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Choose Fabrics For the Springtime Mystery Quilt
Try a Mystery Quilt Designed for Spring
My 2015 New Year's Day mystery quilt was a huge success and was encouraged to write another before 2016. The answer.. this Springtime mystery quilt pattern.
See the non-mystery version of the 2015 New Year's Day quilt, Nine Patch Bento Box quilt pattern, and browse through the mystery quilt photo gallery to view many of the ways quilters made their own projects unique.
The Springtime Mystery is complete now so peek ahead if you'd like to see the... final outcome.
Mystery Quilt Advice for Beginning Quilters
It's important to understand the techniques below before you make any quilt. Follow the links to read more about the skills you'll need to sew the mystery quilt.
- The quilt is beginner friendly, and honestly, if you are a beginner I recommend working with shorter strips of fabric (for strip piecing) than you'll see within the instructions, even if you are sewing a more color controlled quilt. Why? Because shorter strips are very often easier for beginners to sew more accurately. I've made quilts for decades, but still prefer to work with shorter strips.
- Another tip -- slow down. If your sewing machine has a speed control, turn it to it's slowest setting. Sewing too fast is one reason beginners sometimes see less-than-accurate results when piecing quilts. Quilt making is not a race, and I openly admit that I always sew slowly. Accuracy the first time is more important to me than speed.
- Use pins to secure your patchwork. My tutorial, Pinning Tips for Quilters, might help you secure adjoining pieces in a way that improves accuracy.
- Cut with care. I'll release cutting instructions next, but unless you are certain your cutting accuracy is correct, only cut a portion of the fabric that's needed until you've had time to test some of the sewing instructions. Two of my tutorials can help. See: How to Rotary Cut Fabric Strips and How to Cut Patchwork Shapes.
- Sew with an accurate quarter inch seam allowance. My seam allowance tutorial walks you through methods that can be used to check the accuracy of your seams.
- Press carefully, and that includes pressing to set a seam before pressing seam allowances to one side. Pressing to set a seam is often overlooked, but is an important accuracy-enhancing step, because it flattens little puckers that can occur when a seam is sewn.
- Remember to press -- don't iron! Move slowly to avoid stretch, and let the heat and weight of the iron do most of the work.
- Always square up one end of a strip set before cutting segments from the set, and always check the leading edge after several cuts to make sure it is still at a 90-degree angle to the top and bottom strips.
- Pay attention to the measurements given after each step in the pattern. If your patchwork is correct after every step, your quilt should go together with ease.
Mystery Quilt Fabrics and Yardages
The quilt finishes at 60" x 84". Borders are optional, and not included in yardage.
Binding fabric will depend on the method you choose for the edges of your quilt. If using continuous binding strips, you'll need about 315 running inches to sew mitered double fold binding to the quilt (more if you add borders).
Backing and batting should measure about 80" x 94" each, or as required for the type of quilting that's planned.
I know that many try to use fabrics from a stash to create mysteries, and this pattern should make that an easy task (depending on your stash). You can work with a controlled color scheme or take it scrappy -- your choice.
Instructions are written for a fairly controlled theme. To take the quilt in a full scrappy direction, simply work with shorter (but more) strip sets for strip pieced areas. The total length of strips increases somewhat when working with shorter strip sets, to allow for squaring up, but it doesn't involve a huge addition to yardage.
Your darkest fabric may be much lighter than the darkest fabric chosen by others. What’s important is contrast among your own fabrics, and you are the one to set the dark-to-light progression.
This quilt looks good as a 2-color quilt (the light/neutral background does not count as a color), but remember to follow the same contrast guidelines. A quick look at a basic color wheel can help you decide which colors might work best with each other. Not into color wheels? Go with your gut instincts. How to Choose Fabrics for Quilts might help, too.
Except for Fabric A, large scale prints are not suitable for the quilt but could be useful if you choose to create borders. If sewing plain borders, you could repeat Fabric A, but I have not added border yardage.
One more thing -- you might choose to flip-flop my suggestions, replacing dark fabrics with light and light fabrics with dark.
Yardages are fairly generous.
