It’s A Mystery!

Since my cousin Barb’s comment on my last post, I’ve been thinking about mystery quilts – and the ones I’ve done over the years.  And the groups I’ve been a part of, and who have taught me so much.

A mystery quilt comes with no picture of what the final quilt will look like – only separate sets of directions to make the different bits of it, and finally, the directions to put it all together. It can be a bit daunting to start off assembling fabrics when you have no idea how they will be put together.  With experience, you come to realize that value – the relative lights and darks – has much more say in the final outcome than just colour.  That’s been a tough concept for me, as I am Very colour oriented.

I’ve learned a lot from mystery quilts, especially the first one I did.  It was the fall of 2001 and we had just moved from the farm to Cochrane, a town just outside of Calgary.  After beginning quilting with the “Sew ‘n Sews” in Govan, when we moved I knew I just HAD to find a quilt group. The “Big Hill Quilters” were there to fill my need, and placed me forever in the ranks of women who turn to hobbies to find friends when they move to a new place.

The first group project after I joined was a mystery quilt, led by Betty Bailey. the instructions were incredibly detailed, including pressing directions.  this was perfect for a beginner, as I had never made a quilt on my own, and certainly didn’t know how to map out the pressing so the seams fit together well.  I got the top all together, and was hand quilting it, with fuzzy, warm flannel on the back…….. but hand quilting takes a long, long time, especially when you are following the seams on the pressed-to side.  It is still awaiting completion.

But Betty Bailey made a lasting impression on my – I even named my midarm 13″ Bailey after her.

From Cochrane, we moved to Grande Prairie, in Northern Alberta.  there, the Northern Light Quilters were ready to take me in.  It was a large, dynamic group, and they always had group project on the go.  One year, we did two mystery quilts, both led by Debbie Tarangul.  The first, a mini-mystery, was a Christmas table runner – here with my lovely Betty Bailey

The second was kind of a free-form mystery, where you were given general guidelines instead of hard and fast measurements and rules.  It was amazing how many different styles and techniques were used – here was my interpretation-

Time flies – we move to Kuwait. I had contacted the Kuwait Quilters before I even left Canada, and within a week of arriving in Kuwait City, I was at my first meeting. Kuwait was filled with imaginative and creative quilters from all over the world – all ready to share their knowledge.  Kuwait was where I went from being a person who made quilts to a quilter.

One year, I lead the group in a mystery quilt – the same one we had done in Grande Prairie.  many, many different interpretations of the guidelines again – here are two of them… this one by Becky Peacock

and this by Patricia McGraw

and here is mine.  Another UFO.

The year I was in Muscat, Oman, we did a mystery quilt. I had just moved there, and didn’t have any fabric.  Alice and Sarah took me to the fabric shops and helped me find what I needed. I misread the directions for the center block – it was supposed to be a star.  when I discovered the error, I decided that I liked it this was – here it is on my design wall.

I’m waiting for it to tell me how to quilt it – but I think T may have to put it on the frame and stitch around the borders, and then it will whisper the rest to me, bit by bit.

And now, I’ve decided to join another mystery quilt. This one comes in an online quilt magazine from  They have good patterns, tips and quilt-related stories, and an online community. For some reason, I didn’t think I have enough quilting projects on the go.  It’s only four parts – and makes either two table runners, or three different sizes of quilt.  I’ve decided on the table runners, because I might even get them done, and have a couple small gifts ready for Christmas.

My fabrics are selected and cut – and now I’m awaiting the next instructions October 1. I guess I should have time go clear a few other things out of the sewing room before then

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2 Responses to It’s A Mystery!

  1. Sue says:

    I love a good mystery. . . LOL! My quilt shop back in Arkansas had a Mystery club which I was part of for 3 years. Each month we met on a Saturday and spent the day beginning our mystery together, then finished it during the rest of the month. The last thing each day was to pick one of 3 colorways for the next month’s quilt. Picking a quilt by color and value was a very unique experience. We never knew which was the focus fabric and which was the “little bits”. It taught me to look at fabrics in a different way. Some of the quilts are finished and in good homes, others are UFO in storage. A few came with me to Kuwait and have been for 4 years. You have inspired me to a new resolution. . . to finish 3 UFO’s this year. . . and maybe go look at the Online mystery . . . I love a good mystery.

  2. Cecilia says:

    I do enjoy reading your blog ! nice mystery quilts, I have never made one,but I do do my own mysteries, as I like combining bits of 2 or 3 quilts to make up my own quilt… Does that count? 🙂

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