Monday, February 18, 2013

Working on a Mystery

Going where ever it leads. . .   (Tom Petty lyrics running through my head, and now, thanks to me, your head too).

In January, I embarked on my first ever mystery quilt.  If you've never heard of a mystery quilt--prior to December, I hadn't ever heard of one--it's a quilt where you are given directions week by week, you follow the directions, and at the end of a certain time period, you have all the blocks for a quilt, which you are then instructed on how to arrange them to sew into the final product.

I had never done one before, and it sounded like a fun thing to do in the mentally taxing time of winter, when there's nothing going on in the garden and not usually enough snow outside this little place here to do much in the way of entertaining outdoor activities.  Seemed like a great time to tackle a new sewing project, especially one where I had no clue what I would be doing from one week to the next.  Something to combat the winter blahs.

So I signed up.

The first week, all of us participants (who are all members of a particular homesteading forum), were instructed to choose four fabrics: a focal, a background, a primary accent and a secondary accent, and also to choose which size quilt we wanted to make. In order to know how much fabric was needed for each, we were given the needed yardages based on which size of quilt we had picked to make.  I wanted to use just fabrics from my stash, some of which were large scraps of someone else's stash I had picked up a rummage and yard sales through the years (ever frugal, always on the lookout for needful things secondhand or at a discount), so I chose to make the smallest size.

Going through my stash (which takes up one dresser and two 18-gallon totes), I chose a primary colored fabric as my focal, white as the background, a solid blue as the primary, and a kelly green with small red hearts as the secondary.

I initially chose white, because the instructions had the background as a light colored fabric and white was what I had in my stash that was both large enough and light colored, but when I posted the above picture of the fabrics to the group, a few of the participants asked if I had any black and we all agreed black would look better than the white.

So I became the 'rebel' in the group and went with a dark background rather than a light one, LOL.

The second week, we were given cutting instructions, and cut out squares, strips, and rectangles from our fabrics.

The third week, we got to begin sewing, and were given a technique to use in making hourglass squares.  I had never made hourglass squares before, and so learned something new.  I was quite pleased with my new found skill.

The fourth week, we were given another set of blocks to make, this time taking some of the strips and sewing them together, then cutting them into units, which were then sewn together along with some rectangles and small squares.

Week five, our instructions had us making shaded four patch blocks.  Another first for me, and I again thrilled at adding something new to my quilting repertoire.

Week six, the final week of block making, arrived.  I began working on the instructions, and, before I had my first star block--week 6 was all stars--half done, I realized that somewhere a few weeks back I had made a tragic mistake.  I had confused my primary accent fabric and my secondary accent fabric.  For three weeks, I had thought my green was primary, and had sewn the blocks that way.

OH NO!!  I looked back at the blocks, and saw that the week 4 blocks were balanced in primary and secondary, and you really couldn't tell which was which.  So, luckily, those blocks didn't need to be redone.  The week five blocks, though, were totally wrong. And my first star block, also wrong.  Well, darn!  I had to rip out the four blocks of week five and redo them with the correct colored fabric.  And my first star, the one that was partially done, yep, it had to go too.  Talk about frustrating.

Finally on the right track, and with my week five shaded four patches fixed, I made up my week six stars.  I also learned a new technique for making flying geese (the points on the stars) that I hadn't heard of before.  I'm still trying to decide if I like my traditional method of geese making or this new method better.  Either way, you end up with scrap.

For week six, we made four of the stars with the background and primary accent color in the center, and one of the stars with the background and secondary accent color in the center.

Then we were told to play with our blocks, twenty-five total, and see if we could guess what the layout of the mystery quilt was.  We were told it was a square, not a rectangle, but other than that, we were on our own.

Well, I looked and looked, and arranged, and rearranged, and couldn't come up with a single layout I liked and thought was the 'right one'.

On the last day of week six, we were allowed to take pictures of our guesses and post them after two p.m.  It was amazing to see all the different combinations the mystery quilt participants came up with using the same number and patterns of blocks.  Four different layouts were posted within the first three hours of being allowed to guess.

This was my best guess, which I don't feel is all that aesthetically pleasing, but it was the only one I came up with that looked somewhat okay to me.  My daughters loved it, but they are biased and think all my quilting is awesome.  Someday they'll know better ;0)

On the first day of week seven, the hostess of the mystery quilt, who had been giving us all our instructions from the beginning, revealed to us what the mystery quilt was intended to be.  Of course, since we were each making our own quilt for our own use, we had the option of sewing our blocks into her design, our own design, or the design guessed by a fellow participant.

Here are my blocks, arranged in what the real design was.

I definitely like the real design better, it makes the colors pop so much more.  I'm thinking this would make an awesome wall hanging, with maybe just a very thin black border.  Or perhaps no border at all.  Once I have the blocks sewn together, finished size w/out borders is projected to be 40" x 40".

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