Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Celtic Solstice Mystery Quilt, Part 1

Hello! This is my first real post on this shiny, new blog, and I thought I'd start it off with a shiny, new quilt to match. The quilt is Bonnie Hunter's Celtic Solstice Mystery Quilt, going on now at Bonnie's Quiltville blog.

So what is a mystery quilt, you ask? Basically, one person writes up the instructions to make a quilt. Then, without showing what the final quilt is supposed to look like, the instructions are released to the quilt makers one step at a time. That's right, we have no idea what the finished quilt is going to look like! That's the mystery! It's also a great leap of faith, trusting that the other person has designed something that you'll like, and that the fabrics you've chosen (almost) blindly will work out. It's one great big exercise in releasing control and just enjoying the process, no matter what the end product looks like.

Quilting: Easy! Releasing control: Eeek!

But, with Bonnie Hunter in the lead role, I also know this will be be an experience where I'll get to learn and grow as a quilter too. In fact, for our first 'clue' Bonnie has us using the TriRecs ruler to make triangle-in-a-square units. I've never used it before, but by the time I finish the 188 units I have to make in this step, I'm sure I'll be feeling right at home with it!

Am I feeling OK with my fabric choices? Well, I'll admit that still has me a bit jittery. Bonnie did a great write-up in her Celtic Solstice Introduction letting quilters know about her inspiration for the quilt and the colors she was using to make it. She's going super scrappy too (it wouldn't be a Bonnie Hunter quilt otherwise, now would it?) and included photos showing the great variety of fabrics that she's chosen for each of the five colors (white, yellow, orange, green, and blue) in the quilt.

And then, of course, she adds,
"You may choose ANY colors you want to work with, but if you do, you are on your own... Find 4 colors you like together, plus a background, and make sure that they are all visible next to each other in all combinations."
ANY colors?? Oh, dear. She's lifted the lid off the rabbit hole, and I have no choice but to hop down. Yeah, I'm one of those people -- nonconformist, marches to the beat of her own drummer, quirky. And add to that that Linda Franz of Inklingo is also making this quilt alongside Bonnie (Bonnie and Linda worked together to make an Inklingo shape collection available for the Celtic Solstice mystery quilt), and Linda's fabrics aren't anything like Bonnie's. Linda made this nice little table to compare them:

Bonnie's colors => <= Linda's colors
So I start thinking, hey, maybe black for a background, instead of white, would be really cool. And black is one of my daughter, PikaGirl's, favorite colors, so I could give it to her when it's done. But she's not particularly keen on green, orange, or yellow, and her preferred blue is that trendy turquoise/aqua color. She likes purple and raspberry too.

So maybe the blue and purple could go together, instead of Bonnie's blue & green combo. And to replace the yellow and orange, I could do raspberry and... maybe coral? Y'know, that hard to describe pinky/peach color? I think Pika's had some shirts that were coral colored. Maybe she likes that too?

So we head to the Local Quilt Shop. It's the Saturday after Thanksgiving ─ Small Business Saturday! ─ and I tell myself that spending more money than I probably should (but there's a sale, and I have a fully punched shop card, so it's not full price!), on a project that I don't really need because I already have too many other projects already in the works (but this will be so much fun because there will be thousands of other people making it at the same time, and we'll be cheering each other on, and I'll be learning! Remember that bit about learning new things and learning to let go of control? That's important stuff!) is a good thing because I'll be supporting a local, small business against the onslaught of the menacing, cookie-cutter, big box corporations during the ever-important Christmas shopping season, right? Hey, if it means I can buy more fabric with a clear conscience, then you betcha!!

So anyway, did I mention that I brought my PikaGirl with me? Fabric shopping is not her favorite thing, but she was in a good mood that day and cooperated so long as I gave her breaks to go sit in the corner and play on her ever-present hand-held game device. And eventually, we came up with these:

Purple in place of Bonnie's blue
Turquoise in place of green
Raspberry in place of orange
Coral (more orange than pink, but oh, well) in place of yellow
And there's that black for background. 
And I'm pretty sure that I can pass the 'all fabrics visible next to each other in all combinations' warning too, hey? Yea!!!

And now it's time for all of the niggling uncertainties to come into play: What if these colors don't work well in this quilt? What if they would look better in different positions? I already swapped the blue and purple's positions. Should I swap the blue and raspberry too? And I shout at them, "Down, you dratted doubts! Get back in your box!" Well, they didn't go back in the box, but at least they were polite enough to go to the next room where they're harder to hear.

So, anyway...

Last Friday, Bonnie sent her first mystery clue out through the wonder that is the world wide web. Yea!!

Unfortunately, it was in the middle of Thanksgiving break, and I have young kids, and a husband, and cooking, and cleaning, and a headache that ran for four days. Oh, and no fabric until Saturday afternoon. I'm in a Facebook group with 2,000 people all participating in this mystery, and I saw post after post with photos of other people's fabrics, and read about their progress as they cut and sewed their merry, adorable hearts away. And I. Couldn't. Join. Them. Yet. Waaahhh!!

But then Monday came. Kids at school. Headache gone. Good!
Had to run into work. Holiday messes still to clean up. Husband needs help with his project. Things to prep for a quilt guild meeting that night. Aaargh!

But finally -FINALLY!- I was able to get into my sewing space for just long enough to make a small start. Clue #1 drops us right in to making our Triangle-In-A-Square blocks (or V-blocks, or star point blocks, as they're also known). Bonnie told everyone to get a TriRecs ruler for this quilt in her Celtic Mystery introduction, however, by the time I got to the store to buy one, they were all out, and I've been hearing from many people that they're out of stock at a lot of other stores too. I guess that just shows how very popular Bonnie's mysteries are!
Yes, this is a set of Wonder Triangles,
not the TriRecs, but they both cut
the same triangle-in-a-square unit, OK?

