in balance—centered
  • Thread ends secured by weaving into stitches
  • No threads visible on wrong side (on huck fabric)

Cutwork (Madeira Work)

  • Eyelets worked in fine buttonhole stitch
  • Purl of buttonhole stitch is on edge which is cut away
  • No thread ends showing
  • Closely woven fabric used
  • Even stitches

Hemstitching (Even weave fabric where threads can be counted and pulled easily)

  • Even groups of threads and drawn together
  • Stitches go in same direction
  • Stitches are even in length and tension
  • Hem lies flat and even
  • Edge and hem are perfectly straight

Drawn Work

  • Even weave fabric
  • Thread which matches or contrasts well
  • No knots, thread buried in stitching
  • Threads counted accurately so all stitches are the same
  • Tension the same on all stitches

Pulled Thread

  • Even tension
  • Stitches between threads, no split threads
  • Thread ends woven into work


  • Punch needle forms even loops
  • Yarn is worked in proper direction
  • Starting and ending yarns are clipped evenly
  • Fill-in yarns are worked evenly straight across or in the direction of the design contours
  • Spacing between loops and rows vary with the yarn weight but should be consistent
  • Pile loops may be closed or cut, but should maintain even shape, whichever is used.


  • All thread ends pulled through to wrong side
  • Stitches of uniform length
  • Background covered
  • Event tension
  • Loops on back long enough to hold
  • Blending of colors (when used) done so there is no definite line where color changes

Russian (Loop, Punch, Rush-N-Punch)

  • Loops of uniform length
  • Close stitches—the closer the stitches the better the finished product as long as they are not crowded
  • No knots or ties
  • Tightly woven background fabric
  • Stitches angled apart so colors do not mix


  • Neat and clean
  • Canvas blocked squarely
  • No faded or marker stains
  • Design suitable for its use
  • Color scheme enhances the design
  • Canvas, yarn and stitches chosen to complement design
  • Stitches completely cover canvas
  • Tension is uniform and not drawn too tightly
  • Ends woven in
  • Yarns not twisted, kinked, knotted or pulled thin
  • All stitches lie smooth
  • The same things are considered for grospoint (refers to size of stitches and canvas 7-14 meshes per inch) and petitpoint (canvas 18 count or higher)


  • All stitches parallel to threads on canvas
  • Yarn covers canvas completely
  • Stitches pulled uniformly tight (smooth and even)
  • Design is uniform throughout

Knitting Judging Standards
Afghans, Community Service, Hand Knitting, Various Needlework, Pillows

“Gauge” is one of the most important parts of knitting. Gauge means the number of stitches in each inch across the work, and the number of rows in each inch up and down the work. If the gauge is not the same as in the pattern, the finished article will not be the size wanted.

  • Even tension
  • Accurate pattern throughout
  • Yarn ends woven in
  • Colors should be knit in smoothly with no knots or loose yarns
  • No twisted, split or dropped stitches
  • Seams and edge stretchy, but firm, smooth and flat
  • New strand or colors picked up so there are no holes
  • Sections should fit together well, i.e., front and back should be the same length, sleeves fit into armhole, etc.
  • Buttons, buttonholes, zippers neatly and securely attached
  • Facings may be knitted on, with the turning point knitted in.
  • Pockets are finished by the same methods as the hems.
  • No ends to be knotted
  • Knots pulled to even tension
  • Stitch in every space
  • Yarns even in length
  • Edges finished
  • Article should be blocked, but the pattern or texture not flattened

Machine Knitting Judging Standards
Afghans, Community Service, Hand Knitting, Various Needlework, Pillows

“Gauge” is one of the most important parts of knitting. Gauge means the number of stitches in each inch across the work, and the number of rows in each inch up and down the work. If the gauge is not the same as in the pattern, the finished article will not be the size wanted.

