Transforming a UFO into a Modern Quilt

Transform your UFO’s into quilts!

Do you have UFO’s or WIPs in your home because you just didn’t feel satisfied with them or they were too small…or too large…to be used?  Unfinished projects can cause clutter in our stash and storage.

In this blog post, I will give you a fun and fast approach to transforming a quilt top that is languishing in your stash.

Want to learn this technique in an online quilt class?

I will include this topic in the Modern Quilt Academy, a membership program with online quilt classes, live events, webinars and more.  To find out more about MQA’s  online classes, webinars and more, click HERE!

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Transform a UFO or WIP as a Sustainability Practice

Using the steps in this post, you can turn a top into something that could turn out quite magical!

When I take on this type of project, I never know how it will turn out and that’s the real FUN and JOY!  I like the uncertainty of knowing the result–a pleasant surprise in life is good for us.

Most importantly, I have turned a ‘work in progress’ into a finished quilt that can live a useful life.  It’s my ultimate goal as a sustainable quiltmaker to bring more quilts into the world to be loved and used.

How the Project Began

The South Sarasota Modern Quilt Guild held a small group challenge in 2023.  The small groups were asked to design and make a collaborative modern quilt using colors and designs of their own choosing in a modern round robin.

One of the finished group quilts was languishing because  the owner wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.   I volunteered to transform it because I wanted a challenge.

Well, the top sat in my studio for months.  Finally, I decided to take it to my Sarasota MQG retreat in April 2024 and there I would focus on a transformation.

Here’s a photo of the original quilt top.

The top would have made a nice wall hanging but it was too small to become a quilt.  I knew that I would need additional fabric so that I could scale it up.

Before leaving for the retreat, I located stash fabric that was comparable colors.  No exact color matching was needed–close enough was good enough.  In this case, I chose a text fabric, a red-violet solid and a green solid.  All three fabrics were in my stash. I had a couple yards of each and figured that would be enough.

Lesson #1: Cut it up!! But Don’t Overthink it!!

I started working on the transformation at the retreat.  My guild mates were very intrigued, to say the least.

I take different approaches to transforming a quilt. I sometimes decide what approach I want to take to the cutting up  BEFORE I have a layout in mind.

While cutting up, it is VERY VERY important to pay NO attention to the original block design or seam lines.  I do not attempt to ‘preserve’ any block or design element.

In this case, before cutting, I measured the piece.  I realized that I could cut it up into 8″ squares and I would have 12 squares.  This was easy math.  I think it is important to make fast choices at this stage.  After cutting the squares, there were no leftover segments–that was my goal.  And yes, I did not worry about cutting it into 8-1/2″ squares because as long as they were squares, they can be any size. No half inches needed!

If the top had been a different size, I would STILL have cut it into squares and then used any leftovers to piece into additional improv squares.  My goal is to use every bit of the original quilt to make the squares.

Here are the squares shown below.  As you can see, some of the circles are intact, while others were cut up.  The other elements from the original design are also now in interesting abstract improv shapes in the blocks.

Lesson #2: Grid Design and Adding Stash Fabric

My goal was to transform the top into at least one small crib quilt measuring about 36 x 36 inches for our charity gifting to mothers of newborns.

I had 12 squares from the original top (I will call these the PIECED squares).  Easy math said this would be a larger quilt than I wanted.  So, I grabbed a pencil and sketched out a 4 x 4 block grid.  I would use 8 of the pieced blocks in Quilt #1 and 4 of the pieced blocks in Quilt #2.

Here are my initial pencil sketches with my rough idea of how I would distribute the fabrics.

The grid required a total of 16 blocks so I cut additional blocks from my three stash fabrics.

I labeled each fabric A, B and C so I could decide how I might lay them out.

I also made some notes about my start and end time to sew the first top together–just for the fun of it.


Lesson #3: Adjusting the Design and Piecing for Top #1

I started by working on the 4 x 4 grid layout, alternating each of the fabrics and pieced blocks.  I laid them out, pinned them together and started sewing the rows together.  This was the layout uising 8 of he pieced blocks.

Here’s a photo of a couple of the rows. I labeled each row 1,2, 3, 4 with a post it so I could keep them in order as I sewed. I made one final design choice–I added one 4 inch by 8 inch block at the end of each row.  I wanted to offset the grid and modernize it a bit.

Here’s the final top #1.  I think I will add 3 inch borders to upsize it a bit. I will probably piece the borders from the 3 stash fabrics.


Lesson #4: Design and Piecing for Top #2

I only had 4 pieced blocks. I decided to add them as a 2 x 2 grid cluster in the center.  Then I arranged the  other blocks around them. I thought that the text fabric made for fun corners.  Here is the final top although I plan to add simple borders as well.

Reflections–and a New Online Quilt Workshop!

I had a lot of fun transforming the original top into two modern and fun children’s quilts.

My guild mates applauded the results and that felt great, I confess.

I also helped a few of my guild mates see how fearlessly cutting up a top can be a fabulous, fabulous way to transform something that’s been lingering in your stash.  And that gave me an idea for a new workshop.

I am working on a live hands on Transformation Workshop that I will offer later this year where students will bring a top and work with me to transform it.  It will be in my new Modern Quilt Academy Membership program launching soon.  Click here to subscribe to my newsletter to hear all about it when it goes live!

online quilt classes in the Modern Quilt Academy

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