The Great Alaska Quilt Out–The Mysteries Part I

First of all, I hope everyone had a yummy, wonderful Christmas filled with loved ones. Now back to quilting.

Many, many stitches ago, when I first began quilting, I was obsessed with Mystery Quilts. I believe every quilting community does Mystery Quilts a bit different. In Valdez, Alaska, Trudy Koszarek, the owner of the Calico Whale, would let us stay up ALL night quilting. I usually left sometime between three and four in the morning.

The basic idea behind a Mystery Quilt is that you get the fabric amounts and values and maybe a first cutting instruction when you sign up for the class. Here is the first page of a Mystery quilt Trudy designed for the Valdez Quilt Festival in 2004.

The Great Alaska Quilt Out- The Mysteries Part IYou pick your fabrics, cut your strips, and wait for your next instructions.

The Great Alaska Quilt Out- The Mysteries Part IAs the night gets darker, and you stitch your way through the instructions, a final quilt will emerge.

The Great Alaska Quilt Out- The Mysteries Part INo matter where you are in the process, Trudy would usually unveil a version of the quilt around midnight. My friends Janai and Claudia were always neck and neck for finishing first. I’m slow and never finished that evening, but would I sometimes manage to finish the quilt by the end of the weekend.

These quilts are a strange breed. Because you have no idea what the final quilt will look like, you have no idea if you have done a good job of selecting your fabrics. For this reason, I usually worked from my stash.

The best part about these quilts was the chance to quilt all night with your friends. I have no idea how many mystery quilts I have made, but I do know I selected six of them to give to my nieces and nephews. Some of them have been completed for years.

As part of the Great Alaskan Quilt Out of 2014 which you can read about here and here, I decided it was time to finish the rest of them. Along with the mission of finishing and giving away 14 quilts this Christmas season, I am also trying to improve my photography skills. A couple of weeks ago, Cat Larrea gave me an afternoon lesson in lighting, photographing, and photoshopping my work.

The Great Alaska Quilt Out- The Mysteries Part II’m not ready for PhotoShop Elements, but here are the first photos of the three finished mystery quilts. All three of the quilts feature very busy vintage fabrics. The first one has an Asian feel to it. It measures 69” long by 54” wide. You can see that the busy vintage paisley print really blurs the lines of the over all composition.

I call this one Surf’s Up. I used Jody Beamish’s pantograph called Splash in the large size. It measures 74” long by 62” wide. In each of these galleries I have used from two different cameras–my handy dandy pocket Canon PowerShot SD1200IS and my larger older Cannon PowerShot SX10IS. For the vertical versions of the quilts I used the fancy camera. For the horizontal versions I used the pocket camera. Can you see a difference in the photos?

As you can tell, 15 years ago my color and print skills were rudimentary. I was still learning how to get the values of the colors and the prints on the fabrics to work together. The purple is super bossy in this one. Because the orange is a batik–and batik’s by their nature are unreliable–it struggles to hold its place in the quilt. And the green, well, the green looked good by itself, but it turns into a ghost fabric against the others.

I’m not sure I will ever do another mystery. You give up a lot of control over the end result. Then again, it is super fun to see everyone’s quilts reveal themselves. And it’s an amazing way to stitch with friends.

I’ve got four quilts left to complete by December 31st, s back to the studio I go.

PS Any photo advice would be awesome.

This entry was published on December 27, 2014 at 1:35 PM. It’s filed under Quilt Stories and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

4 thoughts on “The Great Alaska Quilt Out–The Mysteries Part I

  1. Hi Maria… LOVE Surf’s Up… and you are a wonderful Aunt to give away 14 of your early quilts. I really enjoy going back into the dredges of my closets and finding the first quilts – always makes me feel so truly contemporary and accomplished. I dye/paint almost ALL of my own fabrics now – so much fun to see the “other world” fabrics in the older ones.
    Thanks for sharing and aren’t friends sewing together just the best!!!
    Happy New Year (to you and all of your readers!)

  2. Thank you Bethany! It is interesting to look back and see how where we came from and just how far we’ve traveled. It’s amazing isn’t it? Thank you for stopping by, and I wish you the very BEST for 2015.

  3. Wow, Maria! Industry on parade. You’re a marvel. Beautiful quilts!

  4. Well, Lila it looks like more work than it really is. Some of these quilts have been just waiting for bindings for years! It feels good to be finally finishing them.

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