01 of 15
Get Ready to Make the Mystery Quilt
Mystery Quilt Pattern
On January 1, we released this New Year's Day mystery quilt. Members of the quilting forum and our Facebook group worked on the quilt throughout the day. Join one or both of those groups to watch everyone's progress and to ask questions as the day progresses.
I always release some of the clues early -- today it's the fabric suggestions and yardages.
Check back for cutting clues in the coming weeks.
I try to write mystery quilt patterns so that each quilter can create a unique... project. Everyone's fabrics will differ and layouts usually differ, too. Take a look back at some of the 2015 mystery quilts to see how quilters changed the appearance of their quilts.
Last year's pattern isn't a mystery anymore, but you can still make the quilt, a Nine Patch Bento Box quilt pattern.
Mystery Quilt Size
About 73" x 85" if you make the quilt as written. Buy extra yardages if you plan to make a larger quilt.
Mystery Quilt Fabrics
Avoid directional fabrics and large prints. If you do choose stripes or other directional fabrics, be prepared for some of the stripes to flow in different directions. That's often perfectly okay with scrap quilts but do keep it in mind.
Tone on tone fabrics and small prints work best for this quilt. If you love stripes, choose a striped fabric for the binding or add an extra border (not included in yardage).
- The five groups of four fabrics above illustrate possible contrast differences and are not meant to help you choose colors. Everyone's starting point for dark and light will differ.
- Read the scrap quilt section below even if you plan to use just four fabrics.
- You could sew this quilt with just four fabrics.
- Yardages are generous.
- Very, very dark... black would work nicely, but so would another color if it contrasts with every other fabric.
- 2 yards
- A fabric that contrasts greatly with Fabric A
- 1 3/4 yards
- A fabric that contrasts with Fabrics A and B, but isn't as dominant as Fabric A
- 1 3/4 yards
- A very light fabric that contrasts with everything... even plain white or white on white
- If not white, a neutral fabric is best (such as light gray or light beige)
- 5 yards
To Make a Scrap Quilt
I know that lots of our mystery quilters work from a stash of fabric. If that's what you plan to do, use the yardages above as a guide to how much fabric you'll need in each group.
Contrast is important for this design.
- Fabrics within a group needn't be exactly the same in color value (contrast) but they should be very close.
- Consider using warm colored fabrics for B and cool fabrics for C.
- If possible, it's best to use the same fabric for A throughout and the same Fabric D throughout. If you cannot, make sure those two slots are sewn with fabrics that do indeed look very similar in value when you step away from the assortment.
- If working with color and contrast is new to you, be sure to read two articles -- How to Use Color Value in Quilts and Color Wheel Simplified.
- Beginning quilters might want to take a look at How to Choose Fabrics for Quilts.
Backing and Batting
- A panel about 83" x 95" of each (or as required by the quilter if you plan to have someone else do the quilting).
- See How to Make Quilt Backing for layout suggestions.
Continue to 2 of 15 below.
- About 345 running inches of continuous doublefold binding. Yardage varies depending on how wide you cut the strips prior to folding in half. I use 2-1/4" to 2-1/2" wide strips but some quilters prefer narrower strips. Bias binding strips are not necessary for this quilt.
- Alter binding if you do not plan to miter the corners.
02 of 15
Mystery Quilt Cutting Instructions
About Mystery Quilt Cutting
I encourage you to only cut a portion of each group of cutting instructions as they are released. Wait until New Year's Day and sew a bit before cutting more. Cutting just a portion of the fabrics gives you a better opportunity to switch colors and also helps you make sure that all patches are cut accurately.
Label Groups of Fabric as You Cut
Don't assume that fabric groups below will be sewn to each other. That wouldn't make it much of a mystery, would it?
You'll... notice that some strips are narrower than others. Use a window template or your rotary ruler to view the finished size of strips before cutting (take 1/4" away from each side of each strip). Do you like what you see?
Some of the strips are the same but they are used differently. Label as shown.
December 14, 2015
- (4) 2" wide strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage. Label B1
- (4) 2" wide strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage. Label C1
- (120) 3" x 4 1/2" rectangles (can cut 3" segments from nine 4-1/2" wide strips cut from selvage to selvage. Label D1
- (4) 1 1/2" wide strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage (these are pretty narrow so check accuracy as you work) Label D2
December 19, 2015
- (3) 2" wide strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage. Label A1
- (1) 1 1/2" wide strip of fabric cut from selvage to selvage. Label A2
December 28, 2015
- (9) 2" wide strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage. Label D3
December 29, 2015
- (3) 2" wide strips cut from selvage to selvage. Label C2
- (3) 1 1/2" wide strips cut from selvage to selvage. Label D4
December 30, 2015 (mid morning)
Keep all cut segments labeled the same as the strips they are cut from.
