Monday, May 25, 2020

Mississippi Mud Revisited

If you are familiar with my first pattern, Mississippi Mud (circa 1985), this new version breaks all of my old rules about the fabric selection!  
And how about that checkerboard border?!?
This design is a simplification of the traditional quilt block, Mississippi, which I found in Mary Ellen Hopkins' book, Even More Well Connected.  Mary Ellen introduced her teaching seminar students to a simple-to-piece "connector corner" in the mid 1980's.  It's a common technique today, but thirty-plus years ago, stitching a small square diagonally from corner-to-corner on top of a larger square to make a triangle was revolutionary!!
I eliminated some of the "connectors" in the original block because they bothered me visually and flipped the color values using lights for the star and darks for the background of the block.  The result was floating stars on a scrappy background that my students loved and they soon nicknamed it Mississippi Mud because of that jumbled assortment of prints used for the background of the first quilt.  It was such a popular workshop for me that I wrote a pattern and it has been a long-time best seller for me.
I've pieced this quilt at least a half dozen times over the years and between my versions and all the quilts my students have made, I know the larger the assortment of prints used, the better the quilt looks.  I would never use less than seventeen different prints.  
This "muckled up" (Mary Ellen's word) approach to the fabrics works best if you have a theme.  Examples include -- a mixture of batiks; or all 30's reproductions; or an analogous colors assortment (side by side colors on the color wheel - purple & blue, etc.); or a monochromatic color assortment (one color family).  I haven't tried using a designer's fat quarter assortment but I think it would work as long as any light background prints were left out.
I've always told students that medium to dark colors in small to medium scale prints make it easier to find a fabric for the stars that will pop against the muckled, scrappy background fabrics.
But when a student showed up with all the wrong fabrics several years ago during a workshop, I began to think differently.
She had lots of large scale prints which made it challenging to chose a fabric for the stars with a good contrast so the stars were obvious -- but after some experimenting, we came up with this effective solution!

At the time, it was just another opportunity to wrangle a contrary student who wasn't following my very clear instructions about fabric selection (are you smiling here?).   However, the seed of this successful variation has been germinating in my head for a while.

Another question that has surfaced on and off over the years is "can you use more than one fabric for the stars".  Well, it's easier if you don't (obviously).  I placated some of those contrarians by "allowing" them to use two different fabrics for the stars -- its easy to set that up so the two fabrics alternate in the finished quilt although I just looked through all my photos and apparently haven't actually done that myself.
So who knows what events led me to make this new version with a completely light background and thirty-two different star fabrics?  I think the "white with black" prints background idea started to develop while I was piecing Jen Kingwell's Long Time Gone sampler a couple years ago.  Then this past year, as I started working on the Kinship Sampler, since I was pulling out lots of prints from my stash, I started to cut pieces for two other scrappy quilts -- a multi-color stars version of Mississippi Mud being one of them.

As I started to piece the quilt top this winter, I had an idea to lead a sew-along with you to make your own version of this quilt.  It would require an edit of my pattern to update the suggested piecing tools and expand the layout options and I've done that!  My plan was to launch April 1 but the Covid19 shutdown interrupted that -- not because I wasn't ready, but everyone was organizing sew-alongs.  And then there is mask making?!?  I felt like launching one more sew-along would just contribute to everyone's state of "overwhelmed" -- I know I want to do them all and you probably do as well?

So here we are two months down the road we didn't know was ahead and I have a finished quilt top and a newly edited pattern uploaded in my Etsy shop HERE.
What shall I do?

Instead, I'm promoting the pattern today if you don't already own it.
(Sorry you missed the party with Mississippi Mud cake when I sold the 500th copy of the pattern.)
If you already own the pattern, the edit has been cosmetic for the most part so your copy is good.
The basics are the same -- cutting, assembly, all of it.

Then on Friday, May 29 I'll walk you through my piecing strategy for the blocks.
You can decide it you want to add this quilt to your "to-do" list.  But maybe the design variation ideas or my piecing strategy will give you ideas that relate to your own creative process?
So you decide and you benefit from it either way!
Then pick through your scrap basket over the next few days and cut enough pieces for four blocks so you are ready to follow along next weekend and piece a few blocks to get the feel of my piecing strategy.

If you don't enjoy the process or aren't totally happy with your fabric choices, those four blocks will make a 24" square -- big enough for a nice dog quilt!?!

Fabric advice?  I've simplified my "rules" -- whatever you choose is good just make sure the star fabric contrast suits your eye!

Questions?  Leave them in the comments because someone else wants to know, too!
See you on Friday!



  1. This is my favorite one so far! Love the neutrals, brights, black and whites!

  2. look forward to seeing this - thanks for sharing

  3. Bought your pattern and looking forward to Friday. I enjoy your blog very much.

  4. Darling!!! Your updated quilt AND those babies. :o))