Fabric A: Large Scale Print Focal Fabric
- 1-3/8 yards
- This doesn’t necessarily have to be large scale, but I personally think that’s a good choice. Use the fabric to set the theme if you like, and choose other colors that work with (but don’t necessarily ‘match’) its colors.
- If you choose something bright, balance it by using at least a few very dark or vivid colors in other areas, even if just an inner framing border or binding.
- If you do not want to use a large scale focal, you could repeat Fabric F, the very light fabric (remember to add yardages together).
Fabric B. Dark Fabric(s)
- 2-1/8 yards
- It’s best if this fabric is very dark, but perhaps not a terribly bright fabric. Darkest purple, deepest maroon, navy blue, darkest forest green, and black are examples of good choices.
- Go for tone on tone or solid fabrics. If you choose a print, stick with something small in scale. This fabric should contrast with Fabric A, and the contrast can be either high or medium (best not to blend).
Fabric C: Medium Fabric(s)
- 1-1/2 yards
- Choose any fabric(s) you like for this slot. If you do not like overly colorful quilts, select something a bit subdued. It could be darker than Fabric A but must contrast with Fabric B (could be a warm color that contrasts with A and B).
Fabric D: Medium Light Fabric(s)
- 1-1/2 yards
- Choose something that contrasts with Fabric B and Fabrics E and F.
Fabric E Medium Light Fabric(s)
- 1-1/8 yards
- This can be the same color as Fabric D but doesn’t have to contrast highly with that fabric.
Fabric F: Very Light Fabric
- 2-1/4 yards
- White or white on a solid white fabric works here, and so do very light neutral fabrics such as ivory or a pastel version of one of your darker fabrics.
- Solids or tone on tone fabrics work best, and a very small print would probably be okay, too, as long as it contrasts quite a bit with Fabrics A and D.
Fabric G: Light Fabric(s)
- 1-1/4 yard
- This looks nice if it’s a lighter variation of Fabric C, but that’s not a must. Choose something that contrasts with Fabric B, but is a little lighter than D and E, and you’ll be fine.
If the choices seem confusing, just think of the seven fabrics as dark to light and factor-in warm colors that pop (yellow, orange and red are a few examples). I don't think you'd like a very bright Fabric A unless some of your other choices are equally as bright.Continue to 2 of 12 below.
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Cutting Instructions for Springtime Mystery Quilt
Cutting Instructions for the Springtime Mystery Quilt (4/7/15)
- The term ‘x selvage width cuts’ refers to strips (of varying widths given) that are cut across the fabric’s crosswise grain, from selvage to selvage.
- Mark your fabrics A through G and keep cuts organized.
- Accuracy is a must. If you are not comfortable cutting long strips of fabric, cut shorter strips to (approximately) equal the lengths stated.
- I recommend you NOT cut all fabric for ANY quilt pattern until you’ve had a... chance to sew samples, especially if you are a new quilter. Yes, that means more cutting as we begin sewing, but incorrectly cut patchwork will need to be placed in your scrap bin.
- Don't assume you know how the strips will be used. Cut the size listed, no variations.
- More cuts will be needed in some cases, but the lengths will likely differ a bit for everyone. Reserve your yardage for the extras.
- This is not a race to see who finishes first.
- (17) 6-1/2” x 6-1/2” squares
- (20) 2” wide x selvage width cuts
- (5) 2-1/2” wide x selvage width cuts
- (11) 3-1/2” wide x selvage width cuts
- (10) 2” wide x selvage width cuts
- (3) 3-1/2” x selvage width cuts
- (3) 3-1/2” wide x selvage width cuts
- (4) 2-3/8” wide x selvage width cuts
- (13) 2” wide x selvage width cuts
- (3) 6-1/2” wide x selvage width cuts
Continue to 3 of 12 below.
- (3) 3-7/8” wide x selvage width cuts
- (4) 2-1/2” wide x selvage width cuts
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Start Sewing the Springtime Mystery Quilt
Use a quarter inch seam allowance throughout unless instructions say otherwise. The four patch colors in the photo will not match your mystery quilt fabrics.
Refer back to page 1 for suggested tutorials if you aren't familiar with a method.
Continue to 4 of 12 below.
- Find (7) 2" wide selvage length strips of Fabrics B and the same number and size of Fabric D strips.
