Tips for Entering (and Winning) at the State Fair

It’s May and that means it’s time to start thinking about your entries for this year’s Minnesota State Fair. The premium books are now available and online registration is open. Never entered the Fair before or just looking for tips on entering? We’ve compiled some basics about entering, plus some tips and tricks from past Guild winners. Don’t see an answer to your question here? There is a form at the end of this post to ask and we will try to get the answer for you.

Image of winning mittens and gloves with their ribbons at the Minnesota State Fair.

First the basics…

  • You MUST register all items online or by mail before the deadline. Every department has different dates, but for Creative Activities the deadline is August 1st at 4:30pm. You will not be allowed to enter anything that is not registered.
  • It’s free to enter
  • You can only enter one item per class.
  • You must be a Minnesotan over the age of 14 to enter Creative Activities.
  • The items should have been made in the last three years
  • Items must be dropped off at the Fairgrounds on certain dates and times. It varies by department, but for Creative Activities in 2023 the dates are Saturday, Aug. 12, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 13, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Monday, Aug. 14, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Those not able to drop entries off during the designated delivery dates will be allowed to drop entries off early beginning Wednesday, Aug. 2, through Wednesday, Aug. 9, (excluding Saturday and Sunday) from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., to the Admin Too Building. Items can be mailed at least three weeks before the Fair.
  • Winners are announced the first day of the Fair online.
  • Items can be picked up from the Creative Activities Building on Wednesday, Sept. 6, from 1-7 p.m., and Thursday, Sept. 7, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Other departments may have different dates and times. You can also call 651-288-4417 to set up a different time for pick-up, but everything must be picked up by December 1, 2023.

Back in 2017, we asked a couple of the Guild’s perennial ribbon winners for their tips and tricks for entering, and hopefully winning, at the Minnesota State Fair. A few themes ran through all their answers…

  • Choose the right yarn for your project. Using one of good quality that works well with your pattern can make all the difference. The wrong yarn can affect how a color work or stitch pattern looks.
  • Pick a category that gets less entries. (Number of entries in each class listed in the results online, here are last year’s.)
  • Read the rules carefully, there are some items that are not allowed in Needlecraft Knitting categories, doilies, toys, ruffle yarns, dolls, aprons, dish cloths, hot pads, handkerchiefs, tree skirts or tube socks. (You can enter knit dolls in the Handcrafts Dolls classes.)
  • You can enter knit projects in categories other than Creative Activities – Needlecraft. Knitting is accepted in Works of Senior Citizens, some Handcrafts categories such as Dolls, some Garment Making categories especially children’s, and even in Ag-Hort-Bee in the Bee and Honey Crafts. There are also some Needlecraft classes that accept hand knit items that are not under hand knitting, these are for placemat, dinner and lunch clothes, table runners, and centerpieces.
  • Finishing is very important. All your ends must be woven in and seams must be sewn carefully. If you get critiques back from the judges about your finishing, think about taking a finishing class.
  • Block your entry carefully.
  • Items need to look like new. Any signs of wear will take it out of consideration.

Here is some more of their advice and some of their winning items.

Rebecca A (Rebecca’s Bousta Beanie with Hot Rod Socks AKA Olympic Flame Socks)

A knit hat with orange and red flame design on a background of green leaves

  • I don’t think people should knit something solely with the hope they will win a ribbon.  I think they should items that they want to knit in the colors and yarn they want to knit and then if they feel like entering them in the fair, they should do so without expectation of winning anything.
  • I think that traditional colorways seem to do much better than non-traditional colorways.  For example, you see a  LOT of blue, or blue and white, or red and white winners.  If you look at what Kris King entered into the fair this year, most of her projects were dark blue or included dark blue.  Of course, her projects were also very well knit, but I think that color does have something to do with it.  It has been noticed by a lot of people that yellow items rarely win, however, I think there was a yellow and gray stranded hat that won a ribbon this year.
  • Traditional patterns – fair isle and cables seem to do well, but sometimes you see very modern items that win.
  • A lot of it is so subjective.  I won three ribbons this year this year and thought I might win 1 ribbon.  I totally did not expect to win a ribbon with my Fire Festival hat and I got second place.  I entered a much better hat a few years ago and didn’t win a ribbon – but the colors included a bright spring green main color.  The exact same hat was entered by someone else the next year and won first or second place – but it was knit with blue and white.
  • I don’t think anyone should feel bad if they don’t win a ribbon.  The competition in Minnesota is fierce and there are so many entries.