- (3) 3" wide strips cut from selvage to selvage. Label A 3
- Square up one end of each (always) and cut (60) 2" segments from the A3 strips (will measure 2" x 3").
- (1) 3 1/2" wide strip cut from selvage to selvage and (1) 3 1/2" x 20" strip. Label A4
- Cut (30) 2" segments from the 3-1/2" wide A4 strips (will measure 2" x 3-1/2").
- (1) 4 1/2" wide strip cut from selvage to selvage and (1) 4 1/2" x 20" strip. Label A5
- Cut (30) 2" wide segments from the A5 strips (will measure 2" x 4 1/2").
December 30, 2015 (afternoon)
- Cut (3) 1 1/2" strips of fabric from selvage to selvage. Label A6
- (3) 2" wide strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage. Label B2
- (3) 3 1/2" wide strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage. Label B3
- Cut (60) 2" segments from the B3 strips (they will measure 2" x 3 1/2")
- (3) 2" wide strips cut from selvage to selvage. Label D5 (I made a change to this strip -- if you already cut, don't worry, you can use the narrower strips later)
- (4) 1 1/2" wide strips cut from selvage to selvage. Label D6
December 31, 2015
- (4) 2" wide strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage. Label B4
- (4) 2" wide strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage. Label C3
That's it. You will need to cut more strips of some fabrics on January 1 so don't assume you will have extra fabric leftover.
Again... I recommend you NOT cut all fabrics before you begin to sew. That's a guideline that's true for any quilt pattern you encounter, online or in printed books.
Sewing instructions begin on page 4.
I don't plan to add border cutting instructions until January 2 or January 3. Some quilters may choose different borders for their quilts and may not know which borders will look best until a layout is chosen.Continue to 3 of 15 below.
03 of 15
FAQ About the Mystery Quilt
Frequently Asked Questions About the Mystery Quilt
Members of our Facebook group have asked questions and the answers might be of help to lots of other quilters. Watch this page -- I'll add questions and answers as they occur.
Q: If someone isn't able to complete the quilt on New Year's Day's because of illness or something unexpected comes up, are they able to finish it in the future?
- A: Yes, the mystery quilt pattern will remain on the site for at least 3-4 months. After that, I might convert it... to a regular pattern, but anyone who's started should be able to follow along.
Q: What are strips of fabric cut from selvage to selvage?
- A: The mystery quilt is (mostly) quick pieced. When you rotary cut fabrics from selvage to selvage you fold the fabric in half, selvages matched (as much as possible). Use your rotary cutting equipment to cut strips from the folded fabric.
- Mark with rulers and cut with scissors if you are not rotary cutting.
- Beginners can work with shorter (but more) strips if cutting long (accurate) strips is difficult.
- See my tips and tutorial in How to Rotary Cut Strips of Fabric.
Q: Regarding the 5 yards for the mystery quilt. Is that yardage entirely for the quilt top? I have a couple of fabrics that would work but only have 4 yards. I wondered if a yard might be for border or binding that I could substitute another fabric for?
Continue to 4 of 15 below.
- A: Four yards should be okay as long as you don't plan to use it in a border.
- Remember that all of my yardages are generous because (in the past) we've seen errors that resulted in quilters not having enough fabric.
- Backing and binding are listed separately on page 1 and are not part of the yardage for the quilt top.
04 of 15
First Two Sewing and Cutting Steps for the Mystery
Important Throughout the Quilt
- Press to set all strip set seams before pressing seam allowances to one side.
- Measure strip sets before you cut.
- Square up the leading edge of each strip set before cutting segments. Square up again as necessary to keep the leading edge at a 90-degree angle to the top and bottom of each strip set.
- Use the selvage width strips unless instructions say otherwise.
- The quilt is not difficult, but I decided that drawings would make the steps clearer and be easier to label... than actual strip sets.
Begin Sewing Mystery Quilt Strip Sets
I recommend that you make only one strip set of each pair to begin with. Keep your strips labeled so that you can come back to them easily later.
Label the segments cut from strip sets as described.
Measure As You Work
If the strips in your strip set are not the correct measurements after sewing, figure out why and make adjustments. The problem is often inadequate pressing or an incorrect (usually too wide) seam allowance.
- Sew a C2 strip (2” wide) lengthwise to a D4 strip (1 1/2” wide).
- Press to set the seam and then press the seam allowance towards the C2 strip.
- Measure the strips. The C2 strip should measure 1 3/4” along its entire length. The D4 strip should measure 1 1/4” along its entire length.