- Sew a B strip lengthwise to a D strip. Press to set the seam, and then press seam allowance towards the darkest strip.
- Each strip should be 1-3/4"... wide along its entire length. If the strip set is off, correct it before moving to the next step.
- Square up one end of the strip set and cut as many 2" segments from it as possible. Check the leading edge often and square up again as necessary.
- Make six more identical strip sets and cut a total of (144) 2" segments.
- If you do not have enough segments, multiply the number needed by 2". Add about 1/2" and cut two more strips that length to make a strip set that will yield the missing segments.
- Pair two segments, flipping one around so that like-fabrics are positioned diagonally from each other.
- Sew the pair together to create a four patch quilt block that measures 3-1/2" x 3-1/2".
- Press to set the seam and then either press the seam allowance to one side or fan it out to reduce bulk. See How to Press Four Patch Quilt Blocks for a quick look at the method.
- Repeat to sew a total of 72 four patch quilt blocks.
- If you need more of a visual, take a look at this tutorial.
- Label as #1 and keep together.
04 of 12
Sew a Bit More of the Springtime Mystery Quilt
Sew with Fabrics B and G
- Sew a 2-1/2” x selvage width B strip lengthwise to each side of a G strip of the same size.
- Press to set the seam and then press seam allowances towards the B (outer) strips.
- The center G strip should measure 2” in width along its entire length. The B strips should each measure 2-1/4” in width. Make corrections if necessary.
- Square up one end of the strip set and cut as many 2-1/2” segments as possible (probably 15 or 16).
- Repeat to make a second identical strip set and cut... more 2-1/2” segments.
- Count your segments — you’ll need 36. Create a shorter strip set (cut the strips from your extra yardage) and cut the needed segments (most accurate, in my opinion) or sew together 2-1/2” x 2-1/2” squares of the two fabrics to create the missing segments.
- Label as #2 and keep together.
Not sure how long to make your extra strip set?
- Number of missing segments X 2-1/2”
- Add 1/4” to 1/2” to the total for squaring up. Strip widths are the same.
- Sew as above, square up one end, and cut the missing segments.
Sew with Fabrics D and E
Continue to 5 of 12 below.
- Sew a 3-1/2" x selvage width strip of Fabric D lengthwise to a Fabric E strip of the same size.
- Press to set the seam and then press the seam allowance either direction.
- Each strip should measure 3-1/4" wide along its entire length.
- Square up one end of the strip set. Cut as many 2" segments from the set as possible, probably 20 or 21. These segments are not as wide as the segments previously cut from fabrics B and G.
- Repeat with remaining 3-1/2" x selvage width strips of Fabrics D and E, cutting more segments.
- You'll need a total of 72 segments, and that means you'll need to create one more strip set. Lengths will vary for each quilter. Determine how many more segments are needed and multiply that number by 2". Add a bit for squaring up, and cut one 3-1/2" wide D strip that length and one same-sized E strip to create a fourth strip to yield the missing segments.
- Label as #3 and keep together.
05 of 12
More Sewing for the Springtime Mystery Quilt
Sew with Fabrics B and G
- Top drawing. Sew a 2-1/2" x selvage width G strip lengthwise to each side of a B strip of the same size.
- Set the seams. Press seam allowances towards the inner B strip.
- Square up one end. Cut as many 2-1/2" segments as possible.
- You'll need 18 segments, and are one or two short, depending on your fabric width and how much squaring up was necessary. Make a second strip set, calculating length as described previously, or sew 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" squares together... to create the missing segments.
- Label as #4.
Okay, Sew a Bit More
Continue to 6 of 12 below.
- Find the 36 B / G segments sewn previously (now labeled #2).
- Create a nine patch quilt block by sewing a #2 segment (page 4) to the top and bottom of a #4 segment (from this page, above).
- Press seam allowances either direction.
- The block should measure 6-1/2" x 6-1/2".
- Make a total of 18 blocks and label as #5.
06 of 12
Lots of Sewing for the Springtime Mystery Quilt
Work with Fabrics B, F, and C
- Some of the 2" wide strips of Fabric B
- Some of the 2" wide strips of Fabric F
- The 3-1/2" wide strips of Fabric C
Don't cut all of your fabric yet -- follow the instructions and illustrations. Once you're sure the units are accurate, it's easier to chain piece and handle pressing tasks in bulk.