Kris K. (Kris’ Shenandoah)

A knit plaid jacket with state fair prize ribbons on it.

  • You need to be very precise with your knitting. If you see mistakes you’ve made you should fix them, even if that means ripping out a lot of knitting, or just decide that it won’t go in the Fair.
  • Go above and beyond. I end up modifying a lot of the patterns I knit because I feel like they could be better than they were written. For example: the slip stitch jacket that I got 2 special awards for this year. I didn’t like how the sleeve caps were designed so I ripped them out and re-designed them. I had to rip out the very top part twice but eventually the design fully matched all the way to the top. I think it is this kind of attention to detail that is noticed by the judges.
  • If criticism, even constructive, is going to bother you, don’t enter. Entering in the State Fair should be for the fun of it. Personally, I like to enter the Fair because I work better with a deadline. I love knitting but I’m not quite so excited about the finishing work so by entering, I have a deadline to force me to finish!

Bonnie E. (Bonnie’s #21 Twisted-Stitches Lace Gloves)

A pair of hand knit white gloves with a state fair ribbon

  • Choose your pattern carefully.  Pick one with a higher level of difficulty that fits within the parameters of the class.
  • Make sure that the yarn you choose shows off your knitting and your hard work.  For example, I have seen texture entries where the pattern is lost because of poor yarn/color choice – and I’ve done it myself.   An option is to look on Ravelry and see what yarn & color others have used for the pattern.  Sometimes that is really helpful and eye opening.  Do not underestimate touch.  Use a yarn that feels good as well as looks good.
  • I always hope for one ribbon so I usually have more than one entry – better odds.   Winning more than one ribbon is a thrill and just icing on the cake.
  • The first thing I do when I pick up my projects is to check my judges sheets before I even leave the fairgrounds.  When the judges leave constructive criticism, I look my projects over and I usually agree with them – then I take their suggestions and try to make those improvements in my knitting.

Elizabeth W. (Elizabeth’s Amillë)

A glass display case of hand knit items at the state fair.

  • Selecting patterns: I usually think about what I want to make in the next year and flag 2 or 3 things to enter in the fair. For the most part, things that I enter in the fair are things in my queue that are challenging or that I’m going to make with really special yarn.
  • Read the info about categories carefully and think about what will stand out. One of the sweaters that I won a blue ribbon for had 14 colors. It only used one color at a time, however, so it qualified for the “plain pullover” category. I’ve also won for things that have an unusual design or construction.
  • The judges don’t always reward things that are unusual or difficult, however. The most difficult thing that I’ve ever entered (and one of the most difficult things that I’ve ever made) didn’t win anything. I once entered a pretty but simple scarf that I made for a friend and it took first place.
  • I like to knit with finer weights of yarn and I think that the judges do reward the extra effort that can be involved in making an adult garment on little needles.
  • I don’t usually enter things that are “hot” on Ravelry and have been made hundreds of times. The one time I entered a shawl that was really popular, mine came in 3rd and someone who made the same pattern came in 1st . The judges liked hers more than mine.
  • On the other hand, I’ve won ribbons for things that have mistakes in them. My favorite example is a sweater where the 2nd sleeve was 2” wider than the other. I was racing to finish it in time for the fair and almost didn’t bring it when I realized what I had done. I didn’t have time to fix it, however, so I decided to just bring it and see what happened. It won a blue ribbon and the judges didn’t say anything about the mismatched sleeves.
  • Remember that you can enter something again if it didn’t win anything the first time. I once entered a shawl that was very poorly blocked because I ran out of time (notice a theme?). I entered it again the following year and it got 3rd place.

Susan R. (Susan’s Plaid Squared)

A knit and felted plaid purse in yellow, brown, and black. It has state fair prize ribbons on it.