- Square up one end of the strip set and cut as many 2” segments as possible.
- Set aside and label the group of segments #1.
- Sew a selvage width D5 strip (2” wide) lengthwise to the A2 (1 1/2” wide) strip.
- Press to set the seam and then press the allowance towards the A2 strip.
- The D5 strip should be 1 3/4” wide along its entire length. The A2 strip should be 1 1/4” wide.
- Square up. Cut as many 1 1/2” segments as possible.
- Set aside and label the group of segments #2.
Note: If you cut each day, D5 is the strip I made a change to and you'll need to cut additional strips. The others (1 1/2" wide) will be used later so set them aside.Continue to 5 of 15 below.
05 of 15
Make Two More Mystery Quilt Strip Sets
Sew Two More Strip Sets
Always square up the leading edge of each strip set and press to set the seams — I’ll stop repeating those steps, but they are critical.
Yes, some strips used in the mystery quilt are the same size, but label them as instructed because they are used in different ways.
- Sew a C1 (2” wide) strip lengthwise to one side of a D2 (1 1/2” wide) strip.
- Sew a B1 (2” wide) strip lengthwise to the opposite side of the D2 strip.
- Press seam allowances towards the wider strips.
- The... center (D2) strip should be 1” wide.
- Both outer strips (C1 and B1) should be 1-3/4” wide.
- Cut as many 3” segments as possible and set aside.
- Go ahead and make three more strip sets and cut segments from the same group of three fabrics (C1, D2. B1).
- Label the segments #3.
Continue to 6 of 15 below.
- Sew a B2 (2" wide) strip lengthwise to an A1 strip of the same width.
- Press either way. Each strip should measure 1 3/4" wide.
- Square up and cut as many 2" segments as possible.
- Do not make another strip set like this just yet.
- Label the segments #4.
06 of 15
One More Strip Set and a Little Assembly
Remember to keep all of your strips and segments marked and organized during the entire construction process.
- Sew an A1 strip (2" wide) lengthwise to one side of a B2 strip of the same size.
- Sew an A6 strip (1 1/2" wide) lengthwise to the opposite side of the B2 strip.
- Set seams and press allowances away from the center strip.
- The A1 strip should measure 1 3/4" in width.
- The B2 strip should measure 1 1/2" in width.
- The A6 strip should measure 1 1/4" in width.
- The entire... strip set should be 4 1/2" wide.
- Square up and cut as many 2" segments as possible from the strip set.
- Label the segments #5 and set aside.
- Do not make another Figure 5 strip set.
Follow the illustrations from left to right.
- Find a #1 segment and a #2 segment.
- Arrange the two segments as shown, left, and sew together, butting seams for a perfect match. Match and secure patchwork with straight pins whenever necessary to keep patches from shifting.
- Press the seam allowance towards the #2 segment.
- The new square unit you just created should measure 3" x 3".
- Sew an A3 patch (2" x 3") to the top of the unit. Press seam allowance towards the A3 patch.
- The new unit should measure 3" x 4 1/2".
- Repeat to add an A3 patch to all of the (joined) #1 and #2 segments you created from one strip set. Don't worry about the extra A3 patches that are left over.
Label any sewn units (where we assemble different patches and strip sets) with their Figure numbers to keep them straight.Continue to 7 of 15 below.
07 of 15
Keep Sewing the Mystery, We have a Ways to Go
- Grab a selvage long C2 strip (2" side) and a D4 strip (1 1/2"" wide) of the same length. Illustration says D5 but use D4.
- Sew the strips together lengthwise.
- Set the seam and then press the seam allowance towards the D4 strip unless it's very sheer. Note that this configuration is very much like the Figure 1 units, but the strip sets are used in a different way.
- Make only one strip set for now.
- The C2 strip should measure 1 3/4" in width and the D4 strip should measure... 1-1/4" in width.
- Square up one end and cut as many 2" segments as possible. Label the segments #7. (We skipped #6 for segments because there are no new strip pieced segments associated with that figure number).
Follow the drawings from left to right.
Continue to 8 of 15 below.
- Count your #7 segments and find the same number of A3 patches (2" x 3").
- Orient a #7 segment so that C2 is on the right as shown. Sew an A3 patch to the bottom edge of the segment.
- Press seam allowance towards the A3 patch. The new unit should measure 3" x 3-1/2".
- Gather the same number of B3 patches (2" x 3 1/2") as you have units from step 3. Gather the same number of A4 patches (2" x 3 1/2").
- Sew a B3 patch to the side of the unit with a D5 piece. Press seam allowance towards B3.
