Mystery quilts aren’t for everyone…

…which is a very good reason why we should do them. Now, I wish I could avoid using the word “should”, because it can sound bossy. But it will stay, so I guess I will sound bossy.

The reason is that mystery quilts help us. They help us:

1. Get over ourselves. I see it in the chat on Facebook: Quilters expressing frustration, quilters overthinking the process, quilters saying that they are nervous about this or that. This is not rocket science. It’s fabric and thread. If the quilt fails, no one will die. There is no need for anxiety. And how could it fail anyways? It will still keep someone warm and someone will love it because you made it.

2. With our control issues. I was surprised when I first learned that there were such things as mystery quilts. Who in their right mind would invest time and money into a project with an unknown outcome? What if I *gasp* didn’t like the finished product? Or worse, OTHER people didn’t like it? Well, I needed to challenge my overactive control gene. So I jumped in last year with On Ringo Lake, which felt more like a free fall. I gave over control, I chose to just trust. I didn’t change out the colors, or wait to see the reveal before I began. I discovered that I didn’t have to worry about whether or not I had made the “right” choices. It wasn’t my responsibility. This made it so freeing and fun.

3. Learn new things. Mysteries come with great tips and tutorials. I have gained so many skills from Bonnie’s detailed directions. Just her simple tip about rotary cutting – have the ruler’s line on top of the fabric instead of beside it. This one thing made a huge difference in all my rotary cutting since. Another tip with huge impact: square up each unit before joining. Wow. No more misses with matching seams and points. It’s amazing that all this wisdom is dispensed for free.

4. Play. I re-entered the wonderful world of knitting with the inspiration of some European friends in college. They let me join their warm knitting circle and were generous with their wisdom. Because they were taught to knit in school when they were eight years old, they had mountains of mittens and hats and scarves and sweaters and shawls under their experienced belts. First they showed me how to knit the continental way. It flowed more naturally through my hands than the throwing method, and made my stitches more relaxed. Next, they showed me how to relax. If the stitch count accidentally came up short, they didn’t rip down to the mistake, they just picked up a stitch and went on. Same if too many stitches were on the needle. They just found a good spot to decrease, and moved on. They don’t have time for mistakes, there are so many beautiful pieces of knitwork waiting to be wrought from their hands. No one sees a tiny increase or decrease on the finished product anyways. Knitting became freeing and fun to me.

I brought this attitude to my quilting. It’s about having fun. It’s about playing around with color and pattern and texture. Don’t get bogged down with inconsequential “mistakes” – keep moving forward because there’s so many treasures to sew just waiting for you to come out and play.

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