First the good news. I fell in love with this piece by Judie Huss on display in "Form, Not Function: Quilt Art at the Carnegie." It's black cotton, discharged, and then densely hand stitched.
Judie Huss, Study in Black and Grey
It's relatively small -- maybe a foot across -- and the low contrast makes the work hide until you get close to it, but what a punch it has when you stop and look.
Being a sucker for letterforms, or shapes that look like them, I was particularly drawn to the small motifs appearing in places on the quilt. And the texture is beautifully controlled, with only a few areas unquilted while most of the work is covered with tiny (about an eighth of an inch) stitches.
I cropped the full-view photo as much as possible, so you wouldn't be as distracted as I was, but you can still see that the work was stitched so densely that when the stitching stopped, it left loose, almost ruffled areas around the edges. These were wrapped around stretcher bars to finish the work. But it was impossible to wrap them tautly enough to get rid of the bulges.
The treatment did indeed make the focal area of the quilt nice and flat, but those baggy edges looked like spinach in the teeth of the beauty queen. In addition, the stretcher seemed to be the wrong size for the piece, leaving wider margins at the sides than at the top and bottom, and crowding the piece lengthwise.
When you stitch this densely, you're bound to have loose fabric on the edges, and it's not always easy to figure out how to deal with it. In this case I might have cut the extra an inch or so outside the stitched area and folded it under, or perhaps torn the edges as close as possible to the stitching. Then the central piece could be mounted on a stretcher covered with a separate piece of fabric. And I would have chosen a larger stretcher, so the piece could breathe easily in its space.
Back to the good news -- it wouldn't be too hard to unfasten this piece from its stretcher when it comes home from the Carnegie and start over. With better presentation, this piece could easily be best in show the next time it goes out in public.