  • Enter something unique – a Find Your Fade or Baa-ble Hat may get lost because it’s “been done.” This isn’t always true, but maybe try the road less travelled.
  • “But I followed the pattern” – the judges aren’t judging who followed the pattern the closest. They don’t have the pattern in front of them. They are looking at your choice of techniques and how well they were executed.
  • Learn from the judges’ comments – if they give you specific feedback, use it to improve for next time. I received feedback on my first sweater that I didn’t understand or have any hope of fixing! But I researched and practiced until I figured it out. Those detailed comments really helped me improve.
  • Sometimes we wonder why a certain entry won instead of something (we felt) was more deserving. The winning formula is not just about skill or project difficulty. Sometimes it comes down to luck!! Judges are people. Judges have opinions. Judges are fallible. But they are the ones handing out the ribbons! So, go into it with an attitude of fun and try to put disappointment behind you – there’s always next year!

Have more questions?! Ask us

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Recent Posts

Headshot of Roxanne RichardsonRoxanne Richardson is a knitting communicator who lives in Minneapolis. Her YouTube channel explores a variety of knitting-related topics, including knitting history and techniques, and she writes technical knitting articles for Interweave publications. She’s a certified master hand knitter and certified knitting teacher, and she can’t wait to answer your burning knitting questions.

Currently Open

Marketing Director

The marketing director position is currently open. For more information contact the Guild President,



(Term 1, Year 2)

A visiting friend from Seattle taught Kelly the very basics of knitting (a twisted loop cast on and just the knit stitch) in 2008 before flying home. Turning to the internet (thanks!) Kelly taught herself through a lot of trial and error. Uncontent to keep knitting the scarf she’d started as her first project, she jumped into knitting a pair of striped mittens for her non-knitter, but very knitworthy, twin sister. Twelve years later the mittens are still in her sister’s glove box, and Kelly is usually horrified when she pulls them out and sees the mistakes she made using double pointed needles for the first time. Kelly loves knitting socks and is thankful for the many months of cold weather when she gets to exclusively wear her handknits. (she, her, hers)



(Term 1, Year 1)

Kendra lives in the Twin Cities and learned to hand knit from her mother in middle school. In the last few years, she has also learned crochet and machine knitting. Kendra enjoys knitting items to donate and challenging herself with new techniques. She prefers knitting in the round with colorful yarn. (she, her, hers)



(Term 2, Year 2)

Rose learned to knit from her mother at the age of ten. She started knitting on the ends of small paint brushes. She continued to knit off and on through her teenage and young adult years and became a more avid knitter after taking a Norwegian sweater knitting class through community education. Today, knitting has become a passion and she knits for charity, herself, and her family her stash. She enjoys meeting other knitters and learning new techniques.

Open Position

Programming Director

(3-year term)

This position is currently open. If you are interested in volunteering for the Guild board, please contact our president, Kelly, at the email me link below.


Service Director

(Term 1, Year 3)

Betsy never had patience for knitting, until she found herself spending a lot of time at little league games and waiting for the last kid to emerge from the locker room after swim practice. With her background in graphic design, stranded colorwork has a natural appeal. Not to mention the practicality of an extra layer of warmth. Betsy has recently begun publishing her original hat and cowl patterns, which are available on Ravelry. (she, her, hers) (See our Service Knitting Page for more information about our current projects and donation process.)


Membership/Programming Director

(Term 2, Year 1)

Nikky was first introduced to knitting in 2012 when her visiting sister-in-law taught her the basics of casting on and the knit stitch. A few weeks later, she learned how to purl from her mother-in-law. From there, it quickly became a passion and she has taken on each new project with a desire to expand her skill and discover new techniques. She loves a good mystery (knit-a-long) and knits way more shawls than a single person can wear in a month.


Technology Director

(Term 1, Year 2)

Melissa has been knitting for 15 years. She loves socks and sweaters. She is a new member who hopes to use her marketing background to lift up the MKG. While she isn't local to MN, she really loves the atmosphere created by the Guild. Melissa and significant other Al enjoy traveling, wherein Al graciously offers to drive so Melissa can knit in the passenger seat. (she, her, hers)


Yarnover Committee Chair

While Anna learned to knit at some long-forgotten point in time, her commitment to the craft really began her freshman year of college. Sitting still has never been Anna’s strong suit, and giving her hands something to do while chatting with friends or watching movies in the dorm brought a sense of calm during this new chapter of her life. Once the sense of calm wore off (and no one else needed a scarf), she began trying new techniques, patterns, and projects, and until 2018 was primarily a self-taught knitter. After being intimidated early in her crafting, Anna feels strongly about creating a welcoming environment within the fiber community for people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. She enjoys knitting and fiber traveling, test and service knitting, a good challenge (knitting or otherwise), and is likely to have at least 3 WIPs at any one time. She is also learning to spin and ply her own yarn! (she/her/hers)

A photograph of hands knitting green yarn against a black background.Project HandWork is an exhibit of photos by photographer Christopher Dykes. Using flash, a backdrop, and the infinite human variety, Christopher is collecting a series of images of hands at work in the fiber community. Manicures, hangnails, tattoos, wristwatches, cheap yarn, expensive silk, easy socks and exquisite lace all show the human diversity and the compulsion to create.