- Sew an A4 patch to the opposite side of the unit (A patches will form an L-like shape). Press seam allowance towards A4.
- The new unit (labeled Figure 8) should measure 6" x 3 1/2".
- Repeat to make more identical Figure 8 units from the #7 segments.
08 of 15
Sew More of the Mystery Quilt
- Find your patchwork units from Figure 6.
- Count the units and then find the same number of A5 patches (2" x 4 1/2").
- Sew an A5 patch to the left side of a Figure 6 patchwork unit -- the A patches will meet to form an upside down L as shown in the illustration.
- Press the seam allowance towards the A5 patch.
- The unit should measure 4 1/2" x 4 1/2".
- Repeat to add an A5 patch to each of your Figure 6 patchwork units.
Figure 10 is a strip pieced unit made up of five strips of fabric. Most... people find that it's best to begin sewing a new strip at the end where you just finished the previous strip, flip flopping back and forth during the entire assembly. This sometimes helps keep wide strip sets from bowing out of shape. Beginning quilters might want to take a look at a few strip piecing tips.
You can sew the strips in order from the top to bottom or start in the middle and work outwards from each side.
These are all selvage width strips.
If sewing from top to bottom, sew the five strips lengthwise in this order.
- D3 (2" wide)
- C3 (2" wide)
- D6 (1-1/2" wide)
- B4 (2" wide)
- D3 (2" wide)
Create the strip set and press seam allowances away from the center strip.
- When sewn, both D3 strips will be 1 3/4" wide.
- The C3 strip will be 1-1/2" wide.
- The D6 strip will be 1" wide.
- The B4 strip will be 1 1/2" wide.
- The entire strip set should measure 7-1/2" across.
Square up and cut as many 3" segments from the strip set as possible.
Create additional strip sets from fabric strips marked with the same designations and cut more 3" segments.
Label as segments 10.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
09 of 15
Sew Another Type of Patchwork for the Mystery Quilt
- Find a D4 strip (1 1/2" wide).
- Count out (30) B3 strips (2" x 3 1/2"). You'll have a few left.
- Place the D4 strip in your sewing machine, right side up.
- Place the B3 strips next to you, right sides down.
- Align the top narrow end of a B3 strip with the right-hand side of the D4 strip (as it sits in your sewing machine).
- Sew the B3 to the D4 with a quarter inch seam. As you near the end of the first B3 strip, place another beside it, close but not overlapping the first.
- Continue... the seam, adding B3 strips until you reach the end of the D4 strip.
- Press to set the seam and then press towards the B3s.
- Cut each pair apart, taking care to keep edges flush. Figure 12, mark as #12 segments. Each should measure 2" x 4 1/2".
This technique comes in handy when you want to connect a scrappy assortment of fabrics to a single strip of fabric.
If you haven't cut the (30) B3 pieces, you could create a selvage width strip set (and part of another) with a 1 1/2" wide D4 strip and a 3 1/2" wide strip of B3 (was in cutting instructions). You'll need a total of (30) 2" segments.Continue to 10 of 15 below.
10 of 15
Attach Patchwork to #3 Segments
- Find your #3 segments and your (120) D1 patches (which measure 3" x 4 1/2").
- Sew a D1 patch to each narrow end of a #3 segment as shown. Press seam allowances towards the D1s unless the fabric is very sheer.
- The units should measure 3" x 12 1/2".
You may not have constructed all of the #3 segments that are needed. You'll need 60 total to make all quilt blocks. Refer back to page 5 (Figure 3 instructions) to make the remaining 3-color segments.
If you prefer, wait until you've sewn a... group of blocks before making more segments of any type.Continue to 11 of 15 below.
11 of 15
Getting Closer to Finishing Mystery Quilt Blocks
- Go back and find your #12 segments and #5 segments.
- Sew the two together lengthwise, with the D4 and A6 areas touching. These are the shorter areas. The B fabrics create an L shape.
- Press towards the #5 segment.
- The finished unit is shown to the right and should measure 3 1/2" x 4 1/2".
- Repeat, making as many of these units as you can with the patchwork that's already assembled.
- Find a Figure 9 unit. Sew one of the units you just created (above) to the right of the Figure 9 unit.... Again, the shorter patchwork will connect at the bottom, with the A6 touching the D4 as shown.
- Press the seam allowance towards the Figure 9 unit.
- The new unit should measure 7 1/2" x 4 1/2".
- Make as many as possible with the patchwork that's already constructed.
Yes, many of you have strips left to make more patchwork (which equals more quilt blocks). I wrote this year's pattern in this way for two reasons. One, because many asked to make a smaller quilt. And two, because I wanted everyone possible to see the final blocks before the end of the day.