Continue to 7 of 12 below.
- Find one 3-1/2" x selvage width strip of Fabric C. Cut as many 3-1/2" squares from it as possible (probably 11 or 12).
- Find one... 2" x selvage width Fabric B strip and one 2" x selvage width Fabric F strip. Cut as many 2" squares from each as possible.
- Draw a line from one corner to the opposite corner on the back of each 2" square.
- Grab a 3-1/2" C square and a 2" F square. Align the F square right side down in the upper right-hand corner of the C square, marked line angled as shown, second upper illustration.
- Sew a seam directly on the line. Set the seam. Trim both layers about 1/4" away from the seam (towards the corner, next diagram).
- Flip what's left of the F fabric upright, pressing the seam carefully towards the new triangle.
- Repeat, sewing a B square to the opposite corner of the larger square, first bottom drawing.
- Repeat again, sewing a second F square to the larger square -- it should be on the same top edge as the first F square.
- Add another B square to the remaining corner.
- The new square in a square patchwork should measure 3-1/2" x 3-1/2".
- Make a few more units just to test accuracy.
- You'll need 136 of the square in square units, and can either cut the remaining fabric from strips now or do it in stages. You should have enough yardage to cut additional squares where needed.
- Chain piece if you wish, adding all of the first F squares to a corner, clipping, and pressing, and then adding all of the opposite B squares, clipping, and pressing. Continue to chain piece for remaining additions.
- Label as #6.
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Almost There... Make a Simple Patchwork Unit for the Next Step
Cut and sew a few of the units before cutting all of your F fabric.
- Remember Page 4, when we sewed a strip set from Fabrics D and E (segments were later labeled as #3). Grab the segments cut from that strip set.
- Find the (4) 6-1/2" x selvage width Fabric F strips. Cut a total of (72) 2" segments from the strips (you'll have leftovers). Remember to square up to each end before cutting, and check periodically to make sure the leading edge is still at a 90-degree angle to the bottom of... the strip.
- Sew a Fabric F strip to the side of a patchwork segment as shown. It doesn't matter which fabric in a D/E segment is oriented to the top or bottom of an F strip, but they should all be identical in orientation.
- Press seam allowances towards the plain strip. The new unit should measure 3-1/2" x 6-1/2".
- Repeat to make 72 of the units.
Just one more patchwork unit and we'll be ready to assemble the mystery quilt. And as always, you'll have assembly options.Continue to 8 of 12 below.
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Sew One More Mystery Patchwork Unit Before Assembly
Work with Fabrics, D, F, and G
Make a few sample units before cutting all of your fabric. Use your selvage width strips. After testing, it's safe to chain piece.
- Cut (68) 2" x 2" squares of Fabric D
- Cut (68) 2-3/8" x 2-3/8" squares of Fabric F. Carefully cut each square in half once diagonally. You may need to use extra yardage to cut all 68.
- Cut (34) 3-7/8" x 3-7/8" squares of Fabric G. Cut each in half once diagonally.You will need to cut a few more squares from... extra yardage.
Follow the instructions and illustrations. Edges of small triangles are not the same width as squares (to compensate for seam allowances in triangular shapes). Align the edges as shown and make sure you are sewing with a calibrated seam allowance (a scant seam may be best). Test!
It's fine to press the opposite way if it makes more sense for your fabrics.
Continue to 9 of 12 below.
- Sew a Fabric F triangle to the top edge of a Fabric D square. The bottom (straight) edges of each should be aligned right sides together for sewing (left drawing) and the left edges of each should also be flush. The triangle's bottom pointed tip will extend past the left side of the square. Sew the two together and press either direction.
- Sew a Fabric F triangle to the left side of the square, aligning bottom (straight edges). The top tip of the triangle will extend past the top edge of the square.
- Press. Remove dog legs if necessary -- little triangles that stick out where the two triangles meet (dog legs not shown). Take care not to cut into the seam allowance at the center where F triangles meet. Middle drawing.
