A comment by Riona got me thinking yesterday. She is thinking about entering things in her fair next year and thought I should write an entry on the fair process.
First and foremost, THANK YOU for wanting to enter your local fair! You should definitely do it! A lot of people will give reasons NOT to enter the fair, but I've NEVER had a bad experience, and I've been entering things for 21 years, ever since I was an 11-year old 4-Her and entered a blue gingham sundress (which was horrid, made worse by the fact that I transitioned it into fall wear courtesy of a white button-down shirt and sneakers, worn with white socks. I was HAWT!) and I support our agricultural fair with all my heart.
So I've been thinking about actually writing serious entries sharing my fair preparation techniques. By now, I have a pretty good system worked out that satisfies me, seems to minimize overall stress, and works out well. I thought I would start out with a general overview. Hopefully, someone will find them useful.
Now is the time of year to start thinking about entering the fair. Next year's fair. Yes, you heard me. NEXT YEAR. Hopefully, you can still enter this year. PLEASE enter this year if your fair hasn't occurred yet. The fair needs your support. BADLY. Go, check out the stitching. How often do we get the chance to look at real stitching that wasn't done by a model stitcher? There's a chart I saw that I want to do now because it was so amazing. Look at everything in the home arts--there are crafts of all kinds. And, if you're lucky, they're doing demonstrations--I made a bit of bobbin lace because someone was demonstrating it. How cool is that? I wouldn't have a chance to learn it otherwise. You can also take the time to see how they maintain the building they store the home arts in. Our home arts are in a large, clean, air-conditioned building, with volunteers. The items are protected by plastic. Mom used to actually play with the entry tags so my name was prominent, but you can't do that anymore. It would be hard to steal anything without getting noticed. They also protect the quilts so you can't touch them.
But, if it's already passed, or it's this week, or it's next week, but you can't enter anything because the entry deadline passed, start thinking about next year. It's not too early to start getting ready. I'm already thinking of stuff for next year. It's good to go to the fair website, go to the fair catalog, and look at the available classes. Then you can make a tentative list of what you would like to aim to enter.
My major piece of advice is to have realistic expectations. One of the biggest arguments against entering is that people don't make money. I have never recouped the money I spend on my stitching by entering it in a fair. I've never entered it with that as the goal. I enjoy the money I win, but it's not about the money. Also, we all can't win every class. I know I occasionally gripe about my placements, but please don't take me seriously. There are many factors that go into the decisions, and I try to grow from them. I realize I need to focus on improving my finishing. That's a goal for 2009. But I can't say that I completely disagree with any of the lower placements I got this year--the Santa ornament finishing wasn't the best I could have done because I was tired and annoyed by the time I got to finishing him. As far as my sachet went, it wasn't the best finishing. Kitty's whiskers weren't straight--my fault, I didn't tell the framer they needed to be straight when I took it in. There really weren't pieces in my entries this year that I can say, "This deserved Best in Show and I got hosed." I got what I earned.
Also, it is ESSENTIAL that you read the rules and follow them, even if you don't agree. Let me explain why this is so important. When I was a 4-Her, I showed dogs. They were particularly explicit about the dress code to show dogs--black or 4-H green skirt or pants, white collared shirt or blouse and a black or green tie or ribbon tie, ONLY. I didn't like the ribbon tie; I was 15 and this was suburban Maryland, there I was in my too cute Sam and Libby ballet flats, sky-high bangs, and a RIBBON BOW TIE. And I was particularly outraged to find out half the other kids showed up sans bowtie, or black or green pants or skirt. BUT . . . not a single one of those kids placed high in any class they entered, not even the agility class, which my dog won, with her stumpy little legs and her attitude. I don't know if she was truly the fastest dog on the course, but we won (of course, I was standing there while they read off the results, thinking, "Surely we were at least the 14th fastest dog out there. Come on," then, "Couldn't we at least have been 10th or 8th, or 5th?"). We won overall reserve grand champion of the show, and I can't help but think that half of the recognition we got was because I wore the approved outfit, like it or not. So, when I read the rules now, and see the criteria they judge stitching on, even though I don't like that the county judges size including frame, I follow that. You can also get information that improves your stitching from the rules. Our fair judges the appropriateness of the frame to the entry. This has improved my approach to framing in that I now view stitching as a story. The frame completes the story and is vital, so you want to take time to pick "the right" frame, not just the closest or the cheapest. It does show in the finished product--so many GORGEOUS pieces get entered with ugly frames and it's not the same.
So there's the first entry about fairs. I am going to start researching to see if I can find some more information about the topic.