To make all 30 blocks, you'll need to go back and sew the additional strip sets, cut more segments, and complete the patchwork.
The cutting instructions will make 30 quilt blocks, although some may need to cut a few extra strips here and there to compensate for errors or extra squaring up steps.Continue to 12 of 15 below.
12 of 15
Make the Center of the Mystery Quilt Block
- Find the #4 segments (B2/A1).
- Find a patchwork unit from Figure 8.
- Sew the #4 segment to the Figure 8 segment's left side as shown -- the B fabrics join to create an upside down L.
- Press the seam allowance towards the B3 patch.
- The new patchwork unit should measure 7 1/2" x 3 1/2"
- Make as many of the units as possible from the patchwork you've already assembled.
- Find a patchwork unit from Figure 15 -- this is the top center of the quilt block.
- Sew a patchwork unit from Figure 16,... above, to the bottom of the Figure 15 unit.
- Be sure that B fabrics are placed diagonally from each other -- C fabrics should be diagonal from each other, too.
- Press the seam allowance towards the bottom portion of the block.
- This block center unit should measure 7 1/2" x 7 1/2".
- Make as many more block centers as possible with remaining patchwork.
If you cut all strips, do not be alarmed that you have random leftovers. Cutting included all strips needed for 30 quilt blocks.Continue to 13 of 15 below.
13 of 15
Add a Top and Bottom to the Mystery Block's Center
Continue to 14 of 15 below.
- Grab a Figure 17 block center and two Figure 10 segments.
- Sew a Figure 10 segment to the top of the block and another to the bottom of the block -- rotate the Figure 10 segments as shown.
- Pay attention to the orientation of patches. The B fabrics will meet each other on both the top and bottom of the block. The C fabrics will appear to 'slide' under the A fabrics.
- Press seam allowances either direction.
- The new patchwork should measure 7 1/2" x 12 1/2".
- Make as many more... identical units as possible with existing patchwork.
14 of 15
Finish Sewing Mystery Quilt Blocks
- There's only one type of unit you haven't used -- the 12 1/2" long pieces made from #3 segments, with D1 rectangles at each end.
- Sew one of the long units to each remaining side of the quilt block. Make sure to rotate them so that the B fabrics meet on each side, and the C fabrics once again slide under the A fabrics.
- Press the seam allowances towards the new patchwork.
- The block should measure 12 1/2" x 12 1/2".
- Make blocks with remaining patchwork.
- Go back and assemble... additional patchwork if you are making all 30 quilt blocks.
Experiment with a layout because the quilt will look different depending on how the blocks are rotated. You could also place the quilt blocks on point.
Yardages included border fabric but I don't plan to add those instructions until Saturday and Sunday. Think about your layout for awhile -- what type of border(s) do you want to include? Would you rather not have any borders at all?
Borders to come after I see that people are getting the blocks finished.Continue to 15 of 15 below.
15 of 15
Three Possible Mystery Quilt Layouts
Possible Layouts for the Mystery Quilt
Judging from our Facebook group, most people are still assembling their quilt blocks and trying to decide how to arrange them into a layout.
The examples above are three possibilities.
- Top left, some of the 30 blocks have been rotated to link like patchwork.
- Top right, blocks are all set in the same orientation.
- Lower quilt, blocks are set on point and surrounded by setting triangles and corner triangles. The example has more than 30 blocks, but you get the... idea.
- Not shown, but a layout some are using -- they are omitting the extra sashing like the vertical units (from Figure 19) between every other block. I suggested that they could possibly use that patchwork in a border.
- Experiment to find a layout you like.
I think the quilt would look good surrounded (first) by a narrow border made from the same fabric as the background, to set the color patchwork apart and make it appear to float. After that, a piano key border could be added. A third (narrow) border could be made from many fabrics or two fabrics, but with squares inserted to make some 'keys' longer than others.
Some quilters are sewing either more or fewer blocks than the pattern calls for. That makes it impossible to give you specific border instructions.
For beginning quilters, learning how to measure and sew plain borders is an important skill -- one that will help 'square up' a slightly skewed quilt. From there, an inner border can be added to adjust the size of the quilt to make it accept the type of patchwork border you prefer.
You should have plenty of leftover fabrics to create a patchwork border.
If you like the look of piano key borders (and keep in mind they do not all look alike) take a look at the outer sashing and border assembly instructions in the Star Crossing quilt (not sashing between blocks). You can create borders that are similar, or reverse the positions of the narrow and wider border. Mary Jane Cardwell sewed her 2015 Mystery quilt with a piano key border. It's a completely different (and gorgeous) look.
A Few More Finishing Steps