ELLSWORTH, Wis. — Colorful quilts had a crowd of crafters gasping in delight at the Ellsworth Senior Center.

Ellsworth Public Library hosted its annual Mystery Quilt Program Show and Tell Night on Tuesday allowing program participants to reveal their finished quilts.

“They have no idea what they are making,” program organizer Julie Belz said. “They know how big it’s going to be, but they don't know what it is going to look like.” Belz used to work at the library, but still continues to organize the program because of its growing popularity over the last 14 years.

At the beginning of the year, a list of fabric requirements and measurements were released to participants. No further details about the quilt design — titled “A Bit of Sunshine” — were given.

On Jan. 13 the program dropped its first clue, or instruction step, followed by two more over the next two weeks. The clues included information on how to organize and patch the quilt together. Each week the quilters had a better idea as to what the mysterious quilt design would look like.

While each quilter followed the same instructions, the final products were all unique.

Each participant was given the same set of instructions, but could choose their own colors for each piece. During many of the unveilings attendees admired and complimented each others work. Ashley Rezachek/RiverTown Multimedia
Each participant was given the same set of instructions, but could choose their own colors for each piece. During many of the unveilings attendees admired and complimented each others work. Ashley Rezachek/RiverTown Multimedia

About 54 people signed up to participate this year.

“It has grown, I think the first year we were 30 some people participating,” Belz said.

Some participants even sent the clues to their out-of-state friends and family to follow along. The program is open to anyone — people from South Dakota, Virginia and Florida have participated. One out-of-state crafter sent their quilt in to be displayed alongside the others, according to Belz.

“So you know it's not just our little area, which I think is kind of neat,” Belz said.

Participants brought in finished quilts as well as quilts that have yet to be completely finished. Ashley Rezachek/RiverTown Multimedia
Participants brought in finished quilts as well as quilts that have yet to be completely finished. Ashley Rezachek/RiverTown Multimedia

Belz comes up with the yearly design and occasionally looks at prewritten patterns for help. She begins with an idea, which she then sketches on graph paper. Next she determines the quilt size and measurements for the various pieces. Finally she writes up the clues.

Most people followed the instructions step by step, while others made their own design intentionally or unintentionally. Ashley Rezachek/RiverTown Multimedia
Most people followed the instructions step by step, while others made their own design intentionally or unintentionally. Ashley Rezachek/RiverTown Multimedia

Near the end of the show-and-tell, door prizes were handed out including Villa Rosa Designs patterns, quilting books and a quilting calendar. Participants spent the rest of the time socializing over the provided refreshments.

The program has historically began in January, with a show-and-tell event at the end of February. Quilters can then choose to take their quilt back home or put it on display. If you are interested in seeing the quilts, they will be on display at the Ellsworth Public Library throughout March.