  • Even stitch structure
  • No knots
  • Neatness of seams
  • Neatness of beginning and ending, cast on/off
  • Pattern Matching
  • Neatness of reverse/inside
  • All ends sewn in (no loose threads)

Sewing Judging Standards
Hand or Tote Bags, Various Needlework, Quilts, Pillows, Sewing

  • Stitching—Machine and hand
  • Seam finish
  • Zipper, buttonholes, or fastenings
  • Sleeve set and detail
  • Collar/neckline detail
  • Hem detail
  • Lining and interfacing
  • Use the right size and type needle for your chosen material. Remove all gathering and stay-stitching. Grade all seams and top stitch facings. Blind hemstitch all hems, hiding as much of the stitching as possible. Attach hooks and eyes as smoothly as possible (no bulky stitches).
  • Finish seams, even those under your lining.
  • Pressing.

Patchwork/Quilting Judging Standards
Hand or Tote Bags, Wall Hangings or Pictures, Various Needlework, Quilts, Pillows

Patchwork and Piecing

  • Fabrics go well together—weight, fiber, color, care
  • All pieces should be on grain, straight, evenly matched and stitched to the corners
  • Pieces accurately stitched and joined
  • Seams consistently pressed open or in one direction
  • Knots or thread ends hidden
  • Emphasis placed on use of color

Quilting/Hand Quilted

  • Pieced blocks or shapes accurately cut and stitched so joins are accurate
  • Fabric pieces should be cut on grain
  • Fabric pieces are not puckered or have ruffled edges
  • Color of stitching thread should match the color of fabric pieces or enhance the design
  • Grain of appliquéd pieces should be same as in the background
  • Quilting stitches small and even
  • No visible knots or obvious pattern marks
  • All layers caught in stitch
  • Binding should be neat, even with inconspicuous stitches in matching thread
  • Edges should be straight
  • Square corners should be mitered or at least square
  • Stitches should look as good on the back as well as front

Machine Quilted

  • 6-8 stitches per inch
  • Tension even and smooth
  • No pattern marks showing
  • All other quilting standards apply

Tied Quilting

  • Backing, batting and top smooth and wrinkle free
  • Tying evenly spaced or determined by design
  • Tying material matches or contrasts in color
  • Square knot used in tying
  • Thread trimmed to 2 inches


  • Design areas outlined with small even running stitches
  • Padding—even and smooth
  • Openings on back closed neatly with whip stitch

Wall Hangings Judging Standards

In addition to the criteria for specific needlework, Wall Hangings look at the following:

  • All items must be ready to hang. For framed pieces, edge to edge wire is best. Top edge center hooks are appropriate for lightweight articles.
  • Quilted, appliqued, hooked rugs or any item that is completely fiber needs a dowel sleeve, or some over the top mechanism for hanging.
  • Every article is judged on what is visible. Items are not taken apart by the judges.

Association of Connecticut Fairs State Quilt Contest Judging Standards

Visit for this year’s judging standards.

Rugs Judging Standards
Rugs, Sewing, Various Needlework, Pillows

Latch Hook

  • Knots are tight and evenly worked row by row across the canvas
  • All spaces should be filled
  • Design should be pleasing to the eye. Yarn colors should be harmonious. Designs may be original or reproductions.
  • Trimming and sculpturing pile should be neat and brushed free of trimmings
  • Article should be finished with hem and/or binding
  • Back of item such as rug is blocked and finished

Pillows Judging Standards
Sewing, Various Needlework, Pillows, Hand Embroidery

  • Pillow form is appropriate for pillow size
  • Workmanship on corners.
  • Attention to detail
  • Refer to the type of pillow for more standards (sewn, knit, crochet, embroidery, etc)

Hand or Tote Bags Judging Standards
Sewing, Various Needlework, Pillows, Hand Embroidery

  • Workmanship Attention to detail
  • Refer to the type of hand or tote bag for more standards (sewn, knit, crochet, embroidery, etc)