I love mystery quilts and have probably sewn more than 20 of these quilts over the years.
As a result, I have formulated a few ideas on what makes a good one and thought I'd share them with my fellow blog readers. These are my top five important elements of mystery quilting:
1) Fabric Choice - always pick fabrics you love to make a mystery quilt. If you love your fabrics, you will enjoy sewing any design. The quilts in which I have tried to use up leftover junk, haven't turned out as well. Most are still UFO's. The exception of course is if it is a scrap quilt...then anything goes! The blocks on the left are from one of my previous mysteries...from the quilt my son has on his bed tonight. I started this quilt by selecting the musical note fabric that I really liked, and bought enough of it for the blocks, borders, and backing.
2) Value - the most important piece of information you need when selecting your fabrics is the value. The fabrics must be according to the values specified by the mystery writer for the quilt to produce the desired design. Varying from the value recommendations will likely produce a "muddy" quilt. For this quilt, I used colours from the musical note fabric and selected the required amount of darks, mediums and lights.
3) Pattern Designer - use a trusted pattern designer. I have heard horror stories of designers who disappeared in the middle of a mystery (only to leave the quilters with lots of pieces and no plan), and I have heard of patterns where lots of mistakes have been made and the quilters have ended up trying to remake the entire top. Writers like Deb Kaffunger (Quiltaholics), Debbie Caffrey, Billie Lauder, and Linda Worland (PaperPanache) are reliable designers who stand behind their designs and write great patterns. The quilt on the right is one of Debbie Caffrey's older designs.
4) Expectations - you need to have realistic expectations of the outcome. It's a surprise... so you never know what you will get. If you have specific ideas of what you like in terms of quilt designs, mysteries aren't for you!
5) Following directions - you must be able to read and follow directions exactly as the writer outlines. Usually they are very specific and most questions can be answered by reading the directions carefully.
Last weekend I started to sew the mystery at Quiltaholics and today I finally finished the small size top. I had to fix three big mistakes that I made late at night while rushing to finish. I had to rotate one block and take off two entire borders. The outside dark borders are only 1 1/2" so they are somewhat wobbly after being unsewn and resewn. I really thought seriously about leaving in the mistakes, but decided that since I really like this quilt, I wanted to feel happy every time I looked at it and not think..."geez I made so many mistakes in that"! Now I love my finished quilt and can't wait to quilt and hang it! I also have the blocks together for my medium size and am working on putting on the borders...carefully and reading the instructions so I don't have to do it twice!