knit | spin

Wool Craft Judging Criteria

August 14, 2015

As a follow up to my post about judging criteria for handspun and knitted articles at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show, I thought it might be useful to share with you some fibrecraft scorecards used in Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Montana. They were sent to me by US reader, prolific spinner, weaver, knitter and baker…the wonderful Susan.  I am very grateful to her for sharing this information.

IMG_1337These scorecards give some really useful judging categories and information that help us understand what qualities judges look for in judging handspun yarn, articles made of handspun yarn and handwoven items.  All the scorecards begin with a mark for the overall appearance of the entry.

For handspun yarn entries, these judges are assessing the preparation for exhibition. Is the item clean, properly skeined and tied, of listed yardage and/or weight and blocked if necessary? They are also interested in the suitability of fibre to yarn, in the amount of twist and diameter of the yarn. The judges are particularly interested in technique allotting 40% of the final score to this category. They are looking at fiber preparation, even twist, appropriate plying twist, consistent thickness of yarn, durability of the structure (that it doesn’t fall apart when pulled), a consistency to special designs (like boucle and art yarns) and a consistency in any dyeing or blending in the yarn.

IMG_1339For articles made of handspun yarn the categories are similar. They include suitability of the yarn to the article and this includes the consistency of spinning and appropriate yarn characteristics. In short your yarn must be suitable for the project, such as a high twist fingering weight for socks or a low twist two ply for a lace shawl. These judges are also interested in assessing the suitability of the fibre to the project. They are looking at your fibre choice, preparation, drape, handle and durability. So a fine wool, prepared by carding with loads of drape might score poorly as a rugged coat but well as a christening robe. Articles are also judged on technique, that is appropriate gauge, even tension and perfect (crikey!) execution. Finishing is also considered, judges examining blocking, yarns ends, cleanliness, seams and notions.

Handwoven items are judged on suitability of fibre and yarn to project, particularly durability, drapability and hand; technique including gauge, even tension and perfect execution; and, the level of finishing in blocking, ends, cleanliness, seams and notions.

IMG_1341I think these categories give us provocative insights into our fibre and preparation choices for any project irrespective of whether we are entering them in a competition. They challenge us to think about making things that are fit for purpose and durable rather than just being pretty or colourful or soft.

There is a Going to the Fair group on Ravelry that has lots of useful bits of information on judging criteria and how to prepare your show entries. It is exciting to enter something you have made in a show. Sometimes, the deadline helps you actually finish something!  It is nice to win something but the really special thing about putting something in a competition is that it represents the best work you could do at the time, it is work you are proud of.


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  1. Thank you! That was well written. One thing I always do when presenting a skein is to knit up a sample so the judges can see what it would look like in ‘action’ 🙂 Gives credence to your statement as to what you are going to use it for. Wasn’t aware of the Going to the Fair spot on Ravelry so thank’s for that.

  2. Interesting and very educational, thank you!
    -sigh- one day I would love to learn about this stuff and take up spinning. How did you start?

    1. I learned to spin about 7 years ago when my eldest child was 18months old. I had seen Brooklyn Tweed’s handspun Baby Surprise Jacket online and fell in love with a handspun skein from the Handweavers and Spinners guild. I had a thirst to make yarn. I did a beginner’s course at the guild on Saturday mornings and hired a wheel for 6 weeks. Of course my first attempts were crazy cat yarn but my fingers felt like they were remembering something. I spun on a hand spindle till I found a second hand wheel. But pelvic instability and another baby forestalled more spinning for a couple of years. And then it just sort of called like a woolly siren…till I would call myself a spinner AND a knitter now.

      1. Thank you for sharing! I always wanted to ask you how you started! I never even thought of spinning before I started reading you! Now I know for sure – sooner or later I will spin!

  3. A salutary reminder to lazy spinners like me that you can’t just dig into your fleece stash and getting spinning (even if you feel the call of the woolly siren as you so well put it, Rebecca) to produce a good product. The good product is defined by its goal – I really need to take this message on board.

  4. Thanks for the really interesting stuff here. I’ve never thought about entering knitting or handspun in a show before. It could be a very useful endeavour to get me out of my lazy ways (another lazy spinner here). It sound like a lot of fun!!!!!

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