Yarnover attendees may have their hands photographed for a $50 sitting fee. Each sitter will receive an edited photo via email. The sitting fee goes to Help In Crisis, his local domestic abuse shelter. 



Laura Haave

Great Guild Getaway Committee Chair

Laura learned to knit in 2003 by taking a four-week class during MIT's annual January Independent Activities Period. The class project was a striped hat knit in the round, and since that time, Laura has been a big advocate of 1) helping other adults learn to knit for the first time, 2) hats as a manageable first project, and 3) circular needles for everything. She enjoys thinking about knitting and planning her next project almost as much as she enjoys actually knitting. Laura is highly motivated by knit-alongs and loves to knit in community. (she, her, hers)


Newsletter Editor

I grew up watching my mom knit. She tried to teach me as a kid and I never enjoyed it, but after finishing college I found myself with extra time and no hobbies. In the last 20 years I have dove in all the way and love to learn new and challenging techniques. As my fiber love has grown, I have also started raising sheep in order to go from sheep to sweater. I love interacting with the sheep who have big personalities and learning to process and spin the wool has been a great adventure.


Vice President

(Term 1, Year 2)

Meg grew up surrounded by makers. Her mom, a master quilter, former Home Ec teacher, and 4-H club leader in Duluth, taught her to sew, embroider, and cook. She won a trip to the State Fair as the Dress Review Princess at 13! Another MKG member taught her to knit continental style 15 years ago. Meg can’t sit still and NOT be knitting, embroidering, rug hooking or sewing. Favorite thing to knit? Mittens! She loves taking classes and learning new things – absolutely amazed and inspired by all the amazing knitters in the guild! (she, her, hers)

Our spinning demonstrations are sponsored by Get Bentz Farm. 

Theresa Bentz of Get Bentz Farm, Northfield, MNAfter growing up in the city and suburbs, the owners of Get Bentz Farm felt a need to be closer to nature and to be more connected to where their food came from. 

In 2014, they found a farm house for sale and later that year they decided on and purchased their first two Icelandic sheep. 

Once they had a good size flock they began marketing the amazing meat and wool. Initially, they found that many mills in the area do not process dual coated long wools, which slowed down their growth in yarn, but they did find a great market for wool filled bedding products and batting for spinning. 

Today, they have a variety of yarns, batting and roving as well as finished products like dryer balls, sheepskins, and wool bedding. Most recently, they opened their own Get Bentz Wool Mill as well as their own line of yarn – Badgerface Fiber.

Mona McNeely been a certified Iyengar Yoga instructor since 2016 and has studied yoga since 2002.   

She has three grown kids and two, almost three, grandchildren. Her grandma taught her to knit when she was seven. She picked it up again in her early 20’s and hasn’t put the needles down since. She is also an avid spinner and has woven her share of rugs. In her spare time, she volunteers at a non-profit called We Can Ride where they use horses as therapy for people with disabilities. She also works full time as a Treasury Analyst for a fairly large company.  Somehow it all balances out.

Midwest Machine Knitters' Collaborative logo

The Midwest Machine Knitters’ Collaborative (MMKC) is a Minnesota based fiber guild established in 2011. We envisioned the Collaborative as a way to connect with other machine knitters who like to think (and knit!) outside the box. MMKC provides a forum to promote fun, interest, appreciation, education, inspiration, and camaraderie in the art of machine knitting. We welcome all levels of experience, as this is the best way to learn and inspire. We will all become better knitters through collaboration.



Kathy has always been into crafts, but didn’t teach herself to knit until after college. She really got hooked while living in San Francisco when a friend opened a knitting store. To pitch in, Kathy started knitting up fun (and odd) things for window displays, as well as teaching classes. In the last couple of years, she has started designing her own knitting patterns (many of them available for free on Ravelry!) with toys and mittens being her primary obsessions. (she/her/hers)