Luckily, there are alternatives, so instead I bought Marti Mitchell's Wonder Triangle ruler set from Quilt Sense. It makes the same TIAS blocks as the TriRec.

Bonnie also very graciously added instructions for cutting the pieces with templates, for those who prefer not to buy the rulers, and foundation piecing, as well as the Inklingo option. AND she also made two videos to show how to cut the pieces with the TriRecs ruler and then how to sew them together. The videos aren't long, and she packs in a lot of tips too, so be sure to watch them!

So, on to cutting. Hooray!

Luckily, I did manage to get my fabric all washed and ironed over the weekend, so all I had to do was trim the edges and start cutting. I didn't have much time, so I only cut one 3-1/2" strip from each of the three fabrics that I needed for this clue: Purple, raspberry, and black. So far, so good!

Then I began sub-cutting the strips.
I folded my purple strip that the triangle 'wings' will be cut from in half, wrong sides together, and started cutting away. Note: The Wonder Triangle instructions for the 'wings' ruler say to cut your strip 5/8" wider than the finished size of the unit. However, cutting them only 1/2" wider than the finished size, per Bonnie's instructions, works just fine. Just line up the 3" mark on the Wonder Triangles ruler with the bottom of of your strip. The top of the ruler will stick up 1/8" past the top of the strip. This is OK because, thanks to the mathematical magic of triangle points, you've still got 1/4" of fabric sticking out past your sewing line. Check out my photo. ►

After cutting my wing triangles from the purple strip, I had to go back through them to trim off the little angly bits at the tip and bottom of each triangle. I bought a 28mm rotary cutter a couple of weeks ago, and it's great for this! I stacked the cut fabric pieces 4-high, and that little wheel was sliding right through the layers like butter. Wow! In fact, the blade was so sharp, that when I forget to put it down before nudging my ruler over a hair, I barely even feel it cut into my finger. Whoopsie! It's my very first rotary cutter wound. So, in addition to learning how to cut Triangle-In-A-Square units, I'm also getting a refresher on rotary cutter safety. Thanks, Bonnie!

24 hours later. Looking good!
Looking at the cut, it's only about 3/4" long, and it's not bleeding, but still and so, I thought I should probably go wash it and bandage it up. Halfway to the bathroom was when it started bleeding. And bleeding. Aaand bleeding some more. Well, just color me chagrined. I washed it and put pressure on it. It didn't seem deep, and the edges were staying together, so I didn't think I needed stitches, but it was taking longer for the bleeding to stop than I was expecting, and I had more fabric to cut and limited time, darn it! Finally, I just squashed a cotton ball on it and wrapped some tape tightly around it to keep the pressure on, and went back to my cutting. (Everything's fine, BTW. See? Lucky, lucky me!!)

I finished trimming the points on my wing triangles (being MUCH more careful with my rotary cutter, yes, thank you!), and then went to work cutting my center triangles. Easy peasy there. Layer my black and raspberry strips on top of each other, then cut the triangles (remember, using the Wonder Triangle, you line up the 3" mark at the edge of your 3-1/2" strip!), then trim the bottom corners.

There wasn't much sewing time left, but I did manage to sew four of each color unit together: Right side wing sewn onto the center triangle sewing from top to bottom, press open, and then sew the left side wing from bottom to top, and press again. I'm not sure why, but they really do sew better when you sew them in this order and direction!

One nice thing about the Wonder Triangle rulers is that there are no dog ears to cut off my TIAS units. They were all cut off up front when I cut the pieces and trimmed off the angly bits from around the rulers. Yea! Looking at my finished units, I should probably nudge my right side pieces up just a smidge towards the tip before I sew them, but otherwise the piecing looks good, and I think the color contrast is OK.
...Although the blue would pop in that center position even better than the raspberry. (Aaaaarrrggghhh!!!! The dogs of doubt have slipped their leashes again! Where's Cesar Millan when you need him? Or chocolate. Maybe chocolate will work...)

So there you have it. Eight units sewn, and one hundred eighty more to go! We'll see what the rest of the week holds for how much farther I can get. Work, kids, husbands, and blogging all take more time than I expect. I've got some ideas, correct or (probably) wrong about where this mystery might be headed, and hopefully I'll manage to get another post up about that. It might be fun to see how my predictions change as each clue comes out.

And, if you've enjoyed reading about Celtic Solstice on my blog, Bonnie's got a link-in on her Quiltville blog where you can check out the journeys of my fellow mystery quilters!

Happy sewing!
Intrepid Meredith


  1. I love your colors!

  2. I think your colors are going to look great! I love to see the mysteries come together and even more exciting when you switch up the colors.

  3. I enjoyed reading your very first blog post! I would love to create a blog, but too little time, so I will keep reading yours and Bonnie's, etc.

  4. Congratulations on a very well written blog! Love your account of your first steps in this mystery. Be careful with that rotary cutter!

  5. Enjoyed reading your blog. You did great! LOVE you fabric choices.

    Happy quilting~

  6. I think your fabric choices are awesome; I predict your daughter will think the quilt is ultra cool. It was fun to read your blog post - like you were chatting face to face with your readers! See you at Bonnie's next linky party!

  7. Great input about choosing colors. Enjoyed reading your first blog.
    Thanks for sharing.

  8. You are off to a good start...hope you didn't bleed on any fabric. :) Love your colors!