The best thing about Bonnie Hunter's Quiltville mystery season is that it's a community but doesn't require the things that often make people shy away from doing a Bonnie mystery: the need to keep pace with the group or to finish or whether you like the current project.
For those of you who are (or want to) dive into this year's project, you can:
1. Participate With the Group.
Follow the current prompts and plan your work around the weekly link-ups.
Tip: Linking up doesn't require that you finished that week's section, only that you check in with whatever you have (or even haven't!) accomplished for the week. It's guaranteed that whatever your progress is, there will be someone else encouraged by the fact that they are at the same point in the process as you are!
2. Figure Out How To "Tweak" the Design.
I'm a scrappy girl so it's rare that I will not like Bonnie's design. I have however, sometimes not loved the color scheme. One thing I always enjoy seeing in the weekly linkups (which this year will be on Instagram) is how other people have interpreted her color scheme.
There are also people out there who as the mystery progresses, will try to figure out what the final layout is. This can be fun and helpful later on: it's a challenge to see if you are "thinking like Bonnie" and guess the final layout of the pieced components correctly. But even if you don't, you may stumble on a block combination that you will use to make your own unique layout. Even better, if you realize that you pieced a section wrong or don't like the way the colors or fabrics you have used work in the final design, one of your changes might help make your "design decision" work for you!
Although be warned, I didn't like the color scheme of Bonnie's 2008 "Double Delight" design when it first debuted. Then in 2018 (many years after I became enamored with the Civil War repro palette) I realized what I had been missing out on and had to run and make it up! If you don't like it now, you might just covet it later!
For those who aren't quite ready to jump into this year's mystery:
3. Follow the Weekly Prompts.
Use the mystery season or the weekly prompts while the current mystery is going on as a "call to action" to finish up a prior year mystery project. Last year, conscious that I had not one but TWO of the most recent mysteries finished but waiting to be quilted, I didn't take on the challenge of gathering fabrics for the new one. Instead I embarked on one of Bonnie's older mysteries that I could start by using the scraps from the ones already completed. So while the world was working on "Good Fortune", I was having a "Double Delight" doing Bonnie's mystery from 2008. Even then I didn't finish exactly when "Good Fortune" ended (well, it didn't help that I hadn't started at the same time either!) but I was engaged enough in the project to continue with it and finish the top and backing a month later. Actually, I did start the prior year's mystery "On Ringo Lake" when Bonnie did (because for that one I loved the color scheme!) and used the weekly prompts to work on it AND finish up the mystery from the year prior to that ("En Provence"), as well!
A few times Cathy over at the Sane, Crazy and Crumbly Quilting blog has done a different variation of this same process: while Bonnie's mystery is going on she has made the same units called for in the clues for the current mystery but used the units to finish up another project. So if Bonnie called for flying gesse she made them (although not necessarily the same size) and used them for an existing project she had that also called for flying geese. This way she was "sewing along with the mystery group" and got a UFO moved forward!
4. Create Your Own Mystery Quilt Finishing Challenge.
Take a page out of the book of my two heroines in Mystery Madness: Jo Kramer of Jo's Country Junction and Maggie Fellow of Making A Lather. For many years, Jo used the run up to the new mystery as an opportunity to try to knock out a prior year mystery UFO or make a bunch of quilts from one of Bonnie's books before the new mystery got underway. Since 2018 Maggie had been on a quest to complete all the mysteries and completed the last of them this year.
I'm sort of following their lead in that after embarking on "Double Delight", this year's rash of String Alongs had prompted me to start "Roll, Roll, Cotton Boll". I added to it using the double pink leftovers from "Double Delight" and the greens from a Fons & Porter St. Patrick's day project called "Emerald's". I'm using the excitement of the current mystery season to push me to add to the small stack of string squares I already finished for it and move it further along the track towards a finished top.
5. A Great Opportunity To Use Leaders and Enders.
One piecing tactic Bonnie is well known for promoting is the idea of using "leader/enders" -- that is using the piecing of one project as a follow-up to another. Rather than putting a scrap through your machine that you will ultimately throw away, why not send a piecing unit from another project through just before or after you sew up that line of pieces from the current project. It serves the same purpose of keeping something under the presser foot at the start of a seam and you get the benefit of finishing up a part of another project even as you focus on your current priority.
I'm doing that too: I had kitted up "Tobacco Road" back in 2018 when I had plans to travel to help out a friend who expected to need help during a serious illness. Fortunately she was able to make it through without the addtional support and now over a year later, I was finally able to get the "travel project" started during another trip this year. So I'm using it as a leader/ender along with Cotton Boll and hoping to finish up both tops during the "Frolic" fun.
Other things to consider:
6. It's Stress-free Sewing!
Don't stress about the number of pieces called for in a typical Bonnie mystery design. Bonnie has always said that she designs BAQs (Big A** Quilts) because she makes her quilts to be used and that's the size she likes to have on hand. That doesn't mean you have to make the current or a past project the exact size patterned. Many people have made smaller versions of the current project or changed the sizes of the piecing units to make a miniature version of the design. You could also go larger if you choose.
Bonnie is notorious for using a lot of smaller units (1-1/2" or 2" cut) in her designs. Someone like my MIL, who only likes working with "big pieces" would be put off with that. I say don't be! Make it a personal challenge to convert your project into larger piecing sizes to create her design.
Just Have Fun!
So I've said all this to say that the mystery season, like quilting in general, is meant to be fun. You don't have to hew to a specific design or stress about finishing --- work in your own style and to your own taste and at your own pace to create a finish as you are so inclined. But certainly at the least, take the opportunity to check in, download the latest "Frolic" part and enjoy all the community that surrounds this annual event!