Subscriber Exclusive

Strategies for Blue-Ribbon Knitting at the State Fair

Advice from a prize-winning knitter to make your creations shine!

Susan Rainey Jun 26, 2024 - 6 min read

Strategies for Blue-Ribbon Knitting at the State Fair Primary Image

Shepherd Dana Ruehlman leads her ribbon-winning ewe. Photo by Christa Tippmann

People often ask me why I enter my knitting into a competition at a state fair. Entering projects into the fair means that my knitting will be inspected very closely and critiqued. Knowing that people are going to scrutinize my work both inside and out has really pushed me to improve. I also think that the fair is more enjoyable when you are personally involved and have something to search for. And to be honest, I like winning ribbons. There is no greater feeling than winning the sweepstakes (the highest-level prizes)!

For more about entering your knitting projects into a state fair, see Susan Rainey’s article “Best in Show—Competition Knitting at the State Fair”

Round Doily with Cables, designed by Herbert Niebling, knitted by Susan Rainey was a prize winner at the Minnesota State Fair Photos courtesy of the author unless otherwise noted

What do judges look for?

The judges look at both the quality of the knitting and the condition of the article. They check to see if the item is clean, dirty, or pilled. They want to see even stitches. They look at aesthetics, such as whether the yarn detracts from the stitch pattern. They look at finishing details, seaming, blocking, buttonholes, and buttons. And they make sure that the ends are woven in. Once I was marked down for not doing the final trim on a yarn tail.

One thing they don’t look at is how closely you followed the pattern. They don’t have the pattern in front of them, and that isn’t what they are judging. Following the pattern blindly may not yield the best results.

It is a good idea to be mindful about the techniques you choose—you want to excel. Continue to learn different methods of things like cast-ons and bind-offs, increases and decreases, stitches, finishing, and other refinements so you have more tools in your knitting toolbox when you are working on your entry project.

Tips and Suggestions

  • Work on the quality of your knitting: strive for even gauge (and no rowing-out on purl rows), smooth tension (with no ladders at needle changes), and stranded colorwork that does not pucker.

No subscription? You're missing out.

Subscribe today to access all of the premium knitting content available.