Mystery Quilts are classes (or magazine instructions, etc.) that do not tell you what the final quilt will look like. Each step in making the quilt is called a "clue", and you must finish doing one clue before getting the next. You are solving a mystery by making the quilt top one step at a time.
When the original classes were being taught in this style, part of the fun was to have a prize for the person who first recognized the pattern and could name it.
Some Mystery Quilts had a murder or other mysteries to "solve" as you did each step.
Today's Mystery Quilts have evolved beyond using only simple traditional blocks, but they still must follow a few basic guidelines: not require too many fabrics, and be relatively easy to make.
SO: a Mystery Quilt is not a kind of a quilt...it is a way of making a quilt.
This is from the very first Mystery Quilt class I taught:
Each unit in this quilt had a funny name, like The Gorilla or Bunch of Bananas.
I called it "Scrap-Fari" and each clue was about our journey through the jungle. Those rectangles at the edge are supposed to be the border. As you can see, this is still a top....many years later!
This is a Mystery Quilt I taught at a Big Box Store several years ago:
Can you imagine working on this during an all-night "lock-in"??? The event was never repeated!
This is the basic 3 fabric quilt...light background, 2 colors (or a dark/ medium/ light combo).
This is still a top because I'm not sure my eyesight would stand up to quilting all those little dotty flowers! This is an excellent example of why you need strong contrast to make a successful quilt...that yellow blends in the white, and the prints are all the same size.
Don't let this happen to you!
You don't get to see a sample before you sign up for a Mystery Quilt class, and that makes choosing fabrics more difficult. I try hard to write my classes for the 3 fabric method, and give a few hints if there's something interesting you can try. I often reccomend choosing holiday colors/ fabric, so you will end up with a useful decorative item or gift. Then, if you like the pattern, you can make it again with more carefully selected fabrics.
Sure you can make a scrappy Mystery Quilt! Ask the teacher first, though, as it's probably planned using strips and fast-pieced units.
These days I always have one of my wonderful Beta Testers try out the instructions before I teach the class. I also make the quilt top (at least once), so I have several versions to show. Seeing the quilt pattern done in different colors is good inspiration. I'll often bring my EQ6 on a laptop and run through a variety of other ideas that can be made with the same basic block.
I wish you could see the orange polka- dots on the black fabric!
I love the 3-D quality of this block, and did use it for a Mystery pattern. I am pleased to say that most students were quite happy with the way their top turned out.
Even if you aren't totally thrilled, it makes a great charity quilt, and you will no doubt have a better time when you select fabrics knowing what it looks like!
The Mystery Quilt I designed for the Central Florida Quilters Guild has been rescheduled for October, and I am soooo excited about it!
For years I have wanted to have a fabric exchange be part of a Mystery class....yet how do you assure people their fabric will work with somebody else's? We all want to make a quilt that is to our own taste (even though this is a quilt to celebrate friendship!).
Well, I did come up with a way to do it...and now we will just have to wait until October to see what it is! My "alpha" Beta Tester, the fabulous Cherry-Cherry, has made a version that is to die for!
And to me, the best part of any class is when somebody says, "Hey! I'm going to do this...." and just runs with a great idea!