- The long angled edge of a fabric G triangle (cut by dividing 3-7/8" x 3-7/8" squares once diagonally) should align perfectly with the new unit. If it does not, check your partially complete unit for errors.
- Sew a G triangle to a D / F unit. Press seam allowance towards the G triangle and remove dog legs at the seam ends. The unit should measure 3-1/2" x 3-1/2".
- Make a total of 68 units.
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Springtime Mystery Quilt Pattern Reveal
Two Quilt Blocks Are Used in the Springtime Mystery Quilt
It's time to reveal the Springtime Mystery quilt's design.
Two quilt blocks are used to create the quilt, 18 of Block A and 17 of Block B. Both quilt blocks are illustrated above, along with the patchwork arrangement of their rows. Don't assemble your blocks just yet because you might decide to shift patchwork elements around.
I suggest that you arrange components into a tester layout -- three rows of three blocks each.
- Start with... Block A in the first row, placing patchwork units side by side to preview its design.
- Arrange a Block B to the right of the A Block and finish with another Block A at the row's end.
- Arrange patchwork for the second row, beginning and ending with a Block B.
- Make the third row to mimic the first.
- Do you like the look? If you'd like to consider a few options, take a look at the next pages to see some of the variations you can create from the blocks (and feel free to devise your own).
- The final quilt layout is on page 11. Page 12 illustrates an alternate layout.
Depending on your final layout, you might need to make one more quilt block (or at least a few more of the patchwork units for a block). Why? Because the block count for each type isn't even, and changing the layout alters the number of patchwork units required. You should have plenty of extra yardages to make the switch.
Instructions for the Suggested Block Design
The patchwork you've made is all very different, so I don't think I need to get too specific with assembly instructions.
- Sew a four-patch unit at each end of a 6-1/2" long patchwork bar. Make sure the darker squares in four-patches are sewn next to the darker (2-piece) bars of the long patchwork. Press seam allowances towards the long bars.
- Repeat to make another identical row.
- To make the middle row, sew a patchwork bar unit to opposite sides of a nine-patch (2-part bars touch the nine-patch). Press seam allowances towards the bars.
- Join the rows and press new seams towards the center. The block should measure 12-1/2" x 12-1/2".
- Make 18 A blocks.
Continue to 10 of 12 below.
- Sew two of the square in square units together -- dark and light fabrics should flow side by side as shown. Create three more 2-unit rows.
- Add the final type of patchwork units you assembled (page 8) to each side of one square in a square row. The small squares in that unit should be sewn against the dark fabrics in the square in squares. Press seam allowances towards the outer patchwork.
- Repeat to make one more identical row.
- Sew the remaining square in a square row to opposite sides of a focal fabric square, dark fabrics against the square. Press seam allowances towards the square.
- The block should measure 12-1/2" x 12-1/2".
- Make 17 B Blocks.
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Springtime Mystery Quilt Block Variations
You Can Vary Your Springtime Mystery Quilt Blocks
The drawings above illustrate two variations of the Springtime Mystery quilt blocks -- there are others.
If you vary your quilt blocks, place the unsewn patchwork side by side into rows to make sure you like the overall look and remember, you might need to create a bit more patchwork.
Take a look at the final layout on page 11, and an alternate look (with shifted rows) on page 12.Continue to 11 of 12 below.
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Final Layout for the Springtime Mystery Quilt
Assemble Your Mystery Quilt
The final layout for the Springtime Mystery quilt pattern is a quilt made up of 35 total quilt blocks, 18 Block A and 17 Block B. Quilt blocks are arranged into seven rows and each row holds five alternating blocks.
- Rows 1, 3, 5, and 7 begin and end with Block A.
- Rows 2, 4, and 6 begin and end with Block B.
Join the Rows and Finish the Quilt
- Sew the blocks in each row together, matching all seam intersections with care.
- Press seam allowances towards the A quilt blocks.
- Join... the rows and press.
Tutorials to Help You Finish the QuiltContinue to 12 of 12 below.
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Optional Mystery Quilt Block Layout
How about a quilt layout where the first block in the top and bottom rows is Block B? This square preview of that layout might help you decide if you prefer the look.
Experiment with your completed blocks to decide if this arrangement is your favorite. Make one more Block B (and you'll have an extra